For the father who read you Grimm fairy tales every night before bed: In the House Upon the Dirt Between the Lake and the Woods , Matt Bell
In this shimmering, fable-like novel, Bell explores the meaning of fatherhood, husbandhood, and manhood from a strange world of bears, giant lake monsters, endless rooms, and everything else that can be song-spun. For the father with a flexible mind.
For the kidder: Let’s Explore Diabetes with Owls , David Sedaris
Can’t go wrong with new Sedaris. If your dad has something to say about everything, it’s a good bet David Sedaris will say it better — and make him guffaw.
For the gun-toting dad with a sense of humor: Gun Guys: A Road Trip , Dan Baum
No matter what your dad’s thoughts on this touchy subject, Baum — who is both a “lifelong gun guy” and a Jewish Democrat from New Jersey — will take him for a ride and maybe even widen his view. A travelogue, a dissection of a pressing cultural issue, and a hilarious personal story all in one.
For the Anglophile: The Atlantic Ocean: Reports From Britain and America , Andrew O’Hagan
O’Hagan’s brilliant essay collection explores life on both sides of the Atlantic, dissecting everything from national political events to pop culture with a sharp eye. For dads who received and loved John Jeremiah Sullivan’s Pulphead last year.
For cowboy dads: The Son , Philipp Meyer
A searing multi-generational epic of survival in the American West, written by one of literature’s skyrocketing contemporary stars. Bloody battles in mid-19th-century Texas, Comanche raids, dragging oneself up by the bootstraps in the cattle and oil industries — this is a dad book in the best of ways.
For curmudgeonly dads who frequently find themselves the smartest person at the table: Mortality , Christopher Hitchens
The notoriously brilliant and combative Hitchens was incisive to the end. This posthumously published work is the story of his battle with cancer — as unsentimental and intellectually stimulating as anything he ever wrote.
For hip literary dads: Tenth of December , George Saunders
If he hasn’t read it already, that is. If you’re on the other side of things and he needs a little convincing (some people consider themselves novels-only), just read the second story out loud to him. It’ll work.
For hairy dads: Red Moon, Benjamin Percy
Joking about the hairy thing — sort of. This is the book for dads who might like horror, who might like political thrillers, who might like bloody realism, who might have read Harry Potter over your shoulder years ago. Or the dads who fall into all of those categories.
For arty dads: The Flamethrowers , Rachel Kushner
Kushner’s electrifying novel will resonate with any dad who grew up in the ’60s and ’70s, whether in NYC or elsewhere. Plus: motorcycles! Just be careful — if you, the giver, are a young artist in the city, this book might make him worry for your safety. Or at least look askance at your friends.
For the dad who’s been a big reader since he was a kid and kind of misses all those pulpy ghost stories he used to hide under his pillow: Joyland , Stephen King
Because this is just that, only retooled by a modern master and perfect for reading out in the sun — no hiding required.
For the old-school literary dad: All That Is , James Salter
Just know that you’ll be giving your dad a book with some steamy sex in it.
For the dad who reads The Fellowship of the Ring at least once a year: The Fall of Arthur , J.R.R. Tolkien
Tolkien’s recently published, one and only foray into the world of the round table — in epic poetry form, no less. Niche, perhaps, but if your dad will love it, he’ll love it.
For the dad who has had many homes: The Book of My Lives , Aleksandar Hemon
Hemon’s powerful and easily engaging essays take you from Sarajevo to Chicago, from ill-conceived theme parties to chess tournaments to personal tragedies. Warning: your dad might cry at the end. But it’ll be worth it.
For super-nerdy, kind of mumblecore dads: Sorry Please Thank You , Charles Yu
Cerebral and sweet, with spaceships and zombies and prose that will make you laugh out loud and then reconsider his entire life. Recommended for Saunders, Adams, and Vonnegut fans on the prowl for something new.
For dads who want to live life twice: Life After Life , Kate Atkinson
Also for the dads who always wonder if they got it right. Reassure them: they’ve done okay.