Father's Day: 6 great books for dads
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Looking for an interesting and entertaining gift for that important dad in your life? Local author Jess Morency recommends some inspiring books that would make ideal Father’s Day gifts
Black Buck by Mateo Askaripour: Meet Darren: an unambitious 22-year-old living with his mother and working at Starbucks. All of which changes when a chance encounter with the silver-tongued CEO of New York’s hottest tech start-up results in Darren joining their elite sales team.
It’s rare for a novel to create a totally empathetic character within its first few pages – but this book achieves it. If you want a read that’s bursting with life, humour, pain, testosterone, joy, and quite a lot of swearing, then this is it. Moreover, if you want to immerse yourself fully in Askaripour’s world, then I strongly recommend listening to the Audible version. The narrator, Zeno Robinson, is so brilliant at ‘acting’ the book, it’s like a technicolour radio play. There was a point, about three quarters of the way through, where I felt the story began to slightly lose its way, so it made me laugh when the book’s protagonist, Darren, said exactly what I’d been thinking. I loved him, just as I loved his gentle mum, wise girlfriend, crazy boss, self-effacing chauffeur and the characterful neighbourhood mentors. And it’s the only book that’s ever had me wanting to visit the gym so I could carry on listening. Published by John Murray Press at £8.99
The Descent of Man by Grayson Perry: ‘Every man senses that his masculinity is under scrutiny and being policed... Every man knows that he has to behave in a certain way, dress in certain clothes, think he has certain rights, and even feel a particular way. But the world is changing, and masculinity needs to change too.’
Perry’s book was first published in 2016, but his thoughts couldn’t be more pertinent. For if it’s toxic masculinity that results in 90% of violent crime being perpetrated by men, I’m sure there’s at least one name that instantly springs to mind. It’s a surprisingly slim book, but every page contains a gem of a thought, nestled within a style that’s delightfully fluid, often humorous and always a pleasure to read.
It’s interesting that Perry is brave enough to call it the ‘descent of man’, for he believes that as women rise to their just level of power, then some men will fall: or, more specifically, Default Man – making up 10% of the British population and dominating the upper echelons of society. However, while he argues that a more equal society is good for all, he also suggests traditional masculinity creates a straightjacket for many, and profound unhappiness for some.
Published by Allen Lane at £9.99
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Featherhood by Charlie Gilmour: If ever there was a book to mark Father’s Day, then this is it. Although, it’s more a memoir about the cataclysmic negative effects of having a mostly absent and always unreliable father.
In 2016, Charlie Gilmour, the stepson of Pink Floyd’s Dave Gilmour, was handed a magpie that had fallen from its nest on a Bermondsey industrial estate. Charlie had spent many years fighting the demons created by having been abandoned by his father, Heathcote Williams - a poet whose eccentricity verged on madness. And although he’d had the continuity of a loving mother - and stepfather - he’d been expelled from school and later sent to jail for the infamous moment when he was photographed, aged 21, swinging from the Cenotaph during the student protests of 2010. Yet through his relationship with the bird, named Benzene, he was able to foster an ability to nurture that he thought had been lost, thus helping prepare him for his own impending fatherhood. It’s a beautifully written book, both complex and compassionate in its structure and thoughts. And if you loathe corvids, this bird might be the one to change your mind. For much as Gilmour draws you in, Benzene will probably charm you more.
Published by Orion Publishing at £8.99
Frontline by Dr Tony Redmond: This could easily have been the bashfully-told story of the adventures and innovations of a very brave man. And Dr Tony Redmond OBE is truly courageous. Instead, it’s a forensic analysis of the ethical, political, diplomatic and bureaucratic issues governing what was the emerging discipline of humanitarian aid work, when Redmond was sent on his first overseas mission to Armenia in 1988.
In many ways the story he tells in his preface, how he grew up in relative poverty in a small town near Manchester, is equally fascinating; showing the childhood that made the man. And throughout the book I was intrigued by how his family coped with him being away for such long periods – knowing he was continually in great danger. However, the personal stops there, and what he’s written is a wide-ranging analysis of what works and what doesn’t in emergency medicine; the fact that he broke his back, but didn’t tell anyone for a week, clearly paling into insignificance alongside the fact that his accident didn’t disrupt the mission he was on. This is truly a book of the moment, not least because UK-Med, the organisation he founded, is currently embedded deep in Ukraine. Published by HarperNorth at £9.99
Taste: My Life Through Food by Stanley Tucci: I might have called this ‘a gentle book’, full of this American-born actor's trademark wry humour and love of food; but my goodness, the last couple of chapters pack a punch – bringing this memoir together in a way that makes it deeply affecting.
It is full of humour, much of it making me laugh out loud, along with a liberal use of the F word and some excellent recipes, but if you want a salacious read from a Hollywood great, I’d recommend Demi Moore’s excellent autobiography Inside Out. Here, if Tucci drops a well-known name he immediately apologises, but you still get the impression that he’s a man beloved by everyone in his trade, and everyone he meets outside of it. If you’ve been watching his excellent Italian food series on the BBC (Stanley Tucci: Searching for Italy) then this book makes good accompanying reading, for some of the recipes he explores appear here. However, it is much more than that: a meandering journey of a life both well and honourably lived, punctuated by many memorable meals. Not least, my favourite and lasting image: that of him and his wife, the literary agent Felicity Blunt, sealing their burgeoning relationship with the rapturous plucking of pheasants one quiet Sunday morning. Published by Penguin Books at £20
A DORSET BOOKSELLER RECOMMENDS…
Wayne Winstone, owner of Winstone’s in Sherborne
How to Build Stonehenge by Mike Pitts: When thinking about gifts for Father’s Day, forget the socks and craft beer, turn to books. There are some excellent titles available that will take anxiety away from the most notoriously difficult person to buy for. And here’s one of them.
Icon of the New Stone Age, sculptural and engineering marvel, symbol of national pride: there is nothing quite like Stonehenge. Those great sarsen and bluestone slabs, arranged with simple, graphic genius, attract visitors from across the world. But the monument stands silent in the face of the questions its unlikely existence raises. Who built it? Why? How?
There has been endless speculation about why Stonehenge was built, inspiring theories ranging from the academically credible to the improbable, but far less investigation into how. In the millennia since its creation, pieces of Stonehenge have been knocked over by heavy machinery, found their way to Florida (and back again), and been exposed to radioactive sodium, but the seemingly impossible endeavour of raising the stones with Neolithic technology has remained inexplicable – until now. Published by Thames and Hudson at £20
Follow Jess Morency on Twitter @mehappyshed