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Friday Night Lights: A Town, a Team, and a Dream

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Return once again to the timeless account of the Permian Panthers of Odessa--the winningest high-school football team in Texas history. Odessa is not known to be a town big on dreams, but the Panthers help keep the hopes and dreams of this small, dusty town going. Socially and racially divided, its fragile economy follows the treacherous boom-bust path of the oil business. In bad times, the unemployment rate barrels out of control; in good times, its murder rate skyrockets. But every Friday night from September to December, when the Permian High School Panthers play football, this West Texas town becomes a place where dreams can come true. With frankness and compassion, H. G. Bissinger chronicles a season in the life of Odessa and shows how single-minded devotion to the team shapes the community and inspires--and sometimes shatters--the teenagers who wear the Panthers' uniforms.

371 pages, Paperback

First published January 1, 1988

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About the author

H.G. Bissinger

12 books153 followers
H.G. Bissinger has won the Pulitzer Prize, the Livingston Award, the National Headliner Award, and the American Bar Association's Silver Gavel for his reporting. The author has written for the television series NYPD Blue and is a contributing editor at Vanity Fair. He lives in Philadelphia.

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Displaying 1 - 30 of 2,919 reviews
Profile Image for Jason.
137 reviews2,270 followers
June 26, 2012
This book is heartbreaking.

I grew up in a very liberal part of the country. My family is comprised mostly of hard-working European immigrants who value education above all else. In many ways, I should be the last person able to appreciate or understand life in small-town Texas with its conservative values and its unhealthy obsession with high school sports. Yet, I actually did attend a private junior/senior high school with a hockey program that is probably the best in the country. We won the state championship every single year of my six years there, which was in fact part of a twenty-six year streak of consecutive titles. Dozens upon dozens of students from my school have been drafted by the NHL. So perhaps the whole concept of “high school sports are the most important thing you’ll ever do in your life and enjoy it because it is all downhill from there” shouldn’t be so foreign to me after all.

But nope, it is still foreign to me. Very foreign.

This book reminds me of about a handful of John Mellencamp songs that praise the glory days of youth and that try to recall a feeling of nostalgia for a simpler time and place. Mostly I feel sorry for anyone who actually identifies with any of that, as it just perpetuates the nonsense that one will spend the majority of his life with his best days behind him. To me that’s a bit pathetic. This book, though, is a complete embodiment of the Mellencamp philosophy. It is the story of the 1988 football season of Permian High School in Odessa, Texas. It is the story of the town itself, insular and deeply rooted in social conservatism, unabashedly ignorant of the larger national political scene, and seriously, seriously racist. Oh my God, how racist. But above it all, town pride for its high school football team shines through—pride that is fundamental to its nature, to its identity.
No connection in all of sports was more intimate than this one, the one between town and high school.
On the surface, the intensity with which the townspeople of Odessa embrace their high school football team is rather endearing. It gives the kids something to do on a Friday night; it gives them something to work for and to be proud of. But as the author delves further, the intensity starts to seem a little grotesque. These people depend on high school football to survive. More than just an escape from the financial ruin that has set in since the Texas oil bust, high school football is the only thing that matters. They live vicariously through these teenagers, these children, as if they are somehow their only connection to anything good or right in the world. That’s a pretty heavy burden for a 17 year-old to bear. And more than that, these 17 year-olds start to believe it themselves—that there’s nothing else for them beyond high school football. They are hit in the head with this concept over and over again as very little concern is shown for their academic progress. To their peers, their teachers, their counselors, their parents, town officials, and to basically everyone else in their sheltered world, high school football is the most important thing they will ever have.

And yet as sad as this is, I found myself getting caught up in it: the excitement, the rush, the adrenaline of the game. It’s dangerous. It’s dangerous to glamorize something that should really only represent a small part of someone’s life, but it was easy to understand how one could get wrapped up in it. I think this book is worth reading. I think it’s important. And I don’t think you need to be a high school football fan, or even a sports fan in general, to appreciate it.
Permian High School Panthers: 1988 Football Season
vs. Palo Duro Dons — LOSS (Pre-Season)
vs. El Paso Austin — WIN
vs. Marshall Mavericks — WIN
vs. Odessa High Bronchos — WIN
vs. Midland High Bulldogs — WIN
vs. Abilene High Eagles — WIN
vs. Dallas Jesuit — WIN
vs. Cooper Cougars — WIN
vs. Midland Lee Rebels — LOSS
vs. San Angelo Central Bobcats — WIN

vs. Amarillo Tascosa Rebels — WIN (Post-Season)
vs. Andress Eagles — WIN (Post-Season)
vs. Irving Nimitz Vikings — WIN (Post-Season)
vs. Arlington Lamar Vikings — WIN (Quarter-Finals)
vs. Carter Cowboys — LOSS (Semi-Finals)

