Looking for some of the best World Cup books to whet your appetite for the upcoming tournament in Qatar? We've put together a list of 50 of the very best World Cup books.
Our list is broken down into books specifically about the World Cup, wider football history, biographical books about World Cup players, photography books, and some football fiction. In short, there's something for every football mad reader.
World Cup Non-Fiction
1. World At Your Feet by Rob Parker, illustrated by Lawerta
World At Your Feet is a beautifully illustrated football picture book with rhyming verses. Explore some of the most iconic World Cup goals ever scored. See these moments from the players' perspectives as you become the legends scoring 16 impressive goals. Whether you’re feeling nostalgic or discovering football for the first time, World At Your Feet can be enjoyed by adults and kids alike. That makes it the perfect World Cup book for children being introduced to the history of the tournament.
2. How to Win the World Cup: Secrets and Insights from International Football’s Top Managers by Chris Evans
Ever wanted to get into the minds of football stars in their pursuit of a World Cup win? Now's your chance to find out, with contributions from Luiz Felipe Scolari, Geoff Hurst, Carlos Alberto Parreira, Pierre Littbarski, and many more. Discover everything that goes into winning the World Cup from strategies to superstitions.
3. How Football (Nearly) Came Home: Advantages in Putin’s World Cup by Barney Ronay
Take a journey back to the summer of 2018 for the World Cup in Russia. England’s morale was at an all-time low, but with low morale came players ready to prove themselves. Sports journalist Barney Ronay is in the trenches and tells the tale of how England almost brought it home.
4. The Greatest Show on Earth: The Inside Story of the Legendary 1970 World Cup by Andrew Downie
At Mexico 1970, the World Cup reached a level of skill no one had ever witnessed before. It had more goals per game than any other World Cup, it was the first time a tournament was televised in colour, and the highest quality of football that had been seen up to that point. See the history of the 1970 World Cup like never before with interviews and archive material.
5. Das Reboot: How German Football Reinvented Itself and Conquered the World by Raphael Honigstein
Germany’s football took a dramatic turn in the build-up to 2014. Journalist and television pundit Raphael Honigstein explores the events that took Germany from no major wins since the late-90s to the free-flowing World Cup winners. Containing exclusive interviews, Das Reboot illuminates the transformation of German football.
6. Spirit of ‘58: The Incredible Untold Story of Northern Ireland’s Greatest Football Team by Evan Marshall
In 1958, the unthinkable happened, Northern Ireland got the chance to play for a spot in the World Cup semi-final. Containing interviews with players, Spirit of ‘58 tells a detailed, emotional, and exciting side of this significant moment in Northern Irish football.
7. One Night in Turin: The Inside Story of a World Cup that Changed our Footballing Nation Forever by Pete Davies
Italia ‘90 was the summer that changed English football forever. Pete Davis was given nine months of full access to the England team and gives his thrilling insider look in One Night in Turin. Davis has access to the England squad, manager Bobby Robson, locals, fans, journalists, and agents, giving readers an inside look at the tournament.
8. USA 94: The World Cup That Changed the Game by Matthew Evans
When the USA got their first chance to host the world cup many fans and media outlets were unsure if it would be successful. The USA proved them all wrong, shattering attendance records. USA '94 was filled with more drama than anyone could have expected, and this book takes readers back to the beginning.
9. No Longer Naïve: African Football’s Growing Impact at the World Cup by Ibrahim Mustapha
For a long time, African teams were called naïve in their approach. But no longer. Ibrahim Mustapha takes readers through the years of African football history and highlights the continent's key moments. African teams have closed the once enormous gap to established footballing nations and are becoming increasingly competitive.
10. Touched by God by Diego Maradona and Daniel Arnucci
Diego Maradona tells his story of how he ended up scoring the best goal in history and hoisted the World Cup aloft. Maradona is no doubt a footballing great, but he can be a polarising figure. This candid book gives an insight into all the events surrounding the 1986 tournament.
11. In the Heat of the Midday Sun: The Incredible Story of the 1986 World Cup by Steven Scragg
Take a nostalgic trip to one of the best World Cups to date: Mexico ‘86. This unique World Cup was full of memorable moments from the devastating earthquake and Colombia’s withdrawal, to the presence of great players like Sócrates, Platini, Francescoli, Butragueño, Belanov, and Elkjær.
