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The Art of Fielding

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3.99 of 5 stars 3.99  ·  rating details  ·  63,906 ratings  ·  8,248 reviews
At Westish College, a small school on the shore of Lake Michigan, baseball star Henry Skrimshander seems destined for big league stardom. But when a routine throw goes disastrously off course, the fates of five people are upended.

Henry’s fight against self-doubt threatens to ruin his future. College president Guert Affenlight, a longtime bachelor, has fallen unexpectedly a...more
Hardcover, 512 pages
Published September 7th 2011 by Little, Brown and Company (first published 2011)
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The Art of Fielding by Chad HarbachThe Sisters Brothers by Patrick deWittThe Sense of an Ending by Julian BarnesThe Marriage Plot by Jeffrey EugenidesState of Wonder by Ann Patchett
2012 Tournament of Books
1st out of 16 books — 265 voters
City of Fallen Angels by Cassandra ClareClockwork Prince by Cassandra ClareDelirium by Lauren OliverSilence by Becca FitzpatrickUnearthly by Cynthia Hand
Best Books of 2011
105th out of 2,153 books — 6,977 voters


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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 3,000)
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RandomAnthony
Chad Harbach's The Art of Fielding is 2/3rds strong but maybe 100 pages too long. You know that weird paradox you feel when you like a book but kind of wish it was over? I felt that around, oh, page 350 of The Art of Fielding. So while I can recommend the novel, with reservations, I can't make the four star leap.


The storyline revolves around five characters and readers shouldn't be misled into thinking, as the inside cover description seems to imply, that Henry is the star and the four other cha...more
Kemper
This novel should win some kind of award for Best Character Names. Check some of these out: Henry Skrimshander. Guert Affenlight. Pella Affenlight. Adam Starblind.

No John Smiths or Jane Does allowed in this one.

Mike Schwartz is a hard working and ambitious student athlete at second rate Westish College in Wisconsin. At a summer league baseball game, Mike sees Henry Skrimshander play and instantly recognizes that he’s seeing the kind of fielding talent that can only be called genius. Skinny Henr...more
Miriam
People love to talk about the "great" books that aren't good reads. There's also the crap that people call "beach reads" but gobble up without taking seriously. But The Art of Fielding falls under a third category: A book I didn't like so much that I wanted to keep reading it.

I wanted to like it, I did. I like books that take place in college. I like baseball. I like baseball metaphors even more. but it felt like a book that took 10 years to write and not in a good way. Characters that I imagine...more
Teresa
Apr 02, 2012 Teresa rated it 5 of 5 stars
Recommended to Teresa by: James Murphy
I loved this book! (I suppose it's appropriate that I start off my review like a fan.)

While reading it, I couldn't help but reflect upon and compare this novel to The Marriage Plot. Both are about college-aged kids (though set in different decades); mental illness is an element in both; and while the love triangle in the Eugenides is paramount, the one here (which is sort of (though not really) a love triangle) is more subtle and more realistically portrayed. (I almost want to say that, exceptin...more
Tony
I have stood there, with my knees bent, on the balls of my feet. I have watched the signs and where the catcher sets up. I have known with some sense of probability if my pitcher can throw the ball where the glove is set. I have watched the hitter's swing, listened to the sound. I have intuited. So I have moved, left or right, back or in, often before the ball leaves the bat, before life, if you will, comes my way. Another example of how Life, as the columnist Thomas Boswell once mused, imitates...more
Peter
Man, I really didn't want to like this book. And here, quickly, are the reasons why:

Number 1) Pure jealousy. Harbach got paid like a bajillion dollars for his very first novel. I was paid slightly less than that. Okay, a lot less than that.

Number 2) I don't like n+1 magazine, of which he is the co-founder. I find it pretentious and boring. I would honestly rather read Cat Fancy.

