Dad /dad/noun: teacher of things, bad joke teller, sports coach, awkward dance expert. See also: superhero, best friend, reader of great books. Father’s Day is June 20th and to celebrate, we’re looking back at some iconic dads across literature and nonfiction. From Harry Wormwood to Atticus Finch, Mike Birbiglia, and Ta-Nehisi Coates, here’s our roundup of must-read memorable dads.
Between the World and Me
Through the framework of an impassioned letter to his adolescent son, Ta-Nehisi Coates teaches readers what it’s like growing up Black in America. From Howard University to Civil War battlefields, Coates blends personal narrative with reimagined history, illuminating the past in a way to confront our present, and ways to move forward.
To Kill a Mockingbird
“It was times like these when I thought my father … was the bravest man who ever lived.”
There may be no greater example of a model father or a man with a moral compass greater than Atticus Finch. Loyal and kind, Atticus not only set an honorable example for his children in To Kill a Mockingbird but has been a beacon of hope and goodness for readers in what is widely regarded as a masterpiece of American literature.
The Road (Pulitzer Prize Winner)
When it comes to the great lengths a father will endure protecting his son, there is no more epic tale than that of the unnamed father, fighting (often literally) to keep his son alive across a barren wasteland in Cormac McCarthy’s Pulitzer Prize-winning post-apocalyptic novel, The Road. As a meditation on the best and worst of humanity, it is the deep unconditional love between father and son that will haunt you long after the final page.
Jack Torrance may not be winning any father of the year awards, but between Kubrick’s haunting big-screen adaptation and King’s chilling account of a man descending into madness, this family man has become a literary pop icon. Jack uproots his family in an attempt to heal old wounds and write his novel, too bad it’s to a haunted hotel that feeds on the misery and despair of its inhabitants. After all, “all work and no play makes Jack a dull boy.”
Fun Home: A Family Tragicomic
This brilliant and bittersweet graphic memoir chronicles Alison Bechdel’s fraught relationship with her late father. After coming out as a lesbian, she discovers her father is also gay—only a few weeks before his untimely death. This refreshingly generous and often humorous look at family and lost opportunities was adapted to an award-winning musical that took home five Tony Awards including Best Musical in 2015.
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The New One: Painfully True Stories from a Reluctant Dad
Mike Birbiglia, J. Hope Stein (Poems by)
The hilarious and surprisingly heartfelt Broadway show is now essential reading for all parents (new and old) — or really anyone who has ever resisted change. With laugh-out-loud observations and whimsical poetry perfectly placed throughout, Birbiglia and Stein offer a devastatingly honest, yet beautiful look at parenthood.
“Mr. Wormwood was a small ratty-looking man whose front teeth stuck out underneath a thin ratty moustache.” While some may see Miss Trunchbull as the villain, let’s not forget Harry Wormwood — Matilda’s duplicitous father that would rather her sit in front of the telly than send her to school. As a secondhand car salesman that swindles his customers, Matilda sees through all her father’s shady dealings and has plenty of fun playing tricks on her father to teach him a lesson.