The 15 Best Books to Give for Father’s Day, According to Our Book Critic

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Your dad might be the kind of guy who says he doesn’t want anything for Father’s Day — not a grill or a watch or a pair of headphones — but what he’s really saying is, he doesn’t want to put you out. If there’s one gift that’s not prohibitively expensive, though, it’s a book. We asked our book critic Christian Lorentzen for the 15 best books to gift for Father’s Day, whether your dad’s a history buff or Updike fanatic.

Roth’s memoir of his father in old age is perhaps the novelist’s most moving book.

Buy
Patrimony by Philip Roth $10, Amazon

It turns out that the German army was largely high on speed, and that by the end of the war the daily injections of vitamins administered to Hitler by his doctor had turned into speedballs.

Buy
Blitzed by Norman Ohler $17, Amazon

This “fictional memoir” tracks the author’s progress through school, marriage, and mental asylums, parallel to the career of his hero, Giants quarterback Frank Gifford.

Buy
A Fan’s Notes by Frederick Exley $10, Amazon

Beatty’s slapstick tour de force about the return of slavery to Southern California last year became the first novel by an American to win the Booker Prize.

Buy
The Sellout by Paul Beatty $14, Amazon

John Updike was postwar America’s most prolific prose stylist, and his life tells the story of the generation born in the Depression, married in the 1960s, divorced in the 1970s, and rich and sated by the 1980s.

Buy
Updike by Adam Begley $10, Amazon

Gibbon told of Rome’s decline and fall; Beard, one of England’s national treasures, explains its rise.

Buy
SPQR by Mary Beard $19, Amazon

Told in the form of a father’s letter to his son, this novel unfolds several generations of history in the Midwest.

Buy
Gilead by Marilynne Robinson $9, Amazon

Do dominant states get their way on a wide scale by using force, or through their allies’ consent? This global history traces the history of the question from Athens to Moscow to Beijing to Washington.

Buy
The H-Word by Perry Anderson $17, Amazon

A family reunion and a wild slapstick farce on the nature of family, masculinity, and all of Western literature.

Buy
The Hundred Brothers by Donald Antrim $12, Amazon

Mark Twain meets James Joyce in this comedy on the Tennessee River, said to be McCarthy’s semi-autobiographical treatment of his Nashville drinking days.

Buy
Suttree by Cormac McCarthy $5, Amazon

A postmodern master’s surreal journey through word play, irony, and the meaning of fatherhood toward somewhere like redemption.

Buy
The Dead Father by Donald Barthelme $8, Amazon

Why is populist rage breaking out all over the planet? Mishra examines the phenomenon of global ressentiment, where it came from, and what lies in store for societies that promise equality, but deliver large divides between the rich and the poor and the powerful and the wretched.

Buy
Age of Anger by Pankaj Mishra $18, Amazon

These linked stories about fictional fascists of the Western Hemisphere are an ideal introduction to the Chilean master whose masterpieces are The Savage Detectives and 2666.

Buy
Nazi Literature in the Americas by Roberto Bolaño $16, Amazon

The Nobel laureate’s cruel yet touching fictional portrait of his own father, an Indian living in Trinidad and making his way as a local journalist, delivers Dickens to the Caribbean.

Buy
A House for Mr. Biswas by V.S. Naipaul $17, Amazon

Winner of last year’s National Book Award, Kendi’s study traces the shifting and insidious development of the intellectual framework of our national disgrace.

Buy
Stamped From the Beginning: The Definitive History of Racist Ideas in America by Ibram X. Kendi $22, Amazon

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The Best Books for Father’s Day According to Our Book Critic