Don’t mess with Texas.
Profile Image for Paul.
13 reviews33 followers
November 6, 2007
I was on an airplane one Friday night when I was reading this book. As the plane took off from Cleveland I noticed a high school football game in progress. I could see the lights.. the two teams on the field.. the crowd and the marching band. I watched the field as long as I could. Just at the point when I couldn't see the stadium anymore my eye caught the lights of another football field. Then.. when I looked out over the countryside I noticed that there were football games in most of the small towns we were passing. I played connect the dots from one stadium to the next for over an hour.
Profile Image for emma.
1,784 reviews42.9k followers
Want to read
November 17, 2022
i'm going to make a confession to all of you.

i like sports.

watching them, that is. i'm not a total monster.

i understand if we can no longer be friends.
Profile Image for Jenny (Reading Envy).
3,876 reviews3,027 followers
May 29, 2016
"Life really wouldn't be worth livin' if you didn't have a high school team to support."
In the Reading class I am teaching in May 2016, I challenged my students to read a book from a genre they had not read. I played along, and ended up reading an Amish romance and this sports book. One reading friend talked about this book on an episode of the Reading Envy podcast and made it sound pretty compelling, sports or no sports.

"You'd watch these kids play, and it seem like somethin' burning would be inside of you and want to come out."

And it is compelling. Enough that they made a movie and a television show based on the book (neither of which I've seen.) It isn't just about football, but about social order, small town culture, racism, new money, the education system, conservatism, etc. I freely admit that I read the non-sportsing parts more closely than any play by play scenes (of which there were few, thankfully.)

"We fit as athletes, but we really don't fit as a part of society... We know that we're separate, until we get on the field. We know that we're equal as athletes. But once we get off the field we're not equal. When it comes time to play the game, we are a part of it. But after the game, we are not a part of it." (black coach at Permian, 1988)

Has this made me want to read more sports books? Well maybe. If they are actually about something else. :)
Profile Image for Charles.
Author 37 books250 followers
March 3, 2009
If you think this book is about high school football in Texas, you're pretty much wrong. There is a fair amount about football, but this book is really a sort of sociological study of a small Texas town where Football is played. There is a lot about the difficulties of the local economy after the oil slump, and in general the book gives what I thought was a fairly negative view of the people and their preoccupations.

I almost never like movies better than books, but in this case I thought the movie did a really excellent job of cutting out the boring parts of the book and of bringing out the good qualities and the passion of the locals instead of focusing more on negatives.
Profile Image for Taylor.
281 reviews222 followers
August 24, 2016
I didn't grow up in a football-watching family. My father, who apparently loved the game, passed away when I was young. My mother was much more interested in baseball, and had coworkers with season tickets, so I grew up going to the Kingdome to watch Ken Griffey Jr., Randy Johnson, Joey Cora, Edgar Martinez, Jay Buhner, Dan Wilson... I even spent my high school prom night at Safeco Field, watching Freddy Garcia pitch a great game against the Yankees (who he'd eventually join, years later, sigh) instead of going to the dance. My high school football team certainly wasn't any good, and had I'd known that my college football team (Hofstra) would eventually a) have so many pro-level players, and b) get entirely nixed a few years after I'd graduated, I might've gone to more than one game. Maybe.

I came to football late in life, and have grown to love the game for any number of reasons. My knowledge of football certainly has a ways to go, still, but I do admit to being a total sucker for player stories and backgrounds - it's part of the reason why I fell in love with the Seahawks when Pete Carroll and John Schneider came along and shook things up - they found themselves a bunch of guys who were hungry to prove themselves, who'd been told over the course of their careers that they weren't good enough. If you saw this year's Super Bowl, you know how that worked out.

I say all of this because while I love football now, if you'd have told me a few years ago that I'd fall so in love with a book about football, I probably would not have believed you. But the thing is that the television show version of "Friday Night Lights" has a lot to do with why I opened my eyes to football to begin with, because much like Friday Night Lights the book - it's about so much more than football.

