As the fathers on the editorial team, we (Jon Foro and Chris Schluep) were tapped with the responsibility of coming up with a Father's Day book list. Makes sense. Here's a wide-ranging list of books we would have liked as gifts--had we not already read them--and that we think the father in your life might like, too.
Backman (A Man Called Ove) surprised us in 2017 with his complex novel set in a small, hockey-mad town that battles every day to stay relevant in a modernizing world. When a crime splits the town between those who believe a teen hockey star and those who believe the teen girl who's accused him, the question of right and wrong and seeing only what we want to believe forces everyone to reconsider what's important. The girl's mom is a marvel, a mix of lawyer and raging mama bear, and yet the whole town, from actual parents to the hockey coaches to the owner of the town's roughest bar, come to rethink how they are raising the town's youth.
Roger Bennett and Michael Davies are the bald and blazered chorus of modern soccah, and their Encyclopedia contains the essential details of the Men in Blazers universe, including: the greatest penalty kick misses, the best nicknames (Brian "Toilet" McClair), self-loathing/depressing poet Philip Larkin, the game's most impactful "Gingers," and, of course, tweed.
What does it really mean to be an Indian/Native American/American Indian/Native? Orange's vivid debut novel allows a unique cast to pull this question apart even as they add a modern layer of complexity: They live in the urban landscape of Oakland, California. The thrust of Orange's cross-cut storytelling is not to force his characters onto a strict plot line but to explore the varied ways of being an Indian and, more important, of feeling like an Indian. Fractured families, Oakland itself, and detachment from tradition make an Indian identity seem even more elusive to the younger characters, but it's a feeling that they unknowingly share—and that Orange wants to expose. Isolation and longing permeate the page, lifted briefly only as the characters intersect at the Big Oakland Powwow, with chaotic results.
David Itzkoff’s monument of a biography is an intimate and thorough examination of Robin Williams as both man and performer. From his years as a reclusive kid playing up in his attic bedroom, to his early days of standup, to the runaway success of Mork and Mindy, to movies, addiction, recovery, and fame, his need for affirmation was the thread that drew him forward. He sought that affirmation by working tirelessly, and Itzkoff chronicles the actor’s successes and failures, as well as his close friendships in and out of show business, to create a deep psychological portrait. Robin Williams possessed an earnestness and a craving for honesty that made him shine brighter even as it threatened to destroy him. This is a bittersweet read, with highs and lows, but the Robin Williams who emerges is as compelling as his greatest performances.
This one-of-a-kind collaboration between the former president and a bestselling author James Patterson combines Clinton's inside knowledge and Patterson's storytelling genius to create a modern, all-too-possible thriller. Only the president and a few close advisors know how much danger the U.S. is in from terrorist Suliman Cindoruk. But Congress is pressing for details—details that could put the country in jeopardy.
Hinton, freed after spending 28 years on death row for crimes he didn't commit, says, "I didn’t get to marry. I didn’t get to have children. I didn’t get to save for my retirement. The State of Alabama locked me up like an animal, threw my life away like garbage. I lost thirty years of my life. How do I spend my time now? I live every minute like it’s my last."
"Someday, you'll have kids of your own...." As a young man with authority issues who grew up to become a father of two teenage boys with authority issues, Neal Thompson knows that's no empty admonishment. Kickflip Boys is an ambivalent story about the ambivalence of parenting: Thompson tracks his sons' progress through skateboarding culture from enthusiastic novices (a path he fully supported) to the darker reaches of illicit substances, graffiti, and the occasional run-in with the law (which he did not support). It's classic nature vs. nurture as he confronts his own complicity in their behavior, even if his intentions were always to raise happy and independent children. Many dads will relate.
For dads about to rock: Hyden’s heroic "journey to end of classic rock" is a soaring tale spanning five decades of bombast and bad behavior that asks the essential questions: Did any of us ever really escape from "Hotel California"? What is the difference between a classic rock record and a Classic Rock record? And most importantly, what happens when a generation of pop culture icons when the latest farewell tour ends.
