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Books for Dads

By kileyt
0 ratings
tagged: man books
All these books have been raved about by one or more guys in my circle of friends, not to mention critics of both genders. With Father's Day falling right at the start of summer reading season, books are a perfect gift. This list spans fiction, poetry, and non-fiction–a little something for everyone.


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A taut, masterful novel of friends and enemies, family and fate, and the relative nature of freedom.

When Myrden returns to his tough St. John’s neighbourhood after fourteen years in prison, he is swarmed by old friends and enemies, and a wife who hasn’t exactly been waiting for him. A cruel twist of fate has made Myrden famous: any wrongfully accused man released after such a lengthy incarceration is soon to be rich.

He clings to his young granddaughter and an old love, hoping his coming sett …

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Chapter One
They had made a mistake. They had realized. Everything he had moved through. The trail behind him. The institutional walls that kept him. The day in and day out. The tangle of men. It was meant to go away.

Each step he took from his cell to the admitting office was fixed in his memory. Years of what was there and what wasn’t. If the thought came to him. He’d shut it off. The things that were missing.

He tried not to feel himself moving. Tightened up against each action. Refused to see the eyes set steady on him. Being led toward 9 a.m. Release.

He had sat in the same admitting office fourteen years ago. He had taken in every detail then. Went spitefully through the process. Money and valuables removed. Receipt signed by him. File started. Name. Address. Next of kin. Religion. Offence. Photo taken. Strip search. Shower in the stall across the way. Clothes returned to him. Cell assigned. His mind troubled by the process for months after. Picking it over, again and again. Impossible to make different.

Now, he was in that room again.

The sheriff handed him the receiver.

“Hello,” he said. The feel of the phone in his hand was something he did not like.

“Hi, Poppy. I see you on TV all the time. You’re famous. You’re coming home, right? I can’t wait to see you.”

Her little voice. Tears blurred the floor where he was looking.

He said few words because words were hard for him after all this time. Then he hung up.

The sheriff gave him his belongings and, with a bowed head, said: “This way.”

He left the admitting office. Saw the shower stall across the corridor. He should be made to take one now. Before they let him out. Clean him off. Scour him. But it didn’t happen. Only what came in mattered.

He followed the uniform through the locked door and across the yard. The high walls topped with coils of barbed wire. The towers with guards in them when he first came in. No guards there now. Video cameras everywhere. Nothing moving in that yard. Just the two of them. Him and the uniform. He looked back at the windows. The faces there watching him go. Time dead in their eyes.

Up ahead, there was a female guard. On a wooden walkway behind a tall wire fence. She unlocked the gate to let them pass alongside the visiting area. Like a school portable when he was young. Then through another locked gate. Keys rattling. Through another door. Not made of steel or wire. A room made of wood instead of cinder block. The sound of it underfoot. Different air. Different mood. Almost normal. Easy. People waiting to visit. Ordinary people who could come and go. Outside life written all over them. The metal detector. Passing through. Thinking he might set it off for no good reason. The video camera showing the other side of the main door. The crowd gathered there in the parking lot. Moving around but silent on that screen. Waiting for his release. He saw the book for signing in and out. Resting on a ledge. The different signatures. He passed by the visitors. They watched him move. Like they had never seen a man move before. He listened carefully. Edgy. Waiting to hear the buzz of the main door. He thought it might not come. The weight in his chest. His breathing. His shoulders aching. Trying not to show anything. Just another day. One exactly like all the others.

“They’re here about you,” the sheriff smiled toward the door.

The female guard was there. Just as the door buzzed. A hand on a button somewhere in the pen. That’s how it always happened. Fingers on buttons somewhere you did not see. Doors buzzing. The female guard leaned and pushed open the metal door. He would not look at her. She was smiling a little. Trying to mean business but be nice.

Everything came in. Everything went out. That one door opened to the outside. No handcuffs. Fresh air. Fresh noise and movement that hurt his ears and eyes. Everyone turned to face him. Came toward him. Almost rushed. No restraints. His body filled with warning. Muscles stiffening. His bundle of belongings tucked tighter under his arm. His big hands dangled by his sides. People in the crowd spoke his name right away. They called him Mister Myrden. All of them calling that name out. There were cameras and microphones. Just as there had been before he went in. Some of the same people. Standing there with changed faces. Everything else the same. The need in them still rabid.

