Anyone who has waited until the last minute to get a gift for the man in their life for Father’s Day, take heart: I have scoured some of my favorite publishers’ “just out” lists and combed through numerous titles to find the best books for Father’s Day gifts.
Here is a selection of some of the most amazing- funny and serious- books written by and for men that I could find. You can thank me later!
For Expectant or New Fathers – A DUDE’S GUIDE TO BABY SIZE: What to Expect and How to Prep for Dads-to-Be by Taylor Calmus (Waterbrook/Random House May 2022)
All I need say is that Taylor Calmus– in addition to being a new author having completed this hilarious book- is a comedian extraordinaire and a regular on the Jimmy Kimmel Show. (He also hangs with Penn Holderness and, if that name sounds familiar, you will instantly recognize that brand of humor and know you and whoever will be the lucky gift book recipient are in for a treat.) Calmus is better known as Dude Dad and is host of Super Dad, a DIY show on the Magnolia Network. THAT, in itself, should give you, dear reader, a further idea of the fun this title will bring its recipient (or bring you should you decide to give it a peek before the gift-giving. I won’t judge…!) Calmus draws upon his own experience as a dad, that same experience and resulting advice he also shares on Super Dad.
As Calmus‘ team sets the stage for his book, they inform us “Numerous apps and books exist to help expectant parents understand their baby’s development by comparing their unborn child to a raspberry or a stalk of broccoli,” but Calmus “takes issue with that.”
“First off,” Calmus states in his opener, “your baby is not some wimpy little vegetable. Your baby is a hardcore little lug nut who is straight-up growing organs on a weekly basis. Second, how big is a stalk of broccoli? And what the heck is a kumquat? Clearly this situation calls for a better approach…”
So while we could more easily picture Calmus in charge of the grilling during a boys’ night out at home gathering vs being an expert on ”dad-ing,” his indignation was the igniter fuel, if you will, that fired him up to write this book about, of all things, babies. A Dude’s Guide to Baby Size is not just some usual-and-customary How-To title; it’s a man’s man’s book about pregnancy and parenthood. (Cue up the Home Improvement barking sound…) Calmus includes lots of fun facts about the growing baby in this book, sure, but also advice on how to be helpful to the mother-to-be (yo, kinda important since, what is it they say? “If Momma ain’t happy, ain’t nobody happy…” right?). Further, Calmus includes words of encouragement and cool ideas for men as they transition- as Calmus calls it- from “Dude” to “Dude Dad.”
Some new dad advice includes the top 5 things to do to help your wife, 5 baby factors every dad should know, tips to help mom during each stage of pregnancy, golden nuggets from each trimester, and how to stay balanced handling a new member of the family. If you are curious about just what you might expect from this fellow and his new book, take a look at one (or all, and I challenge you to see if you can restrain yourself…) of his online videos, including Husbands of Target (also featuring Penn Holderness, with 78 million views), First vs. Third Pregnancy (with 39 million views), 5 People Who Visit the Baby (with 17 million views) or Not All Heroes Wear Capes (with 13 million views).
THE BEST PRESENT EVER: A Sinner’s Guide to the Holy Land by Sean Gunning (Clear Faith Publishing 2021)
As the promotional materials state, this is a book “laced with humor, moments of deep reverence, and admiration for the inner beauty and strength of women…” while also “lay(ing) bare the narrator’s unfiltered (not always very Christian) thoughts and observations as the days and nights unfold on a reluctant trip to Israel. Each chapter reveals some of the most cherished shrines in all of Christianity, not through the eyes of a scripture quoting pastor, but an everyman Catholic struggling to relinquish his unofficial role with the World Police and be more like Jesus. This fish out of water story is not just for Christians, but for anyone searching for a more loving heart.”
