Sunday, August 15, 2010

Playing for Pizza by John Grisham

Playing for Pizza is one of those books that touch your heart.

Playing for Pizza

It is a book about football (not soccer, which is what I generally associate with the word 'football'), about food, about Italy, and about passion and love. When I first read this book, I didn't know a thing about american football (admittedly, I still don't know too much about it) and I thought that it would be a pretty boring book for someone who is admittedly not too much of a sports fan. (And, when I recently recommended the book to a friend, she also said 'Oh, I don't really like american football, so I don't want to read it'). Well, here's the thing - you don't have to know anything about american football (or, for that matter, any sport in the world) to enjoy this book. You can enjoy it if you know a thing or two about doing something for love, about culture and about friendships that can last forever.

I think one of the best things about the book is the main character. Rick is, by no means, perfect. The book begins with him being the 'biggest goat in the history of professional football', by throwing three interceptions and causing his team to lose a match that they were almost certainly going to win, and making them lose the cup. He then finds that no team in the country wants to touch him, except for a team in Parma, Italy (and he has never even heard of the place) - Italy, where when you say 'football', they mean soccer. Well, he faces this ridicule bravely, moves to Italy (with a little complaining) and ends up falling in love with the place. And eventually the choices he has to make for the team and for himself are the highlight of the book.

There are some great minor characters - Sam (Rick's new coach), Franco (an old judge part of the Parma Panthers) and Nino (a restaurant chef who is also part of the team), Fabrizio ("high maintenance, think's he's god's gift to football, great hands"). All the Italians in the Parma Panthers play for nothing more than the love of the game (and for the after-game Pizza) and with them Rick (and the readers) learn what football really means. Each character is distinct and well-crafted, and their individual egos, problems, phobias, and aspirations form as big a part of this story as Rick's learning experience does. In this book, you will come to like some of the Parma Panthers and dislike some of them, but it is hard to ignore any character that you're introduced to, simply because Grisham is so good at crafting the characters.

Another great thing is the setting - the small town of Parma in Italy is shown in all its glory and all its failings. The descriptions of the food, the buildings, the small cars, the fashion, and the opera - all of this things will make you want to visit this place. Every small detail shows how well Grisham has studied this place. You are transported to Parma, and you might just fall in love with it enough in this book to want to stay there forever.

Final thoughts: Brilliant characters, well-researched setting and a good premise. You don't have to be a football fan to love this book.

Other things: I haven't been able to finish Frankenstein yet, but I think I'll put that on hold for now, and move on to reading something else.


  1. sounds very interesting!!! i'll borrow it 4m u sumtym! :)

  2. Lovely to meet another book lover!

    Will keep checking the reviews here :-)

  3. Sakhi - That was a wonderful review. I have been an avid fan of Grisham and his court room fictions, but of late I have discovered the other side of the master story teller. Similar to the one you have reviewed, one of the last books that I read was "The Painted House," which I have reviewed here - I will pick up Playing for Pizza in teh next visit to the store! Thanks for the review and I like your blog. You write really well with a definite hold over the language! Happy to be here and will be here more often! :)

    Frankenstein is a favourite of mine.. Once you are over with it, let me know. I would love to discuss!!! :)

  4. Nice Review Sakhi, I am big fan John Grisham's Legal Fiction Novels and I have also read some of his non legal fiction novel such The Summons!
    Thanks for the review, sure will pick up this one!

  5. Hey everyone,

    Aanal - definitely, anytime. Its a book to read. :)
    All Talk and No Action - Nice to meet another book lover too. Thanks for visiting and I'm glad you liked the review.
    Unapologetic confessions - I read painted house a few months ago, I'll definitely check out your review. Thanks for visiting.
    Sayed - Thanks so much. :) If you like his non-legal fiction, this is a great book. I haven't read the summons, how is it?

  6. Phew! Finally a review on a book by one of my favorite authors! Had to be the book I wanted to pick up the moment I saw it, and never could get the chance to read!
    After reading your review, I'm sure Mr. Grisham would be compelled to go through this book! :)

    If you like john Grisham's legal works, I think you might like 'A time to kill', 'The Firm', 'The Runaway Jury', 'The last juror' and 'The king of torts'. The last one was seriously U-N-P-U-T-D-O-W-N-A-B-L-E! And its ending took you by surprise to put it mildly!

    Great work! Keep it up!

  7. The Summons is good book, you can find the review at my blog - here is the link :

  8. Piyush: Haha, you should definitely read this book if you haven't read it yet. And the books you're suggesting seem quite interesting (admittedly, I haven't read a lot of Grisham, but it is said that The King of Torts is up among his best.

    Sayed: I've read the was quite interesting as I remember, but not all that memorable after a few years.

  9. I'm a Grisham fan, though I haven't read any of his books in a while. This one sounds really nice though --- it's on my to-read list for sure!

  10. My fav John Grisham novel is 'The Partner'. I had not heard abt this book. Wish I could borrow it from u :D

    BTW,I recently finished 'Nine Lives' by William Dalrymple. Heard/Read?

  11. Hi guys,

    Peddler of dreams: I'm sure you will like this book if you are a Grisham fan.

    Pavan: I haven't read the partner. How is it? And I've heard of 'Nine Lives' but not read it. Is it worth a try?

  12. Partner is really bad. That's why its my favorite :P :D
    Jokes apart, I loved it when I read it 6 years ago.

    Hmm,Nine lives is good in parts.9 separate stories - some are good. some get repetitive

  13. :) I shall keep a look out for both of these.

  14. hey...!!
    im not fond of john grisham much but attractive review ;)

    -sakhi shah ;)

  15. Hey Sakhi,

    I think this is quite different from the regular Grisham book. Give it a try. :)

  16. Must be an enjoyable read Playing for Pizza by John Grisham. loved the way you wrote it. I find your review very genuine and orignal, this book is going in by "to read" list.


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