Here are 24 of the best baseball books to read in 2024

by Fred Hofstetter on January 22, 2024

A handful of the best books about baseball for young and adult readers in 2024, including new/modern reads & a few classics/all-time favorites.

When I was an 11 year old I read like crazy. Everything I could find. Including this book called “The Kid Who Only Hit Homers” by Matt Christopher I read about a thousand times (that’s a great one for young readers). This other one called “Hatchet” by Gary Paulsen that made me very wary of small aircraft and wild berries. Then I grew up. Learned enough, got lazy. Got sleepy. Became aware of it. Forced myself to start reading again. Then wound up reading a whole lot about baseball.

I’d like to share some of my favorites with you. They are listed below. Broken up by new and classic. These weren’t all written within the last year or two. But you should read them if you haven’t already.

The best new / modern baseball books

All of these books have been published within the last 9 years (2015-2024).

1. The Baseball 100

Best Baseball Book 2021 Joe Posnanski The Baseball 100

Author: Joe Posnanski
Published: September 2021

At 800+ pages, Posnanski’s The Baseball 100 bursts with baseball lore. This is Posnanski’s top 100 players of all time. Tip: don’t get too caught up with the order. The number next to the name represents much more than production, skill, or any other single attribute.

Of all the books on this list, this one might feel the most like a celebration. Those of us who love baseball love it for many reasons, and the several unforgettable characters Posnanski profiles in this volume reflect it.

Given the universality of the appeal and sheer breadth of content within, I’d struggle to find anyone who wouldn’t find something to love in this book.

This one is certainly one of the best baseball books published in 2021, and a great addition for your library.

Buy on AmazonFull review

2. The Cloudbuster Nine

The Cloudbuster Nine Book Cover

Author: Anne R. Keene
Published: April 2018

This is one of my favorite historical baseball books I’ve read, partially because baseball isn’t so central to the plot and narrative.

Keene’s Cloudbusters reads a bit different, like a snapshot of another place in time in which baseball was interwoven through it all, but was not sufficient to paint the picture.

The character study of players like Ted Williams, Johnny Pesky, and an unexpected batboy earn much of the attention in this book. But the story really focuses on the V-5 Pre-Flight School, service, the “Old Leaguer,” and the role baseball played at the onset of World War II.

Buy on AmazonFull review

3. K: A History of Baseball in Ten Pitches

K History of Baseball 10 Pitches Books to Read 2020

Author: Tyler Kepner
Published: April 2019

One of the best baseball books of 2019. Kepner weaves a joyous story of baseball through 10 chapters, each identified by a pitch: slider, fastball, curveball, knuckleball, splitter, screwball, sinker, changeup, spitball and cutter.

The book is littered with excellent testimony and quotes from legendary players and coaches. A treasure trove for enthusiasts of the baseball personality.

I was particularly drawn to the chapter on the screwball pitch given its murky history and its curious practitioners. Kepner dubs it the sasquatch of baseball. Accurate.

My favorite part of this book is the pure exuberance and passion for the game emanating from every page. You’ll have a smile on the whole way.

Buy on AmazonFull review

4. Future Value: The Battle for Baseball’s Soul and How Teams Will Find the Next Superstar

Future Value Book 2020

Author: Eric Longenhagen and Kiley McDaniel
Published: May 2020

This book is truly unique, representing a niche subject I never realized I was missing: scouting.

Calling the title “misleading” is too aggressive, but I’ll admit the first-cover impression sent me down the wrong path. I have phases where I’m not really in the mood to read anything too analytically evangelist. Given Longenhagen’s work with FanGraphs and a phrase like “battle for baseball’s soul” – I assumed this would be in that “here’s 300+ of sabermetrics coursework” and admittedly put me off of this one for too long.

It’s a shame the word “scouting” doesn’t appear anywhere in the title. That’s really the heart of this book. And what makes it so compelling as a baseball fan. Especially one who occasionally dreams of a career in baseball.

There’s a lot of scouting lingo thrown around in broadcasts, forums, and arguments at the bar. Chances are you’re like me and only half-understand most of it. And maybe never consciously recognized how much you don’t know.

