Stuff I have been reading in 2014

by Lorenzo Piccoli

Seriously? Last time I wrote about the books I read was one year ago. Since then I have bought a lot of books, I have started many of them, and I have finished only a few. I think we are still talking about a dozen or so. Would it make sense to list them all? No, it wouldn’t. So I will only cite the three books that one way or another have had the greatest impact on this little mind since it moved down to Florence.

The book number one – in strict chronological order – should be Open, by Andre Agassi. Yes, it’s a best-seller, but unlike other best-sellers it is well written and it gave me that little incentive to start playing tennis consistently. I had rarely played before, maybe ten times in my whole life if we exclude the countless hours I spent bouncing a ball against the wall of my house back when I was a kid. (That, I in restrospect, can be qualified as low-quality squash at best). So I read Open by Agassi and it made me appreciate some distinguishing qualities of tennis, namely the feeling of being completely lonely on the court, the pressure and psychological challenge with your opponent, the fear. I started playing right after finishing the book and made it a habit to go twice a week with my loyal companions – Martin, Martjin, Pierre, Fabio, and Giallu. I haven’t improved much (guess I am not up for the psychological challenge yet?), but I am enjoying every part of it.

everything but tennis players

Then came another book about sport, endurance, psychology, and distress. Contrary to what you might think, The Damned Utd is not about Manchester United. Instead, this is a brilliant story about Brian Clough’s brief spell as manager of Leeds United football club in 1974. The book, that was suggested to me by Old Tom, is quite crisp. After reading it I watched the movie and realized that I genuinely liked the actor, Michael Sheen. I therefore started watching all his other productions, including the highly ingenious TV series Masters of Sex, and I am currently planning to watch the Blair trilogy. In the end, because of one single book I spent dozens of hours in front of my laptop. Not necessarily good, but certainly fun.

After two entertaining books it is time for something a bit more depressing. Ill Fares the Land is the last book published by Tony Judt before dying at the age of 62. Written under the debilitating effects of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, Ill Fares The Land is the political manifesto of one of the greatest contemporary historians of our time. This is a compelling read advocating a return to social democracy. I have been recommending it to virtually everybody. Unlike Postwar,  the 1000-page Judt’s masterpiece, this is a book everybody can finish in a couple of days. After finishing it I moved onto The Memory Chalet and Reappraisals, thus continuing my personal discovery of this outstanding academic who writes marvelously about things that I find deeply passionating.