June 2008

Dear ol’ Dad

By W. Bruce Cameron
By David Giffels
By Jim Nantz
By W. Hodding Carter
By Carl Hiaasen
By Kenny Mayne
By Ron Green & Sr.
Review by
Share this Article:

W. Bruce Cameron first slapped the funny bones of American dads with 8 Simple Rules for Dating My Teenage Daughter. Having had those rules lauded by dads and ignored by daughters, Cameron is back with the natural follow-up: 8 Simple Rules for Marrying My Daughter. Once again, Cameron asserts perfectly sane suggestions for making everything go simply (and cheaply) for fathers-in-law-to-be, only to discover that these suggestions have absolutely nothing to do with the nuptial process. 8 Simple Rules is a hilarious descent into the madness of wedding planners, wedding cakes, wedding dresses and all the hundreds of little details which daughters know are must-haves and fathers know are the reason for generous bankruptcy laws. 8 Simple Rules will have you laughing, crying and crying with laughter.

First comes love, then comes marriage, then comes . . . the housing market. All the Way Home: Building a Family in a Falling-Down House is David Giffels' account of his and his wife's decision to purchase and restore—mostly by themselves—a decrepit 1913 Ohio mansion. What would have left most people calling for a hazmat team and a wrecking ball left David and Gina with visions of lost grandeur they believed they could restore. From raccoons to squirrels to a seller straight out of Dickens, the pair battle man, beast and the depths of home improvement stores to turn a near-ruin into a family home. All the Way Home is far more than the story of an old house; it is the beautifully written story of a family struggling to overcome not only termites and dry rot, but unexpected tragedy as well. At times laugh-out-loud funny, at times tearfully poignant, All the Way Home is a compelling, deeply rewarding journey through a family, a house and a home.

An equally compelling journey is Jim Nantz's Always By My Side: A Father's Grace and a Sports Journey Unlike Any Other, with Eli Spielman. Part autobiography, part reminiscence, Always By My Side was inspired by CBS commentator Nantz's 2007 broadcast triple play of calling three of sports' grandest events—the Super Bowl, the Final Four and the Masters—in a 63-day period. The sweetness of that triumph was tempered by the fact that his father and namesake was succumbing to Alzheimer's and could not share or even know of his son's success. But Nantz discovered a truth that resonated throughout his life: no matter what the circumstance, his father was "always by his side." Moving and easily readable, Nantz's story offers inside moments that will delight sports fans, while touching the heart of anyone who has watched a loved one slip into the deep fog of Alzheimer's.

A different aging challenge faces W. Hodding Carter in Off the Deep End. In February 2004, the 41-year-old decided he would revive a college dream and swim the Olympic Trials in 2008. A former college All-American, Carter already had two national swimming championship performances under his bathing cap, earned 20 years earlier. How hard could it be to get back in shape and prove himself in the pool? Scientists who study human physiology assert that his goal is indeed possible (see 40-year old Dara Torres' record-setting triumph in the 50-meter freestyle last year). But is it possible for a middle-aged father of four with a mortgage? Off the Deep End follows Carter's journey through the waters of the British Virgin Islands, the Hudson River and, most treacherous of all, the pool of the local YMCA. Carter's writing style combines self-effacing wit with genuine questions about what drives a man to pursue a distant dream—and whether you think he's inspiring or just plain nuts, you'll leave the book believing he just might pull it off. For those with a yearning to believe that youth is not exclusively for the young, Off the Deep End is a refreshing dive.

Even if your father isn't out to relive the glory days of college athletics, chances are there's at least one sport he believes he can master—golf. The fancy that getting a little white ball into a small round cup can't really be that hard has a surprising hold on the human psyche, as Carl Hiaasen admits in The Downhill Lie: A Hacker's Return to a Ruinous Sport. With biting humor, Hiaasen shares his personal quest for the weekend golfer's Holy Grail—breaking 80 (well, 90)—amid challenges like alligators, hostile eagles (the feathered kind), monkeys, wayward golf carts and seductive, treacherous golf clubs (the kind that fit in a bag, not the kind you join). Hiaasen has a tendency to veer off-course in his narrative (usually into leftist politics), but he punches back on quickly enough, and his insights into the insane lengths a golfer will go to in hopes of a lower score are always entertaining. If you've been bitten by the golf bug, you'll appreciate every moment of Hiaasen's magnificent obsession. If you haven't, read The Downhill Lie and laugh at those of us who have.

Lastly, if there's one thing that is universally true of fathers, is that we're all a little nuts. And no one appreciates nuttiness more than ESPN's resident nut Kenny Mayne. An Incomplete & Inaccurate History of Sport is everything its title claims, except, perhaps, a history of sport. But it is a delightfully wacky collection of random thoughts, jokes and even tender recollections, from the mind of a truly unique personality in the sporting world. You may not really learn anything at all about sports from Mayne, but you'll be laughing so much you won't care.

Whether Dad is a golfer or just a fan, there is no better start for exploring the world's greatest game than The Golf Book. This visually stunning coffee table book covers everything from golf history to golf clubs, including an easy-to-understand section with techniques for proper driving, chipping and more, suitable for both the novice and the experienced player. The remainder of the book highlights golf's favorite champions and rounds things out with a beautiful overview of the world's greatest courses. The Golf Book is one you'll return to again and again.

Golf may be the most romantic of sports, and no event holds more romance than the Masters tournament at Augusta National Golf Club. Very few can claim the pleasure of having been there; fewer still can claim to have played in it. The Masters: 101 Reasons to Love Golf's Greatest Tournament, by sportswriter Ron Green Sr., is a wonderful window into this rare world. Filled with lavish photographs, Green's book presents the story of the Masters in 101 compact vignettes, offering delightful glimpses into the history and heroes that have lifted the Masters to its unique status. Fans of golf and the Masters will enjoy perusing this little gem of a book.

Trending Reviews

Sign Up

Stay on top of new releases: Sign up for our newsletter to receive reading recommendations in your favorite genres.