My favorite baseball book ever is The Brothers K by David James Duncan. The thing is Duncan is writing about family in that book, not baseball. And yet baseball is the lens through which the family story is told. It's a lovely story by a great writer.
The Art of Fielding may be my second favorite baseball book ever. One reason I love it is the setting. At Westish College, a small school on the shore of Lake Michigan, baseball introduces us to unforgettable characters striving for perfection and falling short. The impossibility of achieving perfection in life or in sport are the lessons learned at Westish.
"That baseball rewards languid virtuosos and frothing monomaniacs about equally is one of the game's weird fascinations. That Academe does the same would not be useful information in the hands of a hack. But The Art of Fielding marries the national pastime to the life of the mind, takes off running, and never flags. Chad Harbach's pen shatters stereotypes like fastballs shatter bats. His sentence-making keeps things fluid and tense as a September pennant race. When the best shortstop alive sounds believably like a Tibetan lama, and when a thrown ball striking a shovel head at dawn leaves your own head ringing with certainty that truth and friendship have triumphed, you know you're in the hands of a writer you can trust."
-David James Duncan, author of The Brothers K