Books (and movies) for Father's Day (part 2)
A Different Drum
Last week, I made some recommendations for books to get your dad for Father’s Day. Some have fatherhood as a theme; others are just great books. I’ll continue that this week.
If you’re looking for classic literature, I’m a big fan of John Steinbeck. Fatherhood is a pretty significant theme in at least two of his novels, both coming late in his career. The “Winter of Our Discontent” is one of his shorter novels. The lead character is a father of two, trying to live an honorable life in a world filled with corruption and ambition.
The other choice is, along with “The Grapes of Wrath”, one of his best known works. “East of Eden” is what the author himself considered his magnum opus. Set in the Salinas valley, it chronicles the lives of two families over the course of decades. The title comes from the novel being largely a retelling of the biblical story of Cain and Abel.
One of the great family stories ever is “Roots” by Alex Haley. Haley began with the story of one of his slave ancestors, whose history had been passed down through several generations. He traced his family history, then filled in the gaps with fiction. The story is both sweeping and engaging.
One of my favorite writers is John Irving. He’s best known for “The World According to Garp”, though many of his biggest fans would cite “A Prayer for Owen Meany” as his best work. Fatherhood is a theme in the latter novel, but one I’d also recommend is more recent.
Another recent Irving novel that has fatherhood as a theme is “Last Night in Twisted River”, a five-decade adventure about a father and son on the run after a youthful mistake. Be aware in reading any Irving novel though; he’s known for writing some pretty unusual, though highly realistic, characters.
If you like Irving, you may like “Cutting for Stone” by Abraham Verghese. Twin brothers, born of an illicit affair between a nun and a doctor, are followed through their lives. They are raised by expatriate doctors in Ethiopia and one eventually becomes a doctor himself in New York. Themes of fatherhood, separation and the limitations of medicine thread throughout this novel.
If you’re looking for a bit of culture, I’d recommend “On the Shoulders of Giants: My Journey Through the Harlem Renaissance” by Kareem Abdul-Jabbar. There may be more thorough or academic books on the subject, but Abdul-Jabbar adds a personal touch that makes it very readable. He may be best known for basketball, but he’s also written several books since his playing days.
Another literary novel you might consider is “The Road” by Cormac Mccarthy. His sparse but beautiful writing style will take you aback, as will the story of a father and son travelling along a road in a post-apocalyptic world.
Lastly, there’s my favorite recommendation: “Everything Matters” by Ron Currie Jr. Fatherhood is just one of several themes in this multi-layered novel. It’s rare that an author can engage me right from the beginning as Currie did. This book is simultaneously heartbreaking and inspirational and is quite simply the best novel I’ve read in several years.
If the dad in your life is more into movies than books, I do have a few recommendations.
If he’s a guy’s guy, why not get him the best guy movie of all time? That would be “Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid” with Newman and Redford in the starring roles.
Another choice would be “August Rush”. The story is about a boy who was wrongfully put up for adoption and begins a search for his parents after several years. This movie had mixed reviews, but it hit all my buttons: a lost son (it came out shortly after my son was born) and the transcendent power of music.
If you’d like one to watch with your child, “Finding Nemo” is a great story. (Pixar will be cashing in with a new 3-D version coming out this fall).
Lastly, there’s one you may have trouble finding, except perhaps on VHS. It’s simply called “Dad” and starred Jack Lemmon, Ted Danson and Olympia Dukakis. Danson’s character moves home for a while to help his family after his mother has a heart attack. He finds his aging father (played by Lemmon) having deteriorated far more than necessary and helped re-engage him in the joys of life. Jack Lemmon’s performance was outstanding and this movie should have gotten more attention than it did.
Happy Father’s Day guys.
Michael Carley is a resident of Porterville. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.