Fathers usually don’t expect much for Father’s Day—a simple hug is plenty. But you could also acknowledge dad with a gift book, which these days might span topics from engineering to sports to cooking. The following selection of new books has dad and his modern-day versatility covered.
REACHING FOR THE SKY
From the publisher of last fall’s wonderful Mountaineers comes another richly illustrated volume that merges information on the lives of remarkable individuals with useful descriptions of their great achievements. Engineers, edited by Adam Hart-Davis, focuses on familiar names such as Robert Fulton, Eli Whitney, Alexander Graham Bell, Thomas Edison and other world-renowned innovators whose work dramatically changed human lives. But the coverage here—reaching back to the ancient world and through the Renaissance and the Industrial Revolution, all the way to the Space Age—also extols many lesser known originators of essential engineering feats. The subject matter is far-ranging—aqueducts, ships, steam engines, electricity, airships, the automobile, architecture—in other words, any discipline that falls under the book’s titular category. Besides its plentiful photos and drawings, the text is loaded with informative sidebars and timelines. The technically inclined dad will love it.
LET’S GET COOKING
It’s hard to imagine cooking as an extreme sport, but that’s what we find in Daniel Duane’s How to Cook Like a Man: A Memoir of Cookbook Obsession. Duane is a Bay Area surfer-dude and writer whose entry into the world of fatherhood inspired him to play adventurous chef to his wife and two daughters. He embraces haute cuisine like an ancient warrior, inspired mainly by cookbook author and restaurateur Alice Waters, who happened to be Duane’s preschool teacher many years before. Duane eventually encounters Waters again when she hires him as a writer, but that episode is tangential to his epic crusade through thousands of recipes over an eight-year period. Specific food preps are recounted in some detail, but what Duane does with, say, duck fat, turnips, wild truffles or a whole cow stashed in his freezer is secondary to his fanatical Zen-like food rap and its effects on those around him. The book’s unexpected highlight: the description of a simple egg dish Waters whips up for Duane on the fly—served with a glass of Domaine de Fontsainte rosé.
THREE OF GOLF’S GREATEST
Veteran golf writer James Dodson’s American Triumvirate: Sam Snead, Byron Nelson, Ben Hogan, and the Modern Age of Golf blends social history with biography, focusing on the game’s somewhat shaky mid-20th-century status, when its growth was hampered by the Depression and World War II. Golf’s saviors emerge with Snead, Nelson and Hogan, each born in 1912 and all achieving superstar status, their lively competitions helping to sustain the game’s popularity and eventually spurring a postwar period of prosperity in which tournaments became more plentiful and the purses much larger. Dodson makes the case that this trio provided the historical bridge to the ever-more-prosperous eras of Arnold Palmer, Jack Nicklaus and Tiger Woods. More so, his authoritative prose profiles three distinctly different individuals—the gentlemanly Nelson, the maverick Snead and the somewhat misunderstood Hogan—whose love of the game was complete and whose career paths were unavoidably intertwined.
LONG DISTANCE JOURNEY
Scott Jurek is an ultramarathoner whose exploits were profiled in the 2009 bestseller Born to Run. Now this amazing runner tells his own story in Eat and Run: My Unlikely Journey to Ultramarathon Greatness. With co-writer Steve Friedman, Jurek charts his difficult early life in rural Minnesota, where his mother was ravaged by multiple sclerosis and family dynamics were always challenging. Yet somehow he soldiered on, finishing college, becoming a physical therapist and, most importantly, finding fulfillment as a runner. Achievement in “shorter” marathons led to success in more grueling races, chiefly the Western States Endurance Run, a 100-mile trek that Jurek won seven straight times. While his personal story is inspiring, the book also focuses on Jurek’s transition to a completely vegan diet. Recipes are included, as are training tips for amateur runners who want to step up their game.
Humorist Dan Zevin, a 40-something father of two, finds himself totally digging his new wheels in Dan Gets a Minivan: Life at the Intersection of Dude and Dad. “Have I told you my minivan has a built-in DVD player?” he gushes, as he embarks on his Brooklyn-based “Mr. Mom” phase. That’s a term Zevin strenuously objects to, but when your wife’s a New York City publishing bigshot and you’re the one hiring nannies. . . . Anyway, Dan’s a modern guy and a very funny writer—so as he narrates the family trip to Disney World, relates his experiences learning tennis and the guitar, relives his court date when he’s cited for not cleaning up after his dog, etc., other dads (and moms) will find plenty of humor in his misadventures. Besides philosophizing on changing priorities and other midlife concerns, Dan also has some endearing moments with his own dad, and those passages are justification enough for this entertaining volume’s Father’s Day relevance.
Finally, we have Brian Cronin’s Why Does Batman Carry Shark Repellent?, which should prove a popular gift for anyone who ever curled up with a comic book. From Batman and Robin to Archie and Jughead, comic book characters have a unique pop history that spans generations. Superfan and blogger Cronin pays homage through dozens of entertaining lists of names (e.g., “Fifteen Alliterative Comic Book Names Created by Stan Lee”), storylines (e.g., “Five Most Iconic Panels in Marvel Comics History”), cultural impact (“Six Bob Dylan References in Comic Books”), TV and movie trivia (“Four Interesting Ways That Actors Lost Out on Superhero Roles”) and more. If it all sounds deliciously geeky, it is.