Too often, fathers are portrayed as bumbling figures with goofy ineptitude who are forever making messes that must be straightened out by Mum. There’s also the dad who constantly wants you to text him your whereabouts, or the one who spams you with last year’s 9GAG videos (social media, what a wonderful world!).
Yet, it isn’t easy being a dad. At the end of the day, fathers are just presenting the best versions of themselves perhaps so we could be happier or more successful than they are. After all, we are their legacy.
These books we’ve listed celebrate all kinds of fathers — the traditional bread-winning partriachs, the role models who give us an idea of parenthood (and manhood) we can be proud of, bereaved parents who lend strength to others who are dealing with loss, and the clueless ones who still teach us to thrive and engage with life more fully in their (sometimes silly) ways. These reads make perfect gifts or just good distractions from the TV, really.
Happy Father’s Day!
by Donna Tartt
In this coming-of-age tale laced with Dickensian suspense, an adolescent Theo Decker loses his mother in a bombing but gains a painting called The Goldfinch. He reads in the newspaper that the painting has been destroyed, but chooses to keep mum about it. Aggrieved, Theo carries this symbol of sorrow (the painting was a physical connection to one of the last conversations he had with his mother) into a troubled adulthood. One would be mistaken to think that all emotions in Goldfinch revolve around loss… until Theo met Hobie, who cares about him the same way he does with old collectibles. The antiques dealer turns into Theo’s trusted confidant, mentor and the father he never had.
Pops: Fatherhood in Pieces
by Michael Chabon
For a man whose fashion sense stops at vintage or thrift shops, ferrying his style-obsessed teenage son Abe between shows during Men’s Fashion Week in Paris would have been a chore. Except that it wasn’t — well, at least not from the get-go. The witty Chabon was staving off yawns during the process, but gradually developed a deep respect for his son’s passion when he realised his 13-year-old only wanted to be found by others like him or surrounded by those who share his zeal. “They [the clothes] were the visible form taken by the way he chose to define himself,” Chabon wrote. Children have their own aspirations, and it’s high time parents understand that these goals and dreams are separate from their own.
by Paul Harding
An elegiac meditation on time and family, Harding’s Pulitzer prize-winning first novel sweeps us into the thoughts of a man on his death bed. George Washington Crosby, an elderly clock repairman, recalls memories of his father who suffers from epilepsy and sells household goods from a donkey-drawn cart. “When he realised that the silence by which he had been confused was that of all his clocks… he understood that he was going to die in the bed where he lay,” Harding writes in a poignant passage. Although the characters in the book teeter on the edge of death, this book isn’t about dying but an investigation into what living is all about.
Too Soon Old, Too Late Smart
by Gordon Livingston
Former surgeon in Vietnam and psychiatrist Dr Gordon is a parent twice bereaved. Having gone through probably more hardships than most of us will, he derived 30 bedrock truths from his life experiences like “Any relationship is under the control of the person who cares the least” or “Forgiveness is a form of letting go, but they are not the same thing”. Livingston illuminates these life lessons in 24 calibrated and relatable essays, emphasising that while there may be no escaping who we are, we have the will and strength to overcome every adversity that comes our way.
A Father’s Love
by Hannah Holt/Illustrations by Yee Von Chan
Dads in the animal kingdom come in many stripes, and A Father’s Love celebrates nature’s best dads in their colourful variety. “A father toad dives quick, unseen/ beneath a creekside evergreen./ While he glides,/ his babies gleam./ This father’s love/ flows like a stream.” Holt gives information about the nine species featured in the book, like how a penguin dad keeps his chick warm or how a fox keeps his family safe by digging burrows. This sweet bedtime book will offer an antidote to screen time.