Number 3) Harbach wrote an article about MFA vs. New York writers that was, in a word, uber-douchy. And anyone who we...more
Stuart
I'm from Wisconsin. This book takes place in Wisconsin. I love baseball. This book is about a baseball team from a fictitious Wisconsin college, Westish, which seems like a mix of Ripon and Lawrence. I love that fictitious name by the way. I love that school's absurd tie to Herman Melville as well and its funny Melville-related sports handle, The Harpooners. In a lot of ways, this book is as tailor made for me as a sharp ground ball is to a shortstop eager to make a 6-4-3 double play. It's not s...more
Louisa
May 01, 2014 Louisa rated it 5 of 5 stars
Shelves: 2013
I’m not a huge fan of baseball, therefore it doesn’t come as a surprise that I never had any intention to pick up this book. Sure I’ve heard about the amazing reviews that it had received, but I’ve never been the type to read a book based on its glowing reviews.

The reason why I decided to finally read this was because half of my reading friends were raving about how amazing it was, that you don’t have to like baseball to appreciate this novel and the other half found it to be a dull and tedious...more
Greg
Review 1.1 updated introduction.

I've finished the book. I was a little wrong about how the book would end, I think I liked the book more because of the way it wrapped up than I expected to. I gave it an extra star. It is a pretty good book, not a great book, there are problems with it, some of the characters could be developed a bit more in places and some of the middle part of the book could have probably been reworked a little bit to make it not feel like a slog for a little bit, but with the...more
Andrew Campbell
*mild spoilers*

100 pages in and the author has already *twice* withheld information from the reader which would be apparent to the character. Is there a name for this?

The first time it's dialogue overheard by a character, dialogue which the reader is meant to mistake for sex when in fact it's two people lifting weights. But the character is outside the weight room, so there's no chance that /he/ would think it's sexual.

The next occurrence: one character is straining for a glimpse of another, wor...more
Gail
Is there a way to give a book six stars on here? Because I'd keep adding them if I could, I loved "The Art of Fielding" that much. Truly, I didn't want this novel to come to an end. Last night, I put the book down with 30 pages left. I honestly thought, "I want one more day to delve into this world." But then, 20 minutes later, there I was, picking it back up to reach its final page (and discovering a wholy satisfying resolution, which rarely happens for me with most books).

This is one of those...more
Lorri Steinbacher
Everything they're saying about this book is true. I couldn't put it down. First, Harbach knows how to tell a story. I want to make a Franzen comparison, because this book gave me the same type of satisfying "ahhh" feeling I have when reading him, but he is not Franzen. Sometimes reading Franzen is like taking a vitamin. You know it's good for you, but sometimes it's a little bitter going down. Not so, with this book. His writing is lovely, without being highbrow. If you are a baseball fan, you...more
Patrick Brown
William H. Gass writes eloquently about his desire to find his ideal reader, one who was perfectly suited to the material, the tone, the subject matter of his work. He writes for this reader, whoever he or she might be, probably never fully expecting to find such a creature. I am the ideal reader for The Art of Fielding. To wit, a Venn diagram:



I'm sure there are others out there, a secret brotherhood of ivy-loving, two-seamer fetishists, lurking in dank hallways dreaming about spring and middle...more
christa
By this time last year, the world of contemporary fiction had me dizzy with a one-two whammo of love and envy. Shit was tight. I wouldn’t pay $50 to press my breasts against the stage while my favorite band played. I’d have paid $50 times 50 to scrape gum off Jennifer Egan’s shoes or observe Gary Shtyngart with his lips wrapped around a bottle of top-shelf vodka. And then there was “Freedom” and then there was “House of Tomorrow.” Panic ensued: Which one did I want denting my cheek when I went t...more
Steve
Crash Davis knew that an important part of Ebby Calvin “Nuke” LaLoosh’s preparation for the big leagues was to teach him the standard clichés. Baseball, and sports in general, are full of them. There’s a favorite that certain sports books seem to evoke, too: “You don’t have to be a fan of the game to like this.” Since I am a fan, I can’t speak with any authority for those who are not, but my guess is that for The Art of Fielding, it’s at least partially true. I can be more certain if you’re a fa...more
Fabian
UNBELIEVABLE.

