Ron Kaplan

501 Baseball Books Fans Must Read before They Die

University of Nebraska Press 2013

New Books in American StudiesNew Books in Arts & LettersNew Books in Literary StudiesNew Books in Peoples & PlacesNew Books in Politics & SocietyNew Books in SportsNew Books Network May 17, 2013 Bruce Berglund

WorldCat is the largest online catalog in the world, accessing the collections of more than 72,000 libraries in 170 countries and territories. Using the...

WorldCat is the largest online catalog in the world, accessing the collections of more than 72,000 libraries in 170 countries and territories. Using the catalog, a subject search of particular sports turns up the following tally of book titles in the world’s libraries:

Boxing: 5164, Hockey: 7083, Cricket: 10,881, Horse Racing: 11,933, Basketball: 12,875, Golf: 16,660, Football: 18,592, Soccer: 19,933, Baseball: 31,206

That’s a lot of baseball books.

Fortunately, Ron Kaplan has cut that number down to something a bit more manageable in 501 Baseball Books Fans Must Read before They Die (University of Nebraska Press, 2013). As host of the Baseball Bookshelf blog and bibliography editor of the Society for American Baseball Research, Ron has read a few thousand books on the sport, give or take a couple hundred. His book doesn’t rank them. As he explains in the interview, it was hard enough to pare down his list from 1001 to 501. Instead, he offers an annotated guide, with books grouped by subject. There are instructional books and novels, data-based analyses and tributes to ballparks, biographies of the great players and memoirs of ordinary fans. Ron includes the familiar classics, like Mark Harris’ Bang the Drum Slowly and Jim Bouton’s Ball Four, and makes the case for books that deserve the status of a classic, such as Michael Bishop’s novel Brittle Innings. And Ron reveals a trove of older, overlooked gems: a 1915 instructional manual for college players, Bob Wood’s 1988 guide to ballpark food, and a compilation of Charles Schulz’s baseball-themed Peanuts comics (more than 600 strips when the book was published in 1977).

Ron’s expert guide will help in your choices of summer baseball reading. Indeed, you’ll be eager to start on your baseball list after putting down Ron’s book. That is, if you can put it down. Ron’s thoughtful choice of titles and his insightful summaries of the selections make this not only a useful introduction to the baseball library but also a worthy–and enjoyable–addition to its shelves.

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