Where did Ronaldo learn his signature shuffle? Who first developed the Brazilian style? And why are Italian fans called tifosi? Get ready for World Cup fever by reading Who Invented the Bicycle Kick?: Soccer’s Greatest Legends and Lore (Wm. Morrow, $14.99),by Paul Simpson and Uli Hesse. This compact book, packed with trivia, will regale you with everything you always wanted to know—and never knew you were missing—about the global history of soccer. Heroes and bad boys; personalities and hidden talents; unforgettable matches and unbelievable shots; original maneuvers and unusual nicknames; curses and streaks—it’s all in here.
Jude Stewart’s veritable explosion of historical facts, sayings, stories, cultural perspectives, and quotations about twelve colors, while literary, is not for the linear thinker. ROY G. BIV: An Exceedingly Surprising Book about Color (Bloomsbury, $22) may be read chapter-by-chapter, but is also meant to be read like a Venn diagram or a flow chart, with the focus on the connections between colors and on the margin notes, which inform readers about saffron yellow, shocking pink, and purple prose; for example. If you ever pondered how fluid substances, visually experienced, could ever effectively be described with words, this is the book for you.
Having thoroughly enjoyed and been impressed by Elizabeth Gilbert’s wit and story-telling gifts in her previous work, I held my breath wondering what she would do with a historical novel. I can breathe deeply now. The characters spring fully formed from the page, immersed in all the themes of early 19th-century life—poverty, the quest for knowledge (and wealth), art and craftsmanship, sea travel and trade, Calvinism, tropical botany, evolution, the class structure, abolition, and spiritualism. The Signature of All Things (Viking, $28.95) is a gripping, generational saga of parents and daughters; a sweeping, surprising, deeply engrossing, historical adventure and exploration of scientific and personal discovery; but primarily, it is the life of Alma Whittaker, privileged and educated daughter of a former thief and extraordinarily successful self-made businessman, as she becomes his heir and a gifted botanist and explorer in her own right. Unreservedly my favorite book of the year.