Reading and Thinking Football

Football, including books thereon and idiosyncratic thinking thereabout

What I’ve Been Reading (Non-Football)

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It’s been three months (and a day!) since the last time I did one of these, which means it’s time for a new one.

Looking over my list of the non-football books I finished in the months of July, August, and September, I find it deeply unimpressive. The clear standout is Chris Wickham’s The Inheritance of Rome, the entry in the Penguin History of Europe series covering the years 400-1000. It’s a fantastic and deeply informative book, but note the monotonicity of the Amazon reviews: it is just as much of a slog as most of the reviews indicate. Wickham jams a bunch of stuff into a goodly number of pages, because a lot of stuff happens in 600 years of human history, even if your focus is limited to a single continent. Certainly not for everyone, it pushed the boundaries of what even I consider casual reading.

A surprisingly natural follow-up to Wickham was Gordon Brown’s The Norman Conquest of Southern Italy and Sicily, which I snagged in a Kindle sale a while ago but never tried getting into until last month. Brown, a retired British diplomat (and not to be confused with Tony Blair’s Chancellor of the Exchequer), is clearly and admittedly writing a popular work based on the real work done by academic historians. For my purposes, this was not a problem. The shifting and drifting political alliances of Italy in the eleventh century, between and among multiple fractions of Normans, the Papacy, the Holy Roman Empire, the Byzantines, and, oh yeah, the natives of southern Italy made for very interesting reading about a topic I knew little about. Were I looking at the current price point of $30 for a paper copy or almost $14 for the Kindle version, though, I’m sure I never would have bought this book in the first place, so I’m thankful for the sale.

I fully concur with Arch Stanton’s review of the entry in the Penguin History of Europe series that preceded Wickham’s, The Birth of Classical Europe by Simon Price and Peter Thonemann. A far cry, in terms of depth from Wickham and Tim Blanning’s marvelous The Pursuit of Glory, it is a decent high-level introduction, but I’ve read enough full-length books on the Greeks and Romans I needed more of a comprehensive tome. It is perhaps best suited as a introductory work for people who want to start serious reading, but I found it unsatisfying.

I do not know what to say about Average Is Over by Tyler Cowen, even if I were interested in giving it a detailed review here, which I am not for a number of subject matter and philosophy-related reasons. I will, however, note I agree with former acquaintance Will Baude that I can’t decide if it is utopian or dystopian.

Read at a certain time in my life, say 15-20 years ago, Viktor Frankl’s Man’s Search for Meaning likely would have usefully accelerated and/or diverted my thinking from paths it took. Now, though, it just got me thinking of international development and the likely non-utility of measured happiness as a means of directing the best use of funds.

Sadly and contrary to the intention I expressed in my last non-football reading round-up, I did not begin, let alone finish War and Peace in July, or any of the other months I am briefly recapping here. I did dip my toe into Mikhail Bulgakov for the first time, reading both The Heart of a Dog and The Master and Margarita without enjoying either. The novel I enjoyed the most over the past quarter was a re-read (alas!) of Neal Stephenson’s Reamde, though even on a second look it was not nearly as important as Cryptonomicon. It did inspire me to finally start Anathem, which I have long avoided. If I manage to finish that plus at least one of War and Peace and Infinite Jest, I’ll consider the quarter just begun a successful one from a longer novel-reading standpoint.

My football-related reads, all of which I have reviewed on here in some way, shape or form, included Dan Daly’s National Forgotten League; John Sayle Watterson’s College Football: History, Spectacle, ControversyFootball Outsiders Almanac 2013; Bill Connelly’s Study Hall; Cris Carter’s Going Deep; Ben Alamar’s Sports Analytics; Michael MacCambridge’s Lamar Hunt; and Beautifully Unique Sparkleponies by Chris Kluwe. I also acquired and use, at times and for some purposes, the 2013 version of the NFL Record and Fact Book, but decided out of a combination of sloth and lack of utility not to write a review of the latest version. I’ll make more progress on the football unread list in the current quarter, while the library should be providing me copies of some of the latest football books, including among others John U. Bacon’s Fourth and Long and The System by Jeff Benedict and Armen Keteyian.

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Written by Tom Gower

October 2, 2013 at 00:01

Posted in Non-Football Books

One Response

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  1. […] since the first quarter of 2010. I managed to finish only one of the long novels I mentioned in my third quarter update, Neal Stephenson’s Anathem. Shamefully, I had pre-ordered the hardcover and yet never read […]


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