Great Books for Fathers
Develop a Reading Plan:
I had a teacher that told me "Readers are Leaders." I completely agree. A man should be a reader. A father should be a voracious reader. My reading arrangement is as such:
1. Fiction: Always be reading a fiction. The greatest literature ever written is fiction. To limit oneself to self-help or professional development is to limit the breadth of your thinking. I set goals such as two classics/year.
2. Spiritual: Always be reading something that will deepen your faith. True faith seeks understanding.
3. Professional: Always be reading current research, development, history regarding your profession. This will put you towers above your competitors.
4. Easy Read: A book that I keep in the van for when I'm waiting for the children, or my wife runs into the store to get something.
5. Foreign Language: I read about 20 minutes/day in a foreign language in an effort to not lose the language.
6. Extra Reading: I always suggest to parents that they read some of the books that their children are reading so that they can properly discuss the book with them and get excited about literature with them. Further, it is important to know what messages your children are receiving in the books they're reading.
7. Audio Books: This is fantastic way to read. I listened to many of Jack London's stories on audio book and also the Illiud and the Odyessy. I use this method when gardening, or driving long distances.
Great Books to Read
Les Miserables by Victor Hugo: every man needs a hero. Jean Valjean is a great hero. He is the epitome of mercy. The book goes further and deeper than the musical and is well worth the act of discipline it takes to read through Hugo's pontificating opinions. I was mark this book as one of the greatest books I have read.
Leisure: The Basis of Culture by Josef Pieper: First of all, if you haven't read any of Josef Pieper - you must. He is a deep, Catholic author and an expert in Thomistic thought. This short essay, I believe I've read around 4x. In a 100pgs, Pieper addresses the topic of leisure vs. work. Do we have leisure so that we can work more? Or do we engage in leisure as a celebatory act grounded in worship? What really is leisure? Pieper challenges the 'protestant work ethic' mentality and summons us to ground our Sundays in true leisure for the purpose of worship and not to rest for the sake of work.
The Song of Roland: This epic poem, written in the 11th century and translated beautifully by Dorothy Sayers is a story that will thrill any male reader. Roland is fighting for Charlemagne and defending Christendom against the Moors. The battle scenes are epic, the rhetoric is brilliant filled with great insults against the enemy, and his valour in death is a model for every man.
The Last Crusader: Isabella of Spain: This was the best book I read in 2015. The author, William Thomas Walsh, is an excellent historian and writes the history in almost narrative format. What is so moving about the book is St. Isabella's faithfulness to See of Rome despite many tribulations. This book will also clear up all the media driven naysayings about the Spanish Inquisition. Walsh, an expert on the inquisition, dedicates a great chapter to explaining why it was an important institution, the situation surrounding it politically, and how it saved 100's of thousands of lives.
A Father's Tale by Michael O'Brien is a fantastic journey of a father searching and giving up everything to bring his son home. I was spell bound and moved by its depth. Be warned: it is a tomb and my mother was stopped at the airport for having such a thick book as they thought it might be a bomb!
The Divine Comedy: If you haven't read the Inferno, Purgatorio, or Paradiso and have always wanted to, here is the translation with which to do so. Sinclaire provides a prose translation with a commentary after each canto with notes to help you know all the figures named and their relation to Dante.
Chivalry is a passionate book by Leon Gautier about knighthood. The first three chapters are alone worth the book as you read the vows they took to defend their Holy Mother Church, their vigils of prayers and his breakdown of the 10 commandments of the code of Chivarly are inspiring for any man to read. If you can afford it, purchase the 1891 edition as it comes with excellent illustrations with tissue papers separating the prints from the text.
Beauty for Truth's Sake is an inspiring book that challenges why we educate our children. Beauty is something we all intrinsically desire. It should be the end of our eduation. We learn math because it is beautiful and helps to recognize beauty and to understand beauty. There are many nuggets in this book that lead one to desiring a classical education for for their kids to building a foundation of thankfulness into our education, which is grounded in Eucharist.
Boys Adrift is an essential book for every father that goes over the 5 factors in society that feminize our boys, weaken their spirit, and lead them to under achieving. The chapter on drinking out of plastics is excellent, as well as how our schools have been feminized. This book will challenge you to make changes in your lifestyle and how you raise your boys.
To Build a Fire by Jack London is a novella, and well worth the 45 min. it takes to read it. The book is about his favourite topic, the North, and what happens when a man's pride gets in the way of making a safe decision. Definitely a lesson to be learned here.
A Piece of Steak by Jack London is another novella, and a story of perseverance despite all odds. I won't say more as the ending could be easily given away. An excellent piece.
