A replica of the FIFA Soccer World Cup Trophy is pictured at the FIFA headquarters in Zurich

The World Cup is fast approaching (duh duh duh). While most of us are steeped in Football Think 24/7, the World Cup offers a moment to reflect on the history and meaning of the game. As such, whether you’re a hardcore football nerd or a relative beginner, this is a good opportunity to some reading in order to better appreciate the four week tournament in Brazil. Here therefore are six books worth your time ahead of the big show in June. I’ve also included whether it’s good for quick reads in the bathroom, or long reads on the subway.

1. The Story of the World Cup by Brian Glanville ($14.79)

Bathroom read or subway read?: Bathroom.

Why it’s great: This book is the reason I decided to start writing about football. Glanville summarizes every World Cup stretching back to the 1930 tournament, and his storytelling ability will change not only how you view football, but sportswriting itself. Unfortunately, some of the later entries are in need of a solid edit or two, but pretty much everything through to 1998 is fascinating and will genuinely make you excited for the inevitable let down this summer (kidding, maybe).

2. Futebol: The Brazilian Way of Life by Alex Bellos ($7.58)

Bathroom read or subway read?: Subway.

Why it’s great: Alex Bellos gives the reader an incredible glimpse into the passion for football in Brazil, including a retelling of the disastrous World Cup final at the Maracana in 1950. My favorite bit involved the story of the Brazilians plying their trade in the Faroe Islands.

3. The Ball is Round: A Global History of Football by David Goldblatt ($19.26)

Bathroom read or subway read? Subway, definitely.

Why it’s great: Goldblatt presents an exhaustive global history of the sport, starting from its ancient origins and moving through the modern game. At 911 pages It is incredibly long but you basically leave this book armed with over 150 years of football history banging around in your brain. I don’t know if that’s a good thing necessarily, but it’s an interesting read.

4. Inverting the Pyramid: A History of Football Tactics by Jonathan Wilson ($15.43)

Bathroom read or subway read?: Subway.

Why it’s great: The subtitle could just as well have been “The history of football through football tactics”, though that wouldn’t be very good. I’m not sure if this book will get you to understand tactics any better than you do now, but you’ll get a good sense of formations throughout the years. A must-read.

5. And Gazza Misses the Final: Epic World Cup clashes minute-by-minute as they really happened by Rob Smyth and Scott Murray (£8.99)

Bathroom read or subway read?: Neither. Read surreptitiously at work alongside YouTube vids of the relevant matches.

Why it’s great: There is no way to understate this: Murray and Smyth are two of the best MBMers (and writers) the Guardian ever had on staff. It may seem weird to do a compilation but this is a hugely accessible way to relive some classic World Cup matches in context. Cannot recommend enough.

6. Falling for football: The teams that shaped our obsession compiled & edited by Adam Bushby and Rob MacDonald ($2.93 on Kindle)

Bathroom read or subway read?: Bathroom, for those…longer…sessions?

Why it’s great: Though this is a bit of a plug as I’m in it, having read most of it, it’s a wonderful group of stories of how regular joes first came to fall in love with football. Feeling good about things before the World Cup is sometimes difficult to do…this should help.