The air was cold. There was wind out here. No walls for it to run up against. It stung his skin. He felt it in his hair. In his scalp. In his fingertips so they pulsed to his heartbeat. The landscape beyond the crowd stretched away. Further and further. Such endless height and distance. Dizziness in his head and stomach.

“Mister Myrden. Mister Myrden . . .”

His name again and again. And the push of them blocking his way so it was difficult for him to get through.
He was driven to his wife’s house by his son, Danny. Nineteen years old. The second youngest of five boys and one girl. The house belonged to someone else. He had no idea who. He never asked. He only knew that his wife lived there now.

He sat in the back because the front was too much for him. The big window. The movement of everything at once. It pained his eyes. He thought he might throw up. He watched out the door window in a daze. A smaller piece of glass. The view sharp and confined, framed there. And it kept going along. So many people outside. Moving around as they pleased. Nothing was stopping him. Holding him back. Preventing him.

The car slowed at a set of lights. A thin woman in a coat walked by. Glanced in at him. Nothing to hold her eyes there. Just another man sitting in a car. She kept going. Walking. Her legs a blur. He shut his eyes. He feared that it might be wrong. Opening his eyes, he looked over his shoulder. They were moving again. Cars and vans following him. The people in there all wanted to know what he thought. How does it feel to be a free man? What are your plans? Who really killed Doreen Stagg? Mister Myrden. Freedom. Plans. He watched toward his son. He saw Danny’s hand on the steering wheel, the tattooed words on his fingers.

From the Hardcover edition.

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One Last Good Look

One Last Good Look

also available: Paperback

These are stories of first rites: hunting accidents, sibling rivalry, infatuation, death in the family, romantic breakups, sustaining friendships, and the yearning for love, laughs, and understanding.

The storyline is one of the oldest in literature -- that of a young man making sense of the world and choosing his place in it.And part of his place in the world is as a writer. In One Last Good Look Gabriel English works on a novel (This All Happened). Michael Winter tells his story in an intimate, …

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Light Lifting

Light Lifting

also available: Paperback
tagged : canadian

This was the day after Mike Tyson bit off Evander Holyfield’s ear. You remember that. It was a moment in history – not like Kennedy or the planes flying into the World Trade Centre – not up at that level. This was something much lower, more like Ben Johnson, back when his eyes were that think, yellow colour and he tested positive in Seoul after breaking the world-record in the hundred. You might not know exactly where you were standing or exactly what you were doing when you first heard ab …

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Combat Camera

Combat Camera

also available: Paperback
tagged :

Once a celebrated war photographer, Lucas Zane is burnt out after covering twenty years of war. Drunk, hallucinatory, all ambition fled, Zane earns the rent working for an impresario of shoestring pornographic movies. Here he encounters Melissa and hatches a plan that might save her, his career, and quite possibly himself.

The power of theCombat Camera lies in its voice, a voice that is restless, ceaseless, meandering, tragic, sometimes very funny, a mind and a voice maintain an almost hypnotic …

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Beautiful Losers

Beautiful Losers

also available: Paperback
tagged : literary

One of the best-known experimental novels of the 1960s, Beautiful Losers is Cohen’s most defiant and uninhibited work. The novel centres upon the hapless members of a love triangle united by their sexual obsessions and by their fascination with Catherine Tekakwitha, the 17th-century Mohawk saint.

By turns vulgar, rhapsodic, and viciously witty, Beautiful Losers explores each character’s attainment of a state of self-abandonment, in which the sensualist cannot be distinguished from the saint.

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Becoming Human

Becoming Human

also available: eBook
tagged : social, spiritual

Acclaimed as a man "who inspires the world" (Maclean's) and a "nation builder" (Globe and Mail), Jean Vanier has made a difference in the lives of countless people -- including those with disabilities and the many young people who have been moved by his life's work.

