Good Minds Suggest—Ron Kaplan's Favorite Books About Baseball

April, 2013
Ron Kaplan Ah, springtime! For consummate baseball lovers there's no music like the crack of the bat, no perfume like the scent of freshly mown grass. The Big Leagues have inspired a wealth of literature about the sport and its players—from inside baseball tomes like Moneyball to player memoirs like pitcher Jim Bouton's incendiary Ball Four to nostalgic favorites like W.P. Kinsella's Shoeless Joe ("If you build it..."). Baseball fanatic and sports writer Ron Kaplan steps up to the plate to make sense of all this reading in 501 Baseball Books Fans Must Read Before They Die. Drawing from his blog, Ron Kaplan's Baseball Bookshelf, he mines fiction and nonfiction, ballpark lore, and even the Minor Leagues to create a comprehensive guide. Kaplan tells Goodreads, "Picking a favorite baseball book is like arguing over the best all-time player...I feel guilty about rereading any, but these are the exceptions." So let's...play ball!

The Tao of Baseball by
"Sports philosophy has always been a favorite subgenre of mine, but this one is especially thought-provoking as it follows Newton's Third Law of Motion: 'To every action there is always an equal and opposite reaction.' When it comes to the yin and yang of baseball, it's offense vs. defense, pitcher vs. batter, and fielder vs. base runner. Just about every situation is broken down in terms of the I Ching."


Brittle Innings by Michael Bishop
"Although I'm not much for baseball fiction, which tends to be fairly repetitive in theme and exposition, this combination of Frankenstein/Moby-Dick/Of Human Bondage is enthralling and hardly ever comes up on readers' lists, despite the fact that it won the Locus Award for Best Fantasy Novel in 1995 and was nominated for several other awards."


Rob Neyer's Big Book of Baseball Legends: The Truth, the Lies, and Everything Else by Rob Neyer
"Did you ever wonder how athletes have such amazing powers of recollection? Neyer suggests one theory: They 'misremember,' either consciously or un-. He delves into some of those legends with the doggedness of a forensic pathologist, the results of which will either enchant or enrage readers, depending on how much they like their heroes with a coating of sugar."


The Dickson Baseball Dictionary by Paul Dickson
"On an episode of M*A*S*H, Hawkeye Pierce once said that if he was stranded on a desert island and had to pick just one book, he'd choose the dictionary, 'because it has all the other books in it.' That's the sentiment behind this choice of Dickson's reference opus, now in its third edition. It's more than just a collection of words; the editor goes deep into the etymology to put the terminology in cultural context over the decades."


Baseball: A Treasury of Art and Literature, edited by Michael Ruscoe
"I love a good anthology. They have led me to many writers, genres, and other areas with which I had been unfamiliar. Among these are Baseball: A Literary Anthology, edited by Nicholas Dawidoff; Joy in Mudville: The Big Book of Baseball Humor, edited by Dick Schaap and Mort Gerberg; and the Fireside Books, edited by Charles Einstein. But if I had to pick one, I would go with Ruscoe's coffee-table collection, which includes not only excerpts from the works of Lawrence Ritter, Red Smith, Roger Angell, John Updike, and Gay Talese, among scores of others, but also the best in baseball music, poetry, illustrations, and photographs."



Vote for your own favorites on Listopia: Best Baseball Books



Comments Showing 1-20 of 20 (20 new)

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message 1: by Alice (new)

Alice I'm an avid bb fan and would like to read these books, would you suggest where to start? 64, female and still love the game. Thanks.


message 2: by Anthony (new)

Anthony The first section of Don DeLillo's Underworld is an amazing depiction of a legendary fictional baseball game. Being from the UK, I don't really have much affection for baseball but even I enjoyed it.


message 3: by Jill (new)

Jill Eisnaugle I just published and e-published my fictional baseball novel based on the Chicago Cubs, Ivy Dreams. I love baseball stories. It is available now on Barnes & Noble for the Nook and Amazon as a hardcover.Ivy Dreams


message 4: by Blake (new)

Blake Walker How about The Great American Novel by Philip Roth. That book is an absolute page turner, but is more of a novel for the reader interested in funny stories, outlandish exaggeration, entertainmentand a rollicking good journey of absolute stupidity. I imagine it is not a book for the purists.


message 5: by Donald (new)

Donald Anthony wrote: "The first section of Don DeLillo's Underworld is an amazing depiction of a legendary fictional baseball game. Being from the UK, I don't really have much affection for baseball but even I enjoyed it."

Wasn't that a fictional account of a real baseball game, with the "shot heard around the world"?


message 6: by Wm (new)

Wm Seabrook Interesting that although Ron Kaplan doesn't appear to be a great fan of baseball fiction, near all these comments seem to indicate his opinion is not shared by all. Therefore I thought I'd list the 23/501 that his lists in Chapter 6 - Fiction


