Well, I hoped I wouldn’t be posting this quite so early this year, but I don’t get a say in how October baseball goes. So, here we are, we might as well do some reading.
Some really great books have made their way through our hands in the Let’s Go Read book club — Satch, Dizzy, and Rapid Robert; Power Ball; The MVP Machine; and so on — and I expect we’ll find some more gems this year. We read baseball books, of course, it wouldn’t make much sense to read a treatise on economic markets, but so far we’ve only read non-fiction works.
Previous polls have featured a fiction pick, but they’ve never been our selection. As the season creeps toward another World Series without the Indians, however, I’m feeling the need to escape reality. With that in mind, below are a few fictional baseball stories to choose from to let us all inhabit another world. Check out the options and cast your vote, I’ll announce the winner next week and we’ll get to reading.
The Art of Fielding by Chad Harbach — 3.99/5 on GoodReads (98,000 ratings)
An errant throw derails the life of a star college shortstop and the lives of those around him in this novel. The book revolves around baseball, with the sport serving as the spine of the story, but it’s really a story about the people and their lives at Westish College. I read this one back when it came out and loved it; I would welcome a chance to re-read it. From GoodReads:
Written with boundless intelligence and filled with the tenderness of youth, The Art of Fielding is an expansive, warmhearted novel about ambition and its limits, about family and friendship and love, and about commitment - to oneself and to others.
The Brothers K by David James Duncan — 4.38/5 on GoodReads (13,000 ratings)
The novel follows generations of the Chance family as they come of age. Faith and politics and war all threaten to tear the family apart, but baseball remains the constant link together. Narrated by youngest brother, Kincaid, the book also features narratives from other family members to weave together a rich story. From Amazon Books:
It is a stunning work: a complex tapestry of family tensions, baseball, politics and religion, by turns hilariously funny and agonizingly sad. Highly inventive formally...the plot traces the working-out of the family’s fate from the beginning of the Eisenhower years through the traumas of Vietnam.
The Natural by Bernard Malamud — 3.63/5 on GoodReads (9,500 ratings)
The book the Robert Redford movie is based on, The Natural is the story of a prodigy whose career is derailed for 15 years, when he attempts a comeback while trying to avoid his past. I imagine many have seen the legendary baseball film and can picture the explosive climax in their heads already, but books are almost always better than movies, and I doubt this is an exception. From GoodReads:
The Natural, Bernard Malamud’s first novel, published in 1952, is also the first—and some would say still the best—novel ever written about baseball.
The Girl Who Loved Tom Gordon by Stephen King — 3.58/5 on GoodReads (118,000 ratings)
A girl, who loves Tom Gordon, natch, is lost on the Appalachian Trail with only her radio for comfort. She has to survive against nature, and perhaps worse. While this is not one of King’s better-known novels, he is a modern master, so it’s certain to be an entertaining read. From the Amazon page:
King expertly stirs the major ingredients of the American psyche -- our spirituality, fierce love of children, passion for baseball, and collective fear of the bad thing we know lurks on the periphery of life.
The Universal Baseball Association, Inc., J. Henry Waugh, Prop. by Robert Coover — 3.84/5 on GoodReads (1,800 ratings)
A satire about a man who immerses himself in a fantasy baseball league every night after work. When things go well in the league, so do things in Henry’s life, but when things go poorly the effects are unreal. This black comedy might have a real appeal after this season of Tribe baseball. From GoodReads:
A satirical fable with a rootless and helpless accountant as the protagonist. Alone in his apartment, he spends all his nights and weekends playing an intricate baseball game of his own invention. The author has won the William Faulkner Award and an American Academy of Arts and Letters Award.
There you have it, five options. Let your voice be heard in the poll below, and if you have any suggestions for future reads, add them to the comments.
What should we read?
This poll is closed
The Art of Fielding
The Brothers K
The Girl Who Loved Tom Gordon
The Universal Baseball Association