Friday Night Lights takes place in Odessa in the '80s, which becomes its own sort of character - an oil-boom town that never quite recovered from the bust, full of people living it up, thinking they were invincible... but then that whole business in the middle east was sorted out, and gas prices dropped off, and millionaires and banks in Texas found themselves broke.

Odessa was also dealing with its own particularly stagnant brand of race relations in the '80s, so much so that they had segregated schools for so long that eventually the government came in and said, "No, really, you can't do this anymore." But of course, once they realized that Black people were good at football, they were far more accepting, and drew town lines based on what demographic of people lived where (so that Permian could get more Black people). Yikes.

Most of all, Friday Night Lights is about the team and the coaches of Permian - the character traits and flaws that brought them failure and success, the single moments in games that came to define them, the dreams they held of greatness and the reality of life post-football, the toxicity of being held on a pedestal at such a young age contrasted with the question of, if they hadn't had football to be great for, then what?

Even though I totally understand why Bissinger uses the distinguished H.G. at the front of his name, a part of me wished he used his nick-name, "Buzz," because it perfectly describes his prose. His writing is just teeming with energy, with life, like the humming of a street light or a telephone wire. Bissinger shines when he's writing about people - their hands, the way that they eat, the look in their eye - you feel as though you've met them before.

I also was a bit sad by the fact that the most recent time I remember Bissinger being in the news was when he wrote about his shopping addiction - it made for a rather depressing juxtaposition when he was writing about issues of class and economics in Friday Night Lights so gut-wrenchingly well. At the same time, though, there's clearly something in him that deeply identifies with some of the bigger picture issues here - the striving for something seemingly greater, wanting to fill some kind of void. If he uses designer suits instead of football, I suppose that's just his poison of choice.

Whether your interest in the sport falls at zero or 100%, Friday Night Lights is an incredible look at the role that sports play in a community - the good and the bad - and an incredible study of Odessa, the '80s, the educational system, high school kids... so much more than just football - but plenty of that, too.

Update, Oct. 28: Continuing my "watching the movies of the books I've read this year" project, as I'm also a big film lover, I watched the movie adaptation of this, though I'd seen it before. The main problem is that this book is about so many things - the history of the town, the lives of the people in it, and obviously, football. To distill the book to just the football portions is to miss a lot of the point - which is by no means the movie's fault, since that's the most adaptable aspect. But, having read the book, I can see why making the film was not totally satisfying for Berg, and why he went on to make a TV show about it - there's just too much under the surface to get into during a two-hour film. The movie is much more faithful to the book than the TV series, which is more "inspired by" the people and the place as it is loyal to the story of anything that actually happened. Still, even though it's not connected to the story in the book at all really, the TV show does capture the same spirit, the idea that football is what gives this run-down town a purpose and a dream, what gives these people hope and possibly a chance to escape, or at least gives them glory days to wax poetic about when they've put away a six-pack...
Profile Image for Carol.
313 reviews823 followers
January 13, 2018
If you love football, Friday Night Lights likely will be the best sports book you've ever read. If you don't love football, and aren't an avid nonfiction reader? FNL likely will be the best nonfiction book you've ever read.

FNL is about the stories communities tell themselves. It's about how we live our values, collectively, how we relate to one another, how we motivate ourselves, our priorities, how we rationalize public policy, spending, the ways we view and talk about race, high school. It's about how we vicariously claim the victories of others, whether they are athletes, politicians, entertainers, entrepreneurs - to give our lives seasons, meaning.

Yup. It's all of that. I'm still not generally a non-fiction reader, but I'm quite glad I took the time to get out of my reading norms and (finally) joined the ranks of Bissinger's appreciators.
Profile Image for Shirley.
272 reviews207 followers
March 28, 2013
It's not a surprise that I loved this book. It is about high school football.

I watched a lot of football growing up (Friday nights: high school football; Saturday: University of Colorado football; Sunday: NFL football - I was a huge 49ers fan). I probably could have done something great with all the hours I spent watching football. Ah well.

My high school football team won the state championship, and I remember it as a glory day - it was snowing, the team was playing in then-Folsom Field (the University of Colorado football field). I had rushed back from Denver to see the game, having taken only 2 out of a possible 3 standardized subject tests (now called the SAT2?) so that I could get back in time for the game.