12. We Made Them Angry: Scotland at the World Cup Spain 1982 by Tom Brogan
A nostalgic read about the run-up to Scotland's appearance in the 1982 World Cup in Spain. Starting from the 1980/81 qualifiers, We Made Them Angry is a fantastic read filled with details and Scottish pride. A truly memorable World Cup journey.
13. Out of the Shadows: The Story of the 1982 England World Cup Team by Gary Jordan
Revisit the 1982 World Cup from the perspective of the England team. With a foreword from Paul Mariner, Gary Jordan's book tells a somewhat forgotten part of the England national team's history. Out of the Shadows is a story of a team down on their luck since 1966 and goes with them as they try to make their way back into the spotlight.
14. 1982 Brazil: The Day Football Died by Stuart Horsfield
In the 1982 World Cup Brazil were on a roll, scoring an incredible 15 goals in five games. They captured the hearts of fans all over the world and although they didn’t reach the semi-finals, their brand of football is forever cemented in the game's history. Brazil 1982 shows this team's journey through the eyes of a young fan, making it a delightfully nostalgic and personal read.
15. When Asia Welcomed the World: The 2002 World Cup Revisited by Danny Lewis
Revisit the 2002 World Cup in South Korea and Japan with Danny Lewis, who was only six years old when he experienced this World Cup. When Asia Welcomed the World is a nostalgic look at the first World Cup hosted in Asia, as well as addressing the lows that came with it.
16. The Miracle of Castel di Sangro: A Tale of Passion and Folly in the Heart of Italy by Joe McGinniss
The Miracle of Castel di Sangro follows a small Italian village’s team in the late nineties as they reach heights they never thought were possible. Joe McGinniss has a loud narrative voice and his personality is a large aspect of the book. He spends time with the team as people and discovers what's so special about the isolated mountain region of Castel di Sangro.
17. The Ugly Game: The Qatari Plot to Buy the World Cup by Heidi Blake and Jonathan Calvert
When Qatar was announced as the host of the 2022 World Cup, fans couldn’t understand it, and then one of the biggest scandals of football was unearthed. Written by the Sunday Times Investigative journalists, The Ugly Game gives an inside and comprehensive look at the corruption and aftermath of the bidding process.
18. The National Team: The Inside Story of the Women Who Changed Soccer by Caitlin Murray
Follow the story of the U.S. Women's National Soccer Team from its inception in the 1980s to their three World Cups and four Olympic golds. With nearly 100 exclusive interviews from players, coaches, and other key members that make up the team, The National Team gives an inside never before seen look at who the U.S. team are at their core.
19. The Fall of the House of FIFA by David Conn
Behind the talent, fame, and drama lies betrayal, racketeering, and moral shortcomings. In The Fall of the House of FIFA, David Conn investigates the rise of FIFA and its eventual corruption. Coon is insightful and manages to balance his love for football with creating an honest account of the corruption in football.
20. Football in Sun and Shadow by Eduardo Galeano
From Latin America's distinguished writer Eduardo Galeano, Football in Sun and Shadow shows what makes the game loved by so many fans. This is not just a football history book, it’s a beautifully written novel showing the glory and passion of the sport.
21. The Ball is Round: A Global History of Football by David Goldblatt
At almost 1000 pages, The Ball is Round is a tome of football history. This is a book for history buffs with a love of football. Contextualising the game within the world around football, David Goldblatt not only has an engaging style of writing, but he also cites his sources.
22. The Age of Football: The Global Game in the Twenty-first Century by David Goldblatt
From the author of The Ball is Round comes an in-depth look at football as a sport and its relationship with our social, political, and economic lives. Be prepared to take off your rose-coloured glasses and swap them for a brand-new prescription. The Age of Football is a must-have for any football history buffs and fans who want to look behind the curtain.
23. The Pride of the Lionesses by Carrie Dunn
The goalposts are constantly moving for women’s football. In 2019, the Lionesses were dealing with restructuring caused by FA upheavals and many more challenges on their journey to the World Cup. The book tells the story of not just the Lionesses, but all the women on the sidelines making history happen. Journalist Carrie Dunn gives an insightful look into women's football history in the making.
24. Unsuitable for Females by Carrie Dunn
In 1921, the Football Association placed a ban on women's football in England. They stated it was "quite unsuitable for females". Over 100 years later, women are breaking records and cementing themselves as an integral part of football history. Carrie Dunn’s book tells the story of women’s football from the 1900s onwards, including the 50-year ban, the unsanctioned World Cup in Mexico, and the real women who made history.
