The 10 Best Books for Father’s Day

Sean Murphy
4 min readJun 9, 2024

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With Father’s Day around the corner, I find myself reflecting on the story that nobody is talking about — the generational shift between fathers and sons — and a central theme in my recent book, “This Kind of Man.” Having lost my mother, my bond with my father has only deepened, highlighting the importance of this day for me. I put together this list of books, hoping you might find a tale that touches you, makes you laugh, and helps us all understand the changing power of fatherhood.

  1. “Pops: Fatherhood in Pieces” by Michael Chabon

In “Pops,” Michael Chabon reflects on the complexities and joys of being a father through a series of personal essays, including a touching account of a trip to Paris with his son. With warmth and humor, he explores the small moments that define fatherhood, such as teaching his kids to cook and the magic of sharing his passions.

2. “Father’s and Sons” by Ivan Turgenev

Among the most classic Russian novels, Ivan Turgenev’s “Fathers and Sons” explores the generational conflict between traditional values and new, radical ideas. The story centers on Bazarov, a young nihilist, and his traditionalist father, highlighting specific moments of ideological clash and mutual misunderstanding.

3. “Congratulations, by the way: Some Thoughts on Kindness” by George Saunders

George Saunders’ “Congratulations, by the way” is a heartfelt and inspiring commencement speech turned book, emphasizing the importance of kindness. With wisdom and humor, Saunders shares poignant anecdotes, such as his experience volunteering at a homeless shelter, to highlight the transformative power of small acts of kindness. This uplifting book serves as a gentle reminder of the impact of compassion and empathy.

4. “Death of a Salesman” by Arthur Miller

Arthur Miller’s timeless play, “Death of a Salesman,” delves into the life of Willy Loman, a struggling salesman facing the harsh realities of his unfulfilled dreams. The play’s poignant moments, such as Willy’s conversations with his son Biff and his delusions of grandeur, explore themes of ambition, identity, and the American Dream. A master of dialogue, I find myself uttering the line: “Attention must be paid.”

5. “Big Fish: A Novel of Mythic Proportions” by Daniel Wallace

“Big Fish” by Daniel Wallace is a heartwarming tale of a son uncovering the truth behind his father’s fantastical stories. One specific story involves the father’s encounter with a giant, blending myth and reality. A fresh take on the dad-son family theme.

6. “This Boy’s Life” by Tobias Wolff

In “This Boy’s Life,” Tobias Wolff recounts his turbulent adolescence with honesty, insight and the voice of a master. He reminds us what we all want: acceptance, support and to be ourselves. His struggle for self-identity with an abusive stepfather captures a unique search for identity growing up in a fractured household.

7. “The Father” by Sharon Olds

A heartfelt anthology of poems, with each entry offers a unique perspective on fatherhood, with notable contributions like Olds’ own poem “I Go Back to May 1937,” which reflects on her own parents’ relationship.

8. “Dreams from My Father” by Barack Obama

“Dreams from My Father” is Barack Obama’s breakout memoir, exploring his own journey of self-discovery and identity. Through personal anecdotes and reflections, such as his pilgrimage to Kenya to learn about his own father’s life, Obama delves into his upbringing and complex relationship with his absent father. Touching, vulnerable, and refreshing to read with Obama’s White House years behind him.

9. “The Road” by Cormac McCarthy

Cormac McCarthy’s “The Road” is a haunting and gripping tale of a father and son’s journey through a post-apocalyptic world. Their bond is tested in harrowing scenes, like their struggle for survival and McCarthy’s sparse yet powerful prose paints a poignant picture of love, hope, and endurance in the face of desolation.

10. “Faith, Hope, and Carnage” by Nick Cave

In “Faith, Hope, and Carnage,” Nick Cave’s meditations on grief and creativity are profoundly illustrated in essays like his reflections on the loss of his son, Arthur. Cave’s lyrical and thought-provoking writing invites readers on a journey of introspection and resilience.

*Bonus: “This Kind of Man” by… me.

Released this Father’s Day, I created this collection of short stories to help explain what so many of us cannot: the changing definition of what it means to be a man in today’s world. Over the last three years, I crafted this collection to start the conversation so few want to talk about, and on themes affecting so many of us: marriage, aggression, alcoholism, gender expectation, and our own mortality.

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Sean Murphy is an award-winning author, poet, professor and director of 1455, the literary non-profit. Through his writing and advocacy, he inspires others to push boundaries, fostering a culture of creativity, connection, and resilience within the arts community and beyond.

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Sean Murphy

Executive Director, 1455, @1455LitArts. Avoiding quiet desperation by any means necessary http://seanmurphy.net