Becoming Human is a modern classic that continues to resonate among the generations. In a world of competition, where the strong dominate the weak, Vanier calls on each one of us to open ourselves to those we perceive as different or …

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Beyond Remembering

Beyond Remembering

The Collected Poems of Al Purdy
by Al Purdy
foreword by Margaret Atwood
edited by Sam Solecki

By the time Al Purdy succumbed to lung cancer at his waterfront home in Sidney BC on April 21, 2000, he was universally acknowledged to be one of the greatest writers Canada has produced. In five decades as a published author he had produced over forty books and received innumerable distinctions, including two Governor General's Awards and the Order of Canada. A hands-on writer who delighted in co-producing specialty publications and small press titles in addition to his major collections with l …

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This is my last book. Sam Solecki is the editor, and now seems a good time to thank him, for that and many other reasons. And to thank Eurithe for many many reasons. I said to her a moment ago, "What does it feel like to live with someone who writes poems most of his life and yours?"
She said, "To me it feels normal. I can't compare it with anything else. It was a life."

Sure it was a life. But can't I wring even a modest superlative out of her like: "Al, it was wonderful! I loved every minute of it!" Couldn't she lie a little just to make me happy? I tell you, it's maddening to live with a woman who always has to tell the truth, as if it hurts her in the esophagus or eardrum or in her instep to exaggerate just a wee bit. I tell her shut up then, I got this very important document to write, outlining my Philosophy and World View of the Hereafter.

So I'm left alone to talk with a bunch of ghosts, at least people I can't see, potential readers, past readers, people who can't stand my stuff (no, they can't read anyway). But there are a few, I guess. And now I have a subject. I've reached age 80, and I started to write at 13. Now I hafta make an embarrassed confession: I feel the same way Eurithe does: I can't compare our lives with any others. (But I hate women who're always right like that.)

It was a life, she said. And I thought it was a pretty good one. We did what we wanted to do, went where we wanted to go. I wrote the way I liked, and kidded myself some of it was pretty good. We were broke - and I mean nearly penniless - a few times in earlier days. A few times, for god's sake? Nearly always. There were periods when I was so depressed I felt like suicide -: having failed at everything I tried to do. But we pulled out of it, with some difficulty. And those periods I called "The Bad Times" seem to me now something like Triumph. "Don't you think so, dear?"

"They were horrible. You should have committed suicide."
What are ya gonna do with a woman like that?
Anyway, yes, it was a life. I wouldn't have wanted any other.

Al Purdy
Sidney, BC / Ameliasburg, Ontario 1999

Purdy's Last Poem: "Both Her Gates East and West"
Wanderings in Canada in the century
before the Millennium . . .

This is where I came to
when my body left its body
and my spirit stayed
in its spirit home

Beside the seething Fundy waters
my friend sleeps
and wrote this message for me
"I'll wait for you in the west
Till your sun comes down for its setting"
That grand summer in Newfoundland
when we feasted on wild raspberries
bakeapples Screech and salmon
walked four miles in the rain
(you blamed me for) to L'Anse aux Meadows
where Helge Ingstad and Anne Stine
were digging up Leif the Lucky's ruins
talked to them an hour
while I watched the Viking ship
and horned heads leaping ashore
reflected in Ingstad's blue eyes
On Baffin Island
north of summer and summer
comes again with every flower
a river where I slept a moment's hour
to dream and plucked white blossoms
and sent them searching for you
from that island of lost memory
are the flowers still searching?
Quebec was summer in Montreal
Cùte des Neiges and St. Joseph's
with Brother Andre's heart
pickled in alcohol
where I climbed the steps in winter
"the lame and the halt and the blind"
climbed in summer
in search of Brother Andre's miracle
and threw away their crutches
On a green island in Ontario
I learned about being human
built a house and found the woman
and we shall be there forever
building a house that is never finished
Camped by the South Saskatchewan
all day we listened to voices
we heard inside ourselves
the river like a blue bracelet
where the Metis fought their last battle
Dumont Letendre and old Ouellette
their ghosts came to us in sleep
as white mist moved over our bodies
the river flowed into the sky
In the Alberta prairie badlands
camped by the vanished Bearpaw Sea
in Dinosaur Provincial Park
after the campground closed in fall
we wander NO TRESPASSING badlands
- the white light suddenly changes
to brown sepia twilight
we're 75 million years back in time
beasts like bad dreams ramp around us
with bodies we can see through
transparent in the sepia sun
and Canada becomes a very old country
the Rocky Mountains fold themselves upward
giants rising slowly
and we are children again
Through the Crow's Nest mountains
at age 17
the freight train a black caterpillar
climbing climbing climbing
vertebrae chattering up the mountains
red coal cinders blackening my face
riding the high catwalks riding the empties
like bugs like dwarfs like boys pretending
they're men halfway high as the mountains go
below us valleys bathed in sunlight
glowing enchanted valleys
and I came to believe we were beloved there
beloved in a land fortunate of itself
beneath black cinders on our faces
we glowed in turn from the soul's well-being
while I tried to explain myself to myself
the simple earth and sky-searching mountains
were things I never could explain
Flying north and following the Mackenzie
River long after the Scots explorer
endless forest then endless empty land
we seemed to hang between earth and sky
then a monster hand with a hundred fingers
spreading itself over the river delta
and a permafrost town still Canada
the Beaufort Sea beyond
where the world was blue forever

- comes the millennium into our brief lives

I suppose it's like a kid growing up
to see the parts of your own country
like a jigsaw that suddenly comes together
and turns into a complete picture
you've touched nearly all the parts
you've become a certain kind of adult
and the ordinary places become endearments
that slip into your mind and grow there
and you change into what you already are
in a country you can wear like an old overcoat
Joseph's coat of many colours

The millennium really makes little difference
except as a kind of unsubtle reminder of
the puzzle that is yourself and always changing
the country that you wandered like a stranger
but stranger no longer
yourself become undeniable to yourself
wearing the lakes and rivers towns and cities
a country that no man can comprehend
Joseph's coat turned inside out
now indistinguishable from your own innards
- a country that no man may comprehend
asking the same questions as in ages past
time measurable by the tick-tock of millenniums
and if by chance we are not alone
some traveller on another planet
may catch a glimpse of us sometimes
looking outward into the night sky

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The Book of Revenge

The Book of Revenge


A darkly comic recollection of a country that no longer exists, and a lyrical examination of the importance of taking a stand when it counts. Set against a backdrop of horrific world events, this is narrative non-fiction at its best.

To a young boy growing up poor but happy in an industrial town in Serbia, politics means many national holidays that result in parades, piglets roasting on a spit, and getting to see both his hard-working parents at the same time. An observant child, Dragan Todorovic …

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Slaughter Time

It is early morning in the late fall of 1963. The fog is lifting slowly. The light is the color of bad steel and the air is cold.

The pig lets out ­high-­frequency cries that hurt my ears. A universal sign for help in the world of sentient beings.

The animal is heavy, more than three hundred pounds, or so I heard this morning. I don’t know what it means and if it’s good or not, but now, watching this rushing mass through the fence, I can see that the five hundred pounds means power. I don’t quite understand why it will all happen to the animal that was a pet until last night, when my uncle went with my aunt to feed it one last time, murmuring quiet words of approval and love. I know only that the men will kill the pig, but I don’t know how death looks or what it is.

The lower yard is closed from all sides: the gate towards the upper yard, the narrow passage next to the stable, the one that leads to the orchard, and the big wagon entry from the dirt road. Through the laths on the upper gate I am watching the men slowly close in. The sow that runs panicky inside that narrowing circle is huge, and not because I am five years old. Ten or so dark, tense silhouettes are coming closer and closer, their hands spread wide to fill the space between them. The animal speeds up and changes its direction frequently, but every time it comes close to a gap that looks like an exit, another human figure jumps in to close the passage to freedom.

Two knives and a sharpener rest on a transverse beam near where I stand. The knives are long, with wooden handles, narrow and so old that their dark blades look ragged after years of sharpening against stones. Miladin has left them there after finishing his coffee and rakija, so he could fetch them quickly when the time comes.

I feel an unknown fear. Not of what I see but of what is yet to come. I can understand – by the seriousness of men and the rush of women – that this is important business. We all got up before dawn, even we children. Water is already boiling in the big cauldron on the bonfire, and the damp air pushes the smoke low, creating a long, slow curtain that delineates the stage. And, although I’m too young to be in that circle, hunting an animal, I am part of it all. They let me watch on purpose, to harden up, to see how death looks.

