"The Miracle of Castel di Sangro" is an enchanting tale of an underdog Italian soccer team's rise to glory. 

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"The Miracle of Castel di Sangro," (Little Brown & Co., $25) the reader learns that the author turned down $1 million to write a book about the O.J. Simpson trial.

After reading McGinniss' book, one can't help but give thanks that at least once, art triumphed over greed. And not because the world needs another O.J. book like it needs a hole in the head. Rather, McGinniss' story of the year he spent with the struggling, charming and challenging soccer team from one of Italy's most remote regions is a glorious, enchanting and completely engrossing tale of a sports David in a year-long battle against Goliath.

The soccer club from Castel di Sangro first caught McGinniss' eye when they rose from the low depths of their semiprofessional Italian league to win promotion to Serie B, the second highest Italian league; think of a high-school football team winning the Rose Bowl, and earning the right to play in the NFL.

That event, dubbed "The Miracle" by the Italian press, coincided with a terminal case of soccer fever in McGinnis brought on by the U.S.-hosted 1994 World Cup. And it propelled the author into the forbidding Abruzzo region of Italy to spend a year with the team as it competes against Italian powerhouses Venice, Genoa and Turin.

Like any great work, McGinniss' soccer story transcends mere sport. He displays a fine command for describing a game that for many Americans is unbearably slow, and he does so with all of the gut-churning suspense true fans of the game know it possesses. In addition, he shows off the Italian peninsula and the people who populate it, especially the players whom he gets to know so intimately.

Through tragedy, astounding triumph, and in spite of considerable handicaps, including the lack of a home stadium and sheer physical ineptitude, McGinniss follows the compelling Castel di Sangro side through it all. Any fan of sports, or simply the fan of a good story, should find this unlikely adventure impossible to put

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