Recommending a book for dad is much easier than a title for mom, at least that was my experience when I pounded the brick and mortar beat. Moms talk more than dads. Moms read more than dads. Everyone who knew mom knew what she was reading or what she wanted to read. A no brainer. But dads? I wish I had worn a camera around my neck (pre-cell phone days at first, but even later personal cells were off limits) and had captured the looks of desperation as spouses, sons, daughters, nieces, nephews, and grandchildren (although more about grandchildren’s choices a bit later) would come in one or two days before Father’s Day and ask, no, beg for a book suggestion for that important man in their life.

It was easy for me. Not just because I was a bookseller, or because I was a mom, or even because I talked a lot, I really did have a long list of titles I had read with “guy book” written all over it. I will not recommend a book I have not personally read.

Here goes:

Shadow Divers
By Robert Kurson

Professional men, laborers, the drunks and the sober, these were the men who risked their lives to deep-sea dive, searching for a German sub sunk off the New Jersey coast during WWII. Not exactly high lit, but so much fun and your guy will even learn about deep-sea diving, as opposed to the snorkeling he may have done at a resort.

Prince of  Frogtown
By Rick Bragg

I’ve got a full review of this book posted, but suffice to say, it’s a father/son story with an attitude  and there’s a hot rod bit that to my way of thinking is worth the price of admission all by itself.

700 Sundays
By Billy Crystal

Another father/son story, in this case, Billy Crystal remembering the 700 Sundays he had with his dad before his dad died. If your guy loves jazz and American popular music (does the Commodore jazz label mean anything to you?), believe it or not, this is it . Crystal’s memoir pulled so mightily on my heartstrings that I could sell it by just reading the last couple of sentences out loud to customers.

The English Major
By Jim Harrison

It’s an On The Road book for every guy who ever thought he really could get what he thought he’d always wanted. Jim Harrison’s later in life coming of age story is laugh out loud funny. This is also a posted review.

Kismet
By Jakob Arjouni

I just reviewed this one. Smart, fast, and classic private eye tale that takes place in modern Germany. A totally entertaining book that won’t take a week of his time to finish.

The Year of the Hare
By Arto Paasilinna

A Finnish fellow’s midlife crisis, or why every guy would probably love to stop the car, get out and just start walking,  maybe even in the furry company of a small hare. This also has a posted review.

Sweet Promised Land
By Robert Laxalt

This book was my introduction to a fine body of Nevada authors. For all of you looking for that story of first generation Americans who have thought about giving their immigrant parent a trip back to the land of their birth, this could be the perfect book. It doesn’t matter if you are not Basque, there is a universal poignancy in the passage between the land a father chooses and the land he left behind.

The Radicalism of the American Revolution
By Gordon S. Wood

I read this book a while ago, but it has stuck with me through the years; and although I’m not sure it has “guy book” written anywhere near it, the fact is that I could never hand sell it to women (even though it was a favorite of that great American woman Molly Ivins). It contains the clearest explanation I’ve ever found of why Americans generally distrust (dare I say, hate) intellectuals, along with lots of other insights into our American consciousness and identity.

The Book on the Book Shelf
By Henry Petroski

Henry Petroski is the perfect author for that handyman in your life. Petroski, history and civil engineering professor at Duke University is such a gem. Who else would think of writing a history of the bookshelf? Heck, who would have thought that the bookshelf had a history? Petroski’s writing is both enlightening and literary and he’s practically built his own genre. In addition to this book, I’m about ten pages short of finishing one of his earlier titles, To Engineer is Human, The Role of Failure in Successful Design. I’m reading the updated version and will have a review shortly. Suffice to say, if your guy has to think twice about flying or crossing bridges or looking out from the balcony of a Manhattan skyscraper, trust me, To Engineer is Human has his name on it. Anything written by Petroski is always a good read.

horoscopes for the dead
By Billy Collins

Poetry? Do I think guys read poetry? They must, because they sure do write a lot of it. Billy Collins writes poetry for everyone. The fact that his work is accessible (you get it, well, most of it) has much to do with his huge popularity. Being popular doesn’t take away from the quality of his work. If you think, deep down, your guy might not hate you for giving him a book of poetry, get this one. I’d  bet you even money that at some point in his reading, he’ll stop, look up, and say, “Listen to this….”

And the bit about grandchildren? My suggestion to them is that they give the exact book they would like that special guy to read to them. Doesn’t matter what the book is, the bonds of language build strong bridges and if they are the right words, they will last a lifetime.

Lastly, and most importantly, HAPPY FATHER’S DAY !

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