Whether they are rife with love and affection, or disposed to friction and conflict, parent-child relationships can be incredibly complicated. Here are seven nonfiction books that dive deep into exploring the complexities, pressures, and love of a father-son relationship.
Must-Read Memoirs About Father-Son Relationships
By Mikel Jollett
A New York Times bestselling memoir, Mikel Jollett wrote Hollywood Park in the wake of his grief after his beloved father passed away. In Jollett’s early life, his father was a mythical figure — an ex-con and ex-drug addict — who would appear sporadically for fun adventures. But as Jollett reaches adolescence, while navigating emotional abuse at home, a violent stepfather, and the lure of drugs and alcohol, he becomes closer with his father and grows to depend on him for help becoming a man.
Between the World and Me
By Ta-Nehisi Coates
Between the World and Me was written five years ago but is just as timely today. The book is a letter from Ta-Nehisi Coates to his teenage son, weaving together the story of his life with the historical subjugation of black people in America. Coates’ book — a #1 New York Times bestseller and a National Book Award winner — was also recently made into an HBO original special.
The Pale-Faced Lie: A True Story
By David Crow
David Crow’s The Pale-Faced Lie is a story of abuse, but also one of resiliency and triumph. Crow writes about growing up on the Navajo Indian Reservation, and the violent, ex-con father who forced him into a life of crime at an early age. It’s a heartbreaking and gripping tale you won’t soon forget.
Not My Father’s Son
By Alan Cumming
Many people know Alan Cumming from his work on television, film, and the stage, which sometimes overshadows the fact that he is also a fantastic writer. In Not My Father’s Son, Cumming discusses his deeply intricate relationship with his father, his childhood in Scotland, and the secrets he learned about his family when he participated in the celebrity genealogy show Who Do You Think You Are? back in 2010.
A Lot Like Me: A Father and Son’s Journey to Reconciliation
By Larry Elder
In this memoir from conservative talk show host Larry Elder, the father-son relationship takes center stage. In fact, the whole book was spurred on by an eight-hour conversation that Elder had with his father, after not speaking to him for a full decade. As he details his father’s journey and their complex relationship, Elder illustrates how sometimes we don’t know our parents the way we think we do — or the way that maybe we should.
Dreams from My Father: A Story of Race and Inheritance
By Barack Obama
Named one of Essence magazines 50 most impactful black books of the past 50 years, Dreams from My Father by former President Barack Obama is a moving story of race and heritage, and a son’s search for answers about his dead father’s life. This New York Times bestseller is a must-read, no matter your political identification.
Pops: Fatherhood in Pieces
By Michael Chabon
In September 2016, renowned writer Michael Chabon penned a moving GQ article about attending Paris Men’s Fashion Week with his teenage son, who has an interest in fashion that the older Chabon lacks, and the way that this trip resulted in a deep respect for his son’s passion. The essay serves as the heart of Pops, which is a reflection on fatherhood that is equal parts tender and comical. In addition to the GQ story, there are six additional essays and an introduction, all of which offer insights on fatherhood, manhood, and life.