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35 of 38 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars You don't need to know anything about baseball to enjoy this book, but I think it helps
I hate watching sport, know nothing about baseball and haven't enjoyed a sports themed book before (not that I've read many - I tend to avoid them), but increasing enthusiasm for The Art of Fielding persuaded me to give it a try. I'm pleased that I did as this is a modern classic that will be talked about for years to come.

The first few chapters did their best...
Published on 5 Jan 2012 by Jackie

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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars I made efforts to like it
This novel feels manufactured, written by a committee. It does not flow as a natural story would, you can clearly see that parts of the story added just to complement the initial idea.
Despite being long enough, even the main characters are one-sided, not developed enough and the story drags on in some parts.
The main two seems to be asexual and removed from the...
Published 12 months ago by Marin P


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35 of 38 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars You don't need to know anything about baseball to enjoy this book, but I think it helps, 5 Jan 2012
This review is from: The Art of Fielding (Hardcover)
I hate watching sport, know nothing about baseball and haven't enjoyed a sports themed book before (not that I've read many - I tend to avoid them), but increasing enthusiasm for The Art of Fielding persuaded me to give it a try. I'm pleased that I did as this is a modern classic that will be talked about for years to come.

The first few chapters did their best to put me off - I could see the writing quality, but the endless baseball references did nothing for me.

"Henry played shortstop, only and ever shortstop - the most demanding spot on the diamond. More ground balls were hit to the shortstop than anyone else, and then he had to make the longest throw to first. He also had to turn double-plays, cover second on steals, keep runners on second from taking long leads, make relay throws from the outfield. Every Little League coach Henry had ever had took one look at him and pointed toward right field or second base. Or else coach didn't point anywhere, just shrugged at the fate that had assigned him this pitiable shrimp, this born benchwarmer."

Without the hype I would probably have abandoned this book after the first few pages, but I persevered and at page 50 I was rewarded with chapter 6 which didn't mention baseball at all. Instead it introduced Moby Dick, an English professor and a glimpse of the magical writing Chad Harbach is capable of when he talks about something other than sport.

As the book progressed I became increasingly attached to the characters in the book and completed its 500 pages in a surprisingly quick time, but on reaching the end I found I was quietly impressed rather than bowled over with excitement. I didn't find anything particularly new or interesting in The Art of Fielding. It is simply a well written book about American college life - and I have read a lot of those, although I admit this is one of the best.

I think those who have been through an American college will have a far greater appreciation of this book than I did. I found it very similar to The Marriage Plot in terms of both style and subject matter - with The Art of Fielding being the better book in terms of consistency and message.

I'm also sure that I missed some of the relevant baseball references and their significance on the bigger picture. I'm afraid that those who claim this book will give the reader a passion for baseball are wrong, but I agree that it isn't necessary to enjoy the sport to appreciate this book.

Despite my criticisms I do think this is a very good book. It is a simple story, but one that is very well told. It is hard not to feel compassion for the well developed characters. I just hope that next time Chad Harbach will devote his time to writing a book that doesn't contain any sporting references.

Recommended, especially to American graduates.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Book of second chances and balls that are hardly, or almost impossible, to catch..., 16 Nov 2013
This review is from: The Art of Fielding (Paperback)
"The Art of Fielding" by Chad Harbach is a debut novel that somehow resembles classic "Moby Dick" novel although instead whaling, the main motive is baseball.

This novel actually has five main characters, students in campus, although sometimes it seems that the most important only one named Henry, whose life paths are interwoven in good in bad way through a whole book that although entertaining seems in its last third sometimes too long (without the need).
And although the baseball is its main motive, it doesn't require to even knowing the rules for it, even after you will read it maybe you'll want to look a match or two.

The story starts with an unimportant tournament when guy named Henry Skrimshander will impress student coach Mike Schwartz, who will recruit him to Westish College in Wisconsin and they two will become good friends.

The novel's title is a fictional book about baseball that is Henry's inspiration and gives him strength whenever he is feeling low, that was written by a retired guy who holds record for number of games without any any errors.
Henry dreams about meeting him and even beat his record, but achieving it would need him to go through lot of crisis, and lacks of confidence.

Also here is the Owen character, who is Henry's roommate, a smart guy, who is not so more into baseball but his role will be shown important later in the novel.

Also, there are two more important characters.
First is Guert, who is college president looking much younger than his 60 having one daughter named Pella who run away and married an older architect, and whose only obsession is Owen which continuously destroys his life.
Last one is Pella herself, who was young and stupid, and now she is back home trying to rebuild her life.

