The best memoirs on missing a father’s love

Why am I passionate about this?

The Exact Place began as a collection of stories about growing up on a small farm in a large family. Many were unusual and funny. An editor who critiqued my manuscript said: “You’ve found your voice and write well, but why have you left out the role of your stepfather and your faith which became an important part of who you are? If you want more than just an entertaining story, take it to a deeper level.” I was afraid revealing such things would ostracize me from my family, but I understood the wisdom of his advice. I kept the stories and rewrote the book determined to be vulnerable and honest. 


I wrote...

The Exact Place: A Search for Father

By Margie Haack,

Book cover of The Exact Place: A Search for Father

What is my book about?

I grew up in a large family crowded into a three-room farmhouse with no running water. Our home was on the Canadian Border on land barely reclaimed from the Minnesota wilderness. It was a raw place where temperatures of 40 below could freeze a chicken coop full of hens. My roots were tangled with the loss of my father and my determination to win the love of the new man in my mother’s life. It didn’t work, but heartbreak didn’t quench a life full of earthy mischief, spiritual searching, and the power of place and geography that shapes the topography of a girl’s soul.

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The books I picked & why

Book cover of Small Fry: A Memoir

Margie Haack Why did I love this book?

Lisa Brennan-Jobs is the daughter of Steve Jobs, co-founder of Apple, and one of the wealthiest men in the world. This didn’t make him an attentive, loving father. Lisa was regularly ignored, and deliberately left out of his new family (he never married her mother). Her determination to win his love failed, and she blamed herself for his lack of acceptance. She longed for reassurance that never materialized. Lisa had to face the unwanted reality: “He doesn’t love me.” When Jobs was dying from pancreatic cancer, with tears, he owned that none of this was her fault. In spite of the sadness of her story, she didn’t allow his rejection and late confession to consume her with bitterness. She writes honestly and kindly about growing up with a famous father. For those of us who have searched and never gained our father’s love or acceptance, this story reminds us that such losses cross all economic boundaries and occur in all kinds of families.

By Lisa Brennan-Jobs,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Vogue's Best Books of the Year, 2018
Sunday Times' Best Memoirs of the Year, 2018
A New York Times Book of the Year
New Yorker Book of the Year

A frank, smart and captivating memoir by the daughter of Apple founder Steve Jobs.

Born on a farm and named in a field by her parents - artist Chrisann Brennan and Steve Jobs - Lisa Brennan-Jobs's childhood unfolded in a rapidly changing Silicon Valley. When she was young, Lisa's father was a mythical figure who was rarely present in her life. As she grew older, her father took an interest in…


Book cover of Waiting for Snow in Havana: Confessions of a Cuban Boy

Margie Haack Why did I love this book?

I had no idea that a Cuban boy recalling his childhood could so drown me in a family and culture worlds apart from my own. Waiting for Snow evoked laughter, astonishment, and tears. The father in this story, like my own in some ways, replaced his son with another boy not even his own. Eire’s attempts to reconcile with his father never worked. I took heart from his experience. It was similar to my own attempts to cross the ravine and reach my stepfather’s love. Eire’s hilarity, sharp intellect, and ability to write the most eloquent cursing I’ve ever read kept me reading this book by a man who is now a professor of theology at Yale.

By Carlos Eire,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Waiting for Snow in Havana as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

“Have mercy on me, Lord, I am Cuban.” In 1962, Carlos Eire was one of 14,000 children airlifted out of Havana—exiled from his family, his country, and his own childhood by Fidel Castro’s revolution. Winner of the National Book Award, this stunning memoir is a vibrant and evocative look at Latin America from a child’s unforgettable experience.

Waiting for Snow in Havana is both an exorcism and an ode to a paradise lost. For the Cuba of Carlos’s youth—with its lizards and turquoise seas and sun-drenched siestas—becomes an island of condemnation once a cigar-smoking guerrilla named Fidel Castro ousts President…


Book cover of Educated: A Memoir

Margie Haack Why did I love this book?

I look for literature that is beautifully and powerfully written, carrying universal experiences most can relate to. Even when the circumstances are different from my own, a story can grip my heart because I recognize bits of myself in it. Educated is the story of a girl deeply embedded in her parents’ religious community but completely isolated from school, friends, and culture outside that sectarian divide. Westover’s father reigned as a tyrant over the entire family. Any violation of his rules was met with punishment and deprivation. That control had devastating consequences for Westover and her relationship with her father. She eventually escaped the prison-like atmosphere, earned a PhD in history, and gained a life of her own. She writes with compelling insight, kindness, and an amazing lack of bitterness, something I aspire for myself. 

By Tara Westover,

Why should I read it?

