Frankly, the usual literary offering specifically aimed at Dads for Father’s Day is confined to books about cars, old planes or antiquated rifles. Or all of those together somehow. We don’t think this is fair on Dads, so we’ve come up with some actually interesting Dad books that will intrigue and enchant. And just so you know, we were very, very close to calling this list ‘Different Strokes for Different Blokes’.
Chilean Poet, by Alejandro Zambra
Having happily devoured most of his exquisite backlist (the word “Zambra-naut” has been bandied around), we can say with certainty that Chilean Poet is Alejandro Zambra at the top of his game. Starting as a coming-of-age story for the aspiring (and quite bad) poet, Gonzalo, it ventures into more comings-of-age as the novel progresses: Gonzalo has a coming-of-dad when he reunites with his high school girlfriend and becomes a sort of step-dad to her son, Vicente, who himself has his own boy-to-(failed)poet-to-man arc.
Sweeping in scale yet closely observed in Zambra’s trademark ironic-yet-profound style, this is the perfect balance of literary virtuosity and juicy narrative fiction.
Leonard Cohen: On A Wire, by Philippe Girard
If there’s a book that screams “Dad” more loudly than any other book in the shop, I think it’s this one! Drawn & Quarterly are one of our all-time favourite publishers for their beautiful and esoteric graphic novels, and this is no exception: the story of Leonard Cohen’s illustrious life and career told through flashbacks during his final hours in graphic novel form. Who’d have thunk it? But it works perfectly.
They, by Kay Dick
They: Kay Dick£8.99
A lost gem of one of our favourite literary genres: classic British science-fiction. FFO of John Wyndham, perhaps, but if he were a lot more subtle. Written in the ‘70s as a series of connected short stories about future British dystopia, They follows a sinister but murkily understood organisation stalking artists, writers, musicians and free-thinkers throughout the British countryside. Abstract, but tightly-written and absolutely terrifying.
Lady Joker, by Kaoru Takamura
Lady Joker: Kaoru Takamura£16.99
A rag-tag bunch of outcasts from Japanese society club together to take revenge on the hyper-capitalist culture of the ‘90s in this meaty heist novel. Apparently a contemporary classic in Japan, but only just translated over here! One for someone who needs a big sprawling crime romp.
A Swim in a Pond in the Rain, by George Saunders
Don’t be immediately put off by this, but reading this book is to experience a truly unique academic lecture. Taking the form of four annotated short stories written by the Russian masters of the form (Chekhov, Turgenev, Tolstoy, and Gogol), this is a truly enlightening insight into the nuts and bolts of writing stories and – at a deeper level – the nature of creativity. George Saunders is a giant of the short story in his own right, and his gentle yet learned approach to these classic works sheds light on the process of their composition, and on the wider rhythms of how stories in their essence are told.
The End of Everything, by Katie Mack
One for the science geeks: Katie Mack geeks out majorly on the father of all astro-physical topics… our ultimate doom. Basically, we don’t know what will happen. But there are plenty of potential options depending on how the universe ultimately works. The apocalypse is the thin-end of the wedge here for an engaging and accessible book about modern physics and what we know about reality, seasoned heavily with Katie Mack’s humour and enthusiasm. Like that book by Stephen Hawking, but you might actually understand most of it and dare I say enjoy it!
The Lathe of Heaven, by Ursula K Le Guin
The most Philip K Dick-esque or even Vonnegut-like of Le Guin’s novels (in initial concept anyway – no one writes quite like Le Guin and certainly not with her steadfast moral and philosophical weight). In a near-future, semi-dystopian Portland, Oregon, our protagonist George Orr can change reality with his dreams. The whole fabric of reality changes on a chapter-by-chapter and page-by-page basis into wilder and wilder realities as the hubristic psychologist, Dr Haber, manipulates George for the attempted betterment of humanity… maybe?
