Does your dad read? Mine does, steadily and voraciously, which means that over a lifetime of regular reading he's consumed an intimidating stream of classics. Recently, he finished Les Misérables — the book, not the movie — and if you haven't seen that thing in person, let's just say it could crush a small animal.
Not to generalize too much, but I'd venture to say that our fathers come from a more reading-centric generation than we do. What I mean is, they didn't have Facebook. Then again, they also grew up in a time when masculinity was a little more stoic, a little less expressive, a time when reading a Bildungsroman in a hammock while weeping copiously was an activity reserved solely for teenage girls. Now, as a busy super-Dad, he may feel a little bit guilty whenever he reads — as though he should be outside toiling in the fields or bringing home the bacon or whatever other Americana idiom weighs him down these days.
A well-thought-out book was a lovely gift for a mother, and it makes a fantastic gift for a father, too. A book tells Dad that you know him well, that you've been paying attention to his tastes and hobbies and curious interests, and that you're granting him a little pocket of uninterrupted time to lose himself in a good story.
Grown men aren't supposed to cry, or so the adage goes, but if you've ever seen Dad choked up at a your sister's graduation or blowing his nose during any movie with a dog protagonist, you know that grown men can weep with the best of them. When John Ashberry, Kenneth Branagh, and Jonathan Franzen can admit to tearing up over poetry in this emotional anthology, you know Dad's in good company.
2. John Wayne: The Genuine Article by Michael Goldman
Speaking of grown men who don't cry, it doesn't get more stoic, rugged, and all-American than the Duke. If your particular Dad always wanted to be a cowboy, this book — chock full of family snapshots, rare memorabilia, and interviews with those close to John Wayne — will inspire him to get out there and rope cattle while the sun shines.
Oh man, this one's pretty shameless, but if your dad has a penchant for nostalgia and likes to relive "the day you made me a father" every year on your birthday, he'll love reading Dad anecdotes from literary dudes like Ben Greenman, Garth Stein, and Rick Moody.
4. Sundance by David Fuller
Were Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid really killed in a shootout in Bolivia — or was that just another alluring legend? This novel reimagines the tale of the Sundance Kid; released from jail, he embarks on an epic journey to find the wife who stopped writing to him two years ago.
Dad loves Miles, Dad owns all of Miles' albums, but here's a side of Miles Davis that he may not have seen yet. Around 1980, Miles Davis turned to sketching and painting, and this collection of his visual artwork shows a strange, bright new side of his genius.
6. The Road by Cormac McCarthy
Has Dad sacrificed a lot for you? And would he do it all again if the apocalypse happened? This classic novel contains one of the most self-sacrificing dads of all time, so much so that it could be seen as a passive-aggressive gift unless you write something nice on the inside cover.
7. Flash Boys: A Wall Street Revolt by Michael Lewis
The author of Moneyball and The Blind Side is at it again, writing about money and corruption with his usual flair. This tale of Wall Street will fascinate any dad who's got some chips in that weird, high-stakes game.
8. Pearls, Girls, and Monty Bodkin by P.G. Wodehouse
A classic Wodehouse novel always goes over well with the dad set. The stiff-upper-lip humor, the wild carousing, and the pervasive terror of marriage will appeal to dads who've left their bachelor days far behind them.
9. Just Me and My Dad by Mercer Mayer
For the soft-hearted dad who misses the days when he read aloud to you before bed.
10. Tibetan Peach Pie by Tom Robbins
Dads with an inclination toward the hippie, the psychedelic, and/or the anti-Establishment will love Robbins' rollicking memoir, his first full-length book in ten-years. (Read our interview with the girl who got to interview Robbins to see if the author's tall-tale style is up Dad's alley.)
11. Fordlandia by Greg Grandin
The mysterious "Fordlandia" is an abandoned city in the Amazon rainforest. Backpacking expedition, anyone? Fathers who like cars, titans of industry, and harebrained industrial schemes will love this nonfiction exploration of Ford's "forgotten jungle city."
12. The Naked and the Dead (50th Anniversary Edition) by Norman Mailer
This classic WWII novel just turned 50, and Norman Mailer composed a special introduction just for the anniversary version. Perfect for your history buff dad who loves a good tale of warfare.
13. Confessions of the World's Best Father by Dave Engledow
Dad may not realize that this book originated from a viral Internet photo, but he'll be able to relate to these hilarious daddy-daughter juxtapositions nonetheless. After all, he's the one who taught you to arm wrestle better than the boys, wasn't he?