Father’s Day is fast approaching! It goes without saying that we at the Reading Group Center love, well, reading—and that one of our favorite ways to show someone we care is with a book. So this year we were thinking we would show our dads some love with a reading group of two. We put together a list of books we think you’ll both enjoy and that will encourage conversations about history, father-child relationships, the future, or what it means to live a fulfilling life. We hope one, or more, catches your fancy and inspires you to share a reading experience with your dad! Discuss what you read—whether at lunch, over drinks, or even by phone—because we know that, more than something they can unwrap, what our parents really value is the gift of time with us. Enjoy!
“The best book of the year so far.” —Entertainment Weekly
In the 1920s, the richest people per capita in the world were members of the Osage Nation in Oklahoma. After oil was discovered beneath their land, the Osage rode in chauffeured automobiles, built mansions, and sent their children to study in Europe.
Then, one by one, the Osage began to be killed off. The family of an Osage woman, Mollie Burkhart, became a prime target. One of her relatives was shot. Another was poisoned. And it was just the beginning, as more and more Osage were dying under mysterious circumstances, and many of those who dared to investigate the killings were themselves murdered.
As the death toll rose, the newly created FBI took up the case, and the young director, J. Edgar Hoover, turned to a former Texas Ranger named Tom White to try to unravel the mystery. White put together an undercover team, including a Native American agent who infiltrated the region, and together with the Osage began to expose one of the most chilling conspiracies in American history.
“Gloriously eccentric and wonderfully intelligent.” —The Boston Globe
A bestselling modern classic—both poignant and funny—about a boy with autism who sets out to solve the murder of a neighbor’s dog and discovers unexpected truths about himself and the world.
Christopher John Francis Boone knows all the countries of the world and their capitals and every prime number up to 7,057. He relates well to animals but has no understanding of human emotions. He cannot stand to be touched. And he detests the color yellow.
This improbable story of Christopher’s quest to investigate the suspicious death of a neighborhood dog makes for one of the most captivating, unusual, and widely heralded novels in recent years.
“Subtle, profoundly moving . . . an intricately constructed, multidimensional journey of a father and son and their travails through life and love.” —The New York Times Book Review
When eighty-one-year-old Jay Mendelsohn decides to enroll in the undergraduate Odyssey seminar his son teaches at Bard College, the two find themselves on an adventure as profoundly emotional as it is intellectual. For Jay, a retired research scientist who sees the world through a mathematician’s unforgiving eyes, this return to the classroom is his “one last chance” to learn the great literature he’d neglected in his youth—and, even more, a final opportunity to more fully understand his son, a writer and classicist. But through the sometimes uncomfortable months that the two men explore Homer’s great work together—first in the classroom, where Jay persistently challenges his son’s interpretations, and then during a surprise-filled Mediterranean journey retracing Odysseus’s famous voyages—it becomes clear that Daniel has much to learn, too: Jay’s responses to both the text and the travels gradually uncover long-buried secrets that allow the son to understand his difficult father at last. As this intricately woven memoir builds to its wrenching climax, Mendelsohn’s narrative comes to echo the Odyssey itself, with its timeless themes of deception and recognition, marriage and children, the pleasures of travel and the meaning of home. Rich with literary and emotional insight, An Odyssey is a renowned author-scholar’s most triumphant entwining yet of a personal narrative and literary exploration.
“El Akkad has created a brilliantly well-crafted, profoundly shattering saga of one family’s suffering in a world of brutal power struggles, terrorism, ignorance, and vengeance. . . . A gripping, unsparing, and essential novel for dangerously contentious times.” —Booklist
An audacious and powerful debut novel: a second American Civil War, a devastating plague, and one family caught deep in the middle—a story that asks what might happen if America were to turn its most devastating policies and deadly weapons upon itself.
Sarat Chestnut, born in Louisiana, is only six when the Second American Civil War breaks out in 2074. But even she knows that oil is outlawed, that Louisiana is half underwater, and that unmanned drones fill the sky. When her father is killed and her family is forced into Camp Patience for displaced persons, she begins to grow up shaped by her particular time and place. But not everyone at Camp Patience is who they claim to be. Eventually Sarat is befriended by a mysterious functionary, under whose influence she is turned into a deadly instrument of war. The decisions that she makes will have tremendous consequences not just for Sarat but for her family and her country, rippling through generations of strangers and kin alike.
