I don’t like presents that make me feel like a dad. Like, just a dad.
You know what I mean. No #1 Dad mugs, or World’s Greatest Father ties — really, you should never buy a man a tie ever, period — or tee shirts that say I’m with toddler. Isn’t it enough that I have to walk around with the little tyke? That dark bags hang beneath my eyes from perpetual exhaustion? That jaunts to Europe, or Friday night movies, or Tuesday night beer binges, have all been curtailed by preschool and play dates? No, I don’t need reminding that I’m a dad.
For me, Father’s Day is bittersweet in the way that a birthday can be. It’s special, yes. But also a reminder of all the things one’s lost. Youth. Freedom. Irresponsibility. Sleep. Oh, the life that could have been!
So, eschew the traditional gifts and get that special dad in your life something that will feed his spirit, bolster his resolve, and pump some air onto his fatherly fire: books. And then, take the kids out for the afternoon so that said dad can settle down with a glass or mug of their favorite beverage and turn pages in peace! A day without kids? Now that sounds like a holiday to me.
And ok, ok, I’m being a little tongue-in-cheek here, but as a stay-at-home dad I am serious about needing time away from the tyke. We all require opportunities to reflect and recharge, and I find the company of my son too fast-paced and demanding for me to do either. This year, all I want is $20, and time to head off to the cafe, and later the bar, where I’ll curl up with a good tome.
Here are a few of the books I might be taking with me for company.
If this is your dad’s idea of a good time, you’re in luck! 1 of 8
Click on for ideas...
A Subscription to KINDLING QUARTERLY 2 of 8
Any magazine about fatherhood and masculinity that begins its first issue with a quote by Jay-Z and includes a lovingly rendered sketch of Stephen Keaton (played by Michael Gross) from the eighties hit series Family Ties is winning in my opinion, but even beyond that, there is a lot to love about this intelligent, sophisticated periodical for dads. KQ includes essays, interviews, and awesome photo spreads of "creative individuals whose work and lives are inseparable from their roles as a parent." There are pieces on traveling with children, profiles of dads who make music, build furniture, and cook; guys who are fun-loving, interesting people and engaged, thoughtful parents. And of course there's humor too, such as an interview with the former editor of the satirical paper The Onion. Kindling Quarterly will appeal to any father who enjoys sitting down with magazines like Harper's, The New Yorker, or The Believer, and who feels that fatherhood has enriched his creative life, not ended it.
DADDY COOL, Edited by Ben Tanzer 3 of 8
Here's one for both dad and kids — this anthology, edited by Chicago based writer Ben Tanzer, who you can find online at This Blog Will Change Your Life — features writing by fathers for and about kids. It includes poems, essays, and short stories, organized thematically into sections on Family, Monsters, Etc., Bullies, Friends, Crushes, & Beyond. Daddy Cool is, in part, a book for dads to share with their kids — and you'll find something here for all ages, from Patrick Wensink's wonderful, funny poem about vaccinations, "Measles, Mumps, Roberta," to Matthew Salesses's remembrance of running wild through magical sand dunes with a friend as an adolescent, "The Place Where We Were." But you'll find a few gems just for dad. In Greg Stantos's poem "The Great Hoarder," for example, an insomniac dad feels like he's wandering an attic full of worries and errands to do — something every father can relate to.
A Subscription to BULL Men’s Fiction 4 of 8
BULL is the first and only magazine for men's fiction, with a frequently updated website and two beautifully bound issues a year. Each magazine features an interview with a interesting author — issue 1 featured Chuck Klosterman, issue 2 Donald Ray Pollock — and a selection of stories from men and women alike, though each piece is slanted toward a male readership. Take, for example, the excellent and funny story by Chris Tarry, "Here There Be Dragons," about two wayward medieval warriors who con villagers into believing there's a dragon in the woods, only so that they're hired to slay it. When the two "heroes" return home they find themselves stay-at-home dads to children who hardly know them, and wives gone bitter from their absence. Some homecoming! The work in BULL is smart, ballsy, and entertaining. A must for any dad with a passion for fiction.
MAN WITH A PAN: CULINARY ADVENTURES OF FATHERS WHO COOK FOR THEIR FAMILIES, Edited by John Donohue 5 of 8
John Donohue, masterful home chef and cartoonist who blogs at Stay at Stove Dad, edited this amazing collection of men — authors like Stephen King, Jim Harrison and Babble's own Thomas Beller, and chefs like Mario Batali and Mark Bittman — writing about cooking for their families. The stories they tell are personal and heartfelt, and also include recipes. Beller, for example, talks about how literary giant James Salter turned him from a consummate eater into a consummate cook, in particular a grilling enthusiast. Donohue also interviewed working fathers from across the country, and includes their "in the trenches" reports about coming to cooking, and advice for novices and pros alike. The anthology feeds your culinary inspiration by including a short list of each cook's favorite cookbooks — consider this book just the beginning of a literary kitchen odyssey. And throughout, Donohue includes cartoons that lighten the mood. Entertaining, useful, and funny; ideal for a man with an interest in food.
THE ROAD, by Cormac McCarthy 6 of 8
Whenever I think life is tough, I reflect on Cormac McCarthy's Pulitzer Prize winning masterpiece The Road. In this post-apocalyptic world, the sky has been scorched. Ash rains from the clouds. There is no plant or animal life, and so the surviving humans scavenge for old food, or eat one another. In this grim environment, a man and his boy follow a road to the sea. McCarthy has turned everything you know about parenting upside-down: the future is grim for the child, who might be better off dead, and there is no pretending that he is safe — in fact, there's no pretending, or playing, at all. Told in language stripped of color and punctuation, the road is a haunting trip for anyone to take, most of all fathers.
PET SEMATARY, by Stephen King 7 of 8
While we're on the topic of horrible parental nightmares, might I recommend another? Stephen King frequently taps into the dark well of our fears, but in Pet Sematary, especially, he's hit a bright vein. Doctor Louis Creed discovers that behind his new house in Maine is an old Native American burial ground — a spooky, haunted place where the things buried don't stay buried. While an old horror lurks in the back, a new horror runs in front of the house: a highway that cars and tractor trailers fly down at crazy speeds. See where this is going? When the family cat is flattened on the road, leaving the Louis's daughter bereft, he buries the feline in the magic cemetery. And then when his three-year-old son Gage is hit by a truck, he caries the boy's body up there as well. Thing is, things don't come back the same. I read this not long after my son was born, and man, did it stay with me!
DAD IS FAT, by Jim Gaffigan 8 of 8
Because I don't want to end on a downer, I'll leave you with this comic gem by comedian Jim Gaffigan, Dad is Fat, which has been compared to an updated version of Bill Cosby's famous book Fatherhood. Gaffigan lives in a two bedroom apartment in Manhattan with five kids, and he spins humor from this madness instead of, I don't know, despair. Gaffigan sprinkles jokes and self-deprecating revelations throughout his touching stories, and also talks a good deal about his business manager, who just happens to be his wife. It's entertaining and often gut bustingly funny.