NYTimes Best of 2011: The Art of Fielding

It’s quite a task to scour through all the wonderful books published in 2011 to come up with a top ten list. But if anyone is up for the challenge, it’s the New York Times! Last week, the Times set the internet on fire by releasing its list of the 10 Best Books of 2011.

Now, you might not consider the Times to be the definitive authority on all things literary. For that matter, ten is an awfully small number; to consolidate such a list is naturally to exclude numerous worthy candidates. But even though you might disagree with their list, it’s still worth taking a look at these titles. After all, to be selected as exceptional by the New York Times is an honor so many authors would kill for!

Stay tuned over the next few weeks as we spotlight each of these books. Maybe you’ll pick up some good ideas for winter break reading!

Part 2: 11/22/63
Part 3: Swamplandia!
Part 4: The Tiger’s Wife


The Art of Fielding
By Chad Harbach

This baseball book has been receiving very favorable reviews ever since it was published in September. The author, n+1 editor and writer Chad Harbach, spent nine years writing the novel, a story that has proven will touch and inspire even those who aren’t at all interested in baseball.

From the HarperCollins Website:

A wonderful, warm novel from a major new American voice.

In The Art of Fielding, we see young men who know that their four years on the baseball diamond at Westish College, “a little school in the crook of the thumb of the baseball glove that is Wisconsin,” are all they have left of their sporting careers. Only their preternaturally gifted fielder, Henry Skrimshander, seems to have the chance to keep his dream – and theirs, vicariously – alive, until a routine throw goes disastrously off course, and the fates of five people are upended.

After his throw threatens to ruin his roommate Owen’s future, Henry’s fight against self-doubt threatens to ruin his; Mike Schwartz, the team captain and Henry’s best friend, realizes he has guided Henry’s career at the expense of his own; college president Guert Affenlight, a longtime widower, falls unexpectedly and dangerously in love; and his daughter, Pella, returns to Westish after escaping an ill-fated marriage, determined to start a new life.

Written with boundless intelligence and filled with the tenderness of youth, The Art of Fielding is an expansive, warm-hearted novel about ambition and its limits, about family and friendship and love, and about commitment – to oneself and to others.

Intrigued? Check out the first paragraph:

Schwartz didn’t notice the kid during the game. Or rather, he noticed only what everyone else did–that he was the smallest player on the field, a scrawny novelty of a shortstop, quick of foot but weak with the bat. Only after the game ended, when the kid returned to the sun-scorched diamond to take extra grounders, did Schwartz see the grace that shaped Henry’s every move.

Holding the coveted number one spot on the Best of 2011 Book List, The Art of Fielding is looking like a definite must-read! Check out this NPR interview with Harbuch here; even the MLB snatched up the chance to get a few words with him! In this great interview in the Paris Review, Harbuch explains his distinction between writing a baseball book and writing a novel about baseball:

“There was no tradition of the baseball novel that I felt myself working in. I think I wanted to avoid writing a “baseball book” in the same way that a novelist writing about sex wants to avoid writing pornography. If the sex is the point, then it’s porn. And if the outcome of a baseball game is the point, then it’s baseball porn.”

So if baseball porn isn’t your thing, but you are drawn to a compelling narrative, check out The Art of Fielding!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *