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The Natural

3.63  ·  Rating details ·  9,963 ratings  ·  810 reviews
The classical novel (and basis for the acclaimed film) now in a new edition

Introduction by Kevin Baker

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. In it Malamud, usually appreciated for his unerring portrayals of postwar Jewish life, took on very different material—the
Paperback, 231 pages
Published July 7th 2003 by Farrar Straus Giroux (first published 1952)
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Average rating 3.63  · 
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As baseball season heats up, I find myself gravitating toward baseball related books in order to enhance my love for the game when I am not listening to or watching a game. Today I read Bernard Malamud's The Natural, which I rate 3.6 stars.
I have seen the movie version of this book in which Robert Redford's character hits a game winning homer to clinch the pennant, shattering lights, creating his own fireworks, with memorable music in the background. The written version, unfortunately, is not a
Jul 28, 2012 rated it liked it
A reader who begins The Natural by Bernard Malamud after having enjoyed the wonderful 1984 film starring Robert Redford and Glenn Close will be disappointed.

Like many books and films based upon the book, the two media are vastly different. This relationship reminds me of Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? 3 and Bladerunner, two similar stories but essentially different and made so by the necessary distinctions of the enabling forum. Both are fine works, just very different.

First of all, Mala
Jun 14, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Important book on baseball, rife with fun clichés (essential to our nation nonetheless...?). A cool view from the top of that profession, with social drama going by at a largely brisk pace. I am not compelled to see the film, though...
Brett C
Jun 30, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition

This was an interesting book. Roy Hobbs, the 35-year-old rookie, was a complex character. At age 19, he was on his way to a Major League tryout when tragedy struck. His life was diverted onto a different trajectory and his baseball career halted for 16 years. Roy Hobbs was a likable guy tormented by his own demons and I wanted him to be the hero. But sometimes I thought Roy was self-destructive as a result of his past.

I think Roy's past and unknown 16-year-period became a barrier for him. His i
Jason Koivu
May 13, 2012 rated it liked it
Shelves: sports, fiction
A true slice of that American pie...or rather a slice of the true American pie (with a dusting of nuts on top)...(I mean "crazy" nuts)...(jesus, this metaphor is falling apart like a bad analogy!).

For the better part of the last hundred years, baseball has meant America. The Natural is about baseball, thus The Natural is about America. The American dream of working hard and making something of yourself is encapsulated herein. The protagonist, Roy Hobbs is a young baseball prospect with
Sep 21, 2007 rated it did not like it
Shelves: fiction
One of the most over-rated novels in all of American Literature. Malamud cannot write. Or he writes like a 13-year-old boy would write. It baffles me -- baffles me! -- why this book is considered a classic and why on earth we would teach it to high school students. It must be because it's about baseball. Big farkin' deal. Do yourself a favor -- skip the book and watch the movie. Redford is excellent in the film and gives the story more depth than the author ever could.
Feb 10, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: baseball
Most people are familiar with the film ‘The Natural’ starring Robert Redford. It follows Roy Hobbs a thirty five year old who gets a second chance at the major leagues after he was shot by a deranged woman some fifteen years earlier while he was in the semi-pros. No one knows the secret of who this 35 year old rookie is but everyone including a sleazy sportswriter is determined to find out. Hobbs still has the bullet lodged in his gut and certainly feels self conscious about losing his second ch ...more
RTC. So slow but beautiful writing.... 🤷🏻‍♀️
Dec 24, 2015 rated it really liked it
Shelves: audiobook, fiction
I haven't seen the movie, but other reviewers mention that the movie is sparkling and upbeat, while the novel is rather dark. And that is true; this is not an altogether "happy" story. It seems like Roy Hobbs will be a fantastic pitcher, able to strike out batters without their even seeing the ball. But that is quickly cut short ... no, I am not going to spoil the story here. Roy Hobbs' career as a baseball player is shut down before it really gets started. And he does not return to the game for ...more
Laura Leaney
May 06, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Laura by: Beebe's Book Club / James Cooperrider
I can't believe how many low star ratings this book has from Goodreads members; reading them after the fact came as a bit of a jolt, because I found the book suspenseful, artistic, beautifully surreal, and funny.

The book begins in medias res with Roy Hobbs "prick[ing] a match with his thumbnail and hold[ing] the spurting flame in his cupped palm close to the lower berth window." There's a train chugging to Chicago, a tunnel, a moon, reflections in the window pane, dreamy hills, a "bone-white far
Carol Storm
Gloomy and full of sadness, yet lacking any real lessons or even a real heart.

What's striking about THE NATURAL is that critics love the IDEA of the book -- a Jewish-American writer certifies his "American" identity by writing the Great American Baseball Novel. Yet almost nobody who reads this book ever remembers any of the ball games -- or any of the characters -- or any American scenes or situations or dialogue. It's full of shadowy sureallism and all seems to be set in some twilight world dev
Joseph Sciuto
Feb 23, 2019 rated it it was amazing
After reading Doris Kerns Goodwin, “Wait Until Next Year” which was absolutely fabulous, and watching the movie “Field of Dreams” for the tenth time and then reading the magnificent, lyrical novel, “Shoeless Joe” which the movie was based on, I decided to try my luck with Bernard Malamud’s “The Natural.” In truth, I had never read anything by Mr. Malamud (a sad reflection on myself) and I didn’t know what to expect. I had seen the movie many of years ago, and what I remember of it was that I was ...more
Jul 11, 2019 rated it really liked it
The story of a flawed and injured man who hides his scars, both physical and mental, as he tries to resume his interrupted career as a professional baseball player. In the end, he destroys it all to try to win a woman who doesn't love him but has manipulated him.

The ending is very powerful and so much better than the "happily ever after" ending which I gather was used in the film of this book.

Four stars.
Jason Pettus
Although Bernard Malamud is one of the authors I collect as part of my rare-book dealership at eBay, I've never actually read him before; and since I was about to watch again the 1984 Robert Redford film adaptation of his most famous book, I thought I'd start with his 1952 debut novel, The Natural, then start slowly making my way forward from there over the next couple of years.

The movie made a big impression on me in high school, back when it first came out, because of its Reagan-era sunlight-k
This tale of a 35-year-old baseball player with extremely gifted talent for the game paints a mostly dark picture of a flawed man. Bernard Malamud’s 1952 novel about Roy Hobbs and his time playing for the New York Knights is considered to be a classic baseball fictional story and was also adapted onto film in the 1980’s, with Robert Redford starring as Hobbs. I will add a disclaimer that I have never seen the film, so this review and the opinions within are based only on this book.

I found Malamu
Steve Holden
Jul 21, 2017 rated it it was ok
This is a tricky review. I was recommended this classic by my father-in-law who recently found a collection of his work on a bookventure, and knows how much I love the game of baseball. As a boy, the movie about Roy Hobbs was a favorite and fantasy. I grew up in a rural town, and my father passed on his love of baseball to me before I knew how to walk and talk. I loved playing the game. My friends and I played it all the time in spring, summer, and fall. I was on multiple teams, and in my neighb ...more
May 21, 2009 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: audiobook, 2009, baseball
I can't believe how little Malamud apparently knew baseball. I tried to understand this book three different ways - first, as a remarkable story set in the real world. NFW. Second, as a surreal fairy-tale/morality play, a la Coelho's The Alchemist. No, Malamud simply seems to believe what he wrote too much. I mean, there are obviously surreal elements, but Malamud didn't make the full commitment. It's just not that. Third, as a kid's book. Almost, until you get to the end. He really thought he h ...more
Feb 05, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This is one of my all-time favorite books. I have gotten to teach it twice now, and each time I read it, I'm more and more impressed with Malamud's spot-on perspective on American heroes, the dreams we create for ourselves and how they change and diminish as we age, and the inevitable failure that we all have lurking inside of us. Despite the fact that Roy Hobbs is an utterly frustrating character -- does he ever make the right choice? -- it's hard to be too down on him because it's easy to see ...more
Jun 18, 2016 rated it really liked it
Hm. Apparently, I do not have a shelf for this book. What sort of shelf would that be? Baseball fiction? Books That Use Baseball as an Interminable Metaphor? Books that Express Disillusionment with the American Dream? Because it definitely belongs on those shelves. But I think the shelf this book fits best on is "I Liked the Movie Better."

