So, let me get this straight: you are asking me to recommend books (I am a bookstore owner) for Father’s Day (I am a father). Seriously? Are you going to ask me to watch the cookie jar, too? Want me to sample some new Michigan microbrew beers, maybe? See if the new corporate credit card works at Lamai’s Thai restaurant? Honestly, this might be my favorite writing assignment ever!
For the sake of this exercise, let’s assume that this is more than a Christmas-in-June wish list for my kids and wife to buy me books, and that this is a list of recommendations for the archetypical dad.
Although my brother would disagree (so nephews, buy your dad nothing!), an appreciation of sports is at the core of what makes dads … well, dads! When my father passed away this past March, the first memory to strike my hippocampus was playing catch with him in the backyard. Fathers Playing Catch with Sons: Essays on Sport by Donald Hall ($13) is a book that I wish I had purchased for my dad. Hall, a National Book Critics Circle Award winner and Pulitzer Prize nominee for his poetry, has compiled this elegant volume of his prose dedicated to sports, concentrating on baseball but extending to basketball, football and Ping-Pong. The essays are a wonderful mixture of reminiscence and observation, of baseball and of fathers and sons, of how a game binds people together and bridges generations.
Another sports book that is topical, timely and well-written that would most certainly be enjoyed is Red and Me by Bill Russell and Alan Steinberg ($14.99). This is the story of Celtic’s all-star Bill Russell and his close relationship with the Celtic’s legendary coach Red Auerbach. Could there have been two more unlikely friends; a short, abrasive Jew from Brooklyn and a tall, gangly black man from the South? These were two different “tribes,” to use Russell’s term, which would seem to be on a collision course. Having just finished reading Let Me Tell You a Story: A Lifetime in the Game by John Feinstein and Red Auerbach ($14.95) (a book that I inherited from my dad), it’s clear to me that Red loved and respected Russell.
A final sports book that is one that fathers and fans of baseball and Lansing writers will appreciated is A Game of Inches: The Stories Behind the Innovations That Shaped Baseball by local author Peter Morris ($26.95). The only book ever to win both the Seymour Medal and the Casey Award as the best baseball book of the year, Morris’s magisterial encyclopedia of the national pastime will surprise, delight and educate even the most knowledgeable fan. With its thousand-odd entries, A Game of Inches illuminates the origins of items ranging from catchers’ masks to hook slides to intentional walks to baseball’s reserve clause. Now with new material and completely redesigned in a one-volume paperback, the book remains endlessly fascinating, impeccably researched and engagingly written.
In the event that your dad loves sports books so much that he already has all of the above mentioned, another book that he might enjoy is Kurt Vonnegut’s A Man Without a Country ($13.95) — a hilariously funny and razor-sharp look at life, art, politics and the condition of the soul of America today. Based on short essays and speeches composed during a five-year period, and plentifully illustrated with artwork by the author throughout, A Man Without a Country gives us Vonnegut both speaking out with indignation and writing tenderly to his fellow Americans; sometimes joking, at other times hopeless, always searching.
Perhaps the funniest book that I’ve ever read was Christopher Moore’s A Dirty Job ($13.99). In A Dirty Job, Death comes in the form of a tall, black record store owner named Minty Fresh, who steals your wife’s soul, confers upon you the job of Death Merchant and leaves you and your newborn daughter to fend for yourselves among hellhounds, sewer harpies and an army composed mostly of reanimated squirrels. Somehow that premise (which must have been inspired by one too many shots of tequila) works really well! So, assuming that your dad isn’t especially sensitive to dark and risqué humor (albeit — well-written dark and risqué humor), I am assuming he’ll thank you or lovingly punch you in the shoulder (it’s a dad thing)!
Well, what if you’re only five years old — okay not our strongest demographic at CAWLM. How about if you’re shopping for something for your five year old to give her dad? Even if your dad does have a “sophisticated” sense of humor, he’ll likely be just as happy with any one of the following:
1. Papa Please Get the Moon for Me ($6.99) by Eric Carle (proof that a dad will try to do most anything for his kid)
2. The Day I Swapped My Dad for Two Goldfish ($7.99) by Neil Gaiman (a cautionary tale for fathers who are a bit too enamored with their evening newspaper)
3.Papa, Do You Love Me? ($15.99) by Barbara M. Joosse, illustrated by Barbara Lavallee (set in Africa and featuring the Maasai culture, this book captures the universal love between a father and child)
Okay moms and kids, you’re welcome! And dads, I expect a heartfelt “thank you,” or next year I’m gonna’ recommend Janet Evanovich and Jackie Collins books. Capiche?