This book goes deep into the world of amateur and pro scouting and breaks down all the different ways all sorts of scouts and evaluators find and grade talent. It does a great job respectfully teaching you the language and culture of scouting like you’re an 8 year old without ever feeling like you are an 8 year old.

I wish I would have read this book sooner, as I can tell it’s already changing the way I watch baseball (for the better).

Buy on AmazonFull review

5. The Cup of Coffee Club: 11 Players and Their Brush with Baseball History

Cup of Coffee Club Best Baseball Books

Authors: Jacob Kornhauser
Published: 2020

I had to pick this one up right away. Loved this concept and how Kornhauser executes it.

This book tells the tale of 11+ ballplayers who only ever got one appearance in a big league ballgame. Every story is a little different and all of these guys come away from professional baseball with a unique perspective. Some of them openly relish their moment in the spotlight and wouldn’t change a thing. Others find much less solace in their momentary glory.

These guys aren’t all completely anonymous despite their very brief MLB careers as ballplayers. Jeff Banister managed the Texas Rangers from 2015-2018 and won AL Manager of the Year in 2015. Stephen Larkin and Larry Yount are brothers of a couple Hall of Famers.

The Cup of Coffee Club is one of those timeless baseball books that fits a perfect niche in your library.

Buy on AmazonFull review

6. Our Team: The Epic Story of Four Men and the World Series that Changed Baseball

Our Team Luke Epplin Best Nonfiction Baseball Book 2021

Authors: Luke Epplin
Published: March 2021

I am a somewhat ashamed about how little of this story I was even marginally familiar with. But I’m sure glad I know now. This is a fantastic book.

Luke Epplin’s Our Team tells the story of the 1948 world champion Cleveland Indians, weaving together multiple micro-biographies of a few key figures: Bill Veeck, Bob Feller, Larry Doby, and Satchel Paige. Doby takes center stage as Major League Baseball’s second black player after Jackie Robinson to break the color barrier, and a legitimate prospect who played a pivotal role in helping the Indians win a championship. Veeck’s infectious presence as an innovative owner, marketer and businessman is larger than life. Feller and Paige bring their own interesting element to the text, painting a picture of the baseball industry in the mid-20th century – an industry that feels unrecognizable compared to today’s.

Loved this book. I learned a lot and enjoyed every page. Kudos to Epplin for packing so much into a single, consumable resource. Really highly recommend.

Buy on AmazonFull review

7. The MVP Machine

MVP Machine Baseball Book to Read 2020

Authors: Ben Lindbergh and Travis Sawchik
Published: June 2019

The MVP Machine provides compelling examples of the way players are using data to help become better ballplayers.

Authors like Lindbergh and Sawchik historically lean heavy into the analytics side of baseball, but there is an effort here to respect the soft skills traditionalists hang their hat on. The human element of baseball is a primary focus in this book. This one isn’t just for the nerds.

…but nerds will love it, too.

Don’t read this if you’re a fan with minimal interest in 1) how baseball teams are made 2) larger trends in the game’s evolution and have no patience for the minutiae of how players and teams work to make the product better.

Absolutely read this if you are remotely curious about the inner workings of the modern game. This isn’t another cheap numbers are important, I swear preach-to-the-choir type books. It’s essential reading for any baseball fan who’s had an opinion about their favorite team’s roster construction.

Buy on AmazonFull review

8. The Wax Pack: On the Open Road in Search of Baseball’s Afterlife

Best Baseball Book The Wax Pack

Author: Brad Balukjian
Published: June 2020

In The Wax Pack Brad Balukjian journeys across the U.S. to track down a handful of former ballplayers drawn from an old deck of Topps baseball cards. The list of players include mostly those from the 70’s through 90’s, journeymen and stars alike. This is not a recollection of great baseball stories. This book features character studies of ballplayers and how their relationship with the game (and their families) has evolved since leaving it. And it’s show, not tell.

This one is right in my wheelhouse.

I’m not a huge day-to-day baseball follower. Who wins or loses today isn’t that big of a deal.

My favorite part of the game is its aesthetic. Its permanence. How it interweaves with life happening around it. How it’s really hard to explain to people who don’t get it why it means so much to you.

This book speaks the language of baseball and strikes all the right chords. Balukjian’s conversational style with a natural storytelling acumen helps make this a lean, breezy read that sticks with you. Highly recommend.