Because of this book (which I first read about 8 or 9 years ago), I watched the FNL TV series, which is my favorite TV series (with the caveat that I don't really watch TV outside of HGTV and ESPN). Then I named my son Dylan, and I think I've mentioned elsewhere that it didn't hurt that his name was a phonetic homage to Dillon, Texas, the fictional town where the FNL show takes place...

Anyway. I argue that, even if you are not a sports fan, you will be riveted. Those in my book club, all women, half of whom had no interest in football, all enjoyed it (although some confessed they skipped the play-by-play descriptions of the games in the book).

This book clearly lays out the cultural and social context in which high school football was revered over all else. Odessa was in a downturn in the oil boom-and-bust cycle. Odessa schools didn't racially integrate until the 1980s (Brown v Board of Education was decided in 1954), and then there was football-motivated gerrymandering of school lines, effectively sending most of the African-American running backs to Permian High rather than to its rival crosstown high school. Unemployment was high. All this was forgotten under the lights of a Friday night if the Permian Panthers won before 20,000 people whose greatest hopes and dreams rested on a bunch of 15- to 18-year-olds.

To be on the Permian Panthers football team (at least in the 80s, when this was written) was to be king. For girls, the next-best thing was to date a football player or be a Pepette - the personal cheerleader of a designated football player - to bring him homemade cookies before games and put banners on his front lawn with his jersey number. The Panthers coach was God if he won the game that Friday night. If the team lost, he knew he could count on having "For Sale" signs put into his front lawn. If the team lost twice in a season, he would not be surprised to lose his job. Eighth graders who hoped to play for the Panthers some day would be lauded for playing through their league games with a broken arm.

At a rival high school, teachers would slip football players the answers to the exams so that they could maintain the minimum GPA required to play football. Several of these players, having secured college football scholarships, then decided to go into armed robbery. Having been raised to believe that consequences did not apply to them, they were honestly shocked when the judge sentenced them to lengthy prison terms.

High school football in Texas is life. If that seems crazy to you, you may be persuaded otherwise after reading this book.
Profile Image for Will Byrnes.
1,284 reviews119k followers
October 27, 2008
Bissinger, a writer for the Philadelphia Inquirer, chronicles a year in the life of Odessa Texas, and more particularly the Permian High School Panther football team, the social nexus of this third rate town. It follows the stories of players for the team, present and past, as well as a look at some of the opposition, the events surrounding the season, the history and economics of the town, and finds a microcosm of the larger world. It is very interesting reading.

P 230
[Odessa is an oil boom and bust town] “After all,” one oilman reasoned, “we’re just another Middle East war away from another boom.”
307 reviews14 followers
July 8, 2015
This is a fantastic book. I felt sick to my stomach reading it.

I played football in high school in a place where there was much more than high school football for most people to do on a Friday night. I can relate to some aspects of the story: football games were the only sporting events in my school where admission was charged, they drew probably five times the attendees of any other sport, and we wore our jerseys proudly to school on pep rally days and were probably afforded more attention as a result of being on the team. I can recall all the feelings the author describes as a player, from fear/dread of an unknown opponent to the drive to smash someone on the opposing team, not just to tackle them but to make them feel pain and fear and not want to line up against you the next play. (High school boys are basically emotional basket-cases, what with all the hormones and the expectations they heap on themselves.)

But it just makes me feel sick inside to read about these kids who come from a nothing little town in the middle of nowhere, kids who have, with a few exceptions, little going for them whether or not their season ends in championship or ignominy. These kids (and at seventeen or eighteen, they are absolutely children) are lifted up as the focal point for an entire town, are worshipped and glorified and girded for battle as if their conquests mean something. And the really terrible thing is that they fundamentally don't.

That's not to say that I think sports are meaningless when growing up--nothing of the sort. I played in lots of sports as a kid and I think they teach you incredibly valuable lessons about working with others, dealing with stress, anticipation, frustration, victory (yes, that's challenging too) and defeat, and they develop camaraderie, mental resilience and lots of other important character traits. But, crucially, they do those things whether you end up as the state champion or at the bottom of the standings, provided that coaches, parents and kids keep their focus in the right place.

The story of Permian high is so clearly one where everyone, from the school administrators and teachers to the parents to the local businesspeople and boosters to the college recruiters to the former players to the kids themselves have completely lost sight of what the goal of student athletics should be--building the student (as a person), not the trophy case. The least of the blame falls here falls on the players themselves...I just don't know how anyone could expect them to behave otherwise when every aspect of their upbringing has been preparing them for this moment, and everyone, in ways large and small, has been telling them all their lives that winning isn't everything, it's the only thing. It's a wonder that several of them made it out to conduct relatively normal lives.

