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The Greatest History (and Beyond) Books for Dads of All Types

Dad's always gifted three copies of the latest history bestseller? Try these recommendations to find him something new.

books-for-dads

Each and every dad is singular. The man who raised you has a constellation of interests, and we’ll do our best to touch upon them all. Whether your dad is a World War II buff, a builder and grower, a griller, or an investigator, one of these books for dads is sure to keep his attention. Read on to find the perfect gift for your pops—maybe you'll even start a book club with your dad this year.

Mint Condition

Mint Condition

By Dave Jamieson

What was once a beloved childhood pastime and a billion-dollar industry has all but disappeared. Dave Jamieson traces the history of baseball cards—and his own personal attachment to them—in this book that Forbes calls “a treat” for “anyone who can recall being excited to rip open their newest pack of cards”.

Froth!

Froth!

By Mark Denny

Many a dad is known to enjoy a good brew. If your dad likes to imbibe, you may want to slip this book into his stocking this year. Homebrewer and physicist Mark Denny explains the science behind beer, from how it foams to the difference between a lager and a stout.

best books for dad

Code Talker: The First and Only Memoir By One of the Original Navajo Code Talkers of WWII

By Chester Nez & Judith Schiess Avila

If your dad loves a good WWII account, this may be the gift for him. Code Talker focuses on a little-known aspect of the conflict: the Navajo servicemen who passed secret messages back and forth in their indigenous language, successfully evading Nazi interpretation. In Chester Nez’s memoir, he delves into the discrimination he faced in his youth, his upbringing on a New Mexico reservation, and his crucial service as a US Marine.

books for dads

My Dad Had That Car: A Nostalgic Look at the American Automobile, 1920-1990

By Tad Burness

Does your dad go to car shows, or constantly point out old vehicles on the road? Introduce him to this illustrated history of more than 10,000 American cars to bridge any gaps in his knowledge. My Dad Had That Car traces the evolution of the American automobile and the various styles that grew in popularity throughout the years.

Enemy at the Gates

Enemy at the Gates

By William Craig

An iconic recounting of one of World War II’s bloodiest battles, Enemy at the Gates is one of the most thorough and thrilling investigations of a discreet military encounter. Nearly two million became casualties at this conflict; this epic book is based on interviews with hundreds of survivors who witnessed history happen first-hand. Sure to satisfy dad’s need for detail and drama alike, Craig’s opus is perfect for any WWII obsessive.

Mourning Lincoln

Mourning Lincoln

By Martha Hodes

The perfect read for 2020, this fascinating public history reveals how even those pictured as universally beloved were hugely divisive in their day. Of course, as an assassinated president and the leader of a fractured country, Abraham Lincoln was necessarily the object of animus—but the degree of glee expressed by many may show readers how divisiveness is not an invention of modern politics alone.

The Westies

The Westies

By T. J. English

If your dad bemoans the sudden surge of true crime ardor (he was into it before it was cool!), The Westies will whet his whistle. T.J. English, a certified mob and organized crime expert, takes on the Irish-American gang known as the Westies. The Westies, who remained the toughest gang on the block for over three decades, primarily prowled the Hell’s Kitchen neighborhood–back when it was more like what you see in Daredevil, and less like today’s Time Square extension.

World's End

World's End

By Upton Sinclair

Sinclair may be best known for his muckracking novel, The Jungle, but he also wrote a beloved historical fiction series focusing on Europe from the build-up to World War I through the end of WWII. In this first installment of the Lanny Budd series, young Budd is sent to a Swiss boarding school. At first thrilled with his idyllic surroundings, Budd soon realizes that the world is less safe than he was taught to believe—thanks both to his growing consciousness and the growing political tensions.

The Trigger

The Trigger

By Tim Butcher

As any dad—and anyone who’s taken a history class—can tell you, the assassination of Franz Ferdinand was the match that set Europe aflame in World War I. But what do we know about the teenage boy who killed the archduke? This fascinating book digs into Gavrilo Princip’s history to show how the forces that shaped him also shaped the tensions that allowed one assassination to subsume a continent and the world.

The Fall of Japan

The Fall of Japan

By William Craig

If your dad scoffs at those who focus solely on the Eastern Front of WWII, this New York Times bestseller will light his eyes with glee. The Fall of Japan focuses on that fateful summer and fall some 75 years ago, as Imperial Japan, beginning to scent defeat in the air, fought ever harder. Highly researched, eminently readable, and utterly revelatory, Craig winds his tale from the Marines’ glorious stand at Okinawa to the days after the dropping of Fat Man and and Little Boy.