Buy on AmazonFull review

9. Swing Kings: The Inside Story of Baseball’s Home Run Revolution

Swing Kings Jared Diamond Best Modern Baseball Book

Author: Jared Diamond
Published: March 2020

The big story in baseball over the past few years is the explosion of the home run. Dingers are everywhere and everyone’s got an opinion about it. It’s not an accident.

There’s been a change in the way decision makers think about hitting, and Jared Diamond tells the story of the transformation. It emanates that Moneyball “it’s a revolution, man” energy. You may or may not like that. But Diamond does a really great job outlining the chronology compellingly, telling stories of people rather than raw concepts or statistics. You’ll learn a lot about some baseball outsiders who’ve made a huge unexpected impact on what’s happened to the game in the last 5 years or so.

By the end you might just have a little more perspective about why the Dodgers in particular have comfortably occupied the top of the standings – and now a World Series championship in 2020.

For anyone curious about why there are so many home runs these days, this is the book to read. It’s a fast reader – I finished it in only a couple days.

Buy on Amazon

10. Big Sexy: In His Own Words

Big Sexy Bartolo Colon Autobiography Best Baseball Book

Authors: Bartolo Colón and Michael Stahl
Published: May 2020

I don’t often go for biographies/autobiographies but this one is something of a no-brainer.

Bartolo Colón is an all-time baseball personality, boasting a care-free disposition and a work ethic inspiring a career revival well into his 40’s. But like just about anyone else, his life has had its share of ups and downs.

This is an incredibly charming read you can take on in just a few hours. English isn’t Colón’s first language—the writing is simple and very readable.

Every now and again Colón does reveal some interesting behind-the-scenes happenings but you’ll be hard pressed to find any dirt slinging. Colón emanates positivity, grace and warmth on every page. He’s a man who truly appreciates the life he’s been given.

This one feels good and puts a smile on your face.

Buy on AmazonFull review

11. A Fan’s Guide to Baseball Analytics

A Fan's Guide to Baseball Analytics Best Modern Baseball Book 2020

Author: Anthony Castrovince
Published: May 2020

There are many analytically-oriented books on this list, which may give off the impression I’m a stat nut who loves burying my face in calculators and spreadsheets. I sort of do. But when it comes to baseball I’m primarily a romantic who enjoys the escape, more inclined to embrace the beauty and spontaneity of the game without trying too hard to quantify it.

But the way baseball people think has changed too dramatically to ignore. The reason there are so many analytically-oriented books on this list? It’s impossible to ignore.

Anthony Castrovince’s book is a really good introduction to the concepts behind new baseball statistics you’re starting to see pop up more and more during baseball broadcasts. Like it or not, the acronyms are piling up and there’s good reason for it.

For those of you who read about baseball every day and consider yourself familiar with sabermetrics, this book isn’t really for you. It’s mostly review. It was for me, although Castrovince does cover a couple statistics I wasn’t all that familiar with, especially on the defensive side. It’s formatted really nicely with sections for each stat, so it’s easy to pluck off the shelf when you get that itch of wait, how is wRC+ calculated again?

I’d say this is a great gift idea for your baseball fan friend who’s not a hardcore, but loves watching games and thinks critically about them. Or if you’re the crusader type, you can try it on a traditionalist baseball fan who scoffs at statistics and see if you can move the needle. Castrovince works hard to make this entry-level and non-condescending for people who really haven’t thought much about this stuff before.

Buy on Amazon

12. The Baseball Book of Why: The Answers to Questions You’ve Always Wondered About from America’s National Pastime

Baseball Book of Why Best Book

Author: John McCollister
Published: March 2020

A lot of books on this list can get on the heavy side. But sometimes deep dives into baseball history or statistics, as excellent as they can be, can get kind of exhausting.

A book like John McCollister’s The Baseball Book of Why can be a really nice change of pace. This book provides concise answers to all sorts of baseball questions, many of which you might have never thought to even ask. Like why there’s always a ceremonial first pitch, or why there’s a seventh inning stretch. Reasons for baseball teams names, reasons for weird rules, why certain changes happened, or why there’s ivy on the walls of Wrigley Field.

