Last week, I listed my recommendations for novels that would make great gifts for dads. But some guys don't read fiction (their loss, but that's a topic for another day).
Here are some nonfiction books that make great daddy gifts:
1. The Book of Basketball, Bill Simmons
I've read almost every word Simmons has written on his Sports Guy column over at ESPN for the better part of a decade -- which, given the frequency and length of said columns, puts the aggregate word count into the seven digits -- so it's not a stretch to say that Simmons is my favorite active writer. If the dad on your list is even remotely interested in round ball, this behemoth of a book is a must-read.
2. The 48 Laws of Power, Robert Greene
Less evil than it sounds.
3. Human Smoke, Nicholson Baker
One of the best books I've ever read. Baker takes the unorthodox position that pacifism is always better than war -- and uses World War II to test his hypothesis. That the same guy wrote this and House of Holes is proof of his protean genius.
4. Last Call, Daniel Okrent
The perfect gift for the Boardwalk Empire enthusiast on your list. Okrent's study of how prohibition came out, how it operated, and how it ultimately died is exhaustive but hardly exhausting. I learned something interesting on almost every page (example: prior to prohibition, the excise tax on alcohol financed almost a third of the federal operating budget!).
5. Low Life, Luc Sante
The introduction to Sante's look at how the other half lived in Tweed-era Gotham is, I submit, the single best thing ever written about New York City.
6. Men Undressed: Women Writers and the Male Sexual Experience, Stacy Bierlein, Gina Frangello, Cris Mazza, and Kat Meads, editors
A savvy choice if you want to pry Dad off the couch and lure him back into the bedroom. This gender-role play collection features work by Susan Minot, Elizabeth Benedict, Aimee Bender, and A Visit from the Goon Squad author Jennifer Egan.
7. Napoleon, Paul Johnson
This slim, well-written volume is a fascinating introduction to the life of one of the most influential people of all time. Johnson tells you everything you need to know, and he doesn't shy away from the salacious.
8. The Portable Curmudgeon, Jon Winokur, editor
I've had this book since high school. I've memorized most of the quotes in it. And they are almost all worth memorizing. Here's what J.B. Priestley said about Christmas: "Something in me resists the calendar expectation of happiness."
9. The Power Broker, Robert A. Caro
If the dad in question likes his books big, I'm pleased to report that Caro's masterful and definitive biography of Robert Moses, the former NYC Parks Commissioner who more than any other individual in the last century helped determine the landscape of the Big Apple, weighs more than my cat.
10. Rock-n-Roll Will Save Your Life, Steve Almond
Funny, moving, fun. Worth it for the exegesis of "Down in Africa" alone.
11. Titan: The Life of John D. Rockefeller, Sr., Ron Chernow
Fantastic and exhaustive look at the richest man America ever produced -- and likely ever will. John D.'s father, the illustrious Doc Rockefeller, was a traveling salesman of healthful elixirs -- like Paul McCartney in the "Say Say Say" video. If your dad is interested in finance and Standard Oil and the fallacy of the pro-deregulation movement, this is the book for him.
Go herefor Vol. 1.