Michael J. Agovino

Author, Writer, Editor

Michael J. Agovino is the author of "The Bookmaker: A Memoir of Money, Luck, and Family From the Utopian Outskirts of New York City" (HarperCollins, 2008) and "The Soccer Diaries: An American's Thirty-Year Pursuit of the International Game" (University of Nebraska Press, 2014). He has written for The New York Times, Esquire, The Village Voice, The Los Angeles Review of Books, Pitchfork, GQ, The New Republic, The New York Observer, The Wall Street Journal, Elle, Best American Sports Writing, and many others.

He was on staff at Esquire magazine for eight years, the Deputy Editor of Newsweek's web site for three years, and for two years, from 2016-2018, he was a Contributing Writer for The Village Voice.

In “The Bookmaker,” The Wall Street Journal wrote, “Mr. Agovino has crafted a sensitive and engrossing memoir....All of the characters in The Bookmaker are extraordinarily vivid, thanks in part to the author's uncanny ear for the accents and cadences of New Yorkers of every stripe.” The Washington Post wrote: “Agovino brings a gift for capturing urban sounds and symbols and a keen sense of shifting social status to his memoir of growing up in the Bronx,” while The New York Times said it was “a charming, evocative memoir about growing up a generation ago in Co-op City, the Bronx....‘The Bookmaker’ is delightfully ironic...an engaging story.” The book was also favorably featured on The Today Show, in New York Magazine, Vanity Fair, The New York Observer, The Brooklyn Rail, The New York Post, Kirkus, and many others.

“The Soccer Diaries" was described by Esquire Magazine as “funny and affecting” and the novelist Colum McCann wrote that it was “intimate and wonderfully written” while the writer Hampton Sides said that it was a “delightful, briskly readable memoir of sports obsession that deftly cuts across decades and cultures.” The book was also featured on BBC America with Katty Kay on PBS and many other U.S. and international media outlets. Booklist wrote: “Agovino clearly wants to make his own contribution to the canon, and now he has one, a thoughtful and enjoyable narrative of his passion for the game.”

Michael was born and raised in New York City and is a graduate of N.Y.U.


Personal Favorites....

The Wall Street Journal
Gambling Days In Harlem

A review of the book "Playing the Numbers: Gambling In Harlem Between the Wars" (Harvard University Press).

The New York Times/ArtsBeat Blog
Living With Music

A Gil Scott-Heron Playlist

The New Republic
Hollywood Dreaming

I spent four years trying to get my book optioned for a movie. All I got were two Belgian waffles

Review of "The Italian American Reader"

This scintillating collection, featuring great writing by Don DeLillo and many others, gives this stereotyped ethnic group its intellectual props.

Tin House
Total Utter Madness: A Story of Soccer

As Thursday brings us the the 20th installment of the World Cup, we look back on writer Michael J. Agovino's personal history from Issue 43, Games We Play

The Los Angeles Review of Books
City (Not) on Fire

A first-person essay about growing up in The Bronx, New York, in the 1970s/80s that also weaves in cultural criticism. From the LARB Quarterly Journal, Spring 2016 print edition

The Atlantic
Soccer's Deadly Past

Twenty-five years ago, 39 fans, mostly Italian, were killed at the European Cup Final in Brussels' Heysel Stadium


Intakt Records

These are my liner notes to "Channels," a new album by Stephan Crump, Ingrid Laubrock, and Cory Smythe.

Beyond The Pitch
Juan Arango chats with Michael J. Agovino

In this episode of Beyond The Pitch, Juan is joined by the great Michael Agovino, a freelance writer who came in to talk about the paperback edition of his book "The Soccer Diaries."

The Village Voice
Braxton Doing Bird Doing Bebop

"When I first heard Charlie Parker - - that record frightened me. It frightened me, and it was the most exciting music I'd ever heard..." Those were musician and composer Anthony Braxton's words in a 1988 biography about him, Forces in Motion, by Graham Lock.

The Village Voice
More Evidence That Fela Kuti Was a F-king Genius

In his 2006 memoir, You Must Set Forth at Dawn , the Nobel laureate Wole Soyinka posed this simple question about his countryman, and first cousin, Fela Kuti, the larger-than-life Nigerian bandleader: "How would one summarize Fela?"

'The Awakening'

A look back at Ahmad Jamal's influential 1970 album.

Planetary Prince

A review of the debut album of Cameron Graves.

The 200 Best Songs of the 1970s

I wrote on three of the top 200 songs of the 1970s, according to Pitchfork: Gil Scott-Heron; Donny Hathaway; and Hall & Oates.

The Village Voice
Home Bass

A founder of Weather Report coaxes new sounds from old music

The Los Angeles Review of Books
A Fan’s Notes

A review of "God Is Round," a soccer book by Mexican intellectual Juan Villoro

The Case For Kirk

On "The Case of the Three-Sided Dream," a documentary on Rahsaan Roland Kirk.

The Village Voice
Miles Surely Smiles

Robert Glasper reimagines the Prince of Darkness

The Pitchfork Review
Who Is Donny McCaslin?

Since appearing on David Bowie's haunting final album Backstar, the unassuming tenor saxophonist may finally be going above ground

The Los Angeles Review of Books
Beyond Kind of Blue

There's so much more to Miles Davis than his best-known album

The Jazz Collector's Dream

A close-up look at Mosaic Records, the select reissue label, and its co-founder Michael Cuscuna

Herbie Hancock's Ongoing Voyage

A look at the pianist's extraordinary career through this 36-CD box set "The Complete Columbia Album Collection, 1972 – 1988" (Note: scroll down to bottom to read full review.)

New York City

Time Out New York
Native Son

Tour guide Maurice Valentine alters the public's perception of the Bronx, one van ride at a time.

Italy & Switzerland

The Ultimate Sicilian Culinary Tour

Italians, like most Europeans, are especially attached to their regions. Nowhere is this regionalism more apparent than in their kitchens. Sicily is no different

The New Republic
Is Italian Film Back?

Gianni Amelio's New Film May Herald an Italian Cinematic Renaissance

The New York Times
Going To Zurich

A guide to a city that goes beyond cliche.

The New York Times
Going to Luzern

A guide to central Switzerland's gem

Howler Magazine
Company Town

Soccer in the Shadow of FIFA. (This essay appeared in issue No. 3 and received honorable mention in the anthology Best American Sports Writing 2014.)

Fashion & Style

More Film & Books

The New York Times Sunday Book Review
Fiction Chronicle

A round-up of five 2006 novels.

A Terrible Secret

In their new film, the Dardenne brothers turn tragedy to hope

Death and Politics

Nanni Moretti's latest film is different from his previous work because he's different

Living With Lumumba

Raoul Peck's gripping portrayal of Congo's first elected leader

Iran's Newest Wave

Two bold films prove that one of the world's fertile grounds for cinema is moving forward


The New York Times
Hail to Soccer Bad Boys

Adidas brings back a jacket from the fabled 1974 Dutch team

Korea United FC

A South Korean and a North Korean come together on a team in neutral Switzerland

The Huffington Post
Are the NFL's Woes Good for Soccer?

Pro football has taken a public relations hit, but soccer fans shouldn't forget its sport's past—and present

Remember English Hooligans?

Today, Premier League clubs playing around the U.S. epitomize the globalized game. But a book celebrating its 25th anniversary remembers when it wasn’t so friendly