Sea Wolf by Jack London is a full length story and an excellent one indeed. He makes no bones in this novel. This book is excellent for men. It juxtapositions two types of men: the gentleman and the savage. An incredible journey of living among the savages, chivalry, and desperation.
How the West Really Lost God by Mary Eberstadt is a fantastic essay on the theory behind why western society has become increasingly more secular. Her conclusion is that religion and family are intricately tied together. If you break down the family, you break down religion in society. She has does a great job building up the argument and provides a great biblography for further research. If anything, the book will inspire you about the key function family plays in society and that we must do everything to prevent its breakdown.
Last Child in the Woods by Richard Louv is a great study on the positive effects having our kids spend more time outdoors. Louv offers great ideas and strategies for getting our children outside, learning outside, playing outside and exploring the outdoors.
Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen is not the first book I would've picked for men to read. In fact, I mocked my sisters reading this book for years until my Latin instructor insisted that I read it. If you want a book that shows what it means to be manly - read this book, savour the language, and pay close attention to Mr. Darby.
The Confessions by St. Augustine is a Catholic classic and needs to be read for a couple reasons by men:
a: it is beautiful and deep
b: it reminds us how proudful we really are and to let it move us to the humility that St. Augustine had.
The Collect Plays and Writings on Theatre by Karol Wojtyla and especially his play titled 'the Radiance of Fatherhood.' This play is a powerful and deep look into the heart of a male and his drive for independence. He looks a man's struggle to do 'it' on his own and then a child enters his life and things change. He has to learn fatherhood from witnessing motherhood. An excellent story that can't be read just once.
Ideas Have Consequences by Richard Weaver is a powerful book taking us back to early 1900 values. He tackles many topics in short essays. I particularly enjoyed his chapter on the importance of hierarchy in society, the need for uniforms and distinction. For diversity is beautiful and everything and everybody being the same is not. It is well worth reading more than once.
A Severe Mercy by Sheldon Vanauken is a personal biography about falling in love, getting married, converting to the faith, and then watching his wife die. At this time, CS Lewis writes him letters (18 published in the book) about how his wife's death is a severe mercy for him. Heart wrenching truth.
The Great Heresies by Hilaire Belloc is a fantastic book that summarizes the the 5 great heresies that the Church as had to fight. Belloc, as usual, does a great job giving a historical summary of the times. But I loved most was his predictions (in 1934) about the heresies the Church would have to fight today, possible outcomes and why Islam would rise again.
Wolf: The Lives of Jack London by James Haley is a riveting book that tells the drama of Jack London's life. It is fascinating to read his about his anger with capitalism and his life as a 'work beast' and his attempts to shed poverty through a pirating oysters or heading to the Klondike. His story reads like a legend and is fascinating and manly.
The Rise of Theodore Roosevelt by Edmund Morris is a fascinating book that draws the reader into the life of a great man. Beginning with Theodore as a young man passionate about nature and then following his life into politics gives us a portrait of a hero. Here is a man that defied all boundaries when it came to fighting corruption. His story is inspiring and will inspire all fathers to greater virtue.
Unbroken by Laura Hillenbrand is the true story of Louis Zamperini. Louis was an olympian runner who was drafted in WWII to work on a bomber. He crashes and is stranded on the ocean, fights sharks, is captured by the Japanese, tortured and through it all never gives up hope. In the end, when the war is done, and his life is crumbling from PTSD he finds God. The story is truly unbelievable, inspiring and with every minute.
The Nativity is 15th century French Christmas play that is part of Greban's vast cyclic drama. This section has been translated into English. Though all of us are familiar with the Christmas story, this rendering brings a depth and breadth to the story. I read it over Christmas and was moved again and again as the script led me to contemplate the depth of Mary's fiat and the depravity of Herod's plan. It is well worth reading more than once.
Out of the Ashes by Anthony Esolen is a must read for every father. The book touches on all aspects of our society and how it has been poisoned by secularism but can be saved. He has a great chapter on education, raising boys, raising girls, the importance of play and affording beauty. An excellent book!
Brave New Family by GK Chesterton is a collection of his essays on family. The book is fantastic. Part One is how family is the wildest of adventures. He shows quite well how having a family is one of the greatest adventures a man can commit to. He discusses the glory of the home, the ridiculousness of birth control, and the assassins of the family. I cannot recommend this book enough.
Good to Great by Jim Collins is a necessary read for all fathers. Jim Collins and his team research hundreds of companies to find the great ones. This book is a culmination of his research into what makes a company great and not just good. The principles in this book can be used for one's family and one's personal life.
Extreme Ownership by Jocko and Lief, two Navy Seals is a book that will change how you father. The main thrust of the book is showing how leaders need to take ownership of what happens under them. It is intense with intense stories and challenging for every father.