Premier League Reading Stars 2012

The Premier League Reading Stars list of 2012 is out.  The idea is that footballers might encourage kids and grown-ups to read by ‘backing books’ in public. 

My friend Matthew and I tried to get a grant for a similar scheme a few years ago, possibly using Sir Roy as a figurehead, but we were turned down (for reasons that were probably very unfair) and “Roy’s Reads” never did make it.  However, here we are, and here’s what we’re reading:

Theo Walcott (Arsenal)
Children’s book: TJ and the Hat-trick by Theo Walcott
Adults’ book: Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone by JK Rowling

Comment: Pah! Theo plugs his own book and then possibly the least original suggestion for an adult book imagineable. Not a great start to our list.

Barry Bannan (Aston Villa)
Children’s book: Charlie and the Chocolate Factory by Roald Dahl
Adults’ book: David Beckham: my side by David Beckham

Comment: Barry starts well with some Roald Dahl – fine idea – but lets himself down with the Beckham. He’d have been better off putting another Roald Dahl up there.

Ryan Nelsen (Blackburn Rovers)
Children’s book: Kiss! Kiss! Yuck! Yuck! by Kyle Mewburn
Adults’ book: The Marks of Cain by Tom Know

Comment: Fair play to Nelson – haven’t heard of either of these.  The blurb for the Marks of Cain goes:

The gripping new high-concept thriller from the author of The Genesis Secret, perfect for fans of Dan Brown and Sam Bourne.

In America a young man inherits a million dollars, from a grandfather he thought was poor. Meanwhile, across Europe old men and women are being killed, in the most barbaric and elaborate of ways. And a brilliant scientist has disappeared from his laboratory in London, taking his extraordinary experiments with him.

Tying these strange events together is an ancient Biblical curse, a medieval French tribe of pariahs, and a momentous and terrible revelation: something that will alter the world forever. One couple is intent on discovering this darkest of secrets, others will kill, and kill again, to stop them.

Shifting from the forgotten churches of the Pyrenees, to the mysterious castles of the SS, to the arid and frightening wastes of Namibia, Tom Knox weaves together astonishing truths from ancient scripture and contemporary science to create an unputdownable thriller.


Stuart Holden (Bolton Wanderers)
Children’s book: The Twits by Roald Dahl
Adults’ book: The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho

Comment: Again, high marks for the Twits – another fine book – but the Alchemist is… well a bit… what am I trying to say… oh I don’t know.

Josh McEachran (Chelsea)
Children’s book: Mr Messy by Roger Hargreaves
Adults’ book: El Diego by Diego Maradona

Comment: Josh keeps it simple with a Mr Men book (clever, in that it’ll lead the reader onto others in the series), then suggests we read up on Diego Maradona. I don’t know about that but perhaps it’s a half-interesting choice.  I haven’t read it, and would imagine that Jimmy Burns’ book is better, but again, nobody asked my opinion. It’s Josh’s choice.

Tim Cahill (Everton)
Children’s book: BFG by Roald Dahl
Adults’ book: The Smell of Football by Mick Rathbone

Comment: a pattern is emerging isn’t it?  BUT, Cahill has done what others haven’t and come up with something interesting sounding:

When Mick Rathbone signed for Birmingham City as a 16 year-old apprentice he was living every schoolboy’s dream. But when he discovered he was so nervous he was unable to speak, let alone pass the ball, in the presence of his boyhood hero and City star Trevor Francis he realised that a career in football might not be everything he had imagined. The Smell of Football is the brutally honest and utterly unputdownable story of how ‘Baz’ conquered his personal demons to build a life in the game – from the terrified teenager who purposely tried to get injured in training rather than get picked for the first team, to the experienced pro who became Head of Medicine at Premier League Everton FC in charge of the treatment of the likes of Wayne Rooney, Louis Saha and Tim Cahill. Brilliantly written and packed with hilarious tales featuring a football ‘who’s who’ cast of characters – from Sir Alf Ramsey and ‘Big Sam’ Allardyce to David Moyes, Duncan Ferguson and Rooney himself – The Smell of Football is an engrossing and moving memoir that covers every aspect of the professional game and gives an unprecedented insight into what life is really like at football’s coalface.

Sounds good.

Mark Schwarzer (Fulham)
Children’s book: Megs and the Vootball Kids by Neil Montagnana-Wallace and Mark Schwarzer
Adults’ book: Destined To Live by Ruth Greuner

Comment: Mark goes for one of his own (shameless!) then something about the holocaust. Goodness.

Charlie Adam (Liverpool)
Children’s book: Quack! Quack! by Roger Priddy
Adults’ book: May I have your attentions please? by James Corden

Comment: Oh for f*ck’s sake.

Owen Hargreaves (Manchester City)
Children’s book: The Cat in the Hat by Dr Seuss
Adults’ book: The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho

Comment: Expected more from Hargreaves.  Fine children’s choice, bland adult choice. Next.

Chris Smalling (Manchester United)
Children’s book: Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire by JK Rowling
Adults’ book: The Da Vinci Code by Dan Brown

Comment: Smalling expects more of his children: where Walcott made Harry Potter his adult choice, Chris believes this will work in the other category, too.  Dan Brown? Must try harder. If you’re going to select someone from your squad who’s a ‘reader’, why not get someone who reads?

Mike Williamson (Newcastle United)
Children’s book: Meg and Mog by Helen Nicoll
Adults’ book: Bob Wilson’s Ultimate Collection of Sporting Lingo by Bob Wilson

Comment: See above. Bob Wilson’s Ultimate Collection of Sporting Lingo?  What?