What is absolutely terrifying to me reading this book is how many people, the author included, seem caught up in the spell of what is at its heart a completely meaningless event. I say this as someone who loves sports--loves watching them, loves playing them, loves arguing about them--: sports are meaningless. It's one of the reasons we can love them so much in the first place, because they are the one place in life we feel totally free to be irrational. (As in, I hate the guy on the other side of the field because his jersey has a different logo on it than the logo that I like best.)

Sports appeal to our basest instincts, to identify with a group and pit ourselves against "not-us", whoever that might be. I can't tell you how many times I've been on a team, be it baseball, football, track, soccer or anything else and we've found ways not just to oppose the other team, but to revile them--to question their motives, to accuse them of poor sportsmanship, to look for any character trait or action which will let our team feel like it has the moral high ground. That's not just a feature of organized sports either--it happens in pickup games of basketball and in random pool games at the bar. We love to demonize the people we play against.

And we love to invest meaningless competitions with an almost sacred significance. What difference does it make to the US economy or world peace or anything else of lasting significance if my kids beat the neighbor kids in tag football at the local park? Nothing. But there is fundamentally no difference between that and the Super Bowl, except that we've all agreed that it has significance, so much so that it generates billions of dollars in economic activity around the world every year.

The same public religion is on display in the book, except that in Odessa, TX where the book's events take place, football is a preoccupation that consumes the whole town every year during football season and beyond. It's heartbreaking to read the several direct quotations from Odessa residents who say, effectively, "Without Permian football I wouldn't have a reason to live." It crowds everything else out to where education is an afterthought, and no matter how the last season ends, everyone is left reminiscing and wishing for just one more hit of the adrenaline drug, the taste of glory. The fact that it's set against the backdrop of objectively one of the least desirable places to live in the United States just makes that sense of futile longing even more pathetic. (Pathetic in the sense of pathos--I feel terrible for just about everyone in this story.)

I don't really know what else to say about this book. The writing is excellent. The author touches on issues of race, class, divisions within the city, impacts of the mid-80's slump in oil prices on the town's economy. Putting aside football, the race issue is disturbing in itself, and he unflinchingly reveals the prejudice and outright bigotry that existed in that community at the time. (It must be said that this is clearly not just a feature of Odessa, TX in 1988.) The economic story is interesting as well, but ultimately I found it less compelling--there are lots of places in the US that have experienced economic downturns, and they didn't turn to cult worship of the local high school football team. What a petty, pathetic god before which to kneel.

Anyway, I feel like I got rather preachy with this review, but this book disturbed me so deeply. So, kudos to the author. I understand why the town (and probably most of West Texas) hated the book, but sometimes a mirror can be an ugly thing to look at.
Profile Image for Dan.
268 reviews46 followers
July 29, 2009
My friends Matt & Cassie introduced us to the television show "Friday Night Lights" this past winter. I had only heard of it on blogs before then and never really paid any attention to it.

Wow, was I late to the party. The television show is excellent and I highly recommend it, even if you don't like football.

Being the bookworm that I am, I had to find the inspiration for the television show. I actually bought a copy of the book for my friend Matt for Christmas and the four of us eventually decided to read the book and have a little book discussion afterwards.

The book is a fast read and is mostly enjoyable. The parts that are not enjoyable are mainly because of the subject matter and now the writing. Reading about the town of Odessa, TX is very difficult because the society there is completely foreign to me. There are times when you want to shake the book and say, "What is WRONG with you?" Many of those moments happened, for me, when there were detailed descriptions of academics being flushed down the tubes in favor of football.

Overall, though, the writing is good. Bissinger can be a bit over the top at times, though. He uses hyperbole and metaphor a bit too much, but he creates a solid image in your mind of what this town, this school, this team is really like. The hard part is accepting the fact that there really is a place like Odessa that has all these problems.
Profile Image for Christine.
6,527 reviews467 followers
August 15, 2013
Dear Mr. Bissinger,

I think watching the Intelligent Squared debate you were in is great. I loved the television series based on this book. I learned something about myself while reading this. Even good writing such as yours, does not make me care a whit about football.