“A family portrait that is also a near-epic investigation into the broad landscape, the thousand dark acres of the human heart.” —The Washington Post Book World
This powerful twentieth-century reimagining of Shakespeare’s King Lear centers on a wealthy Iowa farmer who decides to divide his farm between his three daughters. When the youngest objects, she is cut out of his will. This sets off a chain of events that brings dark truths to light and explodes long-suppressed emotions. Ambitiously conceived and stunningly written, A Thousand Acres takes on themes of truth, justice, love, and pride—and reveals the beautiful yet treacherous topography of humanity.
“A meditation on solitude, wildness and survival.” —The Wall Street Journal
Many people dream of escaping modern life. Most will never act on it—but in 1986, twenty-year-old Christopher Knight did just that when he left his home in Massachusetts, drove to Maine, and disappeared into the woods. He would not have a conversation with another person for the next twenty-seven years.
Drawing on extensive interviews with Knight himself, journalist Michael Finkel shows how Knight lived in a tent in a secluded encampment, developing ingenious ways to store provisions and stave off frostbite during the winters. A former alarm technician, he stealthily broke into nearby cottages for food, books, and supplies, taking only what he needed but sowing unease in a community plagued by his mysterious burglaries. Since returning to the world, he has faced unique challenges—and compelled us to reexamine our assumptions about what makes a good life. By turns riveting and thought-provoking, The Stranger in the Woods gives us a deeply moving portrait of a man determined to live his own way.
“Moving. . . . Schwalbe truly shines. . . . It should convince even reluctant readers to pick up a book.” —The Boston Globe
From the author of the beloved New York Times best-selling The End of Your Life Book Club, an inspiring and magical exploration of the power of books to shape our lives in an era of constant connectivity.
For Will Schwalbe, reading is a way to entertain himself but also to make sense of the world, and to find the answers to life’s questions big and small. In each chapter, he discusses a particular book and how it relates to concerns we all share. These books span centuries and genres—from Stuart Little to The Girl on the Train, from David Copperfield to Wonder, from Giovanni’s Room to Rebecca, and from 1984 to Gifts from the Sea. Throughout, Schwalbe tells stories from his life and focuses on the way certain books can help us honor those we’ve loved and lost, and also figure out how to live each day more fully.
“A hauntingly beautiful novel about a father and daughter. . . . An enthralling narrative that has me desperate to keep turning the page.” —Miami Herald
Lucas and Katya were seniors when they made the impetuous decision to have a baby. Seventeen years later, Lucas is now only a weekend dad, newly involved in his daughter Vera’s life after a decade of absence. But when Vera suffers a terrifying psychotic break at a high school party, Lucas makes another impulsive decision: he takes her to Lithuania, his grandmother’s homeland.
Here, in the city of Vilnius, Lucas hopes to save Vera from the sorrow of her diagnosis, but while he uncovers a secret about his grandmother’s WWII past, Vera searches for answers of her own. Why did Lucas abandon her as a baby? What really happened the night of her breakdown? And who can she trust with the truth?
“A tender coming-of-age story so warmly delivered you almost forget how much of its plot involves smuggling, spycraft, and assassins . . . the novel becomes at once a mystery tale and an exploration into how much of our lives are out of our control, especially in wartime.” —Minneapolis Star Tribune
From the internationally acclaimed, bestselling author of The English Patient; a mesmerizing new novel that tells a dramatic story set in the decade after World War II through the lives of a small group of unexpected characters and two teenagers whose lives are indelibly shaped by their unwitting involvement.
In a narrative as beguiling and mysterious as memory itself—shadowed and luminous at once—we read the story of fourteen-year-old Nathaniel and his older sister, Rachel. In 1945, just after World War II, they stay behind in London when their parents move to Singapore, leaving them in the care of a mysterious figure named The Moth. They suspect he might be a criminal, and they grow both more convinced and less concerned as they come to know his eccentric crew of friends: men and women joined by a shared history of unspecified service during the war, all of whom seem, in some way, determined now to protect and educate (in rather unusual ways) Rachel and Nathaniel. But are they really what and who they claim to be? And what does it mean when the siblings’ mother returns after months of silence without their father, explaining nothing, excusing nothing? A dozen years later, Nathaniel begins to uncover all that he didn’t know and understand in that time, and it is this journey—through facts, recollection, and imagination—that he narrates in this masterwork from one of the great writers of our time.