Reader will participate in some original twists that are sometimes emotional or encouraging, sometimes even both.
And while story will unfold, a reader will be like in a baseball game taken on a game of second chances and balls that are hardly, or almost impossible, to catch...

Chad Harbach debuted with this novel, and as mentioned earlier, the biggest flaw that can be assigned to this work is its length that is unnecessarily long making it in last third sometimes difficult to finish.
Also, he invented characters names that are so innovative and hard to forget that you will remember them long after you forget the plot of the novel.

Therefore I can recommend this book even to those who doesn't know anything about baseball, because any other sport could be chosen as background story, although please be advised to have some patience near the end of the book...
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Undemanding Campus novel about friendship and ambition - and baseball, 7 Nov 2011
By 
Ripple (uk) - See all my reviews
(TOP 100 REVIEWER)   
This review is from: The Art of Fielding (Hardcover)
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"The Art of Fielding" is basically a US-style campus novel featuring baseball. There are similarities in style between this and many of John Irving's works, with baseball substituting for Irving's wrestling focus. This, to the UK-reader, raises the first potential barrier as we are, as a rule, largely ignorant of the US fixation with the intricacies of baseball. Certainly you don't need an in depth knowledge to appreciate this story - it is really a story of friendship, ambition and the sporting dreams of youth - but despite a loose understanding of the sport I felt that I would have benefitted from more knowledge particularly towards the end when there is a climatic baseball match. You kind of get the point, but I certainly felt that I was missing out on a little of the tension, in much the same way I'd expect a US reader to be perplexed if the story had been based on say, cricket. It's a minor flaw though and it would be a shame if potential readers dismissed it for this reason.

For me, a more serious issue was that after a strong start - as a young Henry Skrimshander, a baseball fielding prodigy in the Roy of the Rovers manner (to horribly mix sports) is spotted by college über-jock Mike Schwartz and encouraged to enroll at the preppy but academically minor Westish College - the middle of the book loses it's way a little and kind of drifts along for a while, before things rush to a slightly unsatisfying and unbelievable ending.

Once arrived at Westish, Henry is roomed with gay, fellow teammate (although he appears to do little to warrant his place on the team preferring to read on the bench), Owen. Also thrown into the main story are a charismatic College Principle, the 60-something year old Guert Affenlight and his errant daughter who just happens to return to her father having fled a depression inducing marriage to find that her father appears to be falling in love again, although that strand of the story does rather stretch belief.

The characters are thinly drawn and perhaps even a little cliché. After 500 pages of so of a novel, I would expect to have more understanding of the motives and drivers of the characters that I had here. It's not a "great novel" in the manner of say the campus-featuring Donna Tartt's "The Secret History" and is not even as complex as the early John Irvings that it so put me in mind of. But it's undemanding and enjoyable for all that.

When Henry's impressive run of zero errors comes to an end in a freak accident, his struggle to regain his confidence and overcome doubts that he never had before, together with the relationships between Henry and his teammates - particularly the influential Schwartz - are interesting and largely entertaining. The passages devoted to the Affenlights (father and daughter) never really convinced me though. Affenlight snr's affair is somewhat difficult to believe and once free of her marriage, the formerly depressed Affenlight jnr, Pella, appears to show an almost complete recovery in no time at all and becomes something of a rock for the students.

As an undemanding read, it has plenty going for it if you don't look too deeply into its flaws though.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars I made efforts to like it, 23 Dec 2013
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This review is from: The Art of Fielding (Paperback)
This novel feels manufactured, written by a committee. It does not flow as a natural story would, you can clearly see that parts of the story added just to complement the initial idea.
Despite being long enough, even the main characters are one-sided, not developed enough and the story drags on in some parts.
The main two seems to be asexual and removed from the outside world until the dean's daughter is introduced in the story with no credible actions.
I struggled up to the end and after the grave digging final scene, more appropriate for a Mark Twain novel for teenagers I ended up asking myself - which is the audience this book was written for?
Not for me.
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17 of 20 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent, one of the best novels I've read in years..., 23 Sep 2011
By 
G. E. Harrison (Cheltenham, UK) - See all my reviews
(TOP 500 REVIEWER)   
This review is from: The Art of Fielding (Hardcover)
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A couple of years ago while on a road trip in the States I stayed in Cooperstown, an idyllic American small town at the tip of Lake Otsego in New York State that is home to the National Baseball Hall of Fame. I did think about going in there in order to gain an insight into America through its national game but then I remembered that I don't have the slightest interest in cricket, let alone baseball.

