There’s nothing better than reading about the beautiful game—well, other than playing, watching, or talking about it. But reading is definitely the fourth best thing about soccer! After nine seasons as a starting reviewer for Booklist (I wear Dewey Decimal number 796.334), I’ve gone on the record about many of the soccer books I’ve read. They’re not all winners, and I’m sure I’ve committed a few unintentional fouls, but I tend to get caught up in the books, just like the games. The following rankings are completely arbitrary and subject to change at any time.

Top Shelf

The Football Man, by Arthur Hopcraft

Soccer in Sun and Shadow, by Eduardo Galeano

Fever Pitch, by Nick Hornby

The Miracle of Castel di Sangro, by Joe McGinniss

Those Feet: A Sensual History of English Soccer, by David Winner

Bloody Confused! A Clueless American Sportswriter Seeks Solace in English Soccer, by Chuck Culpepper

The Numbers Game: Why Everything You Know about Soccer Is Wrong, by Chris Anderson and David Sally

Soccerhead: An Accidental Journey into the Heart of the American Game, by Jim Haner

Soccernomics: Why England Loses, Why Germany and Brazil Win, and Why the U.S., Japan, Australia, Turkey—and Even Iraq—Are Destined to Become the Kings of the World’s Most Popular Sport, by Simon Kuper and Stefan Szymanski

The Beckham Experiment: How the World’s Most Famous Athlete Tried to Conquer America, by Grant Wahl

Inverting the Pyramid: The History of Soccer Tactics, by Jonathan Wilson

Also Quite Good

Finding the Game: Three Years, Twenty-Five Countries, and the Search for Pickup Soccer, by Gwendolyn Oxenham

Home and Away: One Writer’s Inspiring Experience at the Homeless World Cup, by Dave Bidini

Kick the Balls: An Offensive Suburban Odyssey, by Alan Black

Soccer against the Enemy: How the World’s Most Popular Sport Starts and Stops Wars, Fuels Revolutions, and Keeps Dictators in Power, by Simon Kuper

How Soccer Explains the World: A Unlikely Theory of Globalization, by Franklin Foer

This Love Is Not for Cowards: Salvation and Soccer in Ciudad Juarez, by Robert Andrew Powell

Also Good, but Perhaps of More Limited Interest

Ajax, the Dutch, the War: Soccer in Europe during the Second World War, by Simon Kuper

Soccer Dad: A Father, a Son, and a Magic Season, by W. D. Wetherell

The Rough Guide to Cult Football, by Andy Mitten

Soccer Men: Profiles of the Rogues, Geniuses, and Neurotics Who Dominate the World’s Most Popular Sport, by Simon Kuper

The World Is a Ball: The Joy, Madness, and Meaning of Soccer, by John Doyle

More Than Just a Game: Soccer vs. Apartheid; The Most Important Soccer Story Ever Told, by Chuck Korr and Marvin Close

Finn McCool’s Football Club: The Birth, Death, and Resurrection of a Pub Soccer Team in the City of the Dead, by Stephen Rea

Love and Blood: At the World Cup with the Footballers, Fans, and Freaks, by Jamie Trecker

Winning at All Costs: A Scandalous History of Italian Soccer, by John Foot

Maradona: The Autobiography of Soccer’s Greatest and Most Controversial Star, by Diego Maradona and Daniel Arcucci

The Thinking Fan’s Guide to the World Cup, by Matt Weiland and Sean Wilsey

Once in a Lifetime: The Incredible Story of the New York Cosmos, by Gavin Newsham

Tales of Pluck and Glory

The Boys from Little Mexico: A Season Chasing the American Dream, by Steve Wilson

A Home on the Field: How One Championship Team Inspires Hope for the Revival of Small Town America, by Paul Cuadros

Outcasts United: A Refugee Team, an American Town, by Warren St. John

I Read Them So You Didn’t Have To

Babysitting George: The Last Days of a Soccer Icon, by Celia Walden

Salaam Stanley Matthews, by Subrata Dasgupta

Soccer in a Football World, by David Wangerin