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Friday Night Lights by H.G. Bissinger Book Review

Reasons For Reading This Book:

Because I watch sports shows and documentaries on Netflix, the algorithm suggested the show Friday Night Lights to me. When I read the description I saw that it was a show based on of a book. After looking more into it I found out that their is also a movie based on the book. I put the book on my to read list for a while. When it came time to pick the next book I was going to read I looked at a blog post about Fall Book Recommendations. I found that I had already read a number of the books on the list. To my surprise Friday Night Lights by H.G. Bissinger was on the list. I checked to see if it was available at my library and it was. I took this as a sign that I was meant to read this book at that time. For reference I read this book the first week of November in 2022. I should also mention that I am a huge sports fan and big into my university's football team (my alma is also mentioned in this book many times), so even though this may seem like a very odd book for me to read if you know my past reviews, it actually made sense why I would read a book like this. This is also the first book I have read that is strictly sports related. 

Content of This Book:

Journalist H.G. Bissinger moved to Odessa, Texas 1989 to write this book . His whole goal in writing this book was to tell the story of the winningest high school football team in Texas history, the Permian Panthers of Odessa. Odessa is a oil producing town in west Texas. The town lives and breathes for the high school football. Buzz follows the lives of the coaches, parents, fans and the players from the beginning of the season at the Watermelon Feed through the dramatic ending of the season. This book describes the social and racial divide of Odessa while also telling the deeply moving and disturbing stories of all those involved in the Permian 1989 season. In addition to telling the personal stories Buzz also examines the role of high school sports in America. Named by Sports Illustrated's as the best football book of all time, this book tells of a town, a team, and a dream. 

What I Liked About This Book:

The drama. Wow, with this being a sports focused book I did not expect the level of drama that would surround a high school football team. I was truly blown away by the whole-picture story that Buzz told. He gave the history of Odessa from an economic, societal, and racial view point. Buzz did not leave anything out. I finished this book knowing every little detail that I could have wanted about this story, town, and team. The order of the chapters was perfect. The reader was given the history when it was needed and given personal account when that was needed. The flow of the plot was seamless from start to finish. The book began with the history but then intertwined the per-season events and background of the focused players and people. Buzz perfectly introduced new people into the plot by giving some background and then seamlessly adding their story into the rest of the book. When I first started reading this book I was worried that it was going to include interview style dialogue. I was surprised and pleased that it did not. The information that Buzz learned from his conversations with the people of Odessa was flawlessly woven into the plot. The way Buzz wrote the summaries of the football games was captivating, action packed and enticing. Each time a game sequence came up I felt like I was right there in the stands watching the action on the field. For each person in the town whether that be coach, player or fan that had a story line, the reader was brought into their life fully. You knew what life was like at work, at home, on the field, you knew everything. This shows a tremendous amount of effort and detail on Buzz's part. He could not have written such a comprehensive story if he had not lived in this town and lived the life of the Odessa people. I want to give appreciation to Buzz for truly living this life to tell this amazing story. Another thing I loved about this book is that Buzz had no agenda for how this book should end. He let the season and people tell the story and he wrote it into an unforgettable book. Buzz told the good and bad of every person, you were truly sucked into each person's story and felt all that they felt during this season. Because I could go on and on about this book and what I liked about it, lastly I would like to say that the epilogue and afterwards were much appreciated as a reader and I recommend reading them. Get the 25 year edition when you get your copy.

What I Disliked About This Book:

Even though I praised the in-depth detail of the history of Odessa, while reading it it felt very journalistic in its writing style. At first it turned me off from the book and I doubted if I would continue reading. I pushed though and man was it worth it. It is a monster of a book being over 400 pages. After pushing through the history sections I began to enjoy the story. While reflecting on this book I came to appreciate that detailed history of Odessa and am very grateful that it was included. This is a warning that you may struggle to get through the first bit of the book, but don't worry it picks up and you won't be able to put it down. The second thing that I disliked about this book was the overuse of the word euphoria. If I had to pick one buzz word from this book it would be euphoria. The author used it appropriately, just over used it. This is just something I made a note of while reading and thought I would include it. This is course not a turn off, just an observation. Something that intimidated me about the book at first, but ended up not being an issue, the length. This book is around 400 pages. 

Would I Recommend This Book?

Without a doubt yes! If you are looking for the perfect fall read then get yourself a copy of this book and buckle up for a story of a life time. I will say if you are not a huge sports fan this might not be your first choice but I say give it a chance, I don't think you will regret it. Once I got going I could not put it down. This book would also be a great gift for any sports fans. 

Movie Review and Book/Movie Comparison:

I watched Friday Night Lights the movie a couple days after I finished the book. The actors looked and portrayed the 'characters' just as I had imagined. The casting was spot on. What I got from the book was a more encouraging and softer spoken Coach Gaines then what was seen in the movie. I did listen to a podcast about the book and movie after I had finished both and they said that some of the actors said actual phrases that the real coaches used. So that might discredit my opinion on how I thought Coach Gaines was. Because the movie could not include all the details from the book, there were big sections from the book that were not included. The screen writers chose what had the most action for the movie and I agree with their decision to omit current sections. I watched the movie with my mother and she asked me what mojo meant because they did not include the history of the phrase in the movie. I believe this was something that should have been explained in a voice over/narration as it is a big piece of Permian football. The movie also changed some of the details around some of the football games, i.e. location and injury. Overall I really enjoyed the movie and think that it was and adequate adaptation of the book.

Check out my book reviews for 2022!!

Check out my book reviews for 2021!!

Check out my book reviews for 2020!!

Check out my book reviews for 2019!!


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