It’s not a knock to call this excellent toilet reading. Questions are usually answered in 1-2 pages, and it’s a great book to pick up for 5-10 minutes at a time for those oh, I didn’t know that moments. I really liked this one.

Buy on AmazonFull review

13. The Only Rule is it Has to Work

The Only Rule is it Has to Work Best 2020 Baseball Book for Fans

Authors: Ben Lindbergh and Sam Miller
Published: May 2016

My first thought whenever someone asks me what they should read next. This is a thrill whether you’re a baseball traditionalist who’s sick and tired of statistics or a child of the sabermetrics movement who loves a good case study.

Lindbergh and Miller, two “numbers guy” writers, earn the opportunity to run baseball operations for the Sonoma Stompers, an independent minor league baseball team featuring scraps for resources, a clash of memorable personalities and an unprecedented license to experiment.

The result is an ebbing and flowing story of a baseball team finding its way. It’s a timely look into the current state of baseball within its broader context. Lindbergh and Miller’s alternating perspectives keep things refreshing as the story develops. Not to mention they are both talented, seasoned writers with exceptional self-awareness and humility.

This book is a whole lot of fun.

Buy on Amazon

14. Ahead of the Curve

Best Baseball Book to Read 2020 Ahead of the Curve

Author: Brian Kenny
Published: July 2016

You won’t find this book on many lists like this.

But I love Brian Kenny’s voice. I love what he does with MLB Network. I love his perpetual audacious skepticism in the face of enormous pressure from extremely accomplished peers who see him as a threat.

This book is exactly what you’d expect from Kenny. He formalizes the terrific frustration in changing stubborn thinking in baseball, pointing out dozens of the clearest examples where baseball emotions trump reason. This is something of a compendium of all the ways thinking in baseball is either ignored or too willingly done wrong.

Being more frequently exposed to this culture than maybe anyone else, there’s no one better suited to write a book like this.

Buy on Amazon

15. The Shift: The Next Evolution in Baseball Thinking

The Shift Best Psychology Book for Baseball Fans 2020

Author: Russell A. Carleton
Published: April 2018

I’m a big fan of Carleton’s work. I’d hate for this book to fly under the radar. Too many “best baseball books” lists fail to mention The Shift.

Russell Carleton is smarter than you. He’s way smarter than me. This by itself means little. What makes Carleton brilliant is his ability to communicate complex ideas in a digestible way.

The Shift explores human condition in a baseball context, a highly personal volume featuring all sorts of wonderful nuggets of insights for intellectually curious baseball fans.

I’m happy to call it a must-read for the avid fan.

Buy on AmazonFull review

16. Big Data Baseball

Big Data Baseball Adult Book 2017 Best Analytics

Author: Travis Sawchik
Published: May 2015

With most people still buzzing about the boom in defensive shifts in baseball in 2019 (and chatter about banning them), Sawchik’s Big Data Baseball remains prescient in 2021.

Sawchik explores the 2013 Pittsburgh Pirates – primarily their embracing of defensive shifts, to vault their way into serious contention after 20 consecutive losing seasons.

If Moneyball concerns a shift in evaluating players, Big Data Baseball concerns a shift in evaluating defensive positioning (there is more to each – but broad strokes here). To call it a poor man’s Moneyball sounds like a slight but it isn’t. This comes from the Moneyball tradition and it fits right in.

This is a fast read, the story of a surprising baseball team and their role in moving the needle across Major League Baseball. One of those books you’re well served reading every few years.

Buy on Amazon

17. How Baseball Happened: Outrageous Lies Exposed! The True Story Revealed

Best Baseball Book How Baseball Happened

Author: Thomas W. Gilbert
Published: September 2020

What a wonderful read.

Rejoice! those who cringe at the thought of a dry history lecture.

Chances are what you think you know about the history of baseball is nonsense. Thomas Gilbert’s How Baseball Happened is dense with detail yet light like a feather. He does you a favor and leads off with the most important stuff and provides all sorts of additional details for readers who get engrossed in the history of New York and the many circumstances and people instrumental in the creation of baseball.

Baseball is woven into the fabric of American culture, and there’s no easy answer to who invented baseball? But Gilbert’s book is a great entry-level volume that succinctly describes the world in which baseball was born.

