Just Don't Call Him Dear "Old" Dad

Good-Clean-Fun225The Dad abides.

We can admit that dads are often difficult to shop for. "Don't bother, I don't need anything," or "It's really enough that we're all here to enjoy this nice brunch." And so Father's Day gift givers often project their own expectations on the gifts they give. What would a dad want? If you're lucky, Dad likes golf and you can get him a golf thing (probably a golf shirt, considering the economics of golf). Same idea if he likes model trains, ham radio, or drinking. After that, things get fraught. Another barbecue book? A tie? Corn-emblazoned novelty boxers*?

(*I am guilty of this. Like I said, the Dad abides.)

Don't get me wrong: Dad appreciates the appreciation. But turn the tables and consider what dad might buy for himself. Like yourself - and whatever the reality - he has aspirations, indulgences, and interests, whether it's self-improvement, a new hobby, or just an off-kilter point of view. Here are a selection of titles for the dads who remain young at heart.


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The Great Outdoors: A User's Guide: Everything You Need to Know Before Heading into the Wild (and How to Get Back in One Piece) by Brendan Leonard
Dad has fond memories of camping, even if you don't. Bound in a vibrant orange, durable-if-tactually-strange rubberized cover, The Great Outdoors aims to educate readers in the basics of outdoor recreation in all its forms, from the mountains to the water to the snow. It's sort of an SAS Survival Handbook for non-radicalized outdoors enthusiasts.

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Planet of the Apes: The Original Topps Trading Card Series by The Topps Company
Did you know that the back half of nostalgia is derived from algos, the Greek word for pain? Well, this collection of Planet of the Apes trading cards - much like the previous volume on Star Wars - provides nothing but joy, transporting Dad to simpler days when manly astronauts bravely struggled against their ascendant primate cousins across a post-apocalyptic hellscape. Spoiler Alert: We did it to ourselves.

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The Illustrated Art of Manliness: The Essential How-To Guide by Brett McKay
Raise your hand if you know how to: build a campfire; soothe a crying baby; free yourself from handcuffs; drive a stick shift; dance; iron a shirt; AND survive a plane crash. Everyone else, it's okay to raise your hands, too, but honor the shame you're feeling and pick up a copy of this book. Or get one for your dad so he can feel smug.

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Good Clean Fun: Misadventures in Sawdust at Offerman Woodshop by Nick Offerman
This is what it's come to: For a not-always-nominal fee, you can purchase the option to have someone come to your home and assemble your IKEA furniture for you. Nick Offerman isn't having it, and neither is Dad. Here, the erstwhile Ron Swanson opens the barn doors to the Offerman Workshop, a space where self-sufficiency - and the satisfaction that accompanies it - is lathed, sawed, glued, and joined through projects for every skill-level and lavish "wood porn" photographs.

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Sting-Ray Afternoons: A Memoir by Steve Rushin
The 70s were the best, and Steve Rushin’s memoir of the Golden Age of candy cigarettes, sugar on your grapefruit, and Nixon on the TV knows it. Sting-Ray Afternoons is a decent deep-dive and homage to the “Me Decade,” and if that's a title you're too young to understand, don't worry: Dad knows.
EDIT. A careful reader has alerted this not-so-careful writer that this book is not published until July 3. Here are a couple of nostalgic alternatives:
  • The Impossible Fortress by Jason Regulak: "A love letter to the 1980s." Also Vanna White.
  • Man of the Year by Lou Cove: 12-year-old Lou's world is in flux because he's 12 years old. It gets stranger when he's recruited by his libertine uncle in a campaign to become Playgirl's Man of the Year for 1978.

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Ultimate Glory: Frisbee, Obsession, and My Wild Youth by David Gessner
Imagine: Dad in the late 70s or early 80s, calf-high tube socks and a headband, leaping majestically heavenward to spear a spinning disc at its apogee. If you can't imagine it, Dad can. And if you think that can't be the basis of a book, look to Barbarian Days, William Finnegan's Pulitzer Prize-winning surfing memoir that managed to keep the quest for the perfect wave compelling over more than 500 pages. Ultimate Glory is the Barbarian Days of Frisbee.

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Walt Whitman's Guide to Manly Health and Training by Walt Whitman
I don't know why, but I just assume Walt Whitman had terrible breath. That might be unfair, given the rigorous self-discipline implied by his many rules for living a long and vital life as presented in this compact guide, from exercise to diet to female relations to grooming ("The beard is a great sanitary protection of the throat"). Still - and I checked every page of this book - Dad is on his own with the breath.

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The Stranger in the Woods: The Extraordinary Story of the Last True Hermit by Michael Finkel
Dad might want the day off, but it probably won't be as drastic a move as Christopher Knight’s, who disappeared into the Massachusetts woods in 1986 and stayed there for 27 years, eking out an existence by burgling local cabins for food, batteries, and clothes, leaving no trace as he moved through the wilderness.

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Upstream: Searching for Wild Salmon, from River to Table by Langdon Cook
A few years back, Cook wrote The Mushroom Hunters, an unusual book about the underground economy of fungi foraging and the outsiders who fuel it. His latest does the same for salmon, following the paths of these essential fish from spawning grounds and hatcheries to the tables of exclusive restaurants – a voyage spanning history, culture, adventure, politics, and commerce. And if your dad doesn't fish, he secretly wants to.

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Comments (3)

Why would you list something as an ideal Father's Day gift when it's not even available until July?

Posted by: Dean B. | Monday June 12, 2017 at 11:49 AM

@Dean B: Fair enough. I've been a little obsessed with Sting-Ray Afternoons, and I lost track. Here are a couple of nostalgia-fueled alternatives:

The Impossible Fortress by Jason Rekulak:
"A love letter to the 1980s"

Man of the Year by Lou Cove:
A late-70s coming-of-age story. Also the story about one man's campaign to become Playgirl Man of the Year for 1978.

Posted by: Jon | Monday June 12, 2017 at 12:01 PM

Dean B., Mother's Day gets plenty of attention as it is--I'm more than a little happy to see the Dads get some attention this early out. Too often do I see people start to think about Dear Old Dad the Friday before his big day.

Posted by: Kev See | Monday June 12, 2017 at 6:44 PM

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