“A rich and thoughtful meditation on the ways our personal histories and childhood memories influence our everyday, Air Traffic is a truly stunning work.” —Bustle
From the beloved Pulitzer Prize–winning poet: an extraordinary memoir and blistering meditation on fatherhood, race, addiction, and ambition.
Gregory Pardlo’s father was a brilliant and charismatic man–a leading labor organizer who presided over a happy suburban family of four. But when he loses his job following the famous air traffic controllers strike of 1981, he succumbs to addiction and exhausts the family’s money on more and more ostentatious whims. In the face of this troubling model and disillusioned presence in the household, young Gregory rebels. Struggling to distinguish himself on his own terms, he hustles off to Marine Corps boot camp. He moves across the world, returning to the United States only to take a job as a manager-cum-barfly at his family’s jazz club.
Air Traffic follows Gregory as he builds a life that honors his history without allowing it to define his future. Slowly, he embraces the challenges of being a poet, a son, and a father as he enters recovery for alcoholism and tends to his family. In this memoir, written in lyrical and sparkling prose, Gregory tries to free himself from the overwhelming expectations of race and class, and from the tempting yet ruinous legacy of American masculinity.
Air Traffic is a richly realized, deeply felt ode to one man’s remarkable father, to fatherhood, and to the frustrating yet redemptive ties of family. It is also a scrupulous, searing examination of how manhood can be fashioned in our cultural landscape.
“The stories in Trajectory are classic Russo, tales of minor-key defeat laced with rue and humor. . . . Gives readers plenty to enjoy and mull as his characters ponder their life trajectories.” —The Dallas Morning News
The characters in these four expansive stories are a departure from the blue-collar denizens that populate so many of Richard Russo’s novels, and all are bound together by parallel moments of reckoning with their pasts. In “Horseman,” a young professor confronts an undergraduate plagiarist—as well as her own regrets. In “Intervention,” a realtor facing a serious medical prognosis finds himself in his late father’s shadow. “Voice” gives us a semiretired academic who is conned by his estranged brother into joining a group tour of the Venice Biennale. And “Milton and Marcus” takes us into a lapsed novelist’s attempt to rekindle his screenwriting career—a career that depends wholly, at a crucial moment, on two Hollywood icons (one living, one dead). Shot through with Russo’s inimitable humor, wisdom, and surprise, Trajectory is the work of a masterful writer continuing to discover new heights.
“Origin asks the questions Where do we come from? Where are we going? They are questions about humanity—but they could just as easily be questions about Robert Langdon. . . . As he does in all his novels, Brown[’s] extensive research on art, architecture, and history informs every page.” —Entertainment Weekly
Robert Langdon, Harvard professor of symbology and religious iconology, arrives at the ultramodern Guggenheim Museum Bilbao to attend a major announcement—the unveiling of a discovery that “will change the face of science forever.” The evening’s host is Edmond Kirsch, a forty-year-old billionaire and futurist whose dazzling high-tech inventions and audacious predictions have made him a renowned global figure. Kirsch, who was one of Langdon’s first students at Harvard two decades earlier, is about to reveal an astonishing breakthrough . . . one that will answer two of the fundamental questions of human existence.
As the event begins, Langdon and several hundred guests find themselves captivated by an utterly original presentation, which Langdon realizes will be far more controversial than he ever imagined. But the meticulously orchestrated evening suddenly erupts into chaos, and Kirsch’s precious discovery teeters on the brink of being lost forever. Reeling and facing an imminent threat, Langdon is forced into a desperate bid to escape Bilbao. With him is Ambra Vidal, the elegant museum director who worked with Kirsch to stage the provocative event. Together they flee to Barcelona on a perilous quest to locate a cryptic password that will unlock Kirsch’s secret.
Navigating the dark corridors of hidden history and extreme religion, Langdon and Vidal must evade a tormented enemy whose all-knowing power seems to emanate from Spain’s Royal Palace itself . . . and who will stop at nothing to silence Edmond Kirsch. On a trail marked by modern art and enigmatic symbols, Langdon and Vidal uncover clues that ultimately bring them face to face with Kirsch’s shocking discovery . . . and the breathtaking truth that has long eluded us.