It’s not too late. We know you think it’s too late to get your dad something for Father’s Day — and we also know you forgot, because so did we — but it isn’t. Next-day shipping is your friend and Pops will get something out of each of these 10 literary options.
THE MARTIAN by Andy Weir
What do you do when your spaceship leaves the planet without you, and you have less than a 1% chance of survival? You try to survive of course. Weir’s novel is in the process of being adapted for the big screen — starring Matt Damon, above, and directed by Ridley Scott — and was on all of the lists in 2011. If your dad likes a survival story with a healthy dose of pragmatism alongside some dark humor math concerning the amount of calories it takes to keep a human body alive, this will be a great choice for him.
THE GONE AWAY WORLD by Nick Harkaway
This one is for the dads who eagerly watched every Mad Max trailer and have been reading post apocalyptic fiction for the last few years. Harkaway’s characters and storytelling are at once familiar and completely mind-boggling with an edge of disturbing. Set after a cataclysmic event that literally changes the fabric of time, space and matter, this story will have your dad in its grip for at least a few weeks.
PROOF: THE SCIENCE OF BOOZE by Adam Rogers
Give this to your dad with a good bottle of his favorite liquor. From the fermentation process and aging to the hangover and why you get it, this book will make him want to sip whatever you got him very slowly and then will regale you with factoids from this in true Dad-fashion for the following weeks and months. It’s the gift that keeps on giving.
ENDER’S GAME by Orson Scott Card
Space ships and child geniuses mixed together with military might on a pseudo-Death Star? Yes. Do it. I am horrified that you have not already made your father read this science fiction classic. Plus, there are some really disturbingly clear political theories buried in the storylines that are fun to pull apart.
THE MAGICIANS by Lev Grossman
For the dads who read Harry Potter to the whole family and begrudgingly took them to every single film twice, The Magicians is their reward. All three books in Grossman’s series are out now (and is being adapted into a Syfy TV series), and what he gets completely right is the sense of adventure, the confusion of young adulthood and the magic of Narnia. Some call these Harry Potter for grown-ups but if your dad doesn’t journey through a wardrobe into a magical world of grown-up sex and magic, I’ll be shocked.
CONSIDER THE LOBSTER by David Foster Wallace
Everything from an essay on the feelings of crustaceans to an essay on the pure joy of very long words are contained within its pages. If your dad is just not a fiction guy, this one could very well be your salvation. Wallace’s observations of the world around him didn’t give him much peace, but gave us, his adoring fans, such greater insight into the world and each other. And honestly, this is a gateway book. It will lead your dad to more Wallace without a doubt.
READY PLAYER ONE by Ernest Cline
Get this for the dad who took away your video games as punishment for bad behavior, especially if you later caught him playing them himself. Cline’s prose is so filled with pop culture references from the late ’70s through today that you can literally blink and miss a dozen. It’s filled with danger and intrigue all set in a very real-world video game landscape.
SUMMERLAND by Michael Chabon
This book will take your dad back to summers of Little League — whether yours or his own — and remind him of the magic that can only be felt when you step out onto freshly mown grass with the lights flooding the field and an umpire yelling “Play ball!” You will smell that grass as you flip the pages of a paperback and so will he.
A MOVEABLE FEAST by Ernest Hemingway
There’s something about Paris, the Lost Generation of expatriate writers, and Hemingway that come together and create this magical feast for the senses. Hemingway wrote the book and filled it with observations of the city he was calling home shortly after marrying his first wife in the 1920s. There are references galore to his fellow writers, and it is a delight for any father — even the one who may have read it many years ago.
AMERICAN GODS by Neil Gaiman
If your dad doesn’t mind a little magical realism with his epic American tale, this is the book for him. Themes like family, responsibility and honor reverberate through the story — about a coming war between the old gods of mythology and the new gods of technology — and your dad will find himself championing characters he’s pretty sure are going to break his heart in the end. And, much like Consider the Lobster, this is a gateway drug. Good luck keeping him away from Gaiman’s work — which spans comics, short stories, novels and film — after you introduce him.
Rachael Berkey is a reader, writer, and curator of all things entertainment. She has written and created content for pop culture, entertainment, literary, and nonprofit websites for the last four years. She tweets at @bookoisseur.