Baseball is, without a doubt, mega dull. But with near-perfect (actually more perfect than near-perfect) "The Art of Fielding," the passion in the hearts of five individuals will likewise light a passion within the impressionable reader. I am not kidding. I LOVE this novel. I was convinced that "The Marriage Plot", a kindred book--same time, same themes, same environment--by Eugenides was the definitive college novel of our times. I am sorry to say (well, not really) that this one t...more
Vanessa
So after about five paragraphs, my impression of this book was "Wow, this is seriously a Dude Book." And I wondered if you could enjoy it if you didn't totally love baseball, or even care about baseball much at all. But then I got really into it and thought the plot and characters were great for maybe half of the book, and then I thought it totally lost steam and was not so great. But you don't have to love baseball to like it, and if you love Moby Dick you will appreciate that the author really...more
Neil
How much of a book must one read before one's opinion of it is valid? I read 60 pages of The Art of Fielding, but I loathed much about it. First: Harbach doesn't have much grace as a stylist, and the descriptions read like something from young adult novels (I don't have the book with me any longer, but I remember being particularly irritated by a description of Schwartz as someone who "goes out and gets what he wants." One could argue that the use of such a cliche is meant to reflect Henry's mod...more
Gary  the Bookworm

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This is an auspicious, audacious debut novel about self-discovery. Set at a middling liberal arts college on the shores of Lake Michigan, it is loosely based on Melville's Moby Dick, with baseball substituting for whaling. Like most baseball games, it starts slow, but the momentum builds as the season progresses. One player succumbs to an existential crisis as the team finally begins to have some success. America's other favorite pastime appears when Pella, the college president's prodigal dau...more
K.D. Absolutely
Jan 17, 2014 K.D. Absolutely rated it 3 of 5 stars
Recommended to K.D. by: 1001 Books You Must Read Before You Die (2012)
This is a story of 5 people whose lives seem to be hinged on a championship game in an American national college baseball. They have a world of their own and unfortunately, a world that is unfamiliar to me so although I liked this book, I was just not as thrilled as probably my Goodreads friends who are familiar with the rules of American baseball. Making things worse is the fact that I am still to read Moby-Dick; or, The Whale so I just did not get the references that this book has that great b...more
Gary
I loved this book.....I loved the feel of it.....I loved the literary atmosphere of it.....the college intellectualist of it.....I loved the story of baseball, but most of all I loved the story of life,it's joys, sorrows,and unexpected turns and twists, and it's complications.

I have always thought about what poem, or story to have read at my funeral???....after reading this book,you might figure out what I have decided to have read at my funeral.....no rush on that event....but this book inspire...more
Aldrin
Oct 17, 2011 Aldrin rated it 5 of 5 stars
Recommended to Aldrin by: Three Percent Podcast
Call me Ishmael. Or not. Some days ago—never mind how long precisely—although having little money in my wallet, and with nothing particular to interest me at home, I thought I would gad about a little and see the slightly crowded part of the city. It is a way I have of warding off the solitude and improving the ventilation. Whenever I find myself growing grim and all that, I account it high time to get to a bookstore as soon as I can. There is nothing surprising in this. If they but knew it, alm...more
Terzah
I apologize in advance that this review is really going to be more of an indictment of contemporary fiction than a true review...but that's what I'm in the mood for. God, do I need something good to read!

The first two chapters of this book (I got an advance copy at work) gave me such high hopes. Funny, a good sense of place and time, a knowledge of baseball (and a clear love for the sport), interesting 3D characters....I actually handed it to my husband, who is even more of a baseball fan than I...more
Bill
This book had been on and off my to-read list a few times.

There were some reviews I had read that had turned me off the book, mostly citing a bloated middle part, but I couldn't ignore the best-of lists that it kept turning up on. Particularly this one:

http://www.huffingtonpost.ca/rebecca-...