25. State of Play: Under the Skin of the Modern Game by Michael Calvin
Get under the skin of football and truly dissect what makes the game great. Based on hundreds of hours of interviews, State of Play gives an inside look into football's politics, turmoils, and its biggest wins and losses. Want to know more about behind-the-scenes? Try Calvin’s earlier books The Nowhere Men and Living on the Volcano.
26. The Football Man: People & Passions in Soccer by Arthur Hopcraft
With an introduction by Michael Parkinson, The Football Man is a modern classic in sports writing. This study of the game documents the golden age of football and how it has transformed into the modern game we know today. Written two years after England had won the 1966 World Cup, The Football Man contains interviews from Bobby Charlton, George Best, Alf Ransey, Stanley Matthews, Matt Busby, and Nat Lofthouse.
27. A Woman’s Game: The Rise, Fall, and Rise Again of Women’s Football by Suzanne Wrack
From Victorian times to now, A Woman’s Game provides a history of football that is often untold. It contains fascinating segments from newspapers and provides an insightful look at the media's perception of women in the sport. Women’s football is full of potential and this read explores where it can go from here.
28. Fifty Years of Hurt: The Story of England Football and Why We Never Stop Believing by Henry Winter
Journalist and chief football writer for The Times, Henry Winter provides a unique and passionate perspective on the struggles of the England team. He addresses what went wrong for England and is on the hunt for solutions. The book contains 40 exclusive interviews with many big names including Steven Gerrard, Ian Wright, Frank Lampard and Jack Charlton.
29. Red Dragons: The Story of Welsh Football by Phil Stead
Red Dragons marks the evolution of Welsh football from 1876 onwards. Discover the earliest football clubs in Wales, The Welsh Cup, trailblazers, and the age-old football vs. rugby debate. Red Dragons gives a thoroughly researched and detailed look at the Welsh game, giving us an understanding of how modern Welsh football came to be.
30. Under the Lights and In the Dark: Untold Stories of Women’s Soccer by Gwendolyn Oxenham
Under the Lights and In the Dark covers a huge array of topics and themes within the world of football. It’s an expansive and fascinating look at the lives of professional football players from around the world. Financial struggles, homophobia, motherhood, and homelessness, there are far more factors that go into being a football player than just the game.
31. Futebol: The Brazilian Way of Life by Alex Bellos
A modern classic in football writing, Futebol explores Brazil’s strong connection to the sport. Brazil has turned out many legends and has become a part of the country's identity. Bellos highlights why Brazil is the ‘football country’. Updated in 2014, it shows where Brazil has come from as a country.
32. The Damned Utd by David Peace
Take a trip back to 1970s Leeds, Brian Clough is set to take over Leeds United but is this a dream opportunity or a nightmare? This biographical novel is so good it inspired the movie The Damned United, although the book provides a far more in-depth and nuanced look at Brian Clough as a person.
33. Eddie Hapgood Footballer: From Beyond the Touchline by Lynne Hapgood
Bristol-born Hapgood was the captain of Arsenal and England in the 1930s. Written by his daughter, Lynne Hapgood, this book reveals the real Eddie Hapgood. With research from history books, club records, and stories from fans and teammates, she pieces together his life to understand his life before she was born.
34. The Immortals: The Season Milan Team Reinvented Football by Arrigo Sacchi
Told by Arrigo Sacchi himself, The Immortals is a first-hand look at how one Italian coach reinvented football and brought Milan to the forefront of the football world. It's a short, focused read that is perfect for fans of Italian football.
Two-time FIFA Women’s World Cup winner Susie Petruccelli takes readers on her personal journey with football, identity, injuries, and motherhood. Alongside this, she addresses issues within the wider game of football. Raised by a Warrior is a thoughtful memoir for those curious about the personal side of the women’s game.
Eniola Aluko is a football powerhouse with an impressive 102 caps and 33 goals. She became the first woman pundit on Match of the Day and now reveals her journey in They Don’t Teach Us. Although she is known for football, the book also covers themes of dual nationality and identity, race and institutional prejudice, success, failure, and faith.
Football She Wrote is an expansive collection of stories featuring 20 voices. This anthology covers a huge range of topics in which you get personal stories, interviews, and activism surrounding all things football. The huge mix of voices makes this an essential read for those wanting to learn more about football off the pitch.
