Last-Minute Freak Out: Top 10 Books for Dads

I love to read. It’s a boring hobby, I know. But I love it. I read anything and everything and pretty much the only reason I will stop reading a book is if I see an exclamation point that is not in quotes. I’m not 10.

So I wanted to put together a list of the top books to buy the dad in your life for holiday presents, just in case you’re looking for a last-minute gift or two and are stumped on finding an action-packed, two-fisted read.

But as I was going through all my favorites from the past year, I kept coming back to a simple idea: Buy him anything except one.

The Marriage Plot.

Don’t get me wrong. I loved everything about Jeffrey Eugenide’s first two books and most of his magazine articles, but this one, the one I waited for for years, it just struck me as … boring. The characters were vacant and struggling with tiny First World troubles I didn’t care about, and the ending … oh the ending. I have a pretty good idea that Eugenides stumbled across a Victorian novel punchline at a cocktail party one night and wanted to shape a novel around it as one big joke. That’s how much it sucked.

But look at me. Trying to offer you some quality suggestions about books to buy by going on and on about the one you shouldn’t. But hopefully that gives you a good idea of where I’m coming from — read: usually enjoys contemporary fiction but needs a good story with believable characters — and the types of books I might recommend for your hubby or your dad or grandpa or any dad in your life who enjoys nothing else like settling in for the night with a good read.

So onward, dear reader, and you will discover some gems I’ve read over the past year and have been passing along to friends. They are not all new, but they are sure to please.

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  • Game of Thrones 1 of 10
    Game of Thrones
    I'll start with an easy one. If the dad in your life hasn't started this series by George RR Martin, or if, say, the HBO saga based on the series, looks intriguing to him, try this one out. I almost guarantee he'll be suckered in for the next four.
    Click here to buy from Amazon
  • Empire of the Summer Moon 2 of 10
    Empire of the Summer Moon
    I fell in love with this account of the rise and fall of the Comanche nation and how our country's westward push forever changed the landscape and the people. S.C. Gwynne's account of wars and horse stealing and torture is first rate, and the little glimpses of life on the prairie are brilliant.
    Click here to buy from Amazon
  • Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me? 3 of 10
    Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me?
    Granted, it will be weird if he opens a book that pretty much starts like this: "Thanks to your aunt for buying you girls an alternative to vampire sagas ..." But if he can get past that, he'll find some true gems of essays from The Office writer Mindy Kaling.
    Click here to buy from Amazon
  • Unbroken 4 of 10
    Unbroken
    From Seasbiscuit author Laura Hillenbrand coms the ultimate story of sacrifice, redemption and perseverance. I guarantee you will read a few passages and catch yourself shaking your head, as if unbelievable. But the story of Louis Zamperini, a one-time long distance running champion turned World War II captive, is amazing and inspiring.
    Click here to buy from Amazon
  • The Leftovers 5 of 10
    The Leftovers
    You'll soon sense a trend now that we've entered the Top 5, with all these "left behind" type books. But not Left Behind left behind. Just survivor stories, and this one is told with nuance and humor, classic traits of the always wonderful Tom Perrotta.
    Click here to buy from Amazon
  • Let the Right One In 6 of 10
    Let the Right One In
    If he only knows this one from the Americanized movie, he is seriously missing out. I never got into the whole vampire teen girl craze, but this one from John Ajvide Lindqvist offers a different take altogether and is definitely worth his time for its creepy charm.
    Click here to buy from Amazon
  • Zone One 7 of 10
    Zone One
    Colson Whitehead provides not only a great zombie-survivor story (yes, another one. What? I love them!) but also helps you feel a little less like a moron for reading another survivor story. His writing is electric.
    Click here to buy from Amazon
  • The Bayou Trilogy 8 of 10
    The Bayou Trilogy
    Daniel Woodrell thrills with the stories of Rene Shade, a detective in the backwood bayous of Louisiana. If the dad in your life liked The Winter's Bone, he's going to love this late-discovered pulpish saga. And if he's anything like me, he won't put it down until New Year's.
    Click here to purchase from Amazon
  • The Passage 9 of 10
    The Passage
    I wouldn't call it a zombie story, but this gripping tale from Justin Cronin definitely hits all the same walking dead notes, but in a really interesting way. I've been recommending this one to friends all year, and now that it's in paperback, it's an easy sale for sure. He won't be disappointed.
    Click here to purchase from Amazon
  • 11/22/63 10 of 10
    11/22/63
    So I'm topping off this list with a book -- the only book in this list -- that I haven't even read. But that's how good Stephen King is. This new take on the JFK assassination is sure to fire up your conspiracy theorist, and if it's as good as I thought The Dome was, he's in for a holiday/New Year's/Arbor Day treat. (Like The Dome, this one looks thick and will take awhile to get through. The present that keeps on giving ....)
    Click here to purchase from Amazon

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Don’t miss the latest from Dadding ….

The Top Ten Most Awesome Gifts of the Year

Photo: NYMag

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