Soccermatics: Mathematic Adventures in the Beautiful Game (2016) by David Sumpter is a fine read that looks at how math can be used to explain and improve football. Sumpter is a professor of Applied Math in Sweden who does quite a lot of research helping football teams.
The book looks are how graphs can be used to look at team passing. There is a very well named chapter ‘How Slime Mould Built Barcelona’. There is a section on betting markets and strategies that can be used with them. The book also has a section on how statisticians and mathematicians are being employed now by football teams.
The book is well written and has good explanations of the math involved. For anyone interested in the use of math in sport or in football the book is well worth a read.
The Sun Also Rises (1926) by Ernest Hemingway is a classic novel of the lost generation. It’s hard boiled literature. Hemingway’s sparse, low description style is easy to parody.
But the book must have really been something in 1920s America, a time when few people had been outside the US and here was Hemingway presenting life in exotic Europe, living and drinking with British aristocrats in Paris and going to see the bull fights in Spain. There is a strong overtone of what has happened in the war. The sparse description also works very well when describing being at the sea, swimming and living.
The characters in the book and the doomed love of Brett and Jake is well carried out, somehow it didn’t grab me though.
I really liked the start of the book, but then got bored a bit before enjoying the end. It wasn’t the experience that it seems to have been for some people nor was it the dull, racist, sexist and facile book it is for others.
It’s an interesting book and a good read.
Nobody Wants to Read Your Sh*t: Why That Is And What You Can Do About It (2016) by Steven Pressfield is an entertaining short book for writers and wannabe writers about realising what the title says and writing something that people do really want to read.
Pressfield uses his experience writing in advertising, writing novels and screenplays to give his insights into what works. He writes about how useful it was to be in advertising where people really don’t want to read what you write and also getting insight into what works in screenplays and how it can help novels.
It’s a fun short read and isn’t a waste of time for anyone who writes or thinks about writing.
The Napoleonic Wars: A Very Short Introduction (2013) by Mike Rapport is another excellent very short introduction. The book describes the wars between 1792 and 1815. The author, Mike Rapport, a senior lecturer of history at The University of Stirling in Scotland. He’s written numerous other longer history books.
The Very Short Introduction books are a bit hit and miss, some of the books that describe vague concepts are not that great, but the ones that have a constrained subject they can describe in more detail than a Wikipedia page but with fewer pages than the heavyweight history books that are more ‘complete’ are often excellent. This is one of the latter.
The wars are divided into two sections, the revolutionary wars and the Napoleonic wars. The book also describes Total War, revolutionary Wars, the impact on soldiers and civilians, the war at sea and ‘the people’s war’.
I really enjoyed the book, learned a lot and am inspired to go and read more about the Napoleonic Wars and to find similar books about The Seven Years War and The Thirty Years War.
Outside the Box: A Statistical Journey Through the History of Football (2017) by Duncan Alexander is a season by season statistical trip through the history of the Premier League. Alexander works for the statistical service Opta.
Each season gets a chapter that has various stats about the season included at the end. There are also interludes on Liverpool and each season of their failure to win a title, title defences, Arsene Wenger and various other topics. The book is a bit like a series of Opta tweets joined together. It’s actually a bit taxing to read as it doesn’t really flow.
For anyone interested in the Premier League it’s worth a read, it’s not as good as ‘The Mixer’ but it is well worth a look.
The Cold War: A Very Short Introduction (2003) by Robert McMahon is a good short introduction to the Cold War.
The book goes through the historical events of the Cold War in a solid and straightforward manner. It’s also well written.
The book does exactly what it sets out to do and does it well.
Fire and Fury: Inside the Trump White House (2018) by Michael Wolff is a very successful book that provides something of a glimpse inside the Trump White House. This week the book has featured in 4 out of 5 days of NPR and BBC World News. If Donald Trump had been signed up to publicise the book he could not have done better.
Wolff says he got unprecedented access to the White House because it was so disorganised that he was allowed, for months, to wander around and talk to people. The book seems to support this idea. It fits with the other facts that are known about the Trump White House.
The first third of the book was fantastic. I laughed out loud regularly. The account of the Trump team’s transition is really funny. According to Wolff Trump and his team didn’t really expect to win so a lot of planning that is normally done was simply not done. In addition to that Trump had very few people with real political experience at the top of his team.
The middle third of the book drags a bit, it’s a detailed tale of a complete mess. Wolff portrays the White House as eventually dividing into a Ivanka an Jared Kushner faction and a Bannon faction. The two parts battled it out for supremacy which ultimately resulted in Bannon being fired.
The end third of the book describes the end of the fight, the firing of Comey and the appointment of Mueller as special prosecutor along with all the other chaos involved of the Trump White House. It also describes the hilarious appointment and dismissal of Scarramucci.
A quiet figure on the side line, Mike Pence, gets a few pages and is seen as someone biding their time, waiting for their opportunity.
I really enjoyed the book. It tied together all the things the news has been full of about Trump. Most of the figures are presented quite sympathetically. It is an alarming but somewhat reassuring book. It describes a group of people not full of malice but who are simply not up to the job at which they find themselves. Had the book been sent back through time to the start of the century people would have found it hilarious but too far fetched. We truly live in strange, televised and tweeted times. Covfefe to you all.