Profile Image for Raleighhunter.
161 reviews14 followers
October 1, 2009
I'm glad I bought this at Half Price Books so the author didn't make any money off of me. I always read the forward of any book and this one, the author tells you up front he is looking for a sport to bash to be the next "A Season on the Brink" and Texas makes an easy target. The writer tells you he has an opinion of Texas before he heads south and writes the story based on his preconceived notions, not anything he actually saw in Texas.

The writer finds negative stories about Texas history and writes like we are against educating our children. OK, public education isn't great in Texas but the same can be said for all 50 states.

The writer prints people's responses to his questions as if they came up to him and just started talking. If you read this book, keep in mind it is local people answering a writer's questions after he said he was writing a story about their historic football program. No one knew it was a smear job until the book came out.

The writer only covers athletes he can belittle in some way. For example, he barely mentions the biggest star on the team, Lloyd Hill. Hill only gets mentioned because he makes a big play in a big game. Lloyd Hill was a good kid, from a good family, and going to a big time college the writer never heard of, Texas Tech. But since Lloyd Hill was a good kid with nothing the writer could exploit and not going to a college non football fans knew, he wasn't worth writing about. The writer only focused on people he could mold into his preconceived notion of Texas being backwards and uneducated.
Profile Image for Deacon Tom F.
1,649 reviews124 followers
July 6, 2020
Spectacular Story

Was an amazing story about a high school football town and high school football team. It really goes deep into what it means to be a high school player and team in a small Texas town.

It may be one of the finest books I’ve ever read and I highly recommend it to you not for the football but for the people.
Profile Image for ALLEN.
553 reviews113 followers
January 7, 2019
In 1988 Philadelphia sportswriter H.G. Bissinger journeyed to Western Texas to see what was up with the state's winningest high-school football team. He put not only the Permian Panther's football program under his analytical lens, but the entire city of Odessa in West Texas that surrounds it. Mojo -- that shorthand for football support that shows up on everything from newspaper titles to bumper stickers to hand-lettered signs the cheerleading Pepettes placed in their assigned players' front yards -- rules not only the high school but really the whole town, as witness the fact that the only real progress toward racial integration Odessa had seen took place on the Permian football field but nowhere else.

The beauty of this book is that career sportswriter Bissinger moved to Odessa and spent enough time there to write about aspects of its that only a resident would understand: the complex racial situation, the boom-and-bust economic situation, the class resentment against nearby Midland, that tony capitalist enemy yoked to the hardscrabble, laboring Odessa. He can also relate a football game like nobody else, and tell the individual star players' stories in ways that makes sense of their lives to us, if not always to them. New readers should be aware that this book with its warts-and-all reportage is not as upbeat as the movie with Billy Bob Thornton, nor nearly as breezy as the prime-time soap opera NBC made of it.

There is, however, a good book to pair off with this one for those who wish to go even deeper beneath the surface of another community's high-school football team: Our Guys: The Glen Ridge Rape and the Secret Life of the Perfect Suburb by Bernard Lefkowitz. Together they are anything but sunny, but they are both immensely readable and tell some hard truths about the underside of high-school athleticism as exemplified in its most celebrated players -- the football team.
Profile Image for Alisa.
373 reviews65 followers
November 16, 2022
High school football, it seems so pure in some ways, at least compared to pro and college football where it's all about money, power, big names, and big team brands. Oh wait, maybe high school football isn't that different after all. Arguably in the west Texas town of Odessa, football is a VERY BIG DEAL. The Permian Panthers are the winningest high school football team in Texas, and life in Odessa revolves around the team.

This is at times a hard book to read. The author pulls back all the layers to get an in-depth look at what is really happening in the locker room, in the lives of the players, and the educational system in a town that is divided along racial and socioeconomic differences. He follows the team for a season, revealing the physical and emotional price these kids pay in pursuit of a dream. It's rough.

