Baseball and good books go together like apple pie and ice cream. Perhaps this is because baseball is a linear, structured sport, which lends itself to storytelling. Or maybe as the American pastime, baseball as a subject matter automatically predisposes readers to feel fondness for a book. Whatever the reason, our shelves are full of good fiction about baseball.
“The Art of Fielding” by Chad Harbach is no exception. Included on a number of year-end “best of” lists, this literary and funny book tells the coming-of-age tale of Henry Skrimshander. The young ball player “didn’t seem to move faster than any other decent shortstop would, and yet he arrived instantly, impeccably, as if he had some foreknowledge of where the ball was headed. Or as if time slowed down for him alone.” Skrimshander seems destined for greatness and the big leagues when one game gone awry takes life off the tracks for him and a handful of others on his college campus.
Just like the line for the women’s restroom at the baseball stadium, the holds list for this title is long. Here are some other satisfying baseball books to check out while you wait.
- “The Greatest Slump of All Time” by David Carkeet. This comic novel portrays a baseball team as a dysfunctional family, with all nine major-league baseball players suffering from clinical depression as they lead their team toward tragic triumph.
- “The Natural” by Bernard Malamud. Roy Hobbs gets a second chance in the big leagues in this story turned into a movie of the same name starring Robert Redford.
- “Shoeless Joe” by W.P. Kinsella. A bit of magical realism sweetens this tale of Ray Kinsella’s fanatic love of the game (and some father issues) driving him to build a baseball stadium in his corn field and kidnap J.D. Salinger.
- “Waiting for Teddy Williams” by Howard Frank Mosher. More fantasy is at play in this heart-warming coming-of-age tale of the fatherless, homeschooled baseball phenom Ethan Allen who wants nothing more than to play for the Red Sox.