Father's Day is this Sunday, so we asked one of the authors featured in our Father's Day feature to suggest three books he loves—and we got a bonus!
In Year of the Dunk, Price takes on the mission of learning how to dunk a basketball, a seemingly straightforward goal that leads to some surprisingly heartfelt moments. Our reviewer writes, "Year of the Dunk, an exploration of what [Asher] calls the 'limits of human talent,' is an informative, inspiring and often moving story of how life’s tough challenges can motivate us." (Read the review.)
Despite, or maybe because of, my being a nonfiction writer, one whose professional career is spent dealing with facts, I like reading fiction in my spare time. I recently read a galley of a forthcoming novel by my brother-in-law, Benjamin Markovits, You Don’t Have to Live Like This. It’s about a group of Yalies who decide to set up a commune in Detroit; things don’t go smoothly. As with his other novels, this one is beautifully crafted and a pleasure to occupy—even when things get uncomfortable. It’ll be published in the U.S. in early July by HarperCollins.
Most of what I read comes to me as gifts; I figure if it was good enough for a dear friend to recommend it, I’ll probably like it. My sister-in-law and her boyfriend gave me A Pale View of the Hills as my birthday gift, and I sped through it. The novel, Kazuo Ishiguro’s first, is a story of isolation and dislocation in Japan, probing at intergenerational and husband-wife relationships after the war. One thing I especially like about Ishiguro’s work is the peculiarities of his narrators; he so fully commits himself to the narrator’s character as the work unfolds.
I read my first Jonathan Lethem novel earlier this year and loved it. Dissident Gardens, largely set in Queens, tells the story of raucous family wrestling with their Communism, Jewishness and American identity over many decades. The book especially resonated with me because my own grandmother lived in Forest Hills in Queens; she was not quite a fellow traveler of the left-wing activists that populate Lethem’s novel, but she was quirky and flinty in some similar ways. I’m sometimes defeated by long novels, but in a sign of the grip this one had on me, I happily spun through to the end.
Finally, it’s not exactly a book, but my bed-side reading each night is the latest issue of American Short Fiction, which—full disclosure!—is edited by wife. I find the stories, each first-class, are just the right length to settle my mind as I drift off to sleep.
Thank you, Asher! See any books you'd like to pick up, readers?
(Author photo by Rebecca Markovits)
Jason Good is both a family man and a funnyman, and that's made pretty clear in his new book, This is Ridiculous This is Amazing. Presented in list form, Good offers hilarious advice on how to navigate the waters of parenthood. Our reviewer shares some tidbits: There are some things "hard-pressed parents shouldn’t feel guilty about ('Pretending to be asleep. Pretending to be deaf.') Freshman fathers will find a kindred spirit in Good, who writes from the heart about the rearing of kids, aka the “tiny people who have no idea that they’re slowly killing us.” It might just be the perfect Father's Day gift. (Read the full review here.)
We were curious about the books Good has enjoyed reading lately, so we asked him to recommend some recent favorites, which he shared in a predictably hilarious fashion.
Monkey Mind: A Memoir of Anxiety
By Daniel Smith
I met Daniel at a birthing class in Brooklyn. Our wives were both pregnant—a fact I probably didn’t need to clarify. We struck up a friendship, and I’ve followed his career since. His latest book is brilliantly written and one of my favorite memoirs.
If you pick up Monkey Mind looking for a cure to anxiety, forget about it. If, however, you’re seeking someone who can graphically and comically describe exactly what it feels like to be anxious, this book delivers all the insight, schadenfreude and hilarity you could possibly handle. Dan is a sweaty, quivering mess of a man who constantly gets in his own way, and you can’t help but grow to love him for it. As he puts it, “. . . anxiety is an inherently comical disorder. It destroys lives, but it destroys them with absurdity. To witness a person in the throes of true anxiety is to witness a person actively tripping himself. Anxiety is the intellect gone feral.” From life’s most important junctures (losing his virginity) to its most mundane (choosing between two condiments), Dan focuses on himself (as those with anxiety are so prone to do), with the steady aim of a journalist. He loads the chamber with comedy, pulls the trigger, and never misses.
I recently discovered that not everyone has read this book. I’m on my second go around. The only other book I’ve read twice is The Phantom Tollbooth, but that hardly counts because I was 9 years old. A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius lives up to its name, and I plowed through it, mouth hanging open like a scientist observing an alien aircraft. Dave Eggers' creativity, metaphors and playful use of language in this heartfelt, funny, angry book blew me away. The fact that it’s about the tragic loss of his parents when he was 19 and how he was forced to become its unwitting patriarch makes me want to quit writing and celebrate being a writer all at the same time.
