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Father's Day 2019 books: Great gift ideas for dad

Finding a book to give your dad can be tricky — check out our cultivated gift guide for picks from top-selling authors.
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/ Source: TODAY

If your dad is always reading, a good book or two is a safe bet for Father's Day. Deciding on a book can be complicated, though — sometimes, it feels like he's read everything, and it can be hard to decide what genre he might actually enjoy.

Luckily, we've assembled a panel of experts to give their best recommendations for Father's Day books. We got book recommendations from three bestselling authors — biographer Brian Jay Jones and nonfiction writers Casey Cep and Mark Olshaker — and even got insight from Liz Harwell, the head of trade books at Barnes and Noble, as well as over a dozen other options from bestseller lists. With a selection that ranges from engrossing historical reads to thrilling suspense stories, you're sure to find something Dad will love.


1. "The First Wave," by Alex Kershaw, $19, Amazon

Jones, author of "Becoming Doctor Seuss," recommended this new book from Alex Kershaw. Perfect for any history buff — as so many dads are — it features years of research into some of the most perilous D-Day missions.

"This guy has been researching it forever, and he was friends with a lot of D-Day survivors, most of whom aren't alive anymore, so it's kind of like history and background and a remnant," said Jones. "He takes people on tours of Normandy, and he really knows his stuff."

With a cast of charismatic, unforgettable characters, it's something your dad won't want to put down.

2. "Assad or We Burn the Country," by Sam Dagher, $19, Amazon

With nonstop tension and timely, exclusive interviews, this is the perfect book for a dad who's looking to understand the history behind one of the world's most chaotic regions. Drawing on years of reporting and interviews with those at the top of the Syrian regime, Sam Dagher's book is one that readers won't be able to put down.

3. "Amity and Prosperity," by Eliza Griswold, $12, Amazon

Cep, who wrote "Furious Hours," called this book "perfect for outdoorsy dads who care about the environment, or lawyerly papas who like a compelling court fight." Winner of the 2019 Pulitzer Prize for General Nonfiction, Eliza Griswold's gripping story tells the story of how the energy boom impacted the small town at the edge of Appalachia, and the court fight that followed as illnesses began to emerge. Backed by seven years of reporting, it's an intense, startling read.

4. "Brothers Down," by Walter R. Borneman, $19, Amazon

The story of Pearl Harbor is well-known, but historian Walter R. Borneman finds a new, heart-wrenching angle by focusing on the siblings who served aboard the USS Arizona. Drawing from a trove of unpublished material, he expertly weaves together dozens of stories to portray one of the most startling attacks of World War II in a new light.

5. "The Pioneers," by David McCullough, $18, Amazon

Harwell recommended this deep-dive into history. "The Pioneers is one of the biggest books of the year," she said. "This book following the Pioneers as they settle the American West shows why history matters, and is a great gift for Father’s Day."

6. "Songs of America," by Jon Meacham and Tim McGraw, $19, Amazon

This book won't be out until Tuesday, June 11 — right in time for last-minute shopping! A collaboration between Pulitzer-Prize winner Jon Meacham and music superstar Tim McGraw, this book chronicles American history through music, featuring stories and photos about the songs and musicians who have helped define America. Harwell recommends it for fathers who like music, history, or photography.

7. "You Will be Safe Here," by Damian Barr, $18, Amazon

This just-released novel pulls from history to create a moving, compassionate, and insightful story about the strength and resilience of the human spirit. Full of genuine emotion and a plot that spans generations, it's a great new addition to your dad's reading list.


1. "Lake of the Ozarks," by Bill Geist, $21, Amazon

Written by TV host Bill Geist — father of Sunday TODAY's Willie Geist — just published this memoir, detailing his formative summers working at a family member's Missouri Lodge. Full of wit and warmth, this inspiring memoir takes the reader back to a bygone era through Geist's nostalgic, fun stories, a trip your dad is sure to enjoy.

Check out a conversation between father and son on TODAY for more insight!

2. "Let Her Fly," by Ziauddin Yousafzai, $17, Amazon

Any dad will be touched by the inspirational memoir written by the father of Malala Yousafzai. Full of humor and sincerity when describing his life before the Taliban, he expresses the chaos of uprooting his family to move to safety in the United Kingdom — and the pain and joy of returning to his home country six years after his daughter was nearly killed there.

3. "Men We Reaped," by Jesmyn Ward, $6, Amazon

With an introspective look at racism and gender in the Deep South, and the ways community can affect one's life, this powerful, emotional memoir from Jesmyn Ward would be an important read for anyone, but especially dads.

"[This book] is not only about grief and loss but also American masculinity, and its central character is in many ways the author's father," said Cep. "This is a book that will break your father's heart, but also teach him how to be a better parent and sibling and neighbor."

4. "Baby Don't Hurt Me," by Chris Kattan, $16, Amazon

For the first time, legendary sketch comedian Chris Kattan opens up about eight seasons of performing on Saturday Night Live. With stories about guest hosts from Tom Hanks to David Bowie and performing alongside future legends like Jimmy Fallon, Will Ferrell, and Tina Fey, it's the perfect book for the dad who always keeps SNL on his DVR, or just loves a good laugh.

5. "Howard Stern Comes Again" by Howard Stern, $21, Amazon

Harwell recommended radio legend Howard Stern's new book, which showcases the evolution of pop culture, seen through his 40 years of interviewing. Whether your dad is a Stern fan or just loves pop culture, this is sure to be a book he'll appreciate.

