Earlier this week, I asked our readers: What’s your favorite writing about men, dads, or fathers? Help us curate the best reads + tell us why they resonate with you?
In just a few days, I received a host of replies across various social networks. Here’s the list of books that strike at the heart of the complexities of our relationships with dads, and the trials of fatherhood. If we missed any, let us know in the comment section.
A Personal Matter, by Kenzaburo Oe
- From John Borland on TheGeekyPress: It is brutal: a young, unhappy intellectual type in post-war Japan has a baby born with a deep physical and probably mental handicap (brain hernia), and spirals into terrible questions about himself and his life. Does he flee? Let the child die? Drink himself to death? There is not an ounce of sentimentality in it, but it’s very real (reading the GoodReads review, it’s clear that many people can’t stand the character for this reason). In this case, the character winds up becoming reconciled to the child, but this shouldn’t be taken as a predictable happy ending; in another book, written at the same time, Oe’s character faces a similar situation, and makes the opposite choice. The book, and much of Oe’s later work, is based on his actual experiences with his own child. The raw realism here is more terrifying when you know that, but it’s not necessary to the book’s success.
The Road, by Cormac McCarthy
- From byzantinebobby on Reddit: The complete devotion of the Father to his Son. It never wavers. In the most horrible world, the Father attempts to care for and raise his kid. It’s contrasted with the Mother, which I won’t say anything about to not spoil it.
To Kill a Mockingbird, by Harper Lee
- From SuaveDuvey on Reddit: Atticus is the parent we all wish to be. The pieces I really liked was where Jem, the older brother, explains their father’s behavior to Scout, his little sister.
Something Wicked This Way Comes, by Ray Bradbury
- From maegwin79 on Reddit: The two main characters are boys, best friends, and one has a father who is older and who feels like he can’t do all the ‘young dad’ stuff with his son because of his age. Meanwhile a sinister carnival has come to town and is tempting the town’s adults and twisting them. The father is of course tempted to get his youth back, but in the end it is his love for his son that keeps him from giving in to temptation and saving the town.
East of Eden, by John Steinbeck
- From improbablewobble on Reddit: Multiple generations and families with complicated relationships, all ultimately looking for a way to forgive each other. It’s one of those stories so rich that different people can take away different things. It centers on two American families, the Trasks and the Hamiltons. Broadly speaking, it’s based on the parable of Cain and Abel. So it’s about both brotherhood and the relationships between fathers and sons. There’s nothing so simple as a stubborn patriarch railing against change, I promise. And in the end, without giving too much away, it’s about how we make choices in our lives and then live with them. It’s timeless and relatable to anyone, but it’s also a profoundly American book about our country coming of age at the turn of the twentieth century.
Big Fish, by Daniel Wallace
- From bizantinebobby on Reddit: It’s about a son whose father told him all these stories about his life that the son felt were too ridiculous to be real. The father is dying and the son wants to learn about the real man, not the stories. It’s a good book, but a damn good movie.
The Kite Runner, by Khaled Hosseini
- From thewaywardd on Reddit: The father-son relationship was far from perfect, but as someone who has had an estranged relationship with my biological father, I could somewhat relate. The story grows more and more complex and Khaled Hosseini ties everything from beginning to end. It’s definitely not the happiest story out there, but i thought it was a wonderful story.
Dear Jay, Love Dad, by Jay Wilkinson
- From myb10nd3 on Reddit: My boss’ boss gave me this book when we brought our first son home. Probably the best gift I received.
A Dirty Job, by Christopher Moore
- From delayedretort on Reddit: This one is kind of an oddball. Funny, odd, and centers on widower with a daughter.
The Given Day, by Dennis Lehane
- From joeray on Reddit: It’s not directly a story of fatherhood per se, but the relationships between the patriarch police captain Thomas Coughlin and his son Danny – the protagonist of the book The Given Day by Dennis Lehane – and to a lesser extent Joe are pretty powerful. This theme is taken up a little more in the ‘sequel’ Live By Night, where the youngest son Joe Coughlin has taken up a life of crime, but still has to rely on his father’s strength while in prison. Really The Given Day is just a terrific book that should be read by everyone, but for me the dad reminded me of my dad a little bit. Its a strained resentful relationship, but you can still sense the love and the hurt and the unspoken desire for rapprochement.
Fun Home, by Alison Bechdel
- From DystopiaMan on Reddit: It really reflects very well the complexities of a father-child relationship, especially when the father is absent or emotionally-distant, but a struggle of identification of one to the other is still present.
Anything by James Herriot
- From Lindsay Bard on LinkedIn: James Herriot always stood out to me as an amazing dad. His writing is charming and his kids appear in his books as his partner-of-the-day. They are full-blown people that he treats with respect and support. His son and daughter have each published works about their father and speak of him in similar terms.