To kick off the Bandy and Shinty Biweekly Book Club, we spoke to Seth Burkett, the author of The Boy in Brazil, detailing his experience of professional football in Brazil. He chose Robert Reng’s A Life Too Short as his favourite book. Before we get to Seth, allow us to introduce his chosen book:
Depression doesn’t care how much money you have, whether you have a special talent or not, whether you are worshipped and adored by thousands or even millions of fans. It couldn’t care less.
Oh sure, it’s easy for us fans to scoff and ask what reasons the star striker could possibly have to ‘get a bit down about’ given that he’s earning squillions of pounds and has a house the size of Lichtenstein. Besides, he’s living a life that most of us would happily swap our left arm for – why doesn’t he run around a bit more and look like he cares?
Well, that’s the thing, isn’t it? Those old adages annoyingly carry more than a grain of truth: money doesn’t necessarily make you happy. Of course, money does make life a heck of a lot easier but happy? That’s a very difficult thing to quantify and certainly a state that is independent of how much money you earn or what job you do.
Ronald Reng’s A Life Too Short – a biography of German goalkeeper Robert Enke who killed himself in 2009 – deservedly won the William Hill Sports Book of the Year in 2009. It’s a harrowing, poignant and tragic tale but above all, a very human story.
Anyway, over to you Seth.
What is your favourite football book?
It's probably Ronald Reng's A Life Too Short, closely followed by Alex Bellos's Futebol and Floodlit Dreams by Ian Ridley.
Why? Tell us about it. What’s so good about it?
Some really good advice I had about my own writing is that the best football books are never about football, and this is certainly the case with Reng's. Amazingly open, personal and touching on a disease which I never really knew much about. The depth is incredible, and the way Reng links Enke's illness with his experience on the football pitch - and particularly the role of the goalkeeper - was fascinating.
What book are you currently reading/did you last read? What's it like?
I'm currently working my way through Knausgaard's series of autobiographies, finishing with his Home and Away, which is about the 2014 World Cup. His writing style really draws you in. He can spend 70 pages talking about a dinner party and it still proves to be unputdownable. I've also just finished Tony Adam's recent autobiography, Sober. Again, a really interesting book and worth reading for his experiences in Azerbaijan alone.
What book are you looking forward to reading next?
James Brown's Above Head Height is next on my reading list. I'm not a five-a-side player but I still find his writing on the subject really relatable. I'm also looking forward to reading David Goldblatt's Futebol Nation - his 'Game of our Lives' was great and the Brazil angle obviously interests me.
Seth Burkett is the author of The Boy in Brazil, detailing his experience of professional football in Brazil. You can buy it here and here’s a review. He has also ghostwritten Football's Coming Out. It's really good.