August Book Reviews

I read three very different, but interesting books in August.  All were non-fiction, but had to do with completely different areas.

Soccer Against the EnemySimon Kuper.  Kuper is an English journalist who covered soccer at the start of his career, moved to finance and economics but got bored and moved back to soccer.  This book is similar to Franklin Foer‘sHow Soccer Explains the World: An Unlikely Theory of Globalization, one of my favorite books from last year.  Kuper travels around the world attending soccer matches right after the fall of the Berlin Wall.  Each chapter could stand alone as a short story, but they flow together well enough to create a narrative about soccer around the world.  My favorite chapter in the book was the one about Dynamo Kiev, the biggest and most successful club in Ukraine.  Dynamo has turned into a huge business, not just a soccer club.  Any foreign company that wants to do a joint venture in Ukraine tried to partner with Dynamo for tax reasons and because everyone in Ukraine knew Dynamo and would be more likely to support the project.  It’s interesting to see how sports teams become bigger parts of an economy and become “Més que un club” or more than a club, which is FC Barcelona‘s motto.  If you like soccer, check out this book.

The 4-Hour WorkweekTim Ferriss.  I had skimmed this book a year ago, but had not gotten a chance to read it carefully.  Whatever you think of Ferriss, the book contains so some worthwhile time management skills, business strategies and ideas that make you reexamine your lifestyle.  Ferriss tells the story about how he went from an office job where he worked many hours per week to creating a product that lets him travel the world and only requires him to work as little as four hours per week.  I agree with his ideas that “mini-retirements” should be spread out throughout life, rather than working your entire life to retire when you are in your 60s and I enjoyed hearing how he has used the new global supply chain to launch a product with minimal up front costs, but he lost me with his story about how he won a gold medal at the Chinese National Kickboxing Tournament and has a world record in Tango.  While Ferriss comes across as a bit of a loner who believes that the ends justify the means in pretty much all facets of life, it would be a mistake to completely dismiss the book because of the arrogance of the author.  I’m confident that if you read the book, you’ll find at least a few of his ideas worthwhile.

A Pint of PlainA Pint of Plain: Tradition, Change and the Fate of the Irish PubBill Barich.  I started this book because I had just gotten back from a week in Ireland, visiting, among other things, a few Irish pubs.  The book is about Barich’s attempt to find a traditional Irish pub to be his “local.”  The book starts off well, but is pretty slow and delves too much into each pub’s individual history for my taste.  His chapters on how Ireland has changed in the last 5-10 years as a result of globalization are interesting, but the most interesting take away from the book was his stat that bars in the UK that change formats to and Irish pub see 3x greater turnover than from before the format change.  There is something powerful about the Irish pub that makes it successful all over the world.  I wouldn’t bother reading this book.  Instead, check out your local Irish pub or go take a trip to the real thing in Ireland.

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