If your dad, uncle, or grandpa always has a stack of newspapers, books, and magazines by his side, listen up. Father's Day is almost here. And it might be time to give your special guy’s TBR pile a little refresh. We rounded up the best books we think the father figures in your life will appreciate. We’re talking books with fresh takes on history and inspiring reads from musicians, activists, and business leaders. He’s gonna love them. And hey, you might even find some new reads to enjoy for yourself along the way. Cart = filled.
“How to Watch Basketball Like a Genius” by Nick Greene
If he was glued to March Madness or couldn’t get enough of “The Last Dance,” you should add this one to his never-ending stack. The (literal) catch? Writer Nick Greene didn’t speak to any basketball players for this book. Instead, he interviews astrophysicists, ballet dancers, magicians, therapists, economists, and other unconventional experts for their intricate unpacking of the sport. It’s a book so unique, you’re not going to worry if your sibling got him the same gift.
“The Tools” by Phil Stutz and Barry Michels
This 2012 book has had its revival thanks to Jonah Hill’s recent Netflix documentary. For all the self-improvement dads out there, this one from high-profile therapists Phil Stutz and Barry Michels provides personal stories with corresponding tools on how to get unstuck, communicate your thoughts, stop worrying, and more. Our favorite part? Stutz’s iconic illustrations.
“Music is History” by Questlove, co-written with Ben Greenman
Drumroll, please. Ahmir ‘Questlove’ Thompson, aka drummer extraordinaire, Academy Award-winning film director, and band leader of the Roots, marries his love of music and history with this 2021 read. He examines the past 50 years in American history, starting in 1971 (his birth year), by selecting and analyzing pivotal songs that reveal something important about what was going on in the world for each given year. Not only will it be a fun way to absorb some of Questlove’s musical expertise, but your guy will also probably learn something new along the way.
“Undelivered” by Jeff Nussbaum
In this alternate universe meets nonfiction history anthology, former presidential speechwriter Jeff Nussbaum shares some of the most important addresses in American history that were written — and never delivered. From Hillary Clinton’s 2016 would-be presidential acceptance speech to Richard Nixon’s infamous remarks about his refusal to resign the presidency, Nussbaum analyzes the context of these sermons and how things could have unfolded differently. Whether your dad’s obsessed with politics or is simply a history buff, this one will be a new favorite in his collection.
“My Remarkable Journey” by Katherine Johnson, with Joylette Hylick and Katherine Moore
Father figures who love all things science, rise up. The woman at the center of the hit movie “Hidden Figures,” aka Katherine Johnson, gives the full account of her, yes, remarkable life. In this memoir, which was published posthumously and written with her daughters, she opens up about her groundbreaking work for NASA, being a part of the space race, and more. Prepare to be inspired.
“Notes from a Young Black Chef” by Kwame Onwuachi
In this true rags-to-riches story, Onwuachi chronicles his journey from a former drug dealer with a troubled adolescence to being one of the most talked-about chefs in the food world. His memoir's been repeatedly hailed by critics as he writes about the realities of being a Black chef in America. It’s a sobering look at Onwuachi’s experiences — including his gang involvement, college expulsion, successful run on “Top Chef,” and stints at the most elite restaurants in NYC and DC. PS: It’s being turned into a movie with Lakeith Stanfield set to star. Chef’s kiss.
“The Splendid and the Vile” by Erik Larson
Calling all dads who exclusively fill their bookshelves with historical reads. In this buzzy 2020 nonfiction book, "The Devil in the White City" author gives a cinematic play-by-play of Winston Churchill's and his family’s defiance during his first year as prime minister from 1940 to 1941. Using diaries, original archival documents, and recently released reports, Larson gives readers an inside look at Churchill during The Blitz (aka a turbulent period in the war where the Germans initiated an intense bombing campaign against the UK). If he can’t stop reading gripping World War II-set books or loves watching “The Crown,” this is the perfect gift for him.
“Minor Feelings” by Cathy Park Hong
If he’s looking for something timely, he should give this one a go. Part critically-adored essay collection and part memoir, Cathy Park Hong explores what it means to be Asian American — all while unpacking questions about family, friendship, art, politics, identity, and individuality. Her essays are linked by an idea she calls “minor feelings” — which she describes as chronic feelings of shame, suspicion, and melancholy that come from everyday racial experiences and the burden of having your reality dismissed. It’s an incredibly smart read that takes a deeper look into racial bias in America. There’s a TV show in the works, too.
