The best books about fathers and sons

Chuck Augello Author Of A Better Heart
By Chuck Augello

Who am I?

When I started writing my novel A Better Heart, the focus was not on fathers and sons, but from the moment the narrator’s estranged father walked through the door, I knew their relationship would drive the story. As a reader, I enjoy following characters as they navigate the potholes of their lives, and family often present the biggest holes. Our primary relationships are with our parents, and their influence is a big part of who we become as adults. Exploring that bond often makes great fiction. My father died of cancer ten years ago. In writing about fathers and sons, perhaps I’m trying to imagine a different ending.          


I wrote...

A Better Heart

By Chuck Augello,

Book cover of A Better Heart

What is my book about?

For aspiring indie filmmaker Kevin Stacey, it’s another day on the set of his first film, but when his estranged father, a failed Hollywood actor, arrives unexpectedly with a bundle of cash, a gun, and a stolen capuchin monkey, he’s propelled toward the journey that will change his life. A heartbreaking yet comic family drama, A Better Heart examines the human-animal bond and the bonds between fathers and sons, challenging readers to explore their beliefs about the treatment of non-human species.

“A promising new literary voice.” - Kirkus Reviews. “Augello has crafted a sweet, funny character study…madcap and accomplished, this comic novel boasts big surprises, heartfelt characters, and a passion for animal rights.” - Booklife

The books I picked & why

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The Risk Pool

By Richard Russo,

Book cover of The Risk Pool

Why this book?

The Risk Pool shows the importance of accepting and loving our fathers for who they are instead of resenting them for who they never could be. Sam Hall, the irresponsible wreck of a dad in this warm-hearted and funny book, is by any definition a terrible father, yet his relationship with his son Ned feels real in ways that most fictionalized father-son relationships don’t. Forced to care for Ned when Ned’s mother is hospitalized with mental illness, Sam introduces his son to pool halls, bars, bookies, drunks, and the occasional petty crime. Though aware of his father’s many faults, Ned can’t help but be charmed by Sam’s easy-going life, and even when Sam disappears for years, the bond remains strong.  

The Risk Pool

By Richard Russo,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Risk Pool as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

The Risk Pool is a thirty-year journey through the lives of Sam Hall, a small-town gambling hellraiser, and his watchful, introspective son Ned. When Ned's mother Jenny suffers a breakdown and retreats from her husband's carelessness into a dream world, Ned becomes part of his father's seedy nocturnal world, touring the town's bars and pool halls, struggling to win Sam's affections while avoiding his sins.


The Shining

By Stephen King,

Book cover of The Shining

Why this book?

At age 13, this book scared me. As an adult, it left me sad. Everyone remembers the movie with Jack Nicholson chasing his son through a frozen maze, but in King’s novel, Jack Torrance is an alcoholic father struggling to care for the gifted son he doesn’t fully understand. In a rare tender moment, Jack breaks the Overlook Hotel’s hold long enough to express his love for Danny and urge him to run away—from the demons of the hotel, but also from the demons inside Jack.  Perhaps everyone, at some point, is afraid of his or her father. In The Shining, love and fear are intertwined.              

The Shining

By Stephen King,

Why should I read it?

15 authors picked The Shining as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

#1 NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER • Before Doctor Sleep, there was The Shining, a classic of modern American horror from the undisputed master, Stephen King.

Jack Torrance’s new job at the Overlook Hotel is the perfect chance for a fresh start. As the off-season caretaker at the atmospheric old hotel, he’ll have plenty of time to spend reconnecting with his family and working on his writing. But as the harsh winter weather sets in, the idyllic location feels ever more remote . . . and more sinister. And the only one to notice the strange and terrible forces gathering around…


The Cider House Rules

By John Irving,

Book cover of The Cider House Rules

Why this book?