David Fox (Norwich City)
Children’s book: The Gruffalo’s Child by Julia Donaldson
Adults’ book: Operation Mincemeat by Ben Macintyre

Comment: Ah, okay. This is interesting. Hats off to Fox for coming up with something interesting sounding, not about football and not completely obvious.  It’s between him and Cahill at this point, then.

Joey Barton (QPR)
Children’s book: The Witches by Roald Dahl
Adults’ book: Dracula by Bram Stoker

Comment: A canny choice, something that people will be able to identify with but perhaps haven’t read before. Roald Dahl is obvious but safe: fine books, silly man.

Carlo Nash (Stoke City)
Children’s book: Charlie and the Chocolate Factory by Roald Dahl
Adults’ book: Family Adventures in Style by Dr Jill Nash and Carlo Nash

Comment: Jesus wept…

John O’Shea (Sunderland)
Children’s book: Fantastic Mr Fox by Roald Dahl
Adults’ book: The Runaway Jury by John Grisham

Comment: alright, not my cup of tea but I imagine Grisham books are perfect for long away trips, etc. I can see this.

Leon Britton (Swansea City)
Children’s book: James and the Giant Peach by Roald Dahl
Adults’ book: An Idiot Abroad by Karl Pilkington

Comment: er. Okay. Fine.

Niko Kranjcar (Tottenham Hotspur)
Children’s book: Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone by JK Rowling
Adults’ book: To Kill A Mockingbird by Harper Lee

Comment: Good choices, nothing too ‘out there’ and while I had hoped Niko to come up with some interesting sounding book from his homeland, this is a fine (if obvious) recommendation.

Paul Scharner (West Bromwich Albion)
Children’s book: The Gruffalo’s Child/The Gruffalo by Julia Donaldson
Adults’ book: The Count of Monte Cristo by Alexandre Dumas

Comment: No wonder Roy has been after him for a while.  Dumas doesn’t seem enormously respected but I love his books (although I haven’t read this one).  Good choice, if a little intimidating (it is a massive, massive book).  In that sense, given the point of this exercise, he’s showing off a bit, isn’t he?

Chris Kirkland (Wigan Athletic)
Children’s book: Splat the Cat by Rob Scotton
Adults’ book: Thinking Outside the Box by Brad Friedel

Comment: righto.

Stephen Ward (Wolverhampton Wanderers)
Children’s book: The Gruffalo by Julia Donaldson
Adults’ book: Digital Fortress by Dan Brown

Comment: And that’s that.

Well done Tim Cahill, Niko Krancjar and David Fox.  Otherwise, what have we learned?  Me, I’m going to dig out Paul Scharner’s Dumas, but then will probably put it straight back on the shelf.  One day…

What do you think?

20 thoughts on “Premier League Reading Stars 2012

  1. Your reactions to the various book choices had me chuckling away at my computer screen. I guess we really should stop thinking that there is any possibility that there are intellectual giants hidden amongst footballers.

    As for the Count of Monte Cristo – Its a huge book, but a fantastic swashbuckling tale, if not very thought provoking. Basically it is a damn fine yarn, that should have you glued to it for a while.

    My choices:

    Childrens Book – Max Makes a Million by Maira Kalman
    Adult book – too many to choose from, but Invisible Man but Ralph Ellison is great

  2. I like Kranjcar’s choices a lot; To Kill A Mockingbird is a phenomenal book (albeit, as you mentioned, a bit obvious). Also liked Cahill’s choices. I suppose Nash gets a little bit of credit for recommending his own book but having it be about something other than sports. And Walcott looks like a twit by picking something as an “adult” book that two other guys identified as being appropriate for kids.

  3. It is a very disappointing list. Seems to be more footballers this year but less variety. I suppose it’s just about encouraging people to read but seems like they could have made a better effort. Couldn’t be that hard to have some one sit down with them and recommend a few books – then the players might get something out of it too.

    My choices;

    Children’s book: Cosmic by Frank Boyce Cottrell
    Adults’ book: Animal Farm by George Orwell

    1. Awesome.

      And as above, Monte Cristo is old and long but basically a page-turner. I think you sold Scharner short — it’s not like he’s recommending Proust.

      I can’t believe nobody went with Russell Hoban for both (one of his many fine children’s books, plus Riddley Walker for the adults). Well, ok, I can believe it. Nobody reads Riddley Walker.

      1. Yeah but if you don’t read much then the last thing likely to get you reading is something of 1000 pages. He could have been a bit more welcoming in his idea.

  4. My suggestions:

    Children: Charlotte’s Web by EB White (or Winnie the Pooh – forget the Disneyfication of it, the Milne books remain hilarious).

    Grownups might as well read Pooh, too, but my choice would be something like Hangover Square by Patrick Hamilton, which is triffic.

    1. I totally need you to start writing a book recommendation blog again. You could help fill in all the gaps in my knowledge caused by bunking off most of my A-Level English class.

      How have I never heard of Patrick Hamilton? That looks an excellent choice and I’ve added it to my list of books to get.

  5. Lot of Dan Brown types. I wonder how a survey of their religious beliefs would go? Could be dangerous. I suspect I’d dislike the beliefs and politics of many of my footballing heroes, so better not to know.

  6. Kids Book : The Hobbit by you know who

    Adult’s book : The Sisters Brothers by Patrick deWitt (only because I recently finished it and loved it!)

  7. BTW – of the current Fulham team I’d love to hear what the following would suggest : Simon Davies, Danny Murphy and Brede !

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