Because the movie was awesome.
Jan 21, 2015 rated it liked it
I would give this 3 1/2 stars. In full disclosure, I have loved the movie most of my life and I knew the book was going to be darker. And it is. And the characters are less likable. It is really interesting to see how they masterfully adapted essentially the same story and dialogue from the book into a movie with a completely different tone and a lot more heart. So, I'm glad I read it to appreciate the comparison, but in this rare case I did prefer the movie.
Jim Townsend
May 22, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Bernard Malamud's first novel, published in 1952, is one of the best baseball books I've ever read, despite Roy Hobbs' being an antihero. None of the characters are likeable, from the owner to many of the fans, but the story of a hardscrabble, gifted ballplayer is hard for a seamhead (baseball fanatic) to put down.
Mar 10, 2014 rated it liked it
An interesting tale by a great writer. It's a first novel, much simpler than some of Malamud's other work, the dialogue a little awkward, but perhaps intentionally so. Do not read further if you don't like spoilers. It is hard to say anything about this novel without giving away pivotal events.
We first meet Roy Hobbs as a young prospect who is being taken by a down-on-his-luck scout to a tryout for a big league team. Fate intervenes, the scout dies, and Roy is very se
Aug 13, 2009 rated it it was ok
This book had its good points and its bad points, but in the end I felt underwhelmed. The movie left me feeling the same way, but at least that had Randy Newman's great score.

The good:

Malamud's writing can be humorous, at times even makes-you-chuckle-on-BART humorous. The introductory sequence with greenhorn Roy Hobbs on the train with the world-famous Whammer and pretty, mysterious Harriet Bird is unforgettable: evocative, inspiring and sad (those first 50 pages would have made a great short s
Aug 28, 2010 rated it it was ok
I mostly read this because I somehow had it in my mind that I was remiss in not having seen the movie starring Robert Redford, and since I like to read the book a movie is based on first, well. It had to be done. And it is done. Except now I don't want to watch the movie.

Roy Hobbs is, as the title suggests, a natural in baseball. He goes around talking pretty big about how bad-ass he is and how badder-asser he will be once he makes the big time... and then he goes and gets all involved with some
Andrew P.
Jan 20, 2014 rated it really liked it
The Natural by Bernard Malamud is not the typical sports hero novel. The protagonist, Roy Hobbs, a talented baseball player being scouted by the Chicago Cubs, hits rock bottom after being shot in the stomach, possibly ending his baseball career. Fifteen years later, Roy returns to the game and joins the fictional New York Knights. He slowly works his way to becoming the baseball player he used to be, but never quite gets there. Roy has conflicts with many people, including love interests and tea ...more
Steven Peterson
Oct 21, 2009 rated it really liked it
Those who have seen the movie but have not read the book will be surprised. Bernard Malamud paints a much darker picture of the odyssey of Roy Hobbs. The book takes the arc of one person's career--Roy Hobbs--and weds it to a couple grim episodes in baseball's history: Eddie Waitkus and the Black Sox.

The Hobbs of the novel is wonderfully talented--but very human. In the movie, there is a prolonged slump after Hobbs links up with Paris Memo. In the novel, he sometimes simply has a slump. In the n
Jun 22, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I've never seen this movie.
This book is vivid and summery. Full of baseball and its superstitions and lingo (I love the word "stuff" and what it means in baseball and I think nowadays it means even more). Malamud doesn't use contractions in his dialogue here so there's a '50s formality to the mood. Seems like all the men's names are one syllable and all the women's names are two. I like the name Memo for a character. Never heard that one before. Roy's appetite and all the food he consumes: some
Mar 24, 2015 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: classics, america, sport
This was a bit of a tough read because I really don't know that much about baseball and I don't really understand the rules of the game beyond my rudimentary knowledge of schoolgirl softball. But the book had good pace and a good story. I didn't warm to Roy that much - despite his age, Iris had pegged him perfectly when she had asked 'when are you going to grow up'? His obsession with Memo, from the outside, was more than just damaging to him - it all but destroyed him. And sadly, for much of th ...more
Brian Eshleman
Perhaps the author and I were at cross purposes. Taking on a baseball book just before the season began, I expected to be renewed. Instead, this book was actually creepy. If that was the author's objective, to create an air of mystic forces that drown out innocent even in baseball, then he succeeded.
Sep 23, 2018 rated it liked it
I am really torn between It was OK or I liked it, so I bumped it up. I liked it better than I did not like it. Why? Because I think it really is a piece of classic baseball writing. It was really told like it probably was, and the characters, although less than likeable, were ball players first, and human beings, second. From a dirt poor farm to the big leagues - every little boy's dream. Money, fame, girls, and baseball. Forget the constant train travel, heckling fans, mean opponents and on the ...more
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Bernard Malamud was an author of novels and short stories. Along with Saul Bellow and Philip Roth, he was one of the great American Jewish authors of the 20th century. His baseball novel, The Natural, was adapted into a 1984 film starring Robert Redford. His 1966 novel The Fixer, about antisemitism in Tsarist Russia, won both the National Book Award and the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction.

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