The most loving father-son relationship I’ve ever read features Dr. Wilbur Larch and the orphan Homer Wells, who becomes the doctor’s apprentice before seeking a better life at an apple orchard in Maine.  Larch creates a fake heart ailment to keep Homer from World War 2, eventually conjuring an alternate identity to allow Homer to continue the doctor’s work caring for orphans and their mothers. But what if that life differs from what Homer wants? Irving’s novel shows how rifts between fathers and sons can exist without it diminishing the love and respect. Larch and Homer differ strongly in their beliefs on abortion, yet their bond is unbreakable. In a beautiful moment, both men gaze at their paired shadows on a hillside and wonder what their futures will bring.        

The Cider House Rules

By John Irving,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Cider House Rules as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

'The reason Homer Wells kept his name was that he came back to St Cloud's so many times, after so many failed foster homes, that the orphanage was forced to acknowledge Homer's intention to make St Cloud's his home.'

Homer Wells' odyssey begins among the apple orchards of rural Maine. As the oldest unadopted child at St Cloud's orphanage, he strikes up a profound and unusual friendship with Wilbur Larch, the orphanage's founder - a man of rare compassion and an addiction to ether. What he learns from Wilbur takes him from his early apprenticeship in the orphanage surgery, to…


Townie: A Memoir

By Andre Dubus III,

Book cover of Townie: A Memoir

Why this book?

As we grow into our lives, we become more like our fathers than we ever thought. This memoir is equal parts anger and love, Dubus II writing about growing up in rough working-class Massachusetts towns with a father, the well-known short story writer Andre Dubus, only a partial presence in his life. Dubus II’s rage is channeled through his fists as he assumes the roles of neighborhood brawler and family protector. Andre II is drawn to his father’s violent tendencies but also to the sensitive perception that helped Andre become an acclaimed writer. As he punches his way through life, Andre II learns to forgive, fusing aspects of his father’s character into his adult self.  

Townie: A Memoir

By Andre Dubus III,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Townie as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

After their parents divorced in the 1970s, Andre Dubus III and his three siblings grew up with their overworked mother in a depressed Massachusetts mill town saturated with drugs and everyday violence. Nearby, his father, an eminent author, taught on a college campus and took the kids out on Sundays. The clash between town and gown, between the hard drinking, drugging, and fighting of "townies" and the ambitions of students debating books and ideas, couldn't have been more stark. In this unforgettable memoir, acclaimed novelist Dubus shows us how he escaped the cycle of violence and found empathy in channeling…


Portnoy's Complaint

By Philip Roth,

Book cover of Portnoy's Complaint

Why this book?

Though often viewed as a book about Jewish mothers, Roth’s controversial comic masterpiece is also a portrait of an ever-suffering father whose hopes and dreams are tied to his son. “Where he had been imprisoned, I would fly,” Roth writes in the voice of his narrator. Portnoy’s father is a put-upon insurance salesman wracked with constipation whose sacrifices instill a constant, nagging guilt in his son. Readers empathize with Portnoy’s efforts to escape his father’s overbearing influence, but also feel for the father, who simply wants the best for his intelligent, talented son. When my own father died, my first thought was that he had worked hard so that my life could be easier. A father sacrificing for his son is one of the hidden engines of this American classic.   

Portnoy's Complaint

By Philip Roth,

Why should I read it?

3 authors picked Portnoy's Complaint as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

'The most outrageously funny book about sex written' Guardian

Portnoy's Complaint n. [after Alexander Portnoy (1933-)]:A disorder in which strongly-felt ethical and altruistic impulses are perpetually warring with extreme sexual longings, often of a perverse nature.

Portnoy's Complaint tells the tale of young Jewish lawyer Alexander Portnoy and his scandalous sexual confessions to his psychiatrist.

As narrated by Portnoy, he takes the reader on a journey through his childhood to adolescence to present day while articulating his sexual desire, frustration and neurosis in shockingly candid ways.

Hysterically funny and daringly intimate, Portnoy's Complaint was an immediate bestseller upon its publication…


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