Former New York Times sports columnist George Vescey made a career of covering people and places off the beaten path. As national correspondent for the New York Times, he spent weeks in Appalachia in the 1970s talking with coal miners and their families. As a religion reporter, he interviewed the Dalai Lama. And when he first started covering the World Cup, beginning at the 1982 tournament in Spain (at which Italy took down Germany in the final match), it was still out of the ordinary for an American sports writer to take interest in the international game.
World Cup soccer brought him some unforgettable experiences: "When you see lightly clad Brazilian women dancing down the Rambla in Barcelona to a Samba beat, you tend to remember," Vescey says. Now, as he turns 75 just before this year's knock-out stage begins, his book Eight World Cups: My Journey Through the Beauty and Dark Side of Soccer, traces his timeline through the sport, beginning as a teenager in Queens through the Klinsmann era with the U.S. national team.
On a Saturday morning phone call from his home office in New York, Vescey listed off 10 great soccer books anyone who finds themselves falling in love with the Beautiful Game should investigate. So if you're off to the beach between matches, away from radio, TV, or cell service, bring along Fever Pitch, Among the Thugs, or Soccer in Sun and Shadow, or any of the others on this list to maintain your soccer high.
I am Zlatan Ibrahimovic, by Zlatan Ibrahimovic
Ibrahimovic, the powerful Swedish goal-scorer, is inarguably the world's best player not currently playing in the World Cup, since the Swedes didn't make it through qualifying in Europe. While this memoir came out in Europe last fall, it only just became available in the U.S. It's worth a read even though the protagonist won't be playing this month, since "Ibra" provides an unvarnished commentary on many of the modern stars and coaches who are under the spotlight in Brazil. Charismatic and outspoken in the media, Ibrahimovic holds nothing back as he takes us through his evolution from bike-stealing immigrant kid childhood in southern Sweden, to the flashy, Ferrari-driving scorer he is now.