6. "The Sixth Man," by Andre Iguodala, $18, Amazon

This memoir from Andre Iguodala, a member of the Golden State Warriors basketball team, isn't out yet — but isn't anticipation part of the fun? Jones calls the memoir "pretty cool" and well-done, and we're sure your dad won't mind waiting for a book this great.

7. "I Can't Make This Up: Life Lessons" by Kevin Hart, $7, Amazon

Kevin Hart turns his comedic talents to himself in this memoir, putting together a funny, inspirational success story. Taking the reader on the journey of his rags-to-riches life story, it's a great book for a dad who maybe wants some fresh inspiration in his life, or just really likes Hart's movies and wants to see what his life looks like behind the scenes.

8. "Father and Son: A Study of Two Temperaments" by Edmund Gosse, $7, Amazon

This autobiography was one that Cep came across while working on her own book. Called one of the first psychological memoirs, the book is a compelling look at how generations shift across time, and Cep particularly recommends it for "fathers who themselves had difficult fathers, or sons who have just become fathers themselves."


1. "Unsolved" by James Patterson, $17, Amazon

This James Patterson book was just released on June 3 — meaning there's a good chance that your dad doesn't own it yet! Harwell calls it "Patterson at his best," and the thrilling plot and ever-entertaining cast of characters is sure to draw Dad in.

2. "The Break Line" by James Brabazon, $8, Amazon

While this thriller won't come out until after Father's Day, the story is worth the wait. Starring Brabazon's familiar character Max McLean, it includes all the drama you'd expect from an espionage thriller, and shocking twists that will stay with you long after the final page.

3. "Mission Critical" by Mark Greaney, $15, Amazon

Mark Greaney's Gray Man returns in the eighth book of the series. Full of drama and high-stakes tension, this book is perfect for fans of the Jack Ryan novels (Greaney co-wrote them!) or anyone who's just looking for a good spy story.

4. "Throw Me to the Wolves," by Patrick McGuinness, $18, Amazon

This twisty thriller adds some new layers to your standard crime story. With an enthralling story, political roots, and a style that seems drawn from classic crime novels, it's something you won't be able to tell yourself away from until the final page.

5. "The Warehouse," by Rob Hart, $27, Amazon

This tech-driven drama from Rob Hart won't be out until late August, but it's just the thing your dad could use to wrap up his summer with. With high-stakes scheming, a brilliantly imagined world that mirrors our own, and richly drawn characters, it contains all the ingredients for a fantastic thriller.

6. "The Lost City of Z," by David Grann, $9, Amazon

For the more adventurous out there, try this non-fiction book from David Grann.

"The book is mostly about a British explorer named Percy Fawcett and his son Jack who disappeared together in 1925, but layered onto that mystery is the incredible tale of how the writer David Grann goes looking for them," said Cep. "This is one of my favorite adventure stories, and it's perfect whether your father would never go into the Amazon rainforest or has already journeyed there a dozen times."

7. "The Edgar Allan Poe Collection" by Edgar Allan Poe, $14, Amazon

This definitive collection of Edgar Allan Poe stories is perfect for horror fans. Olshaker, one of the authors of "The Killer Across the Table," recommends the author, calling Poe "a true original profiler," crediting him with studying and understanding the criminal psyche long before it was done by major organizations. With 50 short stories, two longer narrative pieces, and a selection of poetry, with a gorgeously decorated cover, this collection is sure to be a hit.

8. "The Silence of the Lambs" by Thomas Harris, $8, Amazon

As someone who has spent decades writing true crime, Olshaker said often doesn't "have a lot of patience" with serial killer novels, since they can be fanciful or glorify the killers. However, Thomas Harris's "The Silence of the Lambs" avoids that trap — with suspenseful writing, a truly terrifying villain, and the chilling Dr. Hannibal Lecter, it's become a classic piece of literature, and Olshaker credits it with his interest in profiling. It's perfect for the dad who loves the 1991 movie, or is just looking for a good scare.


"Chasing the Gator: Isaac Toups and the New Cajun Cooking" by Isaac Toups, $21, Amazon

If your dad loves to cook and wants to add some more variety to his culinary habits, try gifting him this great book from Top Chef fan favorite Isaac Toups. With 100 recipes, he's sure to spend the rest of the year adding fresh flavor to all of his favorite dishes.


"I Will Teach You to be Rich, Second Edition" by Ramit Sethi, $10, Amazon

We all want to be rich, but sometimes, it can seem impossible to get there. Ramit Sethi has showed us before — and in this completely updated second edition, he's doing it again. With an emphasis on choosing long-term investments and making sure you're using the right bank accounts, it's a great read for the father who's trying to put some affairs in order, or just wants to make sure he can have a great retirement.


1. "Dreyer's English: An Utterly Correct Guide to Clarity and Style" by Benjamin Dreyer, $17, Amazon

An "utterly correct guide to clarity and style" might seem like a pretty dry Father's Day read, but Jones recommends it for anyone who's into writing, an aspiring writer, or just loves a thorough look at language.

"It's all about writing and language and nerdy things like that," he said. A bestseller, it's perfect for the dad who's read everything else.

2. "The Doomsday Calculation," by William Poundstone, $18, Amazon

The title might make this book seem a little dark for a gift, but the theorems and probabilities laid out are sure to please geeky, math-minded dads, or any father who wants more insight on the potential future of our culture and the world it lives in.

For more Father's Day gift ideas, check out:

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