Buy on AmazonFull review

18. Cheated: The Inside Story of the Astros Scandal and a Colorful History of Sign Stealing

Cheated Best Baseball Book 2021

Author: Andy Martino
Published: June 2021

Here’s the first book I’m aware of that really goes deep into the Astros sign stealing scandal and provides an inside look full of new perspectives, quotes and anecdotes from people, players and staff instrumental to the scheme.

I’ll be really transparent:

  • I didn’t personally love this book. The extremely reportorial and levity-starved writing style is not up my alley, and I felt sort of…left hanging in several spots. I wrote a full review with more explanation, if you care.
  • Despite this, this is probably required reading for modern baseball fans (who read books about it). This Astros thing was enormous. Its ripple effect likely won’t be fully felt for several years. This is a huge story, and no resource tells it better and more comprehensively than this book. And my qualms are just mine.

Buy on AmazonFull review

Classics – some of the best baseball books of all time

If you haven’t read these yet, it’s time you do.

19. Moneyball

Moneyball Best Book About BaseballEver

Author: Michael Lewis
Published: June 2003

I can hear the duhs already. This baseball book might have more name recognition than any other. You might think by now “gosh, everyone’s read that” but it isn’t true. I’m slightly ashamed to say I didn’t read it until 2019.

It’s probably not what you think. That makes it worth reading.

“Moneyball” has evolved well beyond the book – it’s an idea that’s fundamentally changed the game of baseball. Some people are really bent out of shape about it.

Moneyball has proven to be one of the most influential books about sports ever written.

Maybe you’ve only seen the movie. It’s great. But you should read the source material.

Buy on Amazon

20. The New Bill James Historical Baseball Abstract

Bill James Historical Abstract All Time Baseball Books 2020

Author: Bill James
Published: 2001

One of the most comprehensive baseball volumes ever written.

Confession: I’ve never “finished” this book. It’s about a million pages. But this isn’t a book you finish. This is a book you keep on your shelf and pluck every couple days for a few minutes at a time.

This is the history of baseball before the 21st century, including reviews of the game by decade and a list of hundreds and hundreds of player profiles with career cliffnotes for the curious baseball fan who wants bite-size answer to “who was that guy?”

Admittedly its encyclopedic format is slightly outdated. This volume is a search engine before Google. But this is a relic retaining objective value and worthy of reverence. A must-add for any baseball library.

Buy on Amazon

21. Ball Four

Best Baseball Book Ever Written All Time Ball Four

Author: Jim Bouton
Published: June 1970

Perhaps the best baseball book of all-time.

If Holden Caulfield was a pitcher for the Seattle Pilots. Anyone who has read Catcher in the Rye will pick up on it immediately. Jim Bouton documents his 1969 season with the curious short-lived expansion team; an uncensored story of the team featuring bits and pieces of Bouton’s past with the New York Yankees. He’s got a ne’er-do-well’s voice with devastating honesty.

You didn’t ask for it, but here’s an example of the type of passage that makes this book so special – and why you’ll see a lot of reviews hailing Ball Four as “not just a baseball book”:

The Yankees would divide the squad into morning and afternoon groups and they’d always say it didn’t mean a thing, just two groups for convenience. Except that the morning group always had Mickey Mantle, Roger Maris, Elston Howard, Whitey Ford and guys like that. The afternoon group would have a bunch of guys named Dick Berardino. I never saw a guy hit or pitch himself off the afternoon list.

The morning group / afternoon group dynamic is timeless and applicable everywhere. Brilliant.

This was a controversial book. Considering the age in which this book was published, the backlash is understandable. This is a tell-all in an incompatible time.

In the 2020s it might seem pretty innocent to some. But this was a huge game-changer back in 1970 and even in retrospect is compelling, daring and intermittently raucous. One of the best ever written.

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22. The Science of Hitting

Ted Williams the Science of Hitting Best Baseball Books

Author: Ted Williams
Published: 1968, revised in 1986

The best in the world at whatever they do don’t always want to reveal their secrets and share their expertise with anyone else. If Michael Jordan said “here’s how to play basketball,” you’d shut up and listen.

So when arguably the best hitter to ever play baseball writes a book about how to hit a baseball, you pass over the money without thinking about it.

