By Paul Swydan
In our initial dozen Boston.com Book Club books, we’ve read books about sports, but we haven’t yet read one that focused on a Boston pro sports team. That changes in October, as our pick is “It’s Better to Be Feared: The New England Patriots Dynasty and the Pursuit of Greatness” by ESPN’s Seth Wickersham.
The book, which comes out on Oct. 12, focuses on the 20-year reign of the Patriots as they ascended to become football’s greatest dynasty. Wickersham started his career at ESPN in the same year that Bill Belichick and Tom Brady landed in New England, and Wickersham has pored through a lot of his own interviews. In the back of the book he offers 25 pages of notes on his sources for the book, which he begins by saying the book’s contents are “derived from hundreds of interviews lasting hundreds of hours.” It’s an example of the unprecedented level of detail that went into this book.
Attention to detail and organic reporting form the foundation of many good non-fiction books, but in order to make a book compelling, it needs to have a narrative flow. With sports books in particular, books tend to fall apart because of the urge to recap every moment of action on the field until the thread gets lost, buried under a mountain of exposition. Wickersham deftly avoids that trap.
As you would expect, the book revolves primarily around the Patriots’ trinity of head coach/general manager Bill Belichick, quarterback Tom Brady, and owner Robert Kraft. But there are plenty of other featured players both inside and outside the organization – Roger Goodell, Josh McDaniels, Jerry Jones, Malcolm Butler, Tom Brady Sr., Peyton Manning, Eric Mangini, Joe Montana, Julian Edelman, and many, many more. With many of these people, you don’t just get how they fit into the context of the Patriots’ greatness, but how they came to fit into said context. Even devoted Patriots fans are going to learn new things about people they’ve been following for decades.
The book has already received plenty of praise. The Ringer CEO Bill Simmons offers the grandest, saying “Seth Wickersham has managed to do the impossible: he has pulled off the definitive document of the Belichick/Brady dynasty.” The book has also received praise from national writers like Peter King (NBC Sports), Sally Jenkins (The Washington Post), Kevin Merida (Los Angeles Times), Albert Breer (MMQB/NBS Sports Boston), Kevin Telander (Chicago Sun-Times), to name but a few. King called it a “tour de force,” saying, “You think you know everything, or almost everything, about the Patriots’ dynasty? You don’t, and you won’t, until you read ‘It’s Better to Be Feared.’”
The book is Wickersham’s first. A senior writer at ESPN, Wickersham joined the network right out of journalism school at the University of Missouri, and his work is often featured on “Outside the Lines.” He is perhaps best known for his pieces he wrote/co-wrote on the Patriots’ Spygate and Deflategate scandals. An article he co-wrote with Don Van Natta Jr. on Jerry Jones trying to get Roger Goodell fired was featured in “The Best American Magazine Writing 2018.”
Joining Wickersham for this month’s live discussion is…me! While I work with Boston.com each month to select the book and bookseller for the Book Club, I have hesitated to get in front of the camera, but I couldn’t resist the opportunity to talk with Wickersham about this book. If you don’t know who I am, allow me to re-introduce myself. My name is Paul, I’m the owner/operator of The Silver Unicorn Bookstore in Acton, Mass. Before I joined the bookselling community, I worked in the sports industry for more than a decade, eventually finding a niche as a sportswriter and editor for many outlets, including Boston.com.
Now, I sling books. I opened The Silver Unicorn in 2018, and we’ve been fortunate to be warmly received in our community in our first three-plus years in business. We take pride in the three C’s –curation, convenience, and community, which I talked about when we were featured on “Chronicle” in 2019.
Join the Boston.com Book Club on Oct. 27 at 6 p.m. for a virtual discussion with The Silver Unicorn Bookstore’s Paul Swydan and ESPN senior writer and author Seth Wickersham on “It’s Better to Be Feared: The New England Patriots Dynasty and the Pursuit of Greatness.”
Pre-order “It’s Better to Be Feared” from: Bookshop | The Silver Unicorn Bookstore
Can’t wait? Buy a ticket to The Silver Unicorn’s in-person launch event on Oct. 11 with Wickersham and columnist Chad Finn at The Bull Run Restaurant in Shirley.
Catch up on the latest Boston.com Book Club pick and join the virtual author discussions
Be civil. Be kind.
©2021 Boston Globe Media Partners, LLC
Stay up to date with everything Boston. Receive the latest news and breaking updates, straight from our newsroom to your inbox.