Howard Webb rose in the ranks of refereeing and reached a career-high in 2010 when he took charge of the World Cup Final. The viewpoint of a referee is like no other, in this memoir Webb delves into what it's like to be right in the middle of the action and officiating in the age of technology.
39. How Not to Be a Professional Footballer by Paul Merson
Former Arsenal and England star Paul Merson tells budding footballers exactly what NOT to do in his memoir How Not to Be a Professional Footballer. Full of hilarity, candidness, and terrific anecdotes, Merson digs into his 25 years in the football world. He talks of his time as a player in the 1980s and 1990s, his battles with addiction, and looks at who he is now.
Analytics and tactics
40. Football Hackers: The Science and Art of a Data Revolution by Christoph Biermann
Football is no longer won and lost on the field. The world of data analysis has opened up the game like never before. Football Hackers shows readers the data and places it within football history, giving a full view of the game we all love. Biermann interviews the game-changers of football: coaches, managers, scouts, and psychologists.
41. Inverting the Pyramid: The History of Football Tactics by Jonathan Wilson
Step into the minds of the great thinkers of football. Written by British sports journalist Jonathan Wilson, Inverting the Pyramid gives a fascinating insight into the history of tactics. It's an excellent book for players and fans who want to learn deeper about the game and for newcomers to the sport to understand how deep the game goes.
42. Zonal Marking: The Making of Modern European Football by Michael Cox
Football has grown and changed with its fans and players. Michael Cox has a unique eye for football analysis and delves into the European major leagues and how they have shaped football into what it is today. Cox provides a fascinating analysis but still holds onto the drama and human element of the game.
Photography & Design
43. Glory and Despair: The World Cup, 1930-2018 by Matthew Bazell
Glory and Despair explores the history of the World Cup in stunning library images. Start from the very beginning with the 1930 tournament and work your way up to 2018. See the visuals of the greatest wins, losses, controversies, and journeys in football history.
44. Goal!: Intimate portraits and interviews with every living FIFA World Cup™ Final scorer by Michael Donald
This beautiful photography book features portraits and interviews with all World Cup Final goalscorers from 1950’s Alcides Ghiggia to 2014’s Mario Götze. Goal! encapsulates football history in an intimate and personal way while still giving statistics and facts. Revisit your favourite World Cup finals, find out more about the finals you haven't seen, and discover the real people behind the goals.
45. The Official History of the FIFA World Cup by FIFA World Football Museum
Created by FIFA itself, The Official History of the FIFA World Cup is a definitive history of the world cup. It contains stats, exclusive interviews, photos, and other official memorabilia. With a forward from Gianni Infantino, this is a fantastic read for anyone who wants to know about football history but doesn't like the traditional novel format.
46. Snapshot: Scenes and Stories from the Heartlands of Scottish Football by Alan McCredie, Ally Palmer, & Daniel Gray
Experience a snapshot of Scottish football. This beautiful photography book is a celebration of Scottish football through and through. From pitches in the Highlands to Premierships. It's a fantastic nostalgic journey and an opportunity to learn more about the heart of Scottish football.
47. The Football Shirts Book: The Connoisseur’s Guide by Neal Heard
Packed with 150 football shirts from the iconic to the unusual, The Football Shirts Book is a perfect coffee table book for fans. The book has full-colour photography and interviews from the football shirt design teams to give fans an in-depth look at the shirts from the sport we love so much.
48. The Blinder by Barry Hines
A classic football book, The Blinder is the story of a young gifted footballer. Written and set in the 60s, it shows a depiction of working-class northern England. Barry Hines gives an excellent glimpse into what football was like in the 60s for young talent.
49. A Natural by Ross Raisin
Football is a huge player in A Natural and these details are what make it shine. The story follows Tom, a talented young player who is sent out to lower divisions, and Leah, the wife of a busy football captain. Both are grappling with their own struggles in the world of professional football. Covering topics of masculinity, loneliness, and pressure. Do you conform or do you become the person you were always meant to be?
50. The Van by Roddy Doyle
Finalist for the Booker Prize, The Van is a tale of two down-on-their-luck friends buying an old fish-and-chip van. Set during the 1990 World Cup, Ireland's brief success sends the country into high spirits. Full of heart and a good bit of swearing, this is a grounded look at male friendship.
That's our round-up of the best World Cup books
That concludes the list of 50 of the best World Cup books. Hopefully, that gives you plenty of ideas for book to entertain you up to Qatar 2022 and beyond.