12 Great Books for Dad

Bill Bryson's One Summer

Throughout the holiday season, we’re gathering books that make the perfect gifts for everyone on your list—from your mother and the teen in your life to your foodie friend and the coworker who loves Harry Potter. Need more ideas? Check out all of our amazing gift guides!

What do you get the dad who has every necktie this side of the J.C. Penney men’s wear section? The joy of reading, that’s what. So put down the catalog—oh my word, is that Sky Mall?—because 2013 has been jam-packed with book releases that are sure to please Pops. From new courthouse drama for Jake Brigance to Malcolm Gladwell’s exploration of Goliath’s tumor, he’ll be so engrossed in his new tomes, he won’t even have time to don that holiday sweater vest you love to hate. You’re welcome!

This Town: Two Parties and a Funeral—Plus, Plenty of Valet Parking!—in America’s Gilded Capital, by Mark Leibovich

Now that the government is back in business, Dad may have a gaping hole in his schedule that was previously filled with CSPAN’s wall-to-wall coverage of congressional shenanigans. Help him fill that void with This Town, an analytical, gleefully cynical look into the gladiatorial ant-farm that is the nation’s capital.

David and Goliath: Underdogs, Misfits, and the Art of Battling Giants, by Malcolm Gladwell

Maybe what he needs to snap out of that Washington-induced funk is an examination of the mighty disadvantaged. Just as he did in The Tipping Point, Blink, and Outliers, Gladwell—offering friendly data-driven observations since wee Nate Silver was but a twinkle in his calculator’s screen—once again takes all the things you thought you knew and turns them on their head. Dyslexic? Enjoy either a million-dollar empire or a prison stay. Small class size in your child’s school? Uninspired snooze-fest. You’ll have given your father the gift of discussion topics for many family dinners to come.

One Summer: America, 1927, by Bill Bryson

If your dad loves to regale you with uphill-both-ways tales of his youth—and even if he doesn’t, really—he’ll be enamored with the latest from the avuncular Bryson. He brings his light, charming touch to a nonfiction account of one eventful summer in American history. The presence of Lindbergh, Coolidge, and the Babe provide ample opportunities for historical wisecracks, tangents, insights, and antics.

The Bully Pulpit: Theodore Roosevelt, William Howard Taft, and the Golden Age of Journalism, by Doris Kearns Goodwin

Further down the history train sits Doris Kearns Goodwin, and the prose that launched a thousand presidential campaigns. Here, she trains her dynamic pen on yet another tumultuous American period, muckraking journalists and all, through the lens of White House frenemies TR and Taft, presented just this once as a three-dimensional human rather than a mustachioed bathtub stopper.

Sycamore Row, by John Grisham

The last time readers saw attorney Jake Brigance saunter through Clanton, Miss., he was being played by Matthew McConaughey. Then, it was monster best seller A Time to Kill. Now, Grisham returns to Brigance three years after his courtroom triumph. Gone is Carl Lee Hailey, but Brigance’s new case has similar themes; as his mentor says, “Everything is about race in Mississippi, Jake.” Sycamore Row is a tour de force sequel that proves Grisham isn’t resting on his best-selling laurels.

Command Authority, by Tom Clancy

Clancy’s posthumously released Jack Ryan adventure hits shelves December 3, and it’s safe to say that fathers (and their loved ones) around the country will be pleased to see the prolific CIA agent–turned-president once again.

Doctor Sleep, by Stephen King

Heeeeeeere’s Danny! If the familial patriarch has yet to treat himself to The Shining‘s sequel, fix the problem. Heck, give it to him early. He needs to know about Danny Torrance’s later years and the state of his shine immediately.

Amsterdam: A History of the World’s Most Liberal City, by Russell Shorto

Amsterdam may make American fathers anxious when it comes time for their progeny to take those backpacking tours of Europe, but expat Shorto’s lovingly told, entertaining portrait of this bastion of tolerance could assuage some fears—or at least lend them historical context, especially when it comes to the city’s influence on the U.S. of A.

The Snacking Dead: A Parody in a Cookbook, by D.B. Walker

Judging by the ratings, every man, woman, child, and pet hamster out there is watching The Walking Dead on Sunday evenings, so this zombified cookbook could be a treat for the whole family. The creators of the Fifty Shades of Chicken parody cookbook have tongues firmly in cheeks as they guide you toward snacking through the apocalypse. Come for the survival tips, and stay for the Sweetish Fleshballs and the Gratuitous Violence Jello Mold.

Orr: My Story, by Bobby Orr

In an age of continuous self-promotion, it’s refreshing to read a memoir—from one of the greatest hockey players to lace up skates, no less—that actually feels sincere and covers territory previously untrodden. This isn’t a tell-all. Instead, it’s a sports memoir as it should be: a true gift for fans from a hockey demigod.

The System: The Glory and Scandal of Big-Time College Football, by Jeff Benedict and Armen Keteyian

Apparently it’s the ball sports that deliver the explosive scandal and juicy behind-the-scenes info. In The System, two intrepid investigative reporters attempt, through a cross-country sampling, to shed light on the men and women behind college football’s gridiron curtain. There are uplifting moments, as well as a journey into the sport’s underbelly, but one thing’s for certain: Dad will never watch a Saturday game the same way again.

The Circle, by Dave Eggers

Eggers’ foray into dystopia works for both kinds of fathers: the tech-savvy patriarchs standing in line for Google Glass, and those proud, confused papas who have never trusted The Twitter. In a world not so far away, The Circle, a loosely veiled stand-in for certain Silicon Valley titans, slowly but surely erodes the public’s privacy without the vast majority of users batting an eye. Whether he agrees with Eggers’ Orwellian fears or not, this one’s sure to have Dad talking, probably on social media.

Do any of these books sound like good picks for your pops?

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