Williams’ take on hitting is vigilantly scientific and blunt. There are a couple points he repeatedly hammers home that sound remarkably prescient given the current trends in the game:

  1. Keeping your swing “level” or “down” is bad advice – your swing should angle slightly upward to meet the plane of the descending ball coming towards the plate.
  2. Never swing at the first pitch and effort to see as many pitches as possible. You’ll learn more and wear him out.

For whatever reason it took 40+ years for baseball to really embrace this kind of thinking.

Bonus: Williams is clearly bent out of shape about comparisons to golf. His frustration and animosity towards golf is amusing.

This is a must-read for any baseball fan and belongs on your bookshelf.

Buy on Amazon

23. The Kid Who Only Hit Homers

The Kid Who Only Hit Homers Baseball Book

Author: Matt Christopher
Published: 1972

Disclaimer: heavy bias. This is one of those books I read over and over again as a kid. I read a lot of Matt Christopher books and this is one of those I remember really obsessing over. The nostalgia is palpable and I’m choosing to impose that on you, the reader. You are welcome.

I think what I like most about this book in the context of young readers is all the different ways Christopher describes the action. It sure seems like he went out of his way to create lots of different game scenarios, giving him an excuse to train readers in the language of baseball. It’s really addicting for kids who are really into learning about what the game is, what ballplayers say and how to describe things that happen on the field.

For the parents – the thought experiment is some silly fun and there’s a refreshing emphasis on humility throughout. There are several moments where you can stop and say OK now what can we learn from this? which is nice, if that’s your thing.

Admittedly, it’s dated. Sort of odd to read it again as a 31 year old. There are some themes in this book that stand out a lot more to me now than way back when. I’m not sure this is the best baseball book for kids, but it’s definitely a great way to help a 6-9 year fixated on baseball (ages may vary, obviously) exercise their reading muscles and have fun doing it.

Buy on Amazon

24. The Glory of Their Times: The Story of the Early Days of Baseball Told by the Men Who Played It

The Glory of Their Times Best Baseball Book Ever

Author: Lawrence Ritter
Published: 1966

Here’s an all-time great you’ll see on all sorts of lists like this. And it’s justified.

This book is a series of first-person perspectives of some of the biggest stars in baseball from the early 1900s. One of the interesting parts of the book is how baseball stars were regarded back then compared to what we’re used to now. Their stories intersect naturally with multiple impromptu perspectives on important events. What results is an immersive understated narrative constructing a living, breathing world illustrating the early days of baseball in the US.

Well-researched third-person historical reviews certainly have their place and purpose, but nothing I’ve read in that category puts me back in time to experience baseball history like this book does. Highly recommend.

Buy on AmazonFull review

2024/new-ish releases on my wish list:

(I’m slow and still haven’t caught up to much of anything in 2022. More to come.)

  1. 24: Life Stories and Lessons from the Say Hey Kid – Willie Mays, John Shea, et al. Release: May 5, 2020. Ashamed to say I know little to nothing about Willie Mays. His upcoming memoir seems a good way to brush up.
  2. Bouton: The Life of a Baseball Original – Mitchell Nathanson. Release: May 1, 2020. Big fan of Ball Four. Looking forward to a new perspective on Bouton’s life that doesn’t come from Bouton himself or a bunch of random bloggers like yours truly.
  3. Just Like Me: When the Pros Played on the Sandlot – Kelly Park. Release: August 27th, 2020. A bunch of professional baseball players tell their stories of playing baseball/softball as kids. These people look like superheroes on camera, but they’re just people. I like this idea.
  4. Stealing First and Other Old-Time Baseball Stories – Chris Williams. Release: April 22, 2020. I like little stories about baseball curiosities.
  5. Yogi: A Life Behind the Mask – Jon Pessah. Release: April 14, 2020. Baseball’s all-time personality. I have this on my shelf, but haven’t read it yet.

Happy reading.

These are good reads. If you’re feeling uninspired by run-of-the-mill fiction, biographies or heavy classic literature it’s always nice to have a baseball book to pluck off the shelf and revisit. Keep them in your rain delay arsenal.

If you’ve got any more suggestions please let me know on Twitter (@screwballtimes). I’m genuinely interested.

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