A Book My Father Gave Me

Posted by Patrick Brown on June 17, 2011
When I was young, I wanted desperately to be an athlete. I was not the fastest or the strongest kid on the block, but that didn't stop me from trying to be the next Larry Bird. For you youngsters, Larry Bird played basketball back in the Middle Ages. He was sort of like Dirk Nowitzki, but with a mustache. Despite my efforts, I never panned out on the court (Except for that one glorious game where I recorded a triple-double -- In your face, Canestota High freshman basketball team!). Around the time that I began to bump against my athletic ceiling, my father gave me a book that would have a big impact on me. It was John McPhee's A Sense of Where You Are, about Bill Bradley's years as a basketball phenom at Princeton.

You might think that a book about a man with seemingly limitless physical ability might have been the wrong choice for a kid like me, but McPhee's book revealed Bradley to be a complicated and intelligent man -- someone equally interested in politics, academics, and athletics. It was the perfect book for me at the time, as it showed me that there was more to life than sports, that a person could and should be interested in everything, that a thirst for knowledge was what was truly important. A Sense of Where You Are remains one of my favorite books to this day.

Father's Day is this Sunday, and that makes it the perfect time to look at the books fathers most commonly give their children, as well as to explore how those books have changed our members' lives. A week or so ago, we created the Listopia list A Book My Father Gave Me, and asked our members to vote for a book and share their memories of books given to them by their fathers. Here are the top ten books on the list!


See the full list of more than 150 books and counting...
And vote for your own picks! »


The first thing one notices when looking at the list is that J.R.R. Tolkien is very popular with dads. And with good reason. His stories have universal appeal, and their quest narratives of triumph over adversity make for great bedtime stories. Let's look at what some of Goodreaders remembered about some of the books on the list.

The Hobbit
by J.R.R. Tolkien
Hugh says "I remember my father reading this to me when I was in the third grade and home sick. I had the chicken pox, poison ivy and felt miserable. He stayed home and read the Hobbit. I had nightmares about the "spiders of Mirkwood Forrest" but Loved it. In that way he gave me "The Lord of the Rings" too, he just didn't have to read them to me."



The Little Prince
by Antoine de Saint-Exupery
Paula says "My dad gave this to me when I left for college. Whenever I see the cover I think of him."



Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone
by J.K. Rowling
Kate shows that father still does know best, at least when it comes to books: "My dad told me to read this, and at first I was like, totally lame, pops! But of course, he was right, I loved it!"



The Annotated Alice's Adventures in Wonderland
by Lewis Carroll
Alice's father took his love of books a step further: "My parents chose my name because they both loved this book."



A Coney Island of the Mind
by Lawrence Ferlinghetti
Amber says "My daddy slid me this book when I was nine, dig? How else to make your kid wild, open, crazy and free, than to share intimate crazed poets with them before they understand all the grown-up jokes."



So many of us have an enduring memory of our fathers taking the time to read to us -- whether it was from Tolkien or Seuss. Who knows, 20 years from now, maybe some Goodreads members will be reminiscing about the last time their father read them Go the F**k to Sleep. Ah, memories!

What was the book your father gave you that meant the most? Add it to the list! And Happy Father's Day to all the dads out there. Thanks for the reading recommendations.

Comments Showing 1-20 of 20 (20 new)

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The Loopy Librarian My father gave me his Bible from childhood. It is precious to me.


message 3: by K.L. (new)

K.L. Going My father gave me a book called Two Against the North, which is an adventure story about two boys lost in the arctic. It captured my imagination so thoroughly. I still have my/his old battered copy.


message 4: by Angela (new)

Angela McCallister My father gave me Gray's Anatomy when I was in grade school. You think he was trying to give me a hint or something? LOL.
Gray's Anatomy by Henry Gray


message 5: by Nat (new)

Nat My father gave me the book Fell, and also Inkdeath. I've asked for those books countless times, and one day he just handed me to them. I was probably the happiest girl...in my house.


