June book of the month shortlist: footie classics

What with June being World Cup month 'n' all, we've a neat little hat-trick of football-themed reads for you to choose from.

Each book's a beautifully written take on the beautiful game – all three authors have the kind of silky writing skills that'll catch your sporty-book assumptions completely offside. And footie knowledge's not at all compulsory: these are truly top-of-the-league reads, even if you couldn't tell a 4-4-2 from a 4 x 4...

Read more about the novels and then vote for the one you'd like as June's Book of the Month.

feverpitchFever Pitch by Nick Hornby

A seminal book that, in the 90s, helped shape the notion that football fans were not all loudmouthed thugs, but 'normal' people with a longing to believe in something. A beautifully intuitive, funny, passionate autobiography, packed with accurate observations about not only football but also life in general. Hornby begins in 1968 – the year he turns 11, the year his parents separate, and the year his father first takes him to watch Arsenal play. Little does his dad know that this male bonding will kick off an extreme obsession that will dominate his son's life, loves, and relationships. Structured as a series of memories in three stages (childhood, young adulthood, manhood), the swings and shifts of Hornby's life become inextricably linked with the changing fortunes of his team. The blind faith of childhood, adolescent alienation, adult neuroses: all are played out on the terraces at Highbury. A brilliant blend of personal insight and reportage, Fever Pitch remains unbeatable..

Critics say: "A brilliant book by one of the best writers around – not just a book about football but a book about love, death and the feather-cut." Julie Burchill


The Damned United by David Peacedamnedunited

A fictionalised account of Brian Clough's 44 tumultuous days as manager of Leeds United, recently made into a film and written by the author of the Red Riding series. Even if you're not familiar with the ups and downs of 1970s football (and the cheating, hooliganism and bad behaviour that went with it), it is still a superb evocation of the time, and a brilliant portrayal of a deeply complex, intriguing and controversial man. The lethal combination of the cocky, morally dubious team and their alcoholic, opinionated manager leads to a gripping, high-octane plot. Equally impressive is the narrative structure that takes you deep inside Clough's mind, to the point where you clearly see that he is cracking up. It goes to show that great fiction can be as deft at recreating the past than any autobiography or history book. This is Premier League writing.

Critics say: "It's a mystery or an oversight, or worse, that The Damned United doesn't figure among the novels selected for this year's Man Booker, because not only is Peace among our most original novelists, this is also the most extraordinary novel about football yet to appear." The Independent


fulltimeFull Time: The Secret Life of Tony Cascarino as told to Paul Kimmage

Footballer's autobiographies aren't commonly lauded for their literary merit. This one, however, has gathered some exceptional quotes, such as this from the Observer: "Angela's Ashes with half-time oranges... a footballer's autobiography like no other." Before we get too carried away, autobiography of course means ghost-written, in this case by award-winning Irish journalist Paul Kimmage. What makes the book so compulsive is the lack of excitable hyperbole about cash and glory, and the asking of hard questions. What happens when your body can't take it anymore? What happens when all the abuse, the bad press and the pressure of being a million-pound player convinces you it's over? What happens when you just can't be bothered? Added to this is a clever, tantalising structure that offers glimpses into guilt, secrets and intrigue that are then gradually revealed further on. Definitely a cut above the footie-autobiog rest.

Critics say: "Compared with the standard-issue footballer's autobiography, this is Tolstoy." The Guardian

Vote for your choice by Monday 31 May and then join our book club discussion on Tuesday 29 June at 8pm.

Last updated: about 3 years ago