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Michael Carlson's Top Book Recommendations

Want to know what books Michael Carlson recommends on their reading list? We've researched interviews, social media posts, podcasts, and articles to build a comprehensive list of Michael Carlson's favorite book recommendations of all time.


The Natural

The classical novel (and basis for the acclaimed film) now in a new edition

Introduction by Kevin Baker

The Natural, Bernard Malamud's first novel, published in 1952, is also the first—and some would say still the best—novel ever written about baseball. In it Malamud, usually appreciated for his unerring portrayals of postwar Jewish life, took on very different material—the story of a superbly gifted "natural" at play in the fields of the old daylight baseball era—and invested it with the hardscrabble poetry, at once grand and altogether believable, that...
Recommended by Chad Harbach, Michael Carlson, and 2 others.

Chad HarbachIt’s a very dark book. Roy Hobbs is a really one-dimensional figure. He’s very ambitious, in a narrow, greedy American sort of way. (Source)

Michael CarlsonA perfect, mythic take on baseball in which he plays with the myth of the Fisher King and the Holy Grail. (Source)

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When eight members of the Chicago White Sox were accused of throwing the 1919 World Series, the team became known as the "Black Sox." Hoopla blends the narrative of team member George Weaver with the view of Luther Pond, who exposed the scandal. Filled with cameo portraits of prominent sports legends of the early twentieth century, this novel brings to life an era when America was passionate, even patriotic, about baseball; and when one reporter's words had the power to rock a nation. less
Recommended by Michael Carlson, and 1 others.

Michael CarlsonThis book is really overlooked. It deals with the Black Sox scandal in 1919. There is a very good nonfiction book called Eight Men Out by Eliot Asinof which deals with the same subject. So this book was kind of lost, particularly when John Sayles made his film of Eight Men Out, which is one of my favourite baseball movies. (Source)

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The Veracruz Blues

It's 1946, the war in Europe is over, and south of the border, the battle for the heart of American baseball is about to begin. Numerous Major League stars, fresh from the fields of fire, are ready to return to the fields of green--but only on their terms. A boy's game has turned into a man's business, and before they take their cuts at the plate, the players want a fair cut of the pie. less
Recommended by Michael Carlson, and 1 others.

Michael CarlsonThis book came out in 1997 and isn’t particularly well known. But I like it a lot, and wanted to include it ahead of some of the better known books. This is the story of the Mexican League, which was started by a couple of brothers in 1946. The one in charge was Jorge Pasquel, an industrialist in Mexico who wanted to start a competitor to Major League Baseball, which they stole players away from. (Source)

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Bang the Drum Slowly

Henry Wiggen, hero of The Southpaw and the best-known fictional baseball player in America, is back again, throwing a baseball “with his arm and his brain and his memory and his bluff for the sake of his pocket and his family.” More than a novel about baseball, Bang the Drum Slowly is about the friendship and the lives of a group of men as they each learn that a teammate is dying of cancer.
Bang the Drum Slowly was chosen as one of the top one hundred sports books of all time by Sports Illustrated and appears on numerous other lists of best...
Recommended by Michael Carlson, and 1 others.

Michael CarlsonMark Harris wrote four books where the main narrator is Henry Wiggin. The first one was called The Southpaw because he is a left-handed pitcher, who are baseball’s oddballs. It’s no coincidence the lefty’s signature pitch is called a screwball. Bang the Drum Slowly, which I think is his best book, is the second in the series. The first three were written in the fifties, and then he came back in... (Source)

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A satirical fable with a rootless and helpless accountant as the protagonist. Alone in his apartment, he spends all his nights and weekends playing an intricate baseball game of his own invention. The author has won the William Faulkner Award and an American Academy of Arts and Letters Award. less
Recommended by Michael Carlson, and 1 others.

Michael CarlsonThis is my favourite of all baseball books, and I think it is one of the great novels of its period. Coover is one of the most interesting but ignored novelists of that time. He was writing what we now call metafiction in the sixties, alongside people like John Barth and Thomas Pynchon. What I love about the book is the idea of someone who is a rather nondescript and average person using baseball... (Source)

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