message 6: by Becky (new)

Becky My dad gave me Owls in the Family by Farley Mowat by Farley Mowat and Rascal by Sterling Northby Sterling North. He read them to me (and my brother) and I fell in love with the stories! They definitely made me want to have a wild animal as a pet, which maybe isn't so great... Now I booktalk them to kids every chance I get!


message 7: by Loreta (new)

Loreta Sadly my father did not let me read a book unless it was for a book report. I'm making up for it now though!


message 8: by Darin (new)

Darin Calhoun I gave my daughter Alcatraz Versus the Evil Librarians (Alcatraz, #1) by Brandon Sanderson. She loves the silliness of the book.


message 9: by Jessie (new)

Jessie Verino My Dad gave me money to buy books. ;) I have a book of his from his younger days entitled, "Standing the Gaff." His handwriting is all through the book, and is one of my most precious possessions.


message 10: by Elizabeth (last edited Jun 17, 2011 11:07AM) (new)

Elizabeth Horton-Newton My father gave me three books that made a tremendous impact on my current reading habits. "The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes" by Arthur Conan Doyle, "Alice in Wonderland" by Lewis Carroll, and "The Collected Works of Edgar Allen Poe".


message 11: by Tamara (new)

Tamara My dad gave me "The Greatest Story Ever Told". It changed my life and bonded us in a way that is eternal.


message 12: by Wendy (new)

Wendy My dad gave me a copy of The Tibetan Book of the Dead or The After-death Experiences on the Bardo Plane by W.Y. Evans-Wentz when I was 13 and encouraged me to make my own decisions about religion and life.


message 13: by Anabel (new)

Anabel My dad could always scrape up money for books. He bought me the entire Trixie Belden set. I still have them 50 years later.


message 14: by Porsche (new)

Porsche The Berenstain Bears was my most favorite treat when I was little girl! Dad would come home with the newest book and I'd stare at the cover and read the pictures over and over. Every night he'd read one to me as a bedtime story and when it was time for me to learn to read Papa, Mama, Brother, and Sister were among the first words I could recognize.


message 15: by Addie (new)

Addie My copy of The Perks of Being a Wallflower was bought for me by my father. I've loaned it to many friends to read over the years, and the cover is taped on and faded to illegible levels. It is my favorite book of all time. I'll never forget that my father agreed to buy it for me even though it was more expensive than my brother and sister's book choices combined. He didn't want to spend that much at first, but I think he could tell it was important to me, so he agreed.


message 16: by Jeff (new)

Jeff Norris I was so interested to see "A Coney Island of the Mind" on here. Less than a week ago, I was straightening up some books and pulled this book off the shelf. Inside, I found a short note my father had written to me when he gave me the book over 30 years ago. Since I can't talk to him now, it meant a huge deal for me. Thanks for posting it.


message 17: by Devin (new)

Devin Scary, Scary Halloween

My dad gave me this book when we went camping in Yosemite together when I was about four, and we read it together every night for about a year. It inspired a life-long love of holiday and the season (so much so that my wedding has a Halloween/autumn theme).


message 18: by Mouche Cat (new)

Mouche Cat my dad gave me "the magic pudding" by norman lindsay, an australian classic. when i evacuated during the floods this year, it was the only book i packed.


message 19: by Coolagni (new)

Coolagni My dad brought me Wings of Fire: An Autobiography of APJ Abdul Kalam when i just finished schooling and was about to enter the college,the most defining point of everybody's life.On reading that i was inspired to give my 100% effort in whatever i do. I always have that book with me..


message 20: by Elizabeth (new)

Elizabeth Horton-Newton Anabel wrote: "My dad could always scrape up money for books. He bought me the entire Trixie Belden set. I still have them 50 years later."

I remember Trixie Belden! I loved her! Sadly my collection was lost when we moved when I was a teenager.



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