Book Review: The Art of Fielding by Chad Harbach

Art of FieldingThe Art of Fielding is a look at a year in the lives of a few people at a fictional college in Wisconsin. It’s centered around players on the baseball team, plus the college president and his daughter.

The story begins with the shortstop, Henry. Henry’s idol is a big-league shortstop who has set a record and has also written a book on the “art of fielding.” Henry lacks self-confidence. He doesn’t believe he’s a great player, but he loves the game and spends a lot of time practicing.

Henry is discovered by Mike Schwartz, a college jock who plays both football and baseball. Mike sees Henry’s talent and sincerely believes Henry is what the college team needs to be a winning team. Mike recruits Henry, and Henry comes to the college on a scholarship. Mike works like a coach to help Henry succeed.

Henry’s roommate is Owen, also a baseball player. Owen is a gorgeous gay guy and the object of lust by quite a few guys, although not his fellow baseball players. A big part of the story revolves around him.

The Art of Fielding is a book I never would have read except for the fact it was a book club choice. It wasn’t my choice, but others read my picks and so it’s only fair to read theirs. I’m not a baseball fan but I am a sports fan, so I figured I could handle it. And finally, I figured an in-depth look at the lives of a few college students would be interesting.

Unfortunately, I didn’t really like any of the characters. At the beginning of the book they seemed fairly typical of college students. But soon they all diminished in my eyes. They seemed to make stupid choices and I ended up just feeling sorry for them. The character that didn’t make sense to me was the college president. He was a smart guy but his lust for Owen made him do some stupid things.

If the author wrote a sequel showing me how they handled post-college life, I’d probably read it. Maybe this college year was just their year for making mistakes. I’d like to think they went on to lives that had purpose and meaning and involved giving to others.

I will say it was beautifully written. I just didn’t like the characters. Our book club members were split fifty-fifty. As for me, I can’t recommend it.

Published by Little Brown & Company, 2011

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7 Responses to Book Review: The Art of Fielding by Chad Harbach

  1. Beth F says:

    As I mentioned earlier, I never got past about page 100 — I just didn’t click with the book.

  2. Sorry this didn’t work for you. I read some great things about it early on but the synopsis never grabbed me.

  3. diane says:

    Sometimes I can still like a book if I don’t like the characters (Summer House With Swimming Pool), but sometimes, like you, it just doesn’t work.

  4. Ti says:

    I ended up loving this one and it surprised me. I am not a baseball fan nor a sports fan really but I thought the sport was secondary to the rest of the story. I connected with the characters and it reminded me a little of Owen Meany. A little. Too bad you did’t enjoy it though.

  5. I loved this book and have it on my Book Club Recs list. I, too, thought the college President was super creepy! But, I thought the writing was gorgeous and I really liked the whole sports psychology angle. What’s the mental switch that flips to make someone lose “it”?

  6. My daughter has recommended this to me, but I’ve been hesitant to give it a try. Guess I’m still not in much of a hurry…

  7. candice says:

    sorry you didn’t like this, but good for you for finishing it. at least you can look forward to a palette cleanser, so to speak…what’s your next book?

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