Monday, April 5, 2010
Sadly, though, merging two of my favorite things in the world — baseball and books — isn't that simple. While there are a ton of good baseball movies (Bull Durham, The Natural, Field of Dreams, Major League, to name a few), there seems to be a dearth of good baseball-related books. But I have come across a few. And I wanted to post about this today to find out if there are any I'm missing, so please get ready to comment below if you've encountered a good book centered on our national pastime.
Here are a few baseball-related novels I've enjoyed:
1) The Great American Novel, by Philip Roth — This hilarious satire, and one of Roth's lesser-known novels, chronicles the trials and tribulations of a homeless baseball team in 1943 called the Rupert Mundys. The team includes a drunken first baseman, a one-armed center fielder, a "little person" relief pitcher and a 14-year-old second baseman. Most of the meat of the novel is introducing each of the characters and giving their back stories, but there's plenty about the Mundys ignominious season, as well. This a must-read for any baseball fan!
2) Play for a Kingdom, by Thomas Dyja — This inventive Civil War novel features a Union company from Brooklyn who takes on a Confederate company from Alabama in a daily baseball game during a semi-stalemate at the 1864 Battle of the Wilderness. Dyja (who most of you have probably never heard of) is a wonderful storyteller, creating fantastically vivid characters. As you'd expect, the story relates how baseball becomes a welcome distraction and a common denominator for these supposed enemies. But it never becomes cliche or cheesy. I loved this novel because it covered two of my favorite topics to read about: the Civil War and baseball.
3) The Brothers K, by David James Duncan — One of my favorite novels of all time, this story follows the Camas, Washington-based Chance family through the mid 20th century. Duncan uses baseball as a central theme and a metaphor for life as it constantly brings the family together. Father Chance played baseball at the University of Washington and was a blue chip prospect until he is drafted into the Korean War and hurts his shoulder. He spends much of the novel managing minor league players and trying to make a comeback. Additionally, the second-eldest son Peter is a naturally gifted ballplayer, but his politics intervene and he renounces baseball. If you haven't read this novel, or even heard of it, or even if you're not a baseball fan, please take my word that this will be one of the best books you'll ever read, too.
So what are your favorite baseball novels? Any recommendations I should start today, in honor of Opening Day?
Posted by Greg Zimmerman at 12:56 PM