Book report: The Tribune Sports Section’s holiday reading list

Fall 2020 was a long and gruelling semester with far too much screen time for many students. For anyone looking to take a break from dense course readings and computers, The McGill Tribune has compiled a list of books about sports that are sure to keep readers entertained over the holidays. 

There’s Only Two David Beckhams by John O’Farrell

This novel combines the author’s love of English soccer, criticisms of the culture and politics of its elite levels, and a sense of humour that is often lacking in the world of sports commentary. 

Set during the lead up to the 2022 FIFA World Cup in Qatar and culminating in a final confrontation at the tournament, the novel follows journalist and AFC Wimbledon fan Alfie Baker as he slowly uncovers some of international soccer’s biggest secrets.

O’Farrell not only provides thoughtful insights on the corrupt institutions of the soccer world, but also on the culture of soccer fandom and all the emotions that come with loving a team that never wins. The book takes the all-too-frequent question of what we would do to see our teams win to a new extreme. Written with the wit and nuance that only a soccer fan could provide, There’s Only Two David Beckhams offers the perfect alternate reality for anyone looking to escape exam season. 

Beartown by Fredrik Backman

Content warning: Sexual assault 

In a remote town in Sweden that has been in decline for years, a youth hockey team with a chance at a national championship title becomes a beacon of hope for the whole town. Backman’s character-driven novel examines the effect that sports can have on a community and the pressure placed on young athletes. 

Following the stories of various town residents as they grapple with the fallout of Beartown’s star player Kevin Erdahl’s actions, Beartown is thoughtful and poignant in its handling of sensitive topics. The novel weaves together the stories of an immigrant family in a small town, teenagers and adults alike dealing with the consequences of sexual assault, and a teenage boy exploring his sexuality. As the stories unfold, Backman slowly unpacks the culture of sexism and toxic masculinity in hockey. The account is ultimately one of empathy and healing, with a discussion of intergenerational problems and questioning of why people treat each other the way they do. 

Ultimate Glory by David Gessner

For anyone who has ever wondered about the origins of competitive frisbee, David Gessner has the answers. Ultimate Glory is Gessner’s memoir of his time playing ultimate when the sport was still in its infancy. Chronicling the game’s development, from its origins in a New Jersey high school parking lot to televised international competitions, Gessner reflects on his interactions with some of the greatest players in the game and the culture of a sport born of protest. 

The book is equal parts a story about the characters and culture that make up the world of ultimate, and a consideration of the tactical and technical evolution of the game itself. 

Soccerwomen: The Icons, Rebels, Stars, and Trailblazers Who Transformed the Beautiful Game by Gemma Clark

Gemma Clark’s history of women’s soccer is a fascinating look at a game whose growth was purposefully halted and interrupted. As an introduction to the origins of women’s competitive soccer and its early stars, Soccerwomen sets up a chronological account of how the game reached its current state, with each chapter focussing on a different player. 

Through a series of interviews with some of women’s soccer’s biggest stars, Clark unpacks the multitude of experiences from players around the world and discusses the rapid growth of the game in recent decades. Soccerwomen is a holistic view of women’s soccer that looks at both the evolution of playing style and the commercial aspects of the sport.

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