father's day 2023

The Best Books for Every Type of Dad

Photo-Illustration: The Strategist; Photos: Retailers

The phrase “dad book” may bring to mind any number of 500-plus-page World War II history tomes, but true dad lit is as varied as the many kinds of dads out there. Is he an environmentalist who emails you the latest on climate change every week? Did he start watching My Brilliant Friend with you in quarantine and now has late-onset Ferrante fever? Does he go straight for the poetry section at the bookstore? Or is he like my dad, who has asked me to watch Andor no less than five times? To find the best books to give this Father’s Day (and one he probably doesn’t already have), we perused the fiction and nonfiction releases from the past year and found a book for the many multitudes of dad.

For the dad who can’t get enough American history

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This book places Samuel Adams at the heart of the American Revolution and documents his role as architect of key moments in the war — like the Boston Tea Party and the mobilization of the colonies. It’s written by Stacy Schiff, a Pulitzer Prize–winning author whose book Vera brought Vladimir and Vera Nabokov’s relationship to life. It’s likely that this biography will bring a similar humanity to Adams’s story.

For the chef dad who recently went plant-based

For Ghetto Gastro’s first book, the Bronx food collective has assembled more than 70 mostly plant-based recipes, many of which take inspiration from the Bronx and the wider Black diaspora. Recipes run the gamut from Amerikkkan Apple Pie to red drank — a Juneteenth and cookout staple that shares cultural ties with Jamaican sorrel, Senegalese bissap, and Mexican agua de Jamaica.

For the cheeky dad

Strategist writer Erin Schwartz recently picked up this book about profane ancient Latin, which they described as “deeply researched and funny in a scholarly, dry way.” Dad will likely enjoy learning about the history and evolution of Latin’s dirty words, but be warned that he may start coming up with more creative ways to say poop.

For the dad who’s crime-fiction fanatic

S.A. Cosby writes perfect novels — they’re fast-paced but don’t sacrifice character development or world building for the sake of a page-turning plot. Blacktop Wasteland, his second novel, introduces us to Bug, a hardworking mechanic who gets swept back into his old life as a getaway driver after he’s tempted by a can’t-miss jewelry heist.

For the dad who’s a Dead Head

Your dad, who’s probably an unending resource of niche Grateful Dead anecdotes, will enjoy this book by sculptor Mark A. Rodriguez. This book is a celebration of Dead Heads and their contributions to cataloguing the band’s work. These bootleg tapes have become cultural currency in the world of the Grateful Dead, and this book highlights the collectors behind the archives.

For the dad who loves satire

Few do satire as well as Percival Everett. I Am Not Sidney Poitier came recommended to me by the writer Jonathan Escoffery — author of If I Survive You — who calls it the funniest book he’s ever read. The book’s main character is named I Am Not Sidney Poitier, and the iconic actor may or may not be his father. It causes a series of high jinks and mix-ups, but the book also examines the performance of Black masculinity and how it affects the way I Am Not Sidney Poitier sees himself.

For the dad who looks forward to Obama’s Summer Reading List

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The former president has previously recommended this novel by Antoine Wilson. It tells the story of an art dealer’s rise to fame as recounted to an old classmate in an airport. It’s like your worst JFK nightmare come to life except that this story (at least according to Obama, Time, and NPR) is actually interesting.

For the dad who loved Succession

To mark the end of our time with the Roy family, our friends at Vulture compiled a list of things to read to fill the Succession-shaped hole in your heart. The juiciest of the bunch is Unscripted, which chronicles the struggle for power inside the Redstone family, owners of Paramount Global. It’s rife with backstabbing, scheming and public scandal — an ideal follow-up to a show that launched a thousand memes.

For the dad who likes speculative fiction

In Nana Kwame Adjei-Brenyah’s latest book, Chain-Gang All-Stars, prisoners are forced to compete like gladiators, killing one another for sport, while citizens look on. It’s a not-so-unthinkable take on the future of private prisons and is both a sobering and entertaining read.

For the dad who was an early iPhone adopter

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In The Candy House, Jennifer Egan resurrects some of the characters from her Pulitzer Prize–winning A Visit From the Goon Squad but with a slightly dystopian, near-future spin. In this world, there’s a technology called Own Your Unconscious, and users can upload their memories to the cloud. Murders are solved and families reconnected, but like all technology, there are downsides — like the fact that even people who don’t want to be included in the world’s collective consciousness are implicated by virtue of being beside the people who do. It’s a trippy yet masterful ride and will be like candy for the dad who’s convinced that technology is taking over our lives.

For the gamer dad

He doesn’t need to play video games to enjoy Tomorrow, and Tomorrow, and Tomorrow, but it’ll certainly make it more fun. The book follows Sadie and Sam — college friends turned business partners — and their journey making video games and building a company from the ground up. It might not sound riveting at first glance, but it’s one of the best books I’ve read in recent years and has been a hit with everyone I’ve recommended it to.

