Father’s Day is this Sunday, and I think I speak for women everywhere when I say – dads are hard to buy for. Particularly if they don’t necessarily have a penchant for power tools. Or ties. But to say that my dad is a reader would be somewhat of an understatement – in my parents’ household, the books are treated with only slightly less reverence less than the children, and on certain days maybe even a bit more – so I tend to have some success going the literary route. Here’s a few recent favorites that I think – I know – your dad will enjoy.
Nemesis by Philip Roth – A quick caveat here – if your dad is hypochondriacally inclined, I would steer clear of this one. It’s a fictional account of a polio outbreak in Newark and 1944, and personally I never thought I’d be so afraid of contracting a disease that has been more or less eradicated in the U.S. for 50 years. If you do choose Nemesis, however, it’s a great read – at the tender age of 78 and with something like a million books behind him, Philip Roth can still really, really write.
Cleopatra: A Life by Stacey Schiff – Cleopatra seems to really be making a comeback these days, probably mostly because of Elizabeth Taylor’s death, and because of David Fincher’s upcoming take on the story starring Angelina Jolie, and also maybe due to a growing respect for strong, powerful women. Okay, well, I’m not really sure that last part is true, but I must say that this New York Times review makes the book sound absolutely fabulous. It’s the old boy-meets-girl, girl-somehow-gains-a-reputation-as-an-oversexed-whore story, whereas Schiff makes the case that in reality Cleopatra was the earliest of all early feminists – a “quick-thinking, capable” woman and a true leader. Similar, perhaps, to the woman your dad has raised. Just throwing that out there.
Unbroken by Laura Hillenbrand – I’ve already gone into great detail about how much I enjoyed Unbroken, but suffice it to say that if your dad has even a slight interest in World War II – or running, for that matter – you should probably go out and buy it immediately. Olympic runner Louis Zamperini’s story of survival on a raft, in a Japanese POW camp, in another Japanese POW camp, and then back home in San Francisco is amazing and inspiring. Not only that, but Laura Hillenbrand basically wrote the whole thing from her bed. So far today I’ve both laid in bed and sat on the couch, so, that’s something.
A Game of Thrones by George R. R. Martin – George R. R. Martin, for me, is one of those people that I’d never heard of – and then all of a sudden, I was hearing of him everywhere. Not only is the series of epic fantasy novels that begins with A Game of Thrones now being recreated on HBO, but apparently the long-awaited fifth novel is slated for release on July 12th – five years after the fourth novel in the series was published. That’s a long time. And apparently his fans have not let him live this down. See, this is what sends writers into hermitage.
Hopefully I won’t get chased down by a mob of angry GRRM fans for saying this – but my guess is that if your dad grew up on the Lord of the Rings trilogy, he might be willing to give A Game of Thrones a shot.
The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot – Truly one of my favorites so far this year. Skloot spent several years getting to know the family of Henrietta Lacks, a woman whose cervical cancer cells (cultured in 1951) are the only cells that have continued to reproduce outside the body – paving the way for invaluable medical research. Lacks’ family continues to live in extreme poverty in Baltimore, and Skloot takes an unbiased look at medical ethics, including the debate over issues of consent for patient tissue samples. Her staunch objectivity and diplomacy in the face of many years of emotion from both sides of this debate is impressive.
She’s kind of like your dad, in that way.