Quick Review: Among the Thugs by Bill Buford

Some books are more disturbing than others, and Among the Thugs is definitely one of them. In this book we get an intimate insider perspective from the worst hooligan firms in the world.

About the book

Bill Buford, an American journalist living in England, witnessed an incident where a bunch of soccer fans wreaked havoc on a subway train one evening. He told his colleagues at work about it the next day and they just shrugged it off as “business as usual”.

“No one thought it was anything extraordinary. It was one of the things you put up with. Every Saturday young males trashed the trains, broke the windows of your pubs, destroyed your cars, wreaked havoc on your town centers. I didn’t buy it.”

He decided he needed to know more, and took upon himself to infiltrate the most infamous groups of soccer hooligans in England to find out why people acted this way. What follows is an odyssey in crowd violence and antisocial behavior. 

What’s behind the violence?

In Among the Thugs Bill Buford looks for the answer, the “cause”—the justification for the violence— but finds that it’s just what it appears to be at first glance. Nothing more.

“This bored, empty, decadent generation consists of nothing more than what it appears to be. It is a lad culture without mystery, so deadened that it uses violence to wake itself up. It pricks itself so that it has feeling, burns its flesh so that it has smell.” 

Video Review of Among The Thugs

Extended video review of Among the Thugs by Bill Buford


At the end it clicks for the author–and for me too. I understand the pull of the crowd can have on an individual. The willingness to conform, to stand side-by-side for a common goal, to experience unity. It becomes an escape from separateness.

It’s also an escape from freedom! A break from the burden of individual responsibility. It taps into primal and tribal tendencies that resonates biologically to the male psyche (see The Righteous Mind, J. Haidt)


Books like this rejuvenate my love for reading and rekindles my curiosity about the human condition. What other medium allows you to explore dark worlds so intimately while remaining at a safe distance? What other experience so constantly leaves you in a situation where you constantly have to update and reevaluate your beliefs?
This book reads like fiction and if you’re into the darker aspects of human nature then this book is for you.

⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️ out of 5

Further reading:

If you enjoyed Among the Thugs by Bill Buford then you might also like this book:

Gangleader for a Day – Sudhir Venkatesh

Find more great reads on my book reviews page and the Great Books List
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