For the dad who’s a music head

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Dad will appreciate this biography of J Dilla, one of the most important producers of our time. His fingerprints are everywhere in popular music — from Janet Jackson’s Got ’til It’s Gone to Common’s iconic Like Water for Chocolate, in which, in addition to producing, he sings on the track “Nag Champa.” In addition to tracking his rise to Grammy-nominated fame, this is a story about a gifted kid from Detroit and his battle with lupus, which ultimately claimed his life.

For the dad who’s a hip-hop head

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DJ Screw invented chopped and screwed music in the basement of his Houston home. The signature sound involves slowing down a record and adding in new beats. It would go on to influence music both in Houston (it’s a trademark of the area) and hip-hop worldwide. This book is an oral history of his life and includes interviews from collaborators to rap titans and the childhood friends who knew him best.

For the cooking dad

A book of traditional-ish Italian dishes inspired by the menu at Via Carota. With more than 140 recipes — including an insalata verde the authors recommend you eat with your hands — there’s plenty for Dad to cook (and possibly for you to eat).

For the foodie dad

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This book acts as both a guide and a warning: If we don’t protect and honor food diversity and the people protecting it, we’re at risk of losing it for good. BBC food journalist Dan Saladino takes us from East Africa to the Sea Islands and Sierra Leone, from wild honey to Geechee red peas and coffee-producing trees, showcasing the best and rarest of what the world has to offer in hopes that knowledge will spark curiosity and, maybe, action.

For the dad who frequents Basel

If you can’t afford a Tunji Adeniyi-Jones original, this book will serve as a welcome consolation prize. African Art Now (which made our most giftable coffee-table-book roundup) offers a brief yet thorough overview of 50 of the most prolific and influential artists working today and includes both major artists, like Amoako Boafo, and emerging talent.

For the dad who attended the Million Man March

He’ll appreciate a biography of Constance Baker Motley, whose achievements are a laundry list of firsts. She was the first Black woman to argue a case in front of the Supreme Court, the first Black woman elected to New York State Senate, the first woman to be Manhattan borough president, and the first Black woman appointed to the federal judiciary. This book lays out all of her accolades while painting a picture of the life she lived.

For the dad who can’t get enough WWII history

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In Half American, civil-rights expert and Dartmouth history professor Matthew F. Delmont tells the history of World War II from the Black perspective. He details the crucial contributions of Black soldiers during the war along with the disparate treatment they received when they returned home.

For the dad who loves a war story

Glory, by NoViolet Bulawayo
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NoViolet Bulawayo’s second novel is about the fall of a fictional dictator inspired by the coup that unseated longtime leader of Zimbabwe Robert Mugabe. This novel stays focused on people living through the upheaval but is told from the perspective of a goat that comes back to witness the revolution. It’s a fascinating story of a country in flux and the women pulling the strings behind the scenes.

For the dad who has seen every episode of Actors on Actors

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If he’s the type to regale you with tales of actors preparing for roles — like Robert De Niro’s 12-hour cabbie shifts in preparation for Taxi Driver — he’ll likely find this book about the history of the Method fascinating. It demystifies method acting and goes beyond the headline-making practices actors undergo (like Leonardo DiCaprio sleeping inside an actual animal carcass for The Revenant) to get into a role. It takes the reader behind the curtain on inventor Konstantin Stanislavski’s system as well as how Stella Adler, Lee Strasberg, and many others have made it their own.

For the dad who follows Imani Perry on Twitter

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Buy him her latest book, South to America, in which she returns to her home state of Alabama. It’s both about journeying home and a reimagining of the South in the American imagination.

For the dad who has had a New York Times Book Review subscription for decades

Stay True, by Hua Hsu
Photo: Publisher

It’s not hyperbole to say that Stay True was one of the most anticipated books of 2022. The novel is centered around author Hua Hsu’s relationship with his friend Ken. The book ruminates on that relationship but also offers a snapshot of what it was like for Hsu growing up Asian American in California in the ’90s, obsessed with Kurt Cobain and eventually underground rap. It’s beautifully told — so much so that the New York Times named it one of the best books of 2022, and this year, it was nominated for a Pulitzer Prize.

For the dad who likes books about books


In Last Resort, Andrew Lipstein draws back the curtain on publishing a book. Or rather the literary culture of publishing. It’s the latest in a litany of novels about authorship, credit, and writing about writing (see: Yellowface by R.F. Kuang, The Plot by Jean Hanff Korelitz, and Identitti by Mithu Sanyal). Here, the main character, Caleb Horowitz, steals the real-life story of a college friend turned literary agent who finds out, then strikes a bargain with the main character to make things right. Strategist assistant editor Louis Cheslaw is a fan: “This is really a brilliant morality tale about what happens when a person refuses to learn from their mistakes all the way down to the final scene, which had me laughing out loud and punching the air — even if it was at Caleb’s expense.”

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The Best Books for Every Type of Dad