Someone is the first to throw himself onto the sow, which loses speed and stops for a second. Others follow and the huge ball of flesh is suddenly on the ground, its legs tied with ropes, two men kneeling on its side, several others holding its snout. The pig is fighting desperately. Miladin, a big, slow, stern man whose hands are huge and the color of soil, and whose face has lines so deep that one could sow wheat in them, picks up his knives.

“Hold it tight,” he says as he kneels down on the animal’s throat and holds its snout with his left hand. With a quick movement Miladin raises the animal’s head, stretching its neck, and plunges his knife into its throat. A stream of dark, thick blood bursts from the wound. I see the knife cutting farther, led by the short, jerky moves of the man’s hand. The wound behind the blade has white edges that quickly turn red. Drops of blood cover everyone, and it seems to me that, under that turbid light, everything is dark blue except the pink skin of the animal and the red that shines. Steam is coming out of the cut throat and the pig’s screeching slowly turns into a death rattle, going deeper, deeper and quieter. That sound is horrible. I cover my ears tightly with both hands but I can still hear it. The body of the animal is twitching, strongly at first, then slower and slower as the pressure of life runs out of it. Blood gets into Miladin’s eyes and he wipes it off with his right hand, still holding the knife, smearing dark red into light pink that doesn’t mean a thing.

The animal dies slowly, it lasts maybe two or three minutes, and then it’s still. The men are standing up, wiping the blood off their hands and faces.

“It seems to be easy,” I think, measuring myself against the grownups. “I could do it all, save for that sound.”


The rules
Players separate into two groups, facing each other. The distance between groups is about thirty feet. One person stands in the middle. A player from one group throws the ball at the one in the middle, trying to hit her. If she dodges the ball, it goes to the other side, who does the same. If she catches the ball, the person who threw the ball replaces her in the middle.

The reality
The groups keep coming closer, so the ball hits harder, and it’s more difficult to dodge. Some contestants take pride in being able to throw really hard and they usually aim at the head. The weakest person in the game cannot throw the ball powerfully enough, so she quickly becomes the target, and then everyone hits her.

The game usually ends with the person in the middle, already beaten and bruised, tripping over and falling.

The courtyard was long, narrow at the entrance, widening into an area paved with cobblestones in the back, where we lived. A wooden gate with missing teeth was the only thing signaling to those outside that someone lived there. For many years the gate wasn’t equipped with a lock, and the travelers from the central bus station in Kragujevac – right in front of our home – would come to drink water from the brass faucet protruding from a concrete box close to the entrance. Some­times they would shit or vomit right next to the faucet, so my father decided to install a cheap, ­old-­fashioned iron lock with one of those medieval big black keys. He was a locksmith in Zastava, the car factory, and he knew everything about locks, so he personally chose that one. And he personally kept fixing it.

To the left of the entrance was the accounting department of some trading company in which only women worked. Sometimes they would let me stamp their documents, and that was a great pleasure for me: sinking the rubber stamp into the dirty tin box containing a thin pillow soaked with dark blue paint, the smooth lacquered wooden head of the stamp in my hand, the short and strong blow of the stamp on the paper and – always the same miracle – the square blue imprint in the ­upper-­right corner of the page. As if I knew how to write. As if I had power.

The job these women did was inspiring to me: they kept entering – in their tidy, miniature handwriting – long lines of letters neatly packed between ­hand-­drawn lines, with numbers at the end of the line. When every line of the page was filled in their ­black-­and-­blue hardcover notebooks, they would take the wooden ruler and make more lines for more numbers and signs. It looked like a secret plan, like a map of hidden treasure waiting to be decoded. I never drew, maybe because I was curious and wanted to see everything around me from very close. I loved seeing the smallest details of every structure: the relief of the bark, the first leaves of plants in the early spring, the dust particles on the stone, tiny metal parts inside the lock. I could never draw the outer lines; I could never catch the contours of the object.

I kept asking my parents for cheap small sketchbooks from the paper place on the corner, and when they would bring one, I would draw lines inside and fill the pages with signs that just looked like letters and numbers. I was three years old, and I was very frustrated, because my notebooks never looked like the big ones from the Office of Hidden Treasures.

From the Hardcover edition.

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