22 authors picked Educated as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

THE MULTI-MILLION COPY BESTSELLER

Selected as a book of the year by AMAZON, THE TIMES, SUNDAY TIMES, GUARDIAN, NEW YORK TIMES, ECONOMIST, NEW STATESMAN, VOGUE, IRISH TIMES, IRISH EXAMINER and RED MAGAZINE

'One of the best books I have ever read . . . unbelievably moving' Elizabeth Day
'An extraordinary story, beautifully told' Louise O'Neill
'A memoir to stand alongside the classics . . . compelling and joyous' Sunday Times

Tara Westover grew up preparing for the end of the world. She was never put in school, never taken to the doctor. She did not even have a birth certificate…


Book cover of Everything Sad is Untrue (A True Story)

Margie Haack Why did I love this book?

It was the title that first attracted me. How can this be so? Nayeri’s 12-year-old self proves the truth of his title as he narrates his story, first as a coddled little prince in Iran, then as a refugee as his mother fled death threats because of her conversion to Christianity. His father stayed behind in Iran and was seldom heard from. He became the father who rarely engaged with or demonstrated love for his son. After surviving refugee camps, Nayeri, his mother and sister finally arrived as immigrants to a small white community in Oklahoma where they struggled to survive. Nayeri’s writing style is incomparably unique. It’s the brain of a teenage boy burning as he processes crazy events no child should have to live through. I was captivated by his invincible spirit and marvelous sense of humor.

By Daniel Nayeri,

Why should I read it?

8 authors picked Everything Sad is Untrue (A True Story) as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it. This book is for kids age 10, 11, 12, and 13.

What is this book about?

At the front of a middle school classroom in Oklahoma, a boy named Khosrou (whom everyone calls "Daniel") stands, trying to tell a story. His story. But no one believes a word he says. To them he is a dark-skinned, hairy-armed boy with a big butt whose lunch smells funny; who makes things up and talks about poop too much.

But Khosrou's stories, stretching back years, and decades, and centuries, are beautiful, and terrifying, from the moment his family fled Iran in the middle of the night with the secret police moments behind them, back to the sad, cement refugee…


Book cover of Traveling Mercies: Some Thoughts on Faith

Margie Haack Why did I love this book?

Most people, I think, obsess over the desire to please their parents. Too often, it simply isn’t possible to gain their approval or their love, however hard we try. It was like this with my stepfather. Although Traveling Mercies is a rich, multi-themed book, what pulled me in was her relationship to her parents, particularly her father. Lamott tries to convince herself that her family could survive their alcoholism and infidelities. She writes of longing for her family to be “…OK and that we were safe, and that my daddy wasn’t going to leave us, and that one day I would be loved.” Similarly, my greatest fear was that my mother would die, leaving me with no parent at all. Hearing others’ stories is a comfort knowing we are not alone in our anxieties.

By Anne Lamott,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked Traveling Mercies as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

From the bestselling author of Operating Instructions and Bird by Bird comes a chronicle of faith and spirituality that is at once tough, personal, affectionate, wise and very funny.

With an exuberant mix of passion, insight, and humor, Anne Lamott takes us on a journey through her often troubled past to illuminate her devout but quirky walk of faith. In a narrative spiced with stories and scripture, with diatribes, laughter, and tears, Lamott tells how, against all odds, she came to believe in God and then, even more miraculously, in herself. She shows us the myriad ways in which this…


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Me and The Times: My wild ride from elevator operator to New York Times editor, columnist, and change agent (1967-97)

By Robert W. Stock,

Book cover of Me and The Times: My wild ride from elevator operator to New York Times editor, columnist, and change agent (1967-97)

Robert W. Stock Author Of Me and The Times: My wild ride from elevator operator to New York Times editor, columnist, and change agent (1967-97)

New book alert!

Why am I passionate about this?

Author Journalist Punster Family-phile Ex-jock Friend

Robert's 3 favorite reads in 2023

What is my book about?

Me and The Times offers a fresh perspective on those pre-internet days when the Sunday sections of The New York Times shaped the country’s political and cultural conversation. Starting in 1967, Robert Stock edited seven of those sections over 30 years, innovating and troublemaking all the way.

His memoir is rich in anecdotes and admissions. At The Times, Jan Morris threw a manuscript at him, he shared an embarrassing moment with Jacqueline Kennedy, and he got the paper sued for $1 million. Along the way, Rod Laver challenged Stock to a tennis match, he played a clarinet duet with superstar Richard Stoltzman, and he shared a Mafia-spiced brunch with Jerry Orbach.

Me and The Times: My wild ride from elevator operator to New York Times editor, columnist, and change agent (1967-97)

By Robert W. Stock,

What is this book about?

An intimate, unvarnished look at the making of the Sunday sections of The New York Times in their pre-internet heyday, back when they shaped the country’s political and cultural conversation.

Over 30 years, Robert Stock edited seven of those sections, innovating, and troublemaking all the way – getting the paper sued for $1 million, locking horns with legendary editors Abe Rosenthal and Max Frankel, and publishing articles that sent the publisher Punch Sulzberger up the wall.

On one level, his memoir tracks Stock’s amazing career from his elevator job at Bonwit Teller to his accidental entry into journalism to his…


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