Stretch: The Unlikely Making of a Yoga Dude
By Neal Pollack
One of my best friends went to college with Neal and insisted that I read this book. Luckily, I trusted him, because Stretch made me laugh at least twenty times (I rarely laugh, so that’s a lot). It’s easy to make fun of yoga culture—it’s self-righteously crunchy, there’s copious farting. It’s not quite as easy to skewer it when you’ve unwittingly become one of its devout followers. That’s what Neal does in this book. After finding himself unable to let go of his anger when a reviewer refers to him as “fat” Neal decides to change his life—not an easy transition, because Neal’s a cynical ex-punk rocker. From his first class through to nailing a headstand and then publishing articles in yoga magazines, Neal writes hilariously about negotiating his old and new selves, and finding a calm place somewhere in between where he can practice mindfulness and still hate things.
This book sits next to mine on all the Barnes & Noble “Books Dads Will Love” tables. I would prefer that if people are buying only one book, they buy the one adjacent to Dave’s, but I have to admit that it is 99.99% as good as mine. Though his popularity was sparked by the imaginative, “how’d he do that?” photographs he took with his daughter, it’s the three or four paragraph captions that provide the fuel to turn this into a great read. It’s absurd, hilarious and at times, touching. Next to a picture of his daughter poised to drop a whole turkey into a vat of bubbling oil, Dave writes, "Alice Bee did a pretty good job getting the fryer set up while I was watching football on TV, but as usual, her attention to detail was a bit lacking—not only did she neglect to fill the fryer all the way to the top with peanut oil, I even caught her earlier in the day trying to defrost the turkey."
I think it’s a near perfect work of satire that people will love and return to often. I know I do. It’s sitting right next to me. . . taunting me.
What do you think, readers? Will you be reading This is Ridiculous This is Amazing or checking out any of Good's recommended books?
(Author photo by Ben Toht)
Father's Day is just around the corner, and American Triumvirate is a great combo of history and sports for dads who love hitting the links on a lazy afternoon.
Veteran golf writer James Dodson shares the stories of Sam Snead, Byron Nelson and Ben Hogan. These three golf masters changed the face of modern golf during the mid-20th century, "when its growth was hampered by the Depression and World War II." Explains our reviewer: ". . . their lively competitions a postwar period of prosperity in which tournaments became more plentiful and the purses much larger."
Check out the trailer from Knopf:
Be sure to check out all the books in our Father's Day roundup!
Our Father's Day Feature includes four books that would all be great gifts for dads, and Man with a Pan: Culinary Adventures for Fathers Who Cook for Their Families gives a huge pat on the back to dad-chefs and kings-of-the-grill. Author John Donohue has collected advice, testimonies and recipes from writers, editors and journalists and compiled it into a great book.
The trailer from Algonquin (which stars the author himself!) is pretty funny, and the 50's style nails it on the head: no longer are the days of women-dominated kitchens. Dudes, it's your time!
BookPage contributor Martin Brady writes, "A must-have for kitchen-friendly dads, this volume should reap rewards down the road for family appetites everywhere."
Just in time for Father's Day! Whose dad is king of his kitchen?
It's Father's Day this Sunday, and we predict a mass firing-up of grills around the country. If you need a few tips for spicing up your outdoor cooking techniques, don't miss these tips from grilling guru Steven Raichlen. The author of numerous best-selling barbecue books traveled around the world to learn more about grilling in other cultures in his latest release, Planet Barbecue!.
First tip: tune up your grill. Says Raichlen,
Charcoal grill owners will want to scrape out any old ash and spray the vents with WD-40. Gas grill owners should make sure the burner tubes are free of cobwebs and spiders. Replace the igniter batteries if the grill won’t light. If you smell gas, brush the hoses and couplings with a leak detection liquid (made of equal parts water and dish soap)—bubbles will show any leaks.
C'mon people, with Father's Day just four days away, we'd like to have more nominees for favorite fictional father.
Vote getters so far:
We're going with Atticus Finch*, but you might have a different idea. Check out the comments and dive in for a chance to win four new books on fatherhood.
*Atticus on courage: "I wanted you to see what REAL courage is, instead of getting the idea that courage is a man with a gun in his hand. It's when you know you're licked before you begin but you begin anyway and you see it through no matter what. You rarely win, but sometimes you do." (To Kill a Mockingbird)
If you’re gift-challenged like me, holidays/birthdays/graduations and other gift-giving events have a way of sneaking up on you. We’re doing our part to help out by warning you a full week in advance that Sunday is FATHER’S DAY and if you don’t already have an idea for a present, you’d better get busy. Wait, there’s more. We’re also offering one lucky reader a chance to snag a Father’s Day gift collection without ever leaving the sofa. Our “Four for Father” collection includes these new releases: