Father’s Day Gift Ideas

Father’s day is coming. No, you can’t get away with giving dad The Goldfinch, even though it’s a great book. You’ll have to buy that one for yourself.

Here are some books and other things I think dad might like.

The Martian by Andy Weir

martianAn astronaut is stranded on Mars and must survive until the next Mars mission – in three years. It’s a thrilling page-turner about a very smart man with a geeky sense of humor and a tenacious will to live. Imagine if MacGyver had to survive on Mars with a landing site full of NASA gear. Learn how to make water by combining hydrogen and oxygen without reenacting the Hindenburg explosion. (Don’t try this at home.) The story is riveting, the characters are very real, and the details are more science fact than fiction. It’s just set in a place no one has gone before.

Perfect for dads who:

– ever said “I want to be an astronaut” &/or

– like to watch MacGyver and Myth Busters.

Winner’s Circle Crosswords by Tyler Hinman

winnerscircleDoes dad do the Times Sunday crossword in ink? Does he scorn the usual crossword puzzle books? This is the puzzle book for him. Tyler Hinman, won the American Crossword Puzzle Tournament for the first time as a 20-year-old in 2005. By 2009 had won five consecutive titles, a feat unprecedented in the 32-year history of the tournament. He is also one of the featured players in the award-winning 2006 documentary film Wordplay. Finally, a worthy adversary for the smartest dad! Also, you can play Team Trivia with Tyler at Folio on June 5th at 7 p.m.

Perfect for dads who:

– love crossword puzzles &

– have trouble finding ones that challenge him.

The Gods of Guilt by Michael Connelly

godsofguiltMickey Haller specializes in getting very bad people acquitted. He is an LA lawyer who defends the bad guys from his “office” in a Lincoln Towne Car. His latest client is a cyber-pimp who pays his retainer in gold bricks and stands accused of murdering a sex worker. Typical Haller client – except this guy didn’t do it. Mickey thinks he knows who did, but now he’s got to prove it to the jury: “the gods of guilt.” It’s a classic noir thriller complete with reluctant femme fatales, people of flexible morality, and a protagonist who is wrestling with his own demons, has made his share of mistakes, and is not done making them.

Perfect for dads who:

– like a good, hard-boiled crime story, &/or

– don’t especially like lawyers.

Shakespeare Insult Generator by Barry Kraft

shakespeare-insult_9781452127750_largeFrom “Apish, Bald-Pated Abomination” though “Warped, White-Livered Villiago”, you can construct over 150,000 custom insults out of quotes from the Bard. Each page is split in three parts: two arch adjectives and a nasty noun. Mix them and match them. Impress your literati friends. Enrage your enemies! Befuddle recalcitrant bureaucrats.

Perfect for dads who:

– aspire to be Shakespeare aficionados, &/or

– write lots of cranky letters and want to up their game.

Cooked: A Natural History of Transformation by Michael Pollan

cookedThe Pied Piper of slow food brings us a thinking man’s cookbook. It is not so much recipes as essays on the idea of cooking inspired by watching other people cook. So it’s perfect for most dads. A master story-teller, Pollan takes us on a tour of the theory and practice of cooking using the four classical elements: fire, water, air, and earth to explore broiling, boiling, baking, and fermenting. Along the way he barbecues whole hogs with guys who sometimes burn their ovens down and makes artisanal cheese with a sleep-deprived nun.

Perfect for dads who:

– aspire to become better cooks, &/or

– you hope to inspire to become better cooks.

Hap Arnold: The General Who Invented the US Air Force and Big Week by Bill Yenne

Hap-Arnold-The-General-Who-Invented-the-US-Air-Force cover_BigWeekNoe Valley’s own award-winning historian, has two new books about the Army Air Corps in World War II. The first is a biography of Hap Arnold, the man who developed American air power to win the war for the allies and sowed the seeds of the modern airline industry. The second book, Big Week tells the tale of a single week in 1944 when a series of long-range bombing raids destroyed the Third Reich’s industrial capacity, paving the way for the D-Day invasion to succeed. Aside from being good history books, they tell the story of a startup company called the U.S. Air Force. In 1942, the US Army Air Corp had a visionary leader: Hap Arnold, a mission statement: “Stop the Nazis,” and some very smart people trying to figure out how to do that. One week in 1944 they launched their product and changed the course of the Second World War.

Perfect for dads who:

– can’t get enough WWII history, &/or

– work in a startup and wonder what real pressure is like.

Stress Test: Reflections on Financial Crisesby Timothy Geithner

stresstestThis is an insider’s story of what happened behind the scenes as the Federal Reserve and Treasury Department struggled to save the economy from collapse. On August 2, 2007, financial pundit Jim Cramer flipped out on live TV, screaming that the Fed “… has no idea how bad it is. They know nothing!” He ranted that to avert financial meltdown they should “Open the darn Fed Window!” and let troubled banks borrow from the government. If not, he insisted, these banks will “all go out of business.” The Fed did not listen to him, but on August 8th Jean-Claud Trichet, the arch-conservative head of the European Central Bank, did what Cramer suggested and lent 90 billion Euros to keep E.U. banks solvent. Tim Geithner, then president of the NY Fed, says (on page 117) this is when he realized: “This wasn’t just a little problem on the fringes of the U.S. mortgage market. I had a sick feeling in my stomach. I knew what financial crises felt like, and they felt like this.” This is Geithner’s story of what happened as he and others managed the worst economic crisis since the depression. He explains the thinking behind widely criticized decisions to bail out failing banks, auto makers, and insurance companies with taxpayer money. Not simply an apologist, Geithner is a gifted writer who helps readers understand complex economic ideas while telling the gripping story of a government in crisis.

Perfect for dads who:

– consider themselves political junkies, &/or

– sometimes shout at TV news programs.

Game of Thrones a Pop-up Guide to Westeros

game-of-thrones-a-pop-up-guide-to-westeros-hardcover-book_500As the theme music plays over the opening credits of HBO’s Game of Thrones, a map reveals the sites where the action will take place in tonight’s episode as the locations pop-up out of the map. This is a paper version of that map in a cool, pop-up book format. From The Wall to King’s Landing, dad can flip through the book popping-up his favorite sites. Just when he thinks it can’t get any more awesome, slide off the binding and fold the pages out into a map with 3-D pop-ups. Check out the publisher’s demo video. (Theme music not included.)

Perfect for dads who:

– know all the house words and sigils, &

– know the difference between a Sept and a Godswood.

Urban Putt

Put down that book and go play miniature golf! I love miniature golf. It’s a progressive sport; you can drink while you’re doing it. Noe Valley neighbors Steve Fox and Leslie Crawford have built an indoor mini-golf course at 22nd and South Van Ness where dad can get beer, fried chicken and waffles on a stick, golf, and Skeeball all in one place. It features what Steve describes as “a 14-hole, steampunk-meets-Rube-Goldberg experience”, with holes like the SF Earthquake Simulator and Archimedes’ Screw. It also has a full bar and food from chef Dane Boryta, formerly of Bottle Cap and Sens. It’s a fun alternative to just another restaurant. More information at:

Perfect for dads who:

– have already read everything, &/or

– would rather go out and play.

Okay, you can also get him The Goldfinch. Every guy I know who read it liked it.