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.

Portfolio

Recent

Intakt Records
03/01/2019
Channels

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

Beyond The Pitch
08/14/2018
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
03/23/2018
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
12/19/2017
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?"

Pitchfork
04/03/2017
'The Awakening'

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

Pitchfork
03/04/2017
Planetary Prince

A review of the debut album of Cameron Graves.

Pitchfork
08/22/2016
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
07/14/2016
Home Bass

A founder of Weather Report coaxes new sounds from old music

The Los Angeles Review of Books
06/20/2016
A Fan’s Notes

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

Esquire
05/31/2016
The Case For Kirk

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

The Village Voice
05/18/2016
Miles Surely Smiles

Robert Glasper reimagines the Prince of Darkness

The Pitchfork Review
05/01/2016
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
04/01/2016
Beyond Kind of Blue

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

The Los Angeles Review of Books
05/08/2016
City (Not) on Fire

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

The New Republic
02/12/2015
Hollywood Dreaming

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

Esquire
05/20/2013
The Jazz Collector's Dream

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

Esquire
12/17/2013
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

The Wall Street Journal
05/05/2010
Gambling Days In Harlem

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

Time Out New York
01/22/2004
Native Son

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

Switzerland & Zurich

The New York Times
04/30/2006
Going To Zurich

A guide to a city that goes beyond cliche.

The New York Times
08/13/2006
Going to Luzern

A guide to central Switzerland's gem

Howler Magazine
2014
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.)

Italy

Salon
04/29/2003
Review: 'The Italian American Reader'

This scintillating collection, featuring great writing by Don DeLillo, Frank Lentricchia, Kim Addonizio and many others, gives this minstrelized group intellectual props

Esquire
08/07/2013
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
05/08/2015
Is Italian Film Back?

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

The Atlantic
05/28/2010
Soccer's Deadly Past

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

Fashion & Style

Miscellaneous/Old Favorites

Newsweek.com
03/18/2003
Bad Shakespeare: And other reasons America should back away from an unconscionable war

In March 2003, I wrote this strongly-worded opinion piece against the invasion of Iraq for Newsweek's website, where I was Deputy Editor at the time. Let's just say this didn't win me any friends. Few in the media, even the liberal media, were saying this publicly—in fact, the media's role was shameful. No media types who pushed for the invasion lost their jobs; many are still respected editors/writers. As one commentator put it in 2019, it's ironic that so many are now part of the #resistance.

The New York Times/ArtsBeat Blog
11/19/2008
Living With Music

A Gil Scott-Heron Playlist

The New York Times Sunday Book Review
05/14/2006
Fiction Chronicle

A round-up of five 2006 novels.

Newsweek
02/10/2003
A Terrible Secret

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

Newsweek
02/25/2002
Death and Politics

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

Newsweek
07/30/2001
Living With Lumumba

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

Newsweek
04/12/2001
Iran's Newest Wave

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

Soccer

The New York Times
06/20/2004
Hail to Soccer Bad Boys

Adidas brings back a jacket from the fabled 1974 Dutch team

Tin House
2010
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

ESPN.com
03/12/2012
Korea United FC

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

The Huffington Post
09/17/2014
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

Fusion
07/28/2014
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