Spitball literary essays on the off-kilter joys, sorrows and wonder of North America’s national pastime.
A collection of essays for ardent seamheads and casual baseball fans alike, The Utility of Boredom is a book about finding respite and comfort in the order, traditions, and rituals of baseball. It’s a sport that shows us what a human being might be capable of, with extreme dedication—whether we’re eating hot dogs in the stands, waiting out a rain delay in our living rooms, or practising the lost art of catching a stray radio signal from an out-of-market broadcast.
From learning about America through ball-diamond visits to the most famous triple play that never happened on Canadian soil, Forbes invites us to witness the adult conversing with the O-Pee-Chee baseball cards of his youth. Tender, insightful, and with the slow heartbreak familiar to anyone who’s cheered on a losing team, The Utility of Boredom tells us a thing or two about the sport, and how a seemingly trivial game might help us make sense of our messy lives.
Andrew Forbes is the author of the story collections Lands and Forests (Invisible Publishing, 2019) and What You Need (2015), which was shortlisted for the Danuta Gleed Literary Award and named a finalist for the Trillium Book Prize. He is also the author of The Utility of Boredom: Baseball Essays (2016) and The Only Way Is the Steady Way: Essays on Baseball, Ichiro, and How We Watch the Game (2021). Forbes lives in Peterborough, Ontario.
“In all of these essays, Forbes’s writing is almost invisibly stunning, clear, with romantic flourishes equal to his subject matter. But what he’s really able to articulate is how a love of baseball is really about a love of, or at least an acceptance of, the fact that losing is part of the game.” – National Post
“Forbes’ new collection of essays … is a modern poetics of baseball.” – Largehearted Boy
“Taking his cues from Susan Sarandon’s character in Bull Durham, who worships at ‘the Church of Baseball,’ secular humanist Forbes finds something close to religion in everything from Jose Bautista’s bat flip to the Billy Ripken error card.” – Quill & Quire
“The Utility of Boredom isn’t just for jocks. Forbes writes lovingly and philosophically about the culture of baseball.” – Electric City
“Collections of short stories are usually a mixed bag at best — not this one — I loved each story and many of them will be loved by all baseball fans.” – The Guy Who Reviews Sports Books
“Despite the worst title in the history of baseball books, The Utility of Boredom by Canadian Andrew Forbes is a delightful collection of 25 baseball essays.” — Spitball Magazine
“Part memoir, part philosophical thought, and really smartly written.” – Ian Letourneau, CBC Radio Fredericton
“Sportswriter Roger Angell called baseball a way to defeat time. So grab a beer. Sit on a porch. Put your feet up. Listen to a ball game on the radio. Or read The Utility of Boredom cover to cover. As Andrew Forbes says, “Boredom is fertile.” Rest assured, The Utility of Boredom is far from boring. It’s a book to savour, like summer.” – Trout In Plaid
“Forbes’ style is casual, anecdotal, written with a wide knowledge and deep passion for the game yet readable on different levels, depending where you are on the baseball knowledge continuum. For neophyte me, it was all pleasure of discovery and details that will forever stick.” – Matilda Magtree
“Baseball, like life, is getting flattened out these days, compressed to noisy highlight clips and shrill pontification. This book cures that flattening, reaching with grace and poetry past all the bludgeoning hot takes and arid statistical analyses to the kinds of absurd and beautiful details—a spectacular throw from deep right; a meandering spring training game; a foul grounder bounding up into the stands, right at you—that first made us all fall in love with the sport. If baseball, like heaven, is a mansion with many rooms, the essays in The Utility of Boredom are like a fat set of janitor’s keys unlocking the wide open marvels of the game.” – Josh Wilker, Cardboard Gods and Benchwarmer: A Sports-Obsessed Memoir of Fatherhood
“Baseball is a welcome obsession of mine, a comfort. Reading Utility of Boredom by Andrew Forbes fed that obsession beautifully, warmly. It glows. He writes of baseball as sanctuary, baseball in both general terms and specifics—from the feeling of walking into a ballpark on a summer day to Vin Scully’s perfect description of a cloud. He invites us to get on our tiptoes and peek over the fence, smell the grass, hear the crack of the bat. He respects the slow-glory of the game, he loves the game, he’s really good at this, and I absolutely trust him with my baseball-heart.” – Leesa Cross-Smith, Every Kiss A War