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The Art of Fieldling by Chad Harbach

The Art of Fielding by Chad Harbach The Art of Fielding by Chad Harbach

At Westish College, a small school on the shore of Lake Michigan, baseball star Henry Skrimshander seems destined for big league stardom. But when a routine throw goes disastrously off course, the fates of five people are upended.

Henry’s fight against self-doubt threatens to ruin his future. College president Guert Affenlight, a longtime bachelor, has fallen unexpectedly and helplessly in love. Owen Dunne, Henry’s gay roommate and teammate, becomes caught up in a dangerous affair. Mike Schwartz, the Harpooners’ team captain and Henry’s best friend, realizes he has guided Henry’s career at the expense of his own. And Pella Affenlight, Guert’s daughter, returns to Westish after escaping an ill-fated marriage, determined to start a new life.

Read more . . .

As the season counts down to its climactic final game, these five are forced to confront their deepest hopes, anxieties, and secrets. In the process they forge new bonds, and help one another find their true paths. Written with boundless intelligence and filled with the tenderness of youth, The Art of Fielding is an expansive, warmhearted novel about ambition and its limits, about family and friendship and love, and about commitment–to oneself and to others.
Little, Brown and Company; 1 edition (September 7, 2011)

Book Club Ideas


Bring out the baseball memorabilia for this book club party!

Lisa gave me a great idea for a baseball centerpiece. It was so easy to put together using a tall cylindrical glass vase, a few baseballs, a red white and blue plate and some roasted peanuts. Isn’t it cute?

My father-in-law played baseball for Texas A&M (Whoop!) in the early 50’s, so I put out some his memorabilia from the 1951 College World Series! (He’s in the 2nd row, third from the right.)

I also made some baseball placemats. I downloaded a high resolution baseball image from the internet. I printed copies of the photo and covered the front and back of the photo with self-laminating sheets.

Chad Harbach has cited Herman Melville’s Moby Dick as a major influence on The Art of Fielding. In fact, one of the main characters in The Art of Fielding is a Melville scholar, and, if you are familiar with Moby Dick, you won’t fail to notice that same single-minded obsessive, all-consuming drive shared by characters in both works.

Nicholas Dawidoff (author of The Catcher Was A Spy and editor of Baseball: A Literary Anthology) compares Moby Dick and The Art of Fielding in more broader terms:

Here is that rarest of pleasures, a baseball novel by someone who really knows baseball. The beautiful part is that The Art of Fielding is mere baseball fiction the way Moby Dick is just a fish story.


Take Me Out to the Ballgame will get you and your guests in the spirit. This album includes the most popular ball park music of the past century. It’s great fun.


Book Club Menu

Put fun baseball park foods on your book club menu!

An All-American baseball themed party should include some Homemade Cracker Jack!

Cracker Jack

More baseball foods include hot dogs, pretzels, and even a baseball-shaped cake!

Hot dog with onions Baseball Pretzels

Katy’s daughter made this baseball cake for our book club party. It was delicious, but I’m not quite sure how she assembled the cake (it looks a little tricky). You can get the same effect by using this Wilton Sports Ball Pan Set. Bake any flavor cake, top with white frosting, and create the baseball stitching using Wilton Red Icing Tube and icing tips.

Book Club Resources

Ratings at the time this post was published

Goodreads: 3.99 stars (79,929 ratings)
Amazon: 3.8 stars (1,171 ratings)
LibraryThing: 3.96 stars (996 ratings)
My Rating: 4 stars I highly recommend this novel.  The Art of Fielding is filled with endearing characters, complex relationships, male bonding, and baseball. Don’t be turned off by the male bonding and baseball. Our book club is all female and we thoroughly enjoyed this novel!

Discussion Questions

  1. Discuss Pella’s relationship with Guert. What did you make of Pella’s Moby Dick tattoo?
  2. What happened to Henry’s game? Why did he so completely fall apart?
  3. Discuss Mike’s role as hero, leader, and moral center of the novel. How does Mike respond when faced with his own failure? Why do you feel Mike only applied to the nation’s top law schools?
  4. Mike, Henry, Pella, Guert, and Owen are all endearing characters. Which one did you most closely relate to or like? Why?
  5. Owen remains much a mystery since we never hear his point of view. Why do you think Harbach does this? Were you able to fully connect with or understand Owen?
  6. Discuss Guert and the discoveries he made about himself as a late middle aged man. Did you have a problem, considering his profession, with the choices he made and acted on? Why or why not?

Purchase The Art of Fielding at your favorite bookseller

Purchase Amazon Purchase Kindle Books Purchase IndieBound

The Author

Chad Harbach Chad Harbach grew up in Wisconsin and attended Harvard and the University of Virginia. He has worked as a copywriter and is cofounder and coeditor of the literary magazine n+1.


Recommended Baseball Reading

Vanity Fair's How a Book is Born: The Making of The Art of Fielding

Personal Insights, Favorite Quotes, etc…

I’m not a diehard baseball fan (I don’t follow the pros), but I loved watching my son (#15) play the game from Little League through high school. Great memories!

I would also like to mention that I enjoyed #26 and #59 from the fictional Aparicio Rodriguez’s The Art of Fielding:

26. The shortstop is a source of stillness at the center of the defense. He projects this stillness and his teammates respond.

59. To field a groundball must be considered a generous act and an act of comprehension. One moves not against the ball but with it. Bad fielders stab at the ball like an enemy. This is antagonism. The true fielder lets the path of the ball become his own path, thereby comprehending the ball and dissipating the self which is the source of all suffering and poor defense

Do you have any other ideas or recipes for a book club party for The Art of Fielding? We would love to have you share them with us! You can leave a comment below and upload pictures as well.

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