“Shoe Dog” by Phil Knight
Time for him to grab his favorite pair of sneaks and listen to this one on his next run. In this revealing memoir, Phil Knight, the founder and former CEO of Nike, offers up a behind-the-scenes look at how he built the swoosh from the ground up. Your dad will get a firsthand look at the early days of the company (when failure was very much on the table) and see how Knight turned his shoe company into a billion-dollar brand. Just do it.
“The Lyrics” by Paul McCartney
For the dad who’s the ultimate Beatles superfan, this unique collection is the perfect gift. It includes two volumes filled with 154 of McCartney’s iconic songs along with his personal commentary on each one and insight into what was going on in his life at that moment. Using previously unseen notes and photos, McCartney created this visual playground to show off the inspiration behind his most iconic songs and how they came to be. It's a delight to read and will look great in an office or on any coffee table. Love you, Dad.
“The Ride of a Lifetime” by Robert Iger
Business books for the win. In this bestselling memoir, Disney’s former CEO pairs memories from his time at the Mickey Mouse Co. with his greatest business lessons to reflect on how these moments helped him become a better leader. He covers tenets of leadership like optimism, courage, decisiveness, fairness, and letting go of that ego. If your dad’s hoping he drops some tea on Marvel, Star Wars, and even Steve Jobs, he’s in for a treat.
“World Travel” by Anthony Bourdain
This posthumous release chronicles Anthony Bourdain’s many travels and doles out expert advice along the way — about where to eat, what to do, and what to avoid. It also has essays by Bourdain’s friends and family that’ll help deepen your connection to the places in the book. Psst: If you’re really in a bind, just download the Audible version for him and you’ll have an instant gift ready to go. Bon voyage, Dad.
“Just Kids” by Patti Smith
If he loves to start his stories with “back when I was in my teens and 20s,” hand him this one. In this National Book Award Winning-memoir, legendary musician Patti Smith vividly recaps her time in NYC during the ‘60s and ‘70s. It’s a window into the old days of the city when rock, sex, art, and politics were colliding. It jumps from Smith’s innocent start in New York to her not-so-innocent nights at the Hotel Chelsea and beyond. For any fan of music, counter culture, and old NY, this one’s a must-read.
“Think Again” by Adam Grant
Maybe he’s a longtime Grant stan or maybe he’s new to the author. Either way, he’ll have to pick this one up. Grant, a popular organizational psychologist and host of one of our favorite podcasts, dives deep into our psyche to examine the power of knowing what we don’t know. His biggest argument? Argue like you’re right, but listen like you’re wrong. The book’s filled with entertaining research and thought-provoking anecdotes à la Malcolm Gladwell. Read it alongside Dad now, come out better together later.
“Between the World and Me” by Ta-Nehisi Coates
This 2015 book is a profound and powerful examination of being Black in America. Written as a letter to his 15-year-old son, this award-winner chronicles Coates’ childhood in Baltimore and his college years at Howard to his adult life as a journalist. Through it all he reckons with his place in the world while unpacking the systemic racism around him. Toni Morrison called it “required reading”...in case you needed more convincing.
“Killers of the Flower Moon” by David Grann
If he loves a book-to-screen adaptation, scoop up this critical fave. (Martin Scorsese’s making it into a movie with Leonardo DiCaprio. Whoa.) Set in 1920s Oklahoma, Grann’s reporting covers the shocking murders of wealthy members of the Osage Nation, who became rich after discovering oil beneath their land. As members began to mysteriously die violent deaths, the FBI, under the leadership of a young J. Edgar Hoover, started investigating. It’s a chilling look at a moment in American history that reads like a fast-paced suspense novel. Goosebumps, is that you?
“How to Be an Antiracist” by Ibram X. Kendi
Mixing ethics, history, law, and science, Dr. Kendi, founder and director of the Center of Antiracist Research at Boston University, breaks down basic concepts of antiracism so that readers can identify and stop it in their everyday lives. Kendi examines the intersectional nature of racism and explores how it extends to those with different skin colors, ethnicities, sexes, gender identities, and body types. It’s a prescient read that the whole family can (and should) borrow once Dad finishes.
“Say Nothing” by Patrick Radden Keefe
Through detailed reporting and binge-worthy storytelling, Keefe breaks down the period in Northern Ireland known as “The Troubles” via the story of a mother of 10 who was abducted and kidnapped. He interviews sources from both sides of the conflict to paint a full picture of life in Northern Ireland from the late ’60s through the Good Friday Agreement in 1998. It’s a true, propulsive story that mixes politics, religion, betrayal, vengeance, and more. And was considered one of the best books of the year when it came out in 2019.
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