Kevin Powers’ 2012 debut The Yellow Birds was a compact novel based loosely on his experiences as a soldier in Iraq, and it put him on a short list of talented new writers to watch. In this sophomore effort, A Shout in the Ruins, Powers has written another compact work, albeit one that introduces more characters and spans over 100 years. With its scope, themes, and careful attention to language, A Shout in the Ruins is a highly ambitious novel. You read the book as much to get lost in the words, in the voice and richness of description, as you do for the story; and while it may not hit every mark, it succeeds in its attempt to reach farther and higher than most.
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Obviously, many dream of becoming successful travel writers. Also obviously, most of those are probably dreaming of pain d'épices in Provence or tiramisu in Tuscany, or anywhere one can pose a favorite stuffed animal for a snapshot in front of a tourist-friendly landmark. Mark Adams writes and travels, and I don’t know whether or not he likes pastries, but his destinations usually involve a little bit more adventure. In his latest, Tip of the Iceberg, he retraces the steps of Edward Harriman, who journeyed boldly to Alaska in 1899 with a coterie of eminent scientists and writers, including John Muir. Lacking his own expedition ship, he embarks on a tour of the public ferry systems and highways, exploring the Last Frontier and all of its fish, bears, ice, and dedicated individualists.
First sentences matter, and Michael Ondaatje’s Warlight begins with a distinctly dramatic one. “In 1945, our parents went away and left us in the care of two men who may have been criminals” says 14-year-old Nathaniel, who with his older sister Rachel finds himself living in bombed-out London with two shady characters known as “The Moth” and “The Pimlico Darter.” Warlight starts with elements of a classic children’s adventure story, but its shadows run increasingly deep as Nathaniel, growing older, uncovers the network of deception that masks his mother’s spy-work. When the trail of factual discoveries grows cold, he imagines a past he can never truly know, composing, in effect, a dreamlike memoir of his “lost inheritance.”
When it comes to dropping out, almost everyone has a version of the dream: An off-grid cabin in the mountains; a life on the road in a tricked-out van, preferably with a dog indeterminate bloodlines; or maybe you just want to bunker in place with a cache of freeze-dried foods and ammunition. For most of us, it's just something to fantasize about as we pass the the workaday hours of our daily routines. But Captain Liz Clark made it happen. With the help of a mentor, she realized a lifelong dream when she launched her 40-foot sailboat from Santa Barbara on a voyage in search of beauty, meaning, and surf. Of course, it's not always easy. Swell recounts the crests and troughs of her ongoing adventure, and the accompanying images (taken by Clark) might have you reconsidering that task chair.
National Book Award winner James McBride has written a book about an essentially unknowable man, one so twisted up in myth (self-made and otherwise) and (often poorly understood) tabloid-ready disasters that a traditional biography might well become worthlessly, untruthfully lurid. Instead, Kill 'Em and Leave is less concerned with the biographical minutiae of Brown's life than it is with Brown's world; he is the central figure of the book, but rarely is he at its center. Like an astronomer might look for an invisible planet by observing the movements of its celestial neighbors, McBride takes an oblique approach, traveling deep into Brown's past to interview bandmates, managers, family members, and friends, applying his unique, propulsive voice and insight as a musician to illustrate the world stacked against "The Godfather of Soul" and the ways it changed in his wake.
In "The Dancing Bear," the first story of Maxim Loskutoff's debut short story collection, Come West and See, a lonesome frontiersman falls hard for a grizzly that happens upon his Montana cabin. It's a funny story and a solid hook, but from there Loskutoff drives the car back onto the highway to the world of human interaction, examining the complexities of a changing American West through a series of vignettes set in the imaginary "Redoubt": A cross-section of Idaho, Montana, and Wyoming that's home to a separatist movement grown out of the occupation of a wildlife sanctuary. His characters hum with anxiety, each overstrung by the knowledge that disaster could visit at any moment, that their own actions have led them down a foolish and futile path—even if they would choose it again. That's just what happens when you court a bear.