It's not all grim. The author also brings out the spirit of Friday nights at a high school football game - the cheer squad, the anxious parents, the rabid fans which in Odessa is easily half the town and then some. He brings out the humanity in a raw and real way. All in, an enlightening read
10 reviews1 follower
September 11, 2015
I think Friday night lights was actually a really cool book and I enjoyed reading it and didn't have to force myself to read it. Was a great sport about football and life in high school. Living in Texas how it's different living their in a small town that's so passionate about the sport they play and it means so much to everyone in the town. I wanted to feel like I was in the town and one of the football players.
"Clear eyes. full heart. Can't lose" - Coach Taylor I like this quote because it's the team motto and the players love saying it. This quote meaning be a proud Permian football player and putting pride into being on that team means that they can't lose if they play their hardest.
The essential question it relates to I personally think is. What turning points determine our path to adulthood? I think being a Permian football player means you are going to be in the town of Odessa for your life you just want to keep watching the team you played for. Their isn't much work in the city but the people take pride in what they do. Being on that team means everything to the town and the players who are on or used to be on that team.
I recommend this book for kids that are in high school. I feel like that's the best time to read it when you are actually in high school you understand what's going on you have a better grasp on the book. It seems like the most appropriate time to read it, reading it at any other would just seem weird. So reading this book was at this time felt great for me.
Profile Image for Alicen.
592 reviews1 follower
December 5, 2017
This true story is an incredibly powerful telling of the role football played for this group of young men growing up in rural West Texas in the 1980's. I felt completely immersed in the world the author captured and was I captivated by how he managed to show both the positives and the negatives of such a world, often at the very same time. It felt honest and raw, and I didn't want it to end.

"the solemn ritual that was attached to almost everything, made them seem like boys going off to fight a war for the benefit of someone else, unwitting sacrifices to a strange and powerful god."

The town "absolutely worshiped Ronald Reagan, not because of the type of America that Reagan actually created for them but because of the type of America he so vividly imagined".

[In regards to the oil booms of Texas in the 1980's] "Instead of understanding that they were the beneficiaries of history, they began to believe they were the creators of it."
Profile Image for Sera.
1,143 reviews93 followers
May 29, 2018
Great book that Bissinger wrote while embedded with the 1988 Permian Panthers and living for a year with his family in Odessa, Texas. Bissinger's book not only focuses on the high school football team's quest to win state, but he also provides an understanding of the people who make up the town, its history, and their views on everything from politics to race. For those people who are looking to understand white people in rural America who are likely Trump voters, I found that this book provided more insight that many of the books that have attempted to address that subject in present day. In the end though, Bissinger clearly shows how an overemphasis on sports in high school in place of academics often leads to not much else thereafter.

I highly recommend this book.
Profile Image for Scott.
1,677 reviews119 followers
July 20, 2016
This 'non-fiction novel' began a little slowly and it was slightly confusing to differentiate the teammates in the first twenty or so pages. However, it quickly becomes gripping and entertaining to follow the ups and downs of this high school football team's '88 season. The sociology of the impact on the small town Texas setting (the state's unofficial motto: "Play Football or Die") is also fascinating. Highly recommended.
18 reviews14 followers
May 7, 2019
I liked this book because of the suspense leading up to the playoff's. As silly as it seemed to have the teams to ake the playoff's determined with a coin flip, that just added so much suspense and really kept me glued to the book. I love sports books, and this was a perfect example of a good sports book, i recommend this book for any sports fan/player.
Profile Image for Carol Storm.
Author 28 books174 followers
July 6, 2015
Classic reporting, but needs more football and less patronizing social commentary on those poor ignorant Texans and how they "cling" to oil and football!
Profile Image for Shane Fitz.
43 reviews3 followers
April 14, 2022
Friday night lights by H.G. Bissinger is about the 1988 Permian high school football team and their journey to hopefully another state championship.

I thought this was one of the most vividly descriptive books I've finished. The author really captured the atmosphere and what everyone was going through. I was impressed by the overall account from everyone's point of view and even from opposing teams.

I found Friday night lights to be a great story about high school football in Texas and I enjoyed just the history of the town and families there.
Profile Image for CJ H.
3 reviews2 followers
October 28, 2008
CJ Herron

