Man vs Bookshelf

Man vs Bookshelf: Stress and Soccernomics

This entry is part 57 of 104 in the series Man vs Bookshelf

I’ve been procrastinating again, but then, it’s been a stressful day.

A few months ago my girlfriend and I decided we wanted to move house.

There were numerous reasons for this, the main one being I am the only person on the current mortgage, and we’d quite like to buy somewhere together. Somewhere bigger. Somewhere where we can start and raise a family, at least through infancy.

Also, I think Fay would like to remove the current assumption that it will be her that becomes homeless, should we break up.

Having moved before, when I bought the flat, I knew this would be no cakewalk. There would be the stress of contracts and solicitors and dealing with almost human middlemen.

But at the moment, that isn’t the main problem.

The main problem is that my flat is on the market, but the market doesn’t seem to have noticed.

The fact is the market has dipped, and my belligerent obsession with getting a profit on was hurting our chances of selling.

Realising this, and wanting to act I have today agreed to lower the price.

By rather a lot.

Meanwhile the place Fay and I had our heart set on is now sold, so that’s a kick in the balls.

For me, anyway. For her, it’s a kick in the –

Let’s not go there.

So, I had this meeting, and I felt tense and annoyed afterwards because nothing is going the way I want it to. Because I’m worried about if we’ll ever sell this place or if we’ll be trapped here forever.

You’ll recognise the positive power of negative thinking.

It means I’ve done a lot of procrastinating today, rather than ploughing on with the writing I was supposed to be doing.

Here was the plan:

  1. Edit the next chapter of my forthcoming novel: The Black Sheep’s Shadow.
  2. Schedule my next blog (this blog)
  3. Edit a further chapter of my forthcoming novel: Still the Black Sheep’s Shadow
  4. Write the first draft of the blog after this one

Only it’s seven pm and dinner is minutes away and I’m only just on point two of this depressing list.

It was wishful thinking that I’d get all four items done before I ate, but as ever, I could be further than I am.

First, I spent a lot of time faffing around with my fantasy football team, even though it’s too late to change anything.

Then I underwent the arduous task of reordering all the books on my bookshelf, as well as on the spreadsheet which details what order I am going to read my Man vs Bookshelf books in.

This was useful. Now rather than having a load of stand-alone books in a row I’ve made it so the order runs – three stand-alone books, a series, three stand-alone books, a series – and on and on until the end.

Useful, but it could have waited. I didn’t need to do it today.

But I’m a writer, and to writers ideas are like children. They grab hold of you, demand attention, and don’t stop screaming until you entertain them.

This manifests itself most often when you’re editing a novel and an idea for a new book comes into your head.

You’ve told yourself you won’t write anything else until your current project is finished but this new idea is like an itch, and it gets worse and worse until, finally, you just have to scratch it.

Over the year’s I’ve got much better at shoving those new stories ideas away until called for, but the little ideas, that have nothing to do with writing, are still impossible to ignore.

When the idea to rearrange my books for Man vs Bookshelf came along today, I held it off as long as I could. But, in the end, I stopped my editing mid-sentence to deal with it.

I could no longer hold off scratching.

So here I am at – checks laptop clock – 19:07, trying to recall the book Soccernomics, which is one of those I handed to the charity shop a couple of weeks ago after reading it.


Still, we push the stress to one side. We forget about the house worries and try to feel okay about the time we’ve wasted today when we could have been writing.

We put it all to the side and focus on the book.

You know, the latest one I can barely remember.


According to Wikipedia, Soccernomics doesn’t exist.

Seems like I’m not the only one with a poor memory.

Goodreads is slightly more positive about the situation. Soccernomics has a page here.

Its average rating is 3.91, though I’m not sure how trustworthy this is. The first review opens “As soccer being my favorite sports, I was really hoping to like this a lot more than I actually did.” But gives it four stars.

I gave it three.

The second review begins far more eloquently (not to mention with better grammar and without the American spelling).

“Fascinating use of statistics to disprove the prevailing social mindset on how football functions, a real easy and enjoyable read.”

Cor, talk about straight out of a textbook, well done Mr Tfitoby.

As for how accurate it is, I’d agree with the first half, more than the second.

It does indeed use fascinating statistics to disprove the prevailing social mindset on how football functions.

It looks at a load of interesting football related items, such as :

  1. how the amount of wages spent by a club is a far better indicator of how they will fair in the league than how much they have spent on transfers.
  2. how certain clubs run their transfer policies to get the most out of them – selling when a player reaches thirty, buying between 20-25, not buying strikers.
  3. Explaining how England are not poor performers. Rather, we have too high expectations.

It’s interesting, and this almost makes it worth reading alone, if you’re interested in the statistical side of football (and a lot of football fans will not be).

Where Tfitoby and I diverge (and I do hate to disagree with him, he seems like a top guy) is in his description of Soccernomics being “a real easy and enjoyable read.”

For this challenge, I read the first and second Freakonomics books. What made these so good was that they were fast-paced. They drilled into the fascinating statistics and told great stories around them.

This was where I felt Soccernomics fell down, and why I only felt able to give it a three out of five.

It took a long time to get to the interesting statistics in any given chapter, and I felt the stories told around the stats weren’t interesting enough to drive the book forward.

Ideally, one would skim the book to take the interesting points from it, without getting bogged down in the actual, you know, reading of it.

At times that’s what I found myself doing and, if not for this challenge, I feel I would have been paying far less attention.

So this book is well researched, and the stats are interesting, but as a book, you enjoy to read – not so much.

Next Time

Next up we were supposed to be discussing a book on the history of Manchester United.

However, for reasons other than boredom, which I will delve into in the next blog, we will be forgoing this for the time being.

Instead, we’ll be skipping ahead to the next book, a fast-paced thriller I absolutely loved.

It’s The Good Guy, by Dean Koontz.

See you for that.

Series Navigation<< Man vs Bookshelf: The Black AngelMan vs Bookshelf: A Spot of Bother >>
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International worst-selling author Mark Ayre has been writing since before he could pick up a pen (somehow). An author of mystery and suspense novels including the James Perry Series of mysteries.

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