Brown Baby, by Nikesh Shukla
A chronicle of modern fatherhood, charged by societal inequalities, racism and the deep observational experiences of walking a baby to sleep in the early hours of the morning, Shukla’s memoir is stunningly good at balance: he is angry but warm, irritable but supportive, addicted to his phone but unstoppably in the moment. Brown Baby is a love-letter to his own daughter and to his own mother, and the joys and griefs associated. Rich, funny and connected.
Tower, by Bae Myung-Hoon
Tower: Bae Myung-Hoon£10.99
Tower ticks all the thinking-dad boxes: a collection of interconnected science fiction short stories, translated from Korean, all set in the fictional sovereign nation of Beanstalk, a 700-storey mega-skyscraper. It is slapstick, and farcical, and really funny but comes with a good dollop of political commentary. Perfecto!
Monolithic Undertow, by Harry Sword
Does your dad reminisce about listening to deeply heavy and cosmic music in his youth? Monolithic Undertow will have him reaching for the expensive headphones and the easy chair (if he ever left it), a history and celebration of all things drone-related, from the subterranean rumblings in below-ground churches to the days-long ‘happenings’ of the New York scene, right up to the punishing, face-melting assault of the modern drone scene.
The Mezzanine, by Nicholson Baker
Dads are the ultimate pedants, and we guarantee every dad will find a little bit of themselves in the narrator of this heavily footnoted novelette that hilariously chronicles a single lunch hour: including bonus digressions on staplers, shoelaces, milk spout design and communal toilet etiquette.
A Little Devil In America, by Hanif Abdurraqib
The poet and essayist is fairly peerless when it comes to topics of race and culture in modern America, but where this collection of essays shines brightest is when Abdurraqib’s unbidden enthusiasm for this subjects comes through: so that means Lando Calrissian, the recorded output of Whitney Houston and the power of a good game of spades. Indispensible, angry when necessary, brutally entertaining.
Dreyer’s English, by Benjamin Dreyer
An obscenely satisfying book of absolute grammatical and verbal correctness that will make your dad feel even more vindicated when he tells you for the ten thousandth time that it’s FEWER, not LESS.
Washington Black, by Esi Edugyan
Washington Black is a textbook banger. An action-packed, continent-spanning novel about two unlikely companions that perfectly balances big themes with rip-roaring adventure. Endorsed by us… but also recently endorsed by one of our very own dads!
Notes From An Apocalypse, by Mark O’Connell
Dryly humorous and compelling humane dispatches from the people who are trying to safeguard themselves from the end of the world, from doomsday preppers to tech billionaires buying up huge chunks of New Zealand to ride out the apocalypse in comfort.
Papa Penguin, by Lindsay Camp & Momoko Abe
Hey, we know that kids like to buy their dads a book too, and this is a recent favourite – a beautifully illustrated and lyrically written bedtime story that will teach you a lot about both dads AND penguins, which is always a bonus.
Grow, by Riz Reyes & Sara Boccaccini Meadows
Grow: Rizanino Reyes£16.99
Maybe not one explicitly for the Dads. If you’re looking for something fun to give to a Dad, or anyone else for that matter, from one of the youngsters in their lives, this is a great introduction to the joys of a classic Dad-tivity: the garden. Beautifully illustrated and rich in facts both historical and practical, this is just an all-round lovely book.
My Dad Used to Be So Cool, by Keith Negley
The picture book equivalent of Grandpa Simpson’s classic “I used to be with it. Then they changed what ‘it’ was” moment. This is a lovely little picture book about dads and their professed coolness from the perspective of a child who wonders why their dad gave up the rock ‘n’ roll lifestyle. Fun to read together, if just to tease their music taste.
Peck Peck Peck, by Lucy Cousins
Madcap, bold, colourful board book featuring a lovely Dad woodpecker teaching his progeny how to peck. More importantly, an absolute hit with the babies. (Trust us, we know from experience). Great fun to read as the book slowly becomes more and more covered in holes…
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