Mrs. Ebarvia

World Lit


H.G. Bissinger was born in New York City in November of 1954. He spent time writing for the Philadelphia inquirer. Friday Night Lights by H.G. Bissinger is about a small town in Texas called Odessa. Permian High school football is a way of life and almost every kid dreams of wearing the black and white under Friday night lights some day. Permian’s goal in the 1988 season was to reach the state championship. The competition is high and the road is tough, but will they find a way to get it done?
What I found interesting in the novel Friday Night Lights was the descriptions of the characters and the setting. For example, in the beginning of the novel they described Odessa (the town) and Boobie Miles (star running back) extremely well. The descriptions were always clear, and I felt like I knew the characters and I lived in the Odessa. I also found the point of view changes very interesting. In the novel there were many point of view changes; in one chapter the point of view was from Boobie Miles. But the next was from a former Permian High player from the 1960’s. Next I found that the language was interesting because the novel was based in Texas and some words I have never seen before or spelled differently. For example morning was spelled as mornin. Finally I thought that the plot was interesting and it had twists and turns.
The weaknesses I found in the novel were that there wasn’t too much plot about the football games, more about practices and the day of a game. In the novel there was not much game plot. Another weakness I found was the racism. I realized that people are still racist and it made me feel uncomfortable. The next weakness was that there wasn’t a main protagonist. It was many peoples point of view and the book could have been better if it had a protagonist. Finally a weakness that came to my attention was the adjectives.
Even though the novel Friday Night Lights had many weaknesses, it still was one of my favorite books. The strengths towered over the weaknesses and it was very enjoyable to read. I am looking forward to seeing the movie this weekend. If you love football like I do, I would recommend reading this Friday Night Lights, by H.G. Bissinger
Profile Image for Neil Powell.
83 reviews20 followers
September 13, 2013
This book is about so much more than American Football. On the surface, it tells the story of the Permian Panthers, the high school football team from Permian High School in Odessa, Texas. It focuses on 6 of the senior players and some of the coaching staff. It gives us accounts of their backgrounds, families and their feelings about school, life and playing football.

The season in question (1988) was supposed to be the year where the team were too good, they were meant to win the state championship. They had the players, they had the coach and they had the fans. Twenty thousand fans who queued a week early to get tickets for the local derby. The fans who took more interest in the high school football team than they did in the drop in oil price that was destroying the city. The fans who worried more about the form of their star running back than they did about the education of their children.

The story is superbly written. The descriptions of the matches are visceral: you really can almost smell the blood, sweat and tears. This contrasts with the sections about foundation of the city and the background of the families and fans. To someone who played sport at school, I found the behaviour of the fans incredible. 20,000 people watched a SCHOOL match - unbelievable

The priorities in some of these schools seem completely crazy as well: More money spent of medical tape for the football team than was spent on the entire school English department; Teachers doctoring grades in order for players to pass and be eligible to play; Football players barely attending classes to concentrate on training. A shocking indictment of how the US school system was set up to favour the few. I'm not sure it is still the same, but I guess that not much has changed.

On the whole, a brilliant book where the characters are engrossing and the story is wonderfully realised

Profile Image for Kirsti.
2,438 reviews96 followers
November 21, 2009
Affecting, amusing, alarming, appalling account of the winningest high-school football team in Texas. (Apparently this review was brought to you by the letter A.) Along the way, Bissinger discusses popularity, racism, sexism, fresh-baked cookies, memories, oil, home economics, class conflicts, statutory rape, algebra, the savings-and-loan crisis, lowered expectations, skewed priorities, algebra, and armed robbery.

Some of my favorite passages:

Coach Belew: "I want one hell of a wreck out there. I want that boy to be sorry he's playin'. Run upfield like a scalded dog. Run upfield and contain that sucker."

"The revised volume of the Places Rated Almanac rated Odessa the second worst place to live in the country out of the 333 that were studied. Odessa, according to the almanac, had the worst health care in the country and ranked in the bottom twenty-five in the categories of transportation, jobs, and recreation."

Jerrod McDougal: "We got two things in Odessa. Oil and football. And oil's gone. But we still got football, so fuck the rest of you."

Jerrod McDougal, a few years later: "What hurts so bad about it, I was part of it for a while. The thing is, it will never stop. Permian will have good teams when you and I are dead and gone."
Profile Image for Luigi Dal Zio.
46 reviews4 followers
February 8, 2020
Pubblicato in Italia da poco, a distanza di trenta anni dalla sua prima edizione americans.


Eppure lo si inizia a leggere e non lo si molla più.
È più di un libro, è più di un reportage, è piu della storia di una stagione di football.
È la descrizione di una passione totale, nel bene e nel male.
Con alcuni passaggi di vera letteratura.
Profile Image for First Second Books.
560 reviews539 followers
December 1, 2015
Recommended by Gene Luen Yang! What more do I really need to say?

Also: really interesting about sports and racial politics.
Profile Image for Rachel.
203 reviews2 followers
October 30, 2016
Really enjoyed most of this. The actual football games though... snooze.
159 reviews
April 10, 2017
There are some really interesting sections about the condemnation of football and the institutional racism in a town like Odessa, but it felt loooooooong and could have lost about 50 pages.
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