A former finance minister for Greece, Varoufakis spent time in the crucible of international finance (which he recounted in his 2017 memoir, Adults in the Room), clashing with world leaders and witnessing first-hand the good, the bad, and the ugly of fiscal policy and its occasionally dire consequences. His latest takes a wider view. Written as a series of letters to his young daughter, Talking presents his unvarnished opinions in a clear and entertaining fashion, often using classics of literature to illustrate his points. That his references include Faust (Marlowe’s and Goethe’s), The Grapes of Wrath, and Oedipus Rex might give you a sense of his level of optimism.
The winner of 2015 Man Booker Prize for Fiction, A Brief History of Seven Killings is not an easy book, but it's a special feat in literature. Written as an oral history, using multiple voices, and set against an assassination attempt on Bob Marley that took place in the 1970s, the novel is violent, full of swearing, and long. It is also arguably a masterpiece.
Tim Samaras was something of an amateur tornado chaser, an autodidact armed with a high school diploma and an interest in electronics who sought the secrets of super storms by getting perilously close to them. With success came notoriety, as well as money and opportunities from the likes of National Geographic and The Discovery Channel. Competition for funding and his own obsessions drove him ever closer, until a monster twister—with winds approaching 300 miles per hour—killed Samaras on May 31, 2013, along with his son and a research partner. Brantley Hargrove's account is a deft blend of humanity and science, achievement and tragedy.
A few years back, Cook wrote The Mushroom Hunters, an unusual book about the underground economy of fungi foraging and the outsiders who fuel it. His latest does the same for salmon, following the paths of these essential fish from spawning grounds and hatcheries to the tables of exclusive restaurants – a voyage spanning history, culture, adventure, politics, and commerce. And if your dad doesn't fish, he secretly wants to.
Hannah is best known for writing the World War II bestseller The Nightingale. This year she grabbed our hearts and guts and wouldn't let get go with The Great Alone, set in Alaska after the Vietnam war. When war vet Ernt moves his wife and daughter to the wilds of Alaska, they hope that this change will help him dispel the violent ghosts that have been haunting him. Unfortunately, solitude becomes an accelerant, not a cure. Profoundly moving and sometimes heartbreaking, The Great Alone explores the strength of the mother-daughter bond under extreme duress.
Although Napoleon: A Life is 800 pages long, it is both enjoyable and illuminating. Napoleon comes across as whip smart, well-studied, ambitious to a fault, a little awkward, and perhaps most importantly, a man who could turn on the charm when he needed to. He was also a man who could partition his many interests, turning to focus like a laser on each task before him. A fascinating read about a fascinating man.
In the mid-1970s, a warm summer breeze blew across the nation. It was a time of wide-open water and wide-open collars, of golden sunsets and golden chains. A boatload of milky-voiced white guys filled the charts and airwaves, spinning non-threatening odes to special lovely ladies, light innuendo sung over light grooves—the musical manifestation of a Bob Ross painting, with implied sex. How did this cultural cat-nap happen? Through interviews with its demigods—Loggins, Christopher Cross, John Oates, Daryl "The Captain" Dragon, and more—Prato's book explores the Yacht Rock universe from its inception and mellow rise to its recent revival.
Following in your father's footsteps is one thing. It's quite another when they point up the slopes of Mt. Everest. Whittaker's My Old Man and the Mountain explores what it's like to grow up as the son of the first American to stand atop the world's highest peak—"I had to write an entire book to get over it"—as well as his own adventures in the Death Zone.
In the 1920s, the Osage found themselves in a unique position among Native Americans tribes. As other tribal lands were parceled out in an effort by the government to encourage dissolution and assimilation of both lands and culture, the Osage negotiated to maintain the mineral rights for their corner of Oklahoma, creating a kind of “underground reservation.” It proved a savvy move; soon countless oil rigs punctured the dusty landscape, making the Osage very rich. And that’s when they started dying.
You might also like:
- Greg Prato's All-Time Top 10 Yacht Rock Album Covers
- Swell: A Conversation with Captain Liz Clark
- For Those Who Have Already Rocked: Talking to Steven Hyden About the End of Classic Rock
- Because He's There: Leif Whittaker on My Old Man and the Mountain
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