Washington

Washington

By James Thomas Flexner

The image of George Washington sailing across the Delaware. The stately man on our dollar bills and our quarters. If that’s all conjured up when your dad thinks of our first president, this concise but intimate biography must be your purchase for Father’s Day. Flexner, who has written a myriad of books about the American Revolution and the people who populated it, is the expert on President Washington. Get to know the man, not just the myth.

Constantine's Sword

Constantine's Sword

By James Carroll

This fascinating religious history text, written by a former priest of the Roman Catholic Church, gives disturbing insight into how the Catholic Church has supported anti-Semitism in Europe over the centuries. Carolly argues that the history of “Jew-hatred” was a major part of the foundation on which Adolf Hitler built his justification of the Holocaust. Winner of the 2002 National Jewish Book Award, this book is for any father with an interest in religious history—whether it be Judaism, Christanity, or how the structuring of any religion affects our world.

Hear That Lonesome Whistle Blow

Hear That Lonesome Whistle Blow

By Dee Brown

Any dad with an interest in history is sure to have read Brown’s Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee. This book, one of the author's lesser-known titles, strikes the same enthralling notes as his classic while taking a very different subject to hand. This exploration of how the transcontinental railroad system changed the U.S.–and how, in many ways, its building was emblematic of the country as it was and as it is–will keep any history reader wrapped up for hours.

Citizen Farmers

Citizen Farmers

By Daron Joffe

Has your dad gotten super into home-brewing? Farmers’ markets? Maybe even making his own yogurts? Citizen Farmers is the perfect companion for anyone looking to make their lives a bit greener—both environmentally and nutritionally. From teaching readers to compost to sharing recipe ideas for the new fruits and vegetables they’ll soon be growing, this how-to guide is sure to please any gardener with an eye toward the grand.

Maybe We'll Have You Back

Maybe We'll Have You Back

By Fred Stoller

If your dad has been known to camp out in front of a Seinfeld marathon, this comedic memoir will tickle his fancy. Stoller, a writer and frequent guest star on shows like Friends, The Nanny, and Everybody Loves Raymond, shares how he made a less-than-lucrative living in the television world. Combining Hollywood gossip with a truly hilarious voice, Maybe We’ll Have You Back keeps its reader in stitches.

Anatomy of a Song

Anatomy of a Song

By Marc Myers

Delve into classic rock, punk, pop, country, and grunge songs one at a time in this enthralling collection of musical essays. 45 songs that changed their genre or music as a whole are examined, breaking down their influences and how they influenced future music. Myers, a music historian, includes details that are sure to thrill music snobs while writing accessibly enough for those who have never taken a music theory class.

Georgia O'Keeffe

Georgia O'Keeffe

By Roxana Robinson

There are some artists whose mythologies outshine the actual intent of their work–Jackson Pollock, Vincent Van Gogh… and most certainly, Georgia O’Keeffe. O’Keeffe’s lush flowers have been cast as meditations on womanhood and sexuality–likely in part due to her status as one of few women in the major art scene at her peak. Robinson’s recontextualization will have your father seeing art history in a whole new light.

Born Bad

Born Bad

By James Boyce

Boyce, a historian, takes on two millenniums of Western culture to explore how the concept of original sin has built the world we live in today. This fascinating Christian history uses an idiosyncratic premise to uncover a wealth of thought about the Western world. 

Halfway to Crazy

Halfway to Crazy

By Mark Thrice

Syndicated humor columnist Mark Thrice takes on the adventure of a lifetime in this memoir. Even with a loving and supportive spouse, it’s all too easy to become overwhelmed with your children—thankfully, Thrice understands how to keep it moving with laughs all around. Great for new dads and dads with an empty nest alike, Halfway to Crazy will remind you that you’re anything but, even while you're locked down with your kiddos.

Soccer Dad

Soccer Dad

By W. D. Wetherell

Acclaimed writer W.D. Wetherell had been a fan of soccer for years, long before his son started playing. As it became clear that young Matt had real talent, Wetherell began to grapple with what athletic promise means in our culture. This touching story of a father and a son and their shared love for soccer will appeal to any sports-loving dad.

The Complete Book of Outdoor Cookery

The Complete Book of Outdoor Cookery

By James Beard and Helen Evans Brown

If your dad grills through the coldest winter days, James Beard’s guide to outdoor cookery is the perfect gift. With plenty of unique and high-skill recipes, tips, and tricks, this book will have the whole family eating more deliciously this summer.

This post is sponsored by Open Road Media. Thank you for supporting our partners, who make it possible for The Archive to celebrate the history you love.