So, a few weeks ago I slapped it back on my to-read list, and shortly after that, loaded it onto my Kindle.

This was top notch writing for the most part. It's the story of a baseball phenom who goes to colleg...more
Yulia
Certainly the best book to come from one of the founders of n+1, the others being Indecision by Benjamin Kunkel and All the Sad Young Literary Men by Keith Gessen. Harbach said this book, his first, took him nine years to write and his effort paid off. The main characters are all very sympathetic and engaging and there's a reality to their reactions to the situations they confront that I found very realistic.

A review I read compared Harbach's voice to Franzen but I don't think there's nearly as...more
switterbug (Betsey)
This tender campus novel about five individuals whose paths connect and cross--straight, not straight, diagonally, vertically, and sometimes horizontally, doesn't require you to like baseball, although you may be roused to watch a game when you close this lively book.

It opens in Peoria with a no-name tournament between small-time summer teams. Harbach sets the robust tone and pacing here, with a droll wit and a steady, fluid tempo. He coaxes us to treasure his characters as much as he clearly en...more
Andy Miller
This is the best novel I have read in a long, long time. Once I started, I didn't want to put it down, but at the same time I didn't want it to end. I expect to read this again many times.

The book reviews tell you that this about a college baseball team which develops into a winning team under the defensive prowess of the star shortstop Henry Skrimshander. While some reviewers correctly note that to say that is a baseball book is like saying Moby Dick is a fish story, even the best reviews don't...more
Robert
There’s nothing more pure and beautiful than an athlete or artist playing or creating for no other reason than he or she can’t imagine not doing it. Forsaking money and fame and any sort of recognition whatsoever and perfecting talent because it’s as natural as breathing and you’d rather die than not be able to play the game. And you’d play in the middle of a hurricane or tornado with lightning and thunder puncturing the sky and you’d suffer a mental breakdown if you couldn’t play one more innin...more
Ellie
I struggled with my reactions to Chad Harbach's The Art of Fielding throughout my reading of this highly engaging novel. It's a book about baseball that's not really about baseball, a book in many ways about one of the lead character's (college president Guert Affenlight) obsession Moby Dick, a novel about obsession that's not especially obsessive, a book filled with stereotypical characters who come to a life beyond their stereotypes.

Henry Scrimshander is a college shortstop with talent and Aha...more
Les
3+
Self-deemed necessary 30 second pre-review prior to taking my son to school with typical perfunctory comment about how a real review will be forthcoming (unreliable):

This is the second time in two weeks that a baseball-related novel (that was about so much more) had me up until 2 AM finishing it. This is not Duncan's The Brothers K, but it is good. It has flaws no doubt (I'm still wrestling with the plausibility of the Pres. Affenlight and Owen relationship), but it hit me and fascinated me o...more
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did this book capture you? It did me. 40 299 Nov 26, 2013 09:47AM  
Mansfield Public ...: The Art of Fielding by Chad Harbach 1 11 Aug 17, 2013 07:59PM  
Henry and Mike's relationship 4 141 May 27, 2013 07:36AM  
Mic Breaks Only: Fielding: Fin! (Full Book Discussion) 3 23 May 17, 2013 02:09AM  
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Chad Harbach grew up in Wisconsin and was educated at Harvard and the University of Virginia. He is a cofounder and coeditor of n+1.

Visit:

Facebook.com/nplusone

Facebook.com/TheArtofFielding
More about Chad Harbach...
MFA vs. NYC: The Two Cultures of American Fiction Fiction4theFuture: Free New Fiction Pitching in a Pinch: or Baseball from the Inside n+1 Issue 4: Reconstruction n+1 issue 17: The Evil Issue

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“You told me once that a soul isn't something a person is born with but something that must be built, by effort and error, study and love. And you did that with more dedication than most, that work of building a soul-not for your own benefit but for the benefit of those that knew you.” 119 likes
“So much of one's life was spent reading; it made sense not to do it alone.” 65 likes
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