That’s a great summary, however this reader would add there’s more to this than the nicely-crafted pitch copy: Sean Gunning writes from a the perspective of (originally) going-through-the-motions or, maybe even, laissez-faire, religious believer here, and instead of being 100% treacly and evangelizing in ways that are off-putting, he entices and reels us in with humor and then close-ups about his own conversion that, well, endear us to him. We are ready and waiting to hear what he has to say about Faith- all he has to say about it. This includes how it can creep up on some of us, even as, in his case, he was trying to please his totally sold-out Catholic believer wife by accompanying her and her parents (and a host of other Catholic believers from their church) on her trip-of-a-lifetime to the Holy Land- while he could have been doing other things.
So, why is this a great Father’s Day read? Because this is definitely a “guy’s guy” (hey, he even includes maps!) look into religion, spirituality, and faith that is genuine, believable, AND includes all of those sometimes non-sharable bits about coming to faith that don’t make the cut when we read the shareable ones.
Gunning’s a master at capturing the ironic, the ridiculous, and yes, the amazing- and the amazing seems that much more so because we can tell, from other accounts shared, he’s not on a continual joy-trip through life as he attempts to follow the path of faith. In fact, we trust him from the beginning to cut to the chase about what might actually be considered the miraculous, even the tiniest of miraculous.
Along the way, even whilst simultaneously outing himself for being a less-than devoted-no-matter-what fan of pilgrimages, Gunning gives us the details we need to reflect on our own journeys to Faith and, potentially, half-way attempts to do the same. God’s not finished with any of us, in any of our circumstances here on earth, and Sean Gunning gives us permission to not only laugh at that but to savor it with true appreciation and gratitude.
THE ROAD TO J.O.Y.: Leading with Faith, Playing with Purpose, Leaving a Legacy by Scott Drew (National Championship-winning head coach of the Baylor basketball team) (HarperCollins/Thomas Nelson June 2022)
This is Baylor University head basketball coach Scott Drew’s story of coming to be a coach and coming to be the coach who not only led Baylor to a winning season but also changed the environment there after a huge scandal involving murder. Before sharing further about the title, I’d like to share what the writer, Scott Yaeger, who helped write this book, has to say about Scott Drew in the book’s Afterword:
“When you first meet Scott, you kind of think it’s fake. Like, how can someone be so nice for so long? And you eventually just wait for it to stop, and for the real Scott to come out…” Yaeger goes on to say, that Drew “was so sold out to his relationship with God that it motivated him to actually do the things it said in the Bible- namely loving others as much as you love yourself. What a concept…”
Now would be a great time to introduce the full meaning of the part of the title “J.O.Y.” The acronym stands for “Jesus, Others, Yourself,” that is to say putting Jesus first, then Others, then Yourself, and it was- and still is- Drew’s way of living that he brought with him and instilled in his coaching team and players throughout his time at Baylor. Yaeger adds, “…this book isn’t about a basketball team. It’s a book about a ministry. This isn’t really a story about Scott Drew. It’s a story about God, and how a group of people have dedicated their lives to following him, and the things that have happened along the way. It just so happens Drew was the leader of that group…”
That leading brought the Baylor team up and out of a very difficult situation related to an on-campus scandal, yes, and also brought the team into an astounding winning position. However, the best “win” of all, perhaps, occurred as player after player who became associated with the team discovered and committed to faith in God- or were confirmed in it- and the group, together and as individuals, became a shining example of how, in the obedience of the faithful, God can show up in amazing ways involving not only winning but also healing.
Why is this a great book for a Father’s Day gift in addition to giving us a peek inside the workings of the highly competitive world of NCAA college basketball? Yes, Drew shares how he wanted to “create (new) culture” on the campus and with his team by setting parameters about how his players acted on the court and off, and also instilling routines of regular prayer and intentional community. Yes, Drew talks about the amazing transformation of the team’s competitive success as well as focus and morale. But also, in the beginning chapters, Drew shares some of the details of his formative years and how his relationship with this father- especially in regard to his life’s work as a coach- helped to shape his own career while also informing the ways in which he would later pour into his own team’s players. This is a wonderful tribute that comes along as a “bonus” to lots of life lessons about how God rewards when we stick to His plan for each of us (Jer 29:11)- something Scott Drew surely learned from his own father.
HOW TO BE MARRIED (to Melissa): A Hilarious Guide to a Happier, One-of-a-Kind Marriage by Dustin Nickerson (Harper Collins/Thomas Nelson June 2022)
As the online sales blurb shares by way of description for this laugh-out-loud book, “What happens when you ask a standup comedian for marriage advice? You get a hilarious and practical take on navigating life together! Rejecting one-size-fits-all formulas that reduce relationships to mathematical equations, (Dustin) Nickerson teams up with his wife of 17 years to offer honest, often humorous insights into keeping a relationship happy and healthy.”
What this blurb does NOT share is that Nickerson’s not the only one who has a whip-smart sense of humor. In each chapter he sets out a “learning” objective, if you will, along with a narrative that includes sample life events that helped him formulate his- at once whacky and then serious- ideals AND then there is a “last word” from Nickerson’s wife about each one. Notice I said the last word- and let me also say that Nickerson’s not the only one with a great sense of humor. His wife is whip-smart and quick to cut him- lovingly- off at the knees when he begins to seem too overly generalizing about his, er, relationship examination findings… The tension is amusing. It’s also- nudge, nudge, wink, wink- instructive for parenting as well as marriage. Hey, they’ve been together already now for 16 years- and the book even includes chapters titled “Great Sexpectations,” “We’re Both Fat, but Only One of Us is Pregnant,” “The Baby is Two Days Old: Is it Time to Schedule the Vasectomy?” And now you know why I’m including this evergreen relationship title in my Father’s Day roundup…
Dustin Nickerson considers himself “the world’s most average person.” His web site announces that he performs some 300 shows a year, his videos have been enjoyed by over 20 million viewers, and he’s performed in some big time venues (Comedy Central, for one) with Kevin Hart. He’s married to his high school sweetheart, Melissa (17 years+) with whom he is raising three children and hosting “Don’t Make Me Come Back There…” (anyone remember their father saying the same thing to them on family car trips?) for
THOUGH THE ODDS BE GREAT OR SMALL: Notre Dame’s 1957 Comeback Season and the Year That Changed College Football by Terry Brennen & William Meiners (Loyola Press 2021)
With Foreword by Johnny Lujack, the oldest living recipient of the Heisman Trophy, this sports biography undertakes to tell the story of the late nonagenarian Terry Brennan who played halfback at the University of Notre Dame from 1945 to 1948, and then- at 25 years old- became Notre Dame’s youngest football coach. Brennan led the Fighting Irish for five seasons, achieving a 32-18 record in the midst of one of the most challenging schedules in college football history.
As this book’s Epilogue informs, “Aside from a global pandemic that put Notre Dame into a one-year experiment in the Atlantic Coast Conference, football in 2020 is a far cry from the game Terry Brennan played and coached in during the 1940’s and 1950’s.” This book is definitely a testament to that and, in it, Brennan shared his version of what took place way back when. It’s filled with anecdotes and includes something of interest for every football fan, including the specific stats forms for each of Brennan’s coaching years.
Before his passing in September of 2021, Brennan credited his then-late wife, Kel as ”being responsible for the treasure trove of memorabilia that forms the basis of this book” and his daughter-in-law, Gilmore for “inventorying in a computerized file” all of this amazing information. This was the genesis of Brennan’s attempt at an autobiography reflecting upon events in his 1956 coaching season that led to comeback in 1957. Before his passing, he thanked his co-author and publisher, also many family members because “their support and encouragement gave this old man the energy to undertake this book and complete the task…,” adding, ”They are the legacy I’m most proud of.”
Happy Father’s Day, everyone!
And remember to shop at your favorite independent book store!📚