Thursday, December 22, 2011

'The Art of Fielding' tops Best of 2011 books list

In March 2010, Little, Brown outbid seven other publishers for the rights to an unemployed author's first book, paying $650,000 to publish Chad Harbach's tale about a slick-fielding shortstop at a fictional Division III college in Wisconsin. It was a highly unusual transaction for a debut novel targeted at a male audience. The publisher was vindicated, however, by a constant flow of praise in the months leading up to the release of The Art of Fielding, certainly unprecedented among baseball novels. The book lived up to its hype, landing a coveted place on the New York Times' 10 Best Books of 2011 list. It also tops my third-annual list for Baseball America, the only work of fiction to win a spot.

While 2010 saw a number of blockbusters on notables such as Henry Aaron, Mickey Mantle, Roger Maris, Willie Mays, Old Hoss Radbourn, and George Steinbrenner, the biography field this year was smaller, with only Neil Lanctot's account of Brooklyn Dodgers catcher Roy Campanella standing out. The rest of our selections ran the gamut from in-depth looks at the game in its formative years to Jonah Keri's examination of one of baseball's newest additions.

Here's the list:

1. The Art of Fielding: A Novel, by Chad Harbach
2. Bottom of the 33rd: Hope, Redemption, and Baseball's Longest Game, by Dan Barry
3. Baseball in the Garden of Eden: The Secret History of the Early Game, by John Thorn
4. Campy: The Two Lives of Roy Campanella, by Neil Lanctot
5. Fenway 1912: The Birth of a Ballpark, a Championship Season, and Fenway's Remarkable First Year, by Glenn Stout
6. Major League Baseball Profiles, 1871-1900, Vols. 1 and 2, compiled and edited by David Nemec
7. The Extra 2%: How Wall Street Strategies Took a Major League Baseball Team from Worst to First, by Jonah Keri
8. Flip Flop Fly Ball: An Infographic Baseball Adventure, by Craig Robinson
9. The Way of Baseball: Finding Stillness at 95 MPH, by Shawn Green with Gordon McAlpine
10. Pitching in the Promised Land: A Story of the First and Only Season in the Israel Baseball League, by Aaron Pribble

See for thumbnail sketches of all 10 books. And happy reading.


  1. Excellent choices all, James, although I still respectfully, run against the wave of those readers who are falling all over themselves in praise of TAOF.

  2. Thanks, Ron. When's your book coming out? That is going to be an interesting read.