The Art Of Fielding: A Rare Good Novel About Baseball

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And now, a break from your regularly-scheduled programming. I'd like to recommend a novel called The Art of Fielding, by Chad Harbach. It was released late last year, but I'm just now finishing it. It's about a young shortstop named Henry who goes to a small liberal-arts college in Wisconsin and somehow develops into an outstanding fielder and a top MLB Draft prospect, before ultimately falling prey to Steve Blass Disease and struggling to make throws to first. But the book also follows three other characters -- one who's Henry's teammate, and two who aren't -- who are grappling with major changes in their lives.

The end result reminds me a little of Jonathan Franzen's The Corrections (you'll see above that Franzen blurbed the book as well), except that a lot of it is, you know, about baseball. I don't tend to read much fiction about baseball, because much of it contains annoying misconceptions about the game and is written badly. The baseball stuff in The Art of Fielding isn't 100 percent realistic, but it's pretty good, and the writing in general is often downright great: literary, light on its feet, and full of small insights. The number of writers who are capable of writing a Good Novel is vanishingly small, and so to get a Good Novel about baseball, especially from a debut novel, is very rare treat. This is the best baseball book I've read in a long time, and one of the best novels I've read in a while as well.

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