158 • The Annotated Baseball Stories of Ring Lardner, 1914-1919 • edited George W Hilton • Stanford: Stanford University Press, 1995
159 • The Art of Fielding: A Novel • Chad Harbach • New York: Little Brown 2011
160 • Baseball Fantastic • edited W P Kinsella • Kingston ON:Quarry Press, 2000
161 • Brittle Innings • Michael Bishop • New York: Bantam, 1994
162 • The Celebrant • Eric Rolfe Greenberg • New York: Everest House, 1983
163 • The End of Baseball • Peter Schilling Jr • Chicago: Ivan R Dee, 2008
164 • Extra Innings: A Story for the Aged • Lane Strauss • Raleigh N c: Lulu, 2011.
165 • The Great American Novel • Philip Roth • New York: Holt, Rinehart and Winston, 1973.
166 • If I Never Get Back: A Novel • Darryl Brock • New York: Crown, 1990.
167 • Japanese Baseball and Other Stories • W. P. Kinsell a. Saskatoon S k: Thistledown Press, 2000.
168 • Man on Spikes • Eliot Asinof • Carbondale: Southern Illinois University Press, 1998.
169 • Murder at Fenway Park • Troy Soos • New York: Kensington,
170 • Murderer’s Row: Baseball Mysteries, • Otto Penzler. Beverly Hills: New Millennium Press, 2002.
171 • The Natural • Bernard Malamud • New York: Harcourt, 1952.
172 • Play for a Kingdom • Thomas Dyja • New York: Harcourt Brace, 1997
173 • The Redheaded Outfield and Other Baseball Stories • Zane Grey. Avenel Nj: Gramercy, 1996.
174 • Safe at Home • Richard Doster • Colorado Springs: David C. Cook, 2008.
175 • The Southpaw • Mark Harris • Indianapolis in: Bobbs-Merrill, 1953
176 • Bang the Drum Slowly • Mark Harris • New York: Knopf, 1956.
177 • A Ticket for a Seamstitch • Mark Harris • New York: Knopf, 1957.
178 • Tales of the Diamond: Selected Gems of Baseball Fiction, • Laurence J. Hyman and Laura Thorpe • San Francisco: Woodford Press, 1991.
179 • The Universal Baseball Association, Inc., J. Henry Waugh, Prop. • Robert Coover • New York: Random House, 1968.
180 • The Year the Yankees Lost the Pennant • Douglass Wallop • New York: W. W. Norton, 1954.


message 7: by Margot (new)

Margot Shoeless Joe by W.P. Kinsella and The Brothers K by David James Duncan are both great books about baseball.


message 8: by Peter (new)

Peter Prasad Today is opening day in my city by the bay. I'm gunna have a cow. Huzzah!


message 9: by Alice (new)

Alice Anthony wrote: "The first section of Don DeLillo's Underworld is an amazing depiction of a legendary fictional baseball game. Being from the UK, I don't really have much affection for baseball but even I enjoyed it."

Thank you for the tip. You say even you liked it w/o being fond of bb, I'd have to start with that book now.


message 10: by Tom (last edited Apr 05, 2013 06:30PM) (new)

Tom "The Single Best Baseball Book of ALL TIME" according to Red Barber (and me) is "The Glory of Their Times" by Lawrence Ritter. The sub title is "The Story of the Early Days of Baseball Told by the Men Who Played It" and that is exactly what it is! Love it!


message 11: by Alice (new)

Alice I must thank you for the info and look for this book also. I can't wait to start reading these books, growing up tomboy and playing centerfield most times was my pride. Back then they didn't believe girls could play, we surprised them. Thanks again.


message 12: by Endelbendel (new)

Endelbendel George Will, Men at Work


message 13: by Wm (new)

Wm Seabrook Yes "Men at Work" is number 16 in Kaplan's book.


message 14: by Barry (new)

Barry Donald wrote: "Anthony wrote: "The first section of Don DeLillo's Underworld is an amazing depiction of a legendary fictional baseball game. Being from the UK, I don't really have much affection for baseball but ..."

Donald is correct, it's a fictionalized account of the 1951 playoff game between the Brooklyn Dodgers and New York Giants which ended with Thompson's home run. The mythical status of the ball figures in the ensuing (long) story of the main character.


message 15: by Barry (new)

Barry Alice wrote: "Anthony wrote: "The first section of Don DeLillo's Underworld is an amazing depiction of a legendary fictional baseball game. Being from the UK, I don't really have much affection for baseball but ..."

You can read the first section by itself in a novella published as "Pafko At The Wall." It is a great read on its own, maybe better than the rest of the massive tome that is "Underworld."


message 16: by Barry (new)

Barry Wm wrote: "Interesting that although Ron Kaplan doesn't appear to be a great fan of baseball fiction, near all these comments seem to indicate his opinion is not shared by all. Therefore I thought I'd list t..."

"Brittle Innings" is a tremendous book if you can still find it. It's really fantasy/science fiction, of which I am not a fan, but the baseball chassis on which the story rides is excellent. "Play For A Kingdom" is also incredible, a Civil War-themed novel crying out for a film treatment.


message 17: by Wm (last edited Apr 08, 2013 12:59PM) (new)

Wm Seabrook >
>"Brittle Innings" is a tremendous book if you can still find it.
>

It is available as an eBook at :

http://www.amazon.com/Brittle-Innings...


message 18: by Alice (new)

Alice Thanks, I've got an account with amazon and they have it for kindle. I can't believe how many people have read these books and I've missed it.


message 19: by Kate (new)

Kate Anthony wrote: "The first section of Don DeLillo's Underworld is an amazing depiction of a legendary fictional baseball game. Being from the UK, I don't really have much affection for baseball but even I enjoyed it."

A fictional account, not by any means a fictional game; in fact, one of the most celebrated games in history. But I agree with your assessment: it's beautifully written. The novel is one of my favorites, though it does stray from baseball.


message 20: by Kate (new)

Kate Thomas Boswell is wildly underrated as a baseball writer, but for my money he is right up there with the Rogers, Angell and Kahn.


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