Although the action of `The art of fielding' does centre around a mid-western college baseball team, ultimately the book isn't really about baseball but about people and relationships. I would have possibly got more out of the novel if I had understood the finer points of the game but I liked the book fine as it was and you can kind of get the drift of what is happening. In fact I really liked this book, it's one of the best novels I've read in years and it completely sucks you into the cloistered world of Westish College. We are introduced to a cast of marvelous, flawed characters including Henry Skrimshander, Mike Schwartz and Guert Affenlight all of whom I found totally believable. I was a little disappointed by the cliched ending - both on the diamond (which resembled many of the numerous films depicting baseball) and in the cemetery - but in many ways this fitted in with the sentimental tone of the rest of the book.

Overall this is an amazing accomplishment for a first novel - self-assured, very well written and at turns both poignant and very amusing. I shall look forward to reading more of Chad Harbach's work
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14 of 17 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars An enthusiast's novel., 2 Nov 2011
By 
Tony Heyes (Greater Manchester UK) - See all my reviews
(VINE VOICE)   
This review is from: The Art of Fielding (Hardcover)
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"The Art of Fielding" by Chad Harbach

I was intrigued by the title of Chad Harbach's novel "The Art of Fielding", wondering who Fielding was and what art he practised. It turns out to be about baseball players - the art of fielding on a baseball pitch figures largely in the plot. There are five main characters in the book - the president of a college, President Affenlight, and his unhappily married daughter, Pella, and three students, Henry, Mike and Owen. The book traces their relationships and growth over a three year period. Henry is the main focus and his progress as a wizard fielder in the college baseball team is the thread on which the entire story hangs. The book is long, crowded with incident and has narrative drive.

The length of the book would lead one to believe that the author has given himself plenty of room to describe the development of his characters but a considerable part of the book is devoted to descriptions of baseball matches, using a lot of technical terms in the process. English ball games make my eyes glaze over. American ball games seem even more alienating - all those odd poses, terms and body armour and lots of people called "Coach" only add to the bafflement. That funny one-legged stance pitchers take before they throw seems to defy logic. Consequently I felt the author had devoted too much space to these games and not enough to his characters. They lack a historical hinterland. Their histories are dealt with in a most cursory manner giving the impression that they have arrived at college from nowhere. How they were formed and the origins of their attitudes and values would have been really helpful. As it is we are catapulted into a situation like travellers without a map.

The story's arc is believably open-ended if somewhat less than satisfying with no neat gathering together of all the threads at the end. No doubt someone who empathises with obsessional baseball players will be able to appreciate this novel better than I. Despite my lack of engagement the book held me which says something about Mr. Harbach's story-telling prowess.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars My Favourite Read of 2013, 21 Jan 2014
By 
Eric Wilton (UK) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
Thoroughly enjoyed this book. The fact that baseball features strongly, but not overly, was a bonus for me. As others have said, interest in baseball is an irrelevance - it is a conduit not the substance of the story. It's an easy read but the book has some real depth too. It's gentle, life-affirming and well-written. Can recommend it to all.
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5.0 out of 5 stars it was recommended by John green, 15 Aug 2014
This review is from: The Art of Fielding (Paperback)
I picked this up for two reasons: it was recommended by John green, whose opinions I trust on almost everything, and it was set in a Small town American private university, one of which I am currently attending. It's about baseball, which I have no interest in, but I thought I'd try it anyway. And it blew me away! Firstly because the main story is a gay student-teacher affair*, and I just love the author for playing to baseball fans (who aren't known for their gay support I would imagine) and then going in that direction. Kudos to you, Chad. I wish I were that brave.

So not only does he win my love there, it's also beautifully written, and the characters are the kind that you fall in love with after two pages. They were introduced slowly, so in every chapter I found myself going 'yeah, this guys cool, I could read a whole book about him' and then in the next chapter I think the same about another guy, and so on.... It's like the cast of friends, you can't choose your favourite.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Much more than a baseball novel, 2 Jan 2013
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This is actually rather a good novel; I read it because I wanted to find out some more about the sport but in the end baseball is almost incidental and becomes more background noise and context rather than the meat of the story which is dominated by several interlinked and interesting themes based around some intriguing an nicely developed characters.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Brilliant, 27 Jun 2012
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This review is from: The Art of Fielding (Paperback)
I absolutely adored this book - despite knowing nothing about baseball. Beautifully written charaters I wanted to follow and follow. I am bereft now I've finished it! Don't hesitate - this is not a 'sports novel', it's a story about people, friendship and growing up. I am rarely compelled to review on Amazon, but for this I felt I had to.
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