The challenge of finding an appropriately awesome present for Father’s Day can get more difficult with each passing year. A tie? Too tedious. Cologne? Cliché! This month, skip the tired traditions and surprise Pop with one of these newly released books.
While Mom’s away, Dave Engledow feeds daughter Alice Bee, along with cats Elliott and Katje. Reprinted with permission from Confessions of the World’s Best Father.
If you know an overtaxed rookie dad who could use a good laugh, get him Confessions of the World’s Best Father by photographer Dave Engledow. In this clever send-up of perfect parenting, Engledow—a gifted clowner—casts himself as the quintessential distracted dad whose misguided attempts to care for his toddler daughter, Alice Bee, provide the subject matter for a collection of skillfully composed photos filled with parental no-nos: Engledow bathes Alice Bee in a washing machine, looks on as she swills a beer and allows her to play with some questionable toys—an electric knife, a pizza cutter, the list goes on. Engledow digitally manipulated the pictures, so there was no real threat involved, which explains why he’s able to regard the sight of his daughter in danger with unfailing and comical cluelessness. Each grittily realistic photo is accompanied by hilarious commentary from Engledow, who appears to possess a quality every dad should have: the ability to laugh at himself.
Engledow’s playful approach to domesticity is shared by Jason Good, author of This Is Ridiculous This Is Amazing: Parenthood in 71 Lists. A stand-up comic and father of two, Good has created an amusing itemized guide to family life, with lists inspired by some of the most important facets of fatherhood. The book opens with a chapter called “Preparedness,” which provides 23 options for defense against a “toddler attack,” and proceeds onward to critical topics like “The Seven Stages of a Tantrum.” Good also lists tips on traveling with kids (“Go ahead and be one of those weirdos who brings a pillow on the airplane.”) and gives a rundown of the things hard-pressed parents shouldn’t feel guilty about (“Pretending to be asleep. Pretending to be deaf.”). Freshman fathers will find a kindred spirit in Good, who writes from the heart about the rearing of kids, aka the “tiny people who have no idea that they’re slowly killing us.”
FOR LITERATURE LOVERS
Perhaps the papa you’re shopping for is the tweedy type—a haunter of libraries and lifelong English major. If so, he’ll welcome the receipt of But Enough About You: Essays, the new and long-overdue anthology from Christopher Buckley. Featuring the same sly humor and sophisticated turns of phrase that made Wry Martinis (1997), his previous collection, a bestseller, this wide-ranging book showcases Buckley’s rare ability to infuse obscurities (bug zappers, lobster bibs, alarm clocks) with comic—and near cosmic—significance. Nothing, it seems, is unworthy of a precisely observed memorial from the author, who also tackles matters of greater gravity in this masterful collection. There are literary interludes, including brief evaluations of Moby-Dick and Catch-22; trips abroad, with pieces on Paris, London and Machu Picchu; and political perusals in which Buckley applies his inimitable wit to subjects such as Afghan warlords and the Bush Sr. administration. Of particular interest to bibliophiles: the author’s revealing appreciations of late colleagues Joseph Heller and Christopher Hitchens.
FOR SPORTS FANS
Fathers who follow baseball can clock some extra innings this season with I Don’t Care if We Never Get Back: 30 Games in 30 Days on the Best Worst Baseball Road Trip Ever by Ben Blatt and Eric Brewster. Fresh out of Harvard, Blatt fantasizes about a baseball binge: watching a game at every Big League stadium in America in only 30 days. A math whiz, he creates an algorithm for the trip and lets his computer set the course: a 22,000-mile journey via car. Blatt’s plans aren’t solidified until his buddy Eric Brewster—who hates baseball—signs on for the excursion. With their new book, Blatt, now a staff writer for Slate, and Brewster, co-author of the best-selling The Hunger Pains: A Parody, offer up a funny, compelling narrative about their breakneck journey and the experience of loving sports to distraction. From New York’s Yankee Stadium to Seattle’s Safeco Field, they take turns at the wheel, sleep in parking lots and survive on “slimed and sugared ballpark food.” It’s the trip of a lifetime—and every sports fan’s secret dream.
For dads who prefer the Beautiful Game to America’s Favorite Pastime, there’s Eight World Cups: My Journey through the Beauty and Dark Side of Soccer by journalist George Vecsey. One of soccer’s earliest advocates in this country, Vecsey writes with expertise and flair about the otherworldly plays, volatile personalities and sticky politics that make the game so fascinating. As a columnist for The New York Times in the 1980s, he had to persuade his editors to let him cover a sport that was still obscure in the States. They sent him to Spain for the 1982 World Cup, setting the course for decades of action-packed reportage. Among the notable Cups Vecsey covers: Italy, 1990, in which the United States participated after a four-decade hiatus and “difficult genius” Diego Maradona loomed large; and Germany, 2006, the year Wayne Rooney and Renaldo (he of the “tinted tufts and supercilious smirk”) famously butted heads. Vecsey’s delight in soccer culture is palpable, and he makes his audience—even the reader who isn’t smitten with the sport—care, too.
Whether he entertains culinary aspirations or simply likes to engage in experimental eating, the dad on your gift list is sure to savor The World’s Best Spicy Food: Where to Find It & How to Make It. This globe-trotting volume touches down in some of the world’s most flavorful locales, including Thailand, India and Morocco, to get the inside scoop on the best—and zestiest—local cuisines. There are dishes for every taste and temperature level, from sizzling exoticisms such as Singapore’s Devil’s Curry to familiar favorites like Five-Alarm Texas Chili. Designed to appeal to the reader’s sense of adventure as well as his appetite, the book brims with decadent photos, heady recipes, and tasty tips from today’s top food writers. Perfect for fire-eating fathers, whether they like a little or a lot of hot.
This article was originally published in the June 2014 issue of BookPage. Download the entire issue for the Kindle or Nook.
ALSO IN BOOKPAGE: Read a Q&A with Dave Engledow for Confessions of the World's Best Father.