Considering that I'm such a big fan of baseball, I can't believe that I had never read this book! (And I've still never seen the movie.) As the back of my copy says, "The Natural, Bernard Malamud's first novel, is also the first -- and some would say still the best -- literary novel written about baseball.
I really enjoyed this book. It was quite different from everything else I've been reading lately! It tells the story of Roy Hobbs, a man with incredible baseball talent who is actually a rookie in the Majors at the age of 35 (due to an "accident" earlier in his life). It's interesting to see how the other players, the coach, and even the fans respond to him...first being skeptical, then being accepting, and then practically worshipping him.
I liked all of the "baseball" elements that were included in this book. I do think that someone who's not a big baseball fan could read this book and enjoy it just for the story; however, I think that having some understanding of the significance of the baseball jargon definitely helps to appreciate the actual writing style. I like the quote (again, on the back of my copy) by Alfred Kazin: "[Malamud] has really raised the whole passion and craziness and fanaticism of baseball as a popular spectacle to its ordained place in mythology."
Especially if you're a fan of baseball, I definitely recommend this book!