Book Review: The Art of Fielding

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My quest to read lots and lots of books this year continues.  While I may have abandoned ’32 in 32′, because lists that are 32 items long are just too craycray to keep track of over the course of months and months, certain items (dropping 30 pounds, reading 62-plus books, etc) are still very much happening and in process.  The 23rd book I read this year was Chad Harbach’s The Art of Fielding.

I get inspiration for books to read from all over – recommendations from friends (major hat-tips to Christy and Shan, both of whom have amazing taste in books!), prize lists, books my class are enjoying – but in the case on TAoF, it was none of these.  It was a tube advert.  Every day when I got off at Swiss Cottage I would see the advert for this book, plastered with platitudes (sidebar – don’t you just love how anything can get a hyped up review quote now?), so I decided to kindle it up and see what I made of it.

The Art of Fielding follows the adventures (and misadventures) of a group of people at Westish College, a small school in the Midwest.  Some of the people involved play on the Harpooners baseball team, others are friends, relations and lovers of those involved.  It’s a long read and a pretty heavy read, but Harbach has a neat way with a turn of phrase and doesn’t shy away from describing the more shocking or visceral aspects of the story.  His characters are well-drawn and have real depth (when you find yourself wanting to slap a character silly I always think it’s a good sign!), and the passages about the flow and play of baseball are poetic and lovingly rendered – I know next to nothing about the sport but found myself easily swept up in the rhythm of innings, foul balls and plays.

I enjoyed much of the book, and yet I wouldn’t say I thoroughly enjoyed it – the tone is pensive and melancholic for much of the book which makes for an interesting read, but perhaps not one I’d rush to read again.  That said, I will look out for Harbach’s next book – for a debut book this was confident, heady stuff.  If you’re looking for a deep and thought-provoking book, this is a good one to try, but I’d steer clear if a holiday read or an uplifting tome is what you’re after.

My next book?

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