Father’s Day 2012 Gift Ideas: 13 Best Books for Dad

From a thrilling single-volume history of World War II to a handsome edition of the complete short stories of Mark Twain, here’s how to say thanks to dads who love to read. Plus, our list from 2011 and 2009.

1. The Second World War by Antony Beevor

British author Antony Beevor is a master of military history, and particularly at depicting the most crucial battles between Germany and the Soviet Union in World War II. His Stalingrad, which won the Samuel Johnson Prize, the Wolfson History Prize, and the Hawthornden Prize—many journalists interviewed him hoping to find out the secret of writing a bestseller so they can give up journalism—and The Fall of Berlin 1945, are filled with vivid details. In his new book, The Second World War, Beevor widens his focus and surveys the entire war.

2. The Complete Short Stories by Mark Twain

At last, all in one place and in a handsome cloth-bound edition put out by Everyman’s Library, this collection of 60 short stories brings you many more of Twain’s intimately human characters, if you’re hungry for more after Huck Finn. With a beautifully appreciative introduction by Adam Gopnik.

3. Canada by Richard Ford

The Independence Day and Wildlife author’s new novel has a sensational beginning and an immediate hook: “First, I’ll tell about the robbery our parents committed. Then about the murders, which happened later.” Yet it settles into his trademark narrative grace and quiet observations, and the result is one of the American master’s most powerful novels yet.

4. The Price of Inequality by Joseph Stiglitz

Politicians are still arguing over whether the huge wealth gap between the 1 percent and the 99 percent is all that bad. (Yes, I’m looking at you, Mitt Romney.) The Nobel Prize-winning economist tries to end the debate with a definitive examination of inequality’s effects not only on the economy, but on democracy and globalization. Here is the account of one of the world’s greatest problems.

5. How to Cook Like a Man by Daniel Duane

If cookbooks really drain your giblets, Daniel Duane knows how you feel. When the climber and surfer became a father, his culinary skills were a notch above “pasta boiler.” So he spent eight years going through the cookbooks of Alice Waters, Fergus Henderson, Thomas Keller, and other chefs, and charts the perils and rewards to keeping your family’s bellies full.

6. Central Park: An Anthology, edited by Andrew Blauner

Summer is here, even though in New York it doesn’t always feel like it. Reading these wonderful short essays by Jonathan Safran Foer, Colson Whitehead, Paul Auster, Susan Cheever, Francine Prose, Adam Gopnik, Nathaniel Rich, Bill Buford and more will ignite the hot season within your head, no matter what the weather’s like outside.

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7. HHhH by Laurent Binet

HHhH stands for Himmlers Hirn heisst Heydrich, or "Himmler’s brain is called Heydrich," a Third Reich catchphrase about the principal architect of the “Final Solution.” In this brilliant debut, the French writer Laurent Binet (with the help of translator Sam Taylor) gives us the story of Heydrich’s assassination, and the narrator tells us again and again that he’s writing a novel. But he’s also eager to tell us that he’s not making things up: if two characters walk down a street under a sunny sky while leaves rustle in the trees, Binet apologizes and say he doesn’t really know if leaves were rustling. Perhaps you can’t write a novel about the Holocaust and have it successfully conjure all the horrors and atrocities. But you can write a fantastic novel about the impossibility of writing about the Holocaust.

8. Superman by Larry Tye

For those comic-book loving dads. How was the Man of Steel born? How has he been kept alive for 75 years? Of course we’re not referring to the superhero himself, but the product and brand that is Superman. Tye, an author of a biography of legendary Negro Leagues pitcher Satchel Paige, turns to cultural history and tries to find out what makes Clark Kent so all-American.

9. Bruce Springsteen and the Promise of Rock ‘n’ Roll by Marc Dolan

Is Superman America’s most enduring hero? Or is it Bruce? In this hefty biography of The Boss, Dolan, a professor of English, American studies, and film at John Jay College and the City University of New York, tells the story of a young boy from Jersey who heard The Beatles and never looked back.

10. Mission to Paris by Alan Furst

Over the course of about a dozen novels Alan Furst has imbued the already misty and treacherous streets of 1930s and ’40s Europe with even greater menace and intrigue. His latest follows a Hollywood star-turned-spy around Paris as he is hunted by the Nazis, and encounters German baronesses, assassins, Russian actors, and more. Have your Homburg at the ready.

11. Father’s Day by Buzz Bissinger

Don’t you have to get this book for dad, just for the title? It also happens to be a very earnest tearjerker. Bissinger is best known for Friday Night Lights, and his latest effort hits closer to home: Father’s Day is a travel story of sorts, chronicling a cross-country journey Bissinger takes with his son, Zach, who is in the autism spectrum. Part road-trip narrative, part memoir, Bissinger’s loving account is an eye-opener on all the realities, sacrifices and joys of parenthood.

12. Stalin’s General by Geoffrey Roberts

Here is an epic war story that you and Dad haven’t already heard. Marshal Georgy Zhukov, Stalin’s Red Army commander, saved Moscow from annihilation, chased the retreating Nazi forces back to Berlin, and patiently awaited the arrival of the allied American forces from the western front. With maps of the action, unpublished photos, and unprecedented access to historical documents, Roberts reveals the story of Russia’s ruthless general and his subsequent fall from grace as he faced obliteration by the Soviet government he fought tirelessly to preserve.

13. Cronkite by Douglas Brinkley

Brinkley, who previously wrote a biography of Rosa Parks, turns his focus to another ’60s icon: Walter Cronkite. Brinkley does not shy away from revealing the less pleasant aspects of Cronkite’s life and ethics—he made a deal with PanAm to fly his family around the country for free. The critical examination ends up rendering “the most trusted man in America” a fallible, relatable human being.