For Father’s Day this year, we’ve collected five outstanding books that explore the topic of fathers and fatherhood in their many iterations and various shades. Each of these books is as powerful as it is unique, and each has something important to say about what it means to be a father.
Time magazine called Dreams from My Father the “best-written memoir ever produced by an American politician.” First published in 1995, Dreams from My Father recounts future president Barack Obama’s early years up to his admission to law school in 1988. The book begins with Obama’s discovery as a young man that his father, absent for most of his life, has been killed in a car accident. What follows is an examination of his family’s history — from Kansas to Hawaii to Kenya — as he pieces together his father’s influences on his life. As much a meditation on fatherhood as it is on identity and race, it is, according to Publishers Weekly, a “poignant, probing memoir of an unusual life.”
In this memoir — a unique combination of contemplative and thrilling — author Scott C. Johnson recounts his experience as the son of a CIA spy; what at first made for an exciting secret becomes a nagging doubt at the centre of their relationship. Questions abound. Who was his father, really? How could he trust someone whose job it was to deceive? These questions recur in Johnson’s adulthood when, as a journalist reporting on the war in Afghanistan, he finds his professional life colliding with his father’s. Were they so different? The Wolf and the Watchman is a book for sentimentalists and Tom Clancy fans alike.
Wabanakwut (better known as Wab) Kinew is an award-winning Canadian journalist and current leader of the New Democratic Party in Manitoba, Canada. The Reason You Walk chronicles the year he spent with his estranged father following Tobasonakwut Kinew’s terminal cancer diagnosis. In this final attempt to reconnect, Wab learns the complicated truth about his father: how the elder Kinew suffered as a child in the residential school system, pursued a career in Canadian politics even as he continually faced discrimination, and ultimately committed himself to real change through reconciliation between the Indigenous community and the Canadian government. As Wab Kinew in turn works toward reconciliation with his father, he brings into focus the enduring love between father and son, and the redemptive power of forgiveness. In 2018, Wab Kinew wrote a public letter to his own son, named after his late father, describing the hopes and dreams he holds for him. It’s inspiring and solemn and, more than anything, filled with a father’s love. Read the moving letter here.
In the early 2000s, Australian Bradley Trevor Greive created a publishing phenomenon with his nonfiction project for children called The Blue Day Book. He followed that massive success with other works, and in Dear Dad: Father, Friend, and Hero, Greive pairs wildlife photography with little nuggets of child-to-father wisdom, using the animal kingdom as a way to explore the essential truths of fatherhood. Equal parts heart-warming and goofy, this bite-size book is a charming look at what it means to be a dad.
In Fathers: A Literary Anthology, essays and poems penned by luminaries such as James Baldwin, Franz Kafka, Virginia Woolf, and Winston Churchill, as well as contemporary greats such as Anne Carson, Michael Ondaatje, and Alison Bechdel, explore the topic of fathers and fatherhood. As a bonus, the book concludes with a “List of Notable Patremoirs” for those who want to delve deeper.
If you are celebrating Father’s Day, consider giving any of these titles to the person you are honouring. Fathers come in many packages, and biology means very little in terms of who ends up being a great one. The dads we particularly love have as much individuality as those in the stories listed above. Happy Father’s Day to all!
Do you know a father who has a life worth celebrating? We write and create custom memoirs for families who want to invest in capturing special lives and stories. Get in touch at 1-877-777-ECHO (3246) or drop us a line at firstname.lastname@example.org.