Dads often don’t have the best representation in literature.
In a lot of novels, the father character is some combination of:
- or dead!
So if you’re looking for the best books about dads, you might be having some trouble finding good options.
Without any further ado, here are my favorite novels about dads and fatherhood — many of which (but not all) are actually positive and uplifting!
Just a few of the best novels about fatherhood (in no particular order) are:
- The Road
- Here and Now and Then
- Pet Sematary
- To Kill a Mockingbird
- A Wrinkle in Time
- One Last Thing Before I Go
- Big Fish
- Danny, the Champion of the World
- Dad Camp
As a note, this list is focusing on fiction. Novels. There are tons of great non-fiction books about dads, but that’s another blog post entirely.
Let’s look at why each one deserves a spot on the list, and your bookshelf.
1. The Road by Cormac McCarthy
This extremely famous novel (and now film) is a post-apocalyptic story about a father and his son’s journey to survive in a world devastated by an unexplained cataclysm.
In other words, we’re starting the list off on a bleak note!
(Sorry, we’re getting to warmer reads soon.)
The Road is an extremely dark tale, without much hope, but the lone bright spot in the story is the love between the father and his son. That makes it a true emotional heavy-hitter and a great novel about what fatherhood really means.
Plus you can never go wrong with Cormac McCarthy, one of America’s best novelists.
2. Here and Now and Then by Mike Chen
While less well-known than some of the other books on this list, I read this one recently and really enjoyed it as a dad myself.
Here and Now and Then follows a time-traveling agent who gets stranded in the 1990s, where he ultimately builds a life and family.
When he returns to the future of 2142, he’s desperate to find a way to contact his daughter. The more he tries to balance his two lives though, the closer he gets to erasing her existence entirely.
It’s a really fun sci-fi romp with an absolute ton of heart and emotion at its center, showing there’s no time or distance a father won’t travel for his kids!
3. Pet Sematary by Stephen King
I know I promised a lot of the books on this list would be heartwarming — I just had to fit in one more downer.
Another one of my absolute favorite books of all time is Pet Sematary by Stephen King. When I started putting this list together, I realized it’s actually a good fit despite its horrifying premise.
In Pet Sematary, a father suffers the tragic death of his son and, in his grief, tries to resurrect the boy in a darkly magical cemetery that brings things back to life.
What I love about Stephen King is that he writes about the things that truly scare him. The scariest thing any parent could possibly imagine is the death of a child, and King explores every dark nook and cranny of that fear in this book.
There’s no force that can stand between a father and his love for his kids. In this book, that might not be such a good thing.
But what a read!
4. To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee
Surely one of the most famous novels on the entire list, I’ll bet most people haven’t considered To Kill a Mockingbird as a celebration of fathers.
Told through the eyes of a young girl, Scout Finch, it follows a black man in 1930s Alabama who is falsely accused of rape. Her father, Atticus Finch, a lawyer, defends him in court.
This is a great novel about fatherhood because it gives us one of the all-time greatest dads in literature, and one of the best characters period in any novel. Atticus is principled, courageous, compassionate, and a powerful role-model — he’s beloved by readers even today.
And despite how grim the story’s premise is, the novel is humorous, warm, and ultimately inspirational.
5. A Wrinkle in Time by Medeleine L’Engle
A novel for young readers, but an absolute classic and a must-read for anyone of any age, A Wrinkle in Time sees a teenage girl, plus her younger brother and a few magical beings, on a magical adventure to rescue her father.
This is a great book about dads because it’s Meg’s love for her dad that gives her strength and courage throughout her journey. She’s also one of the best written teenage characters you’ll see, and her father’s positive impact on who she is is visible on every page.
6. One Last Thing Before I Go by Jonathan Tropper
One Last Thing Before I Go is a hilarious and poignant novel about Drew Silver, a washed-up rock star who learns he has an aneurysm that could end his life, and his attempts to reconnect with the people he loves, including his estranged daughter, before it’s too late.
This is a great fit for the list because our dad, Silver, has messed up in just about every way a dad can, and yet his daughter comes to him for help with a major problem, spurring him into action.
The book proves it’s never too late to start showing up for our kids.
7. Big Fish by Daniel Wallace
You might remember this one from the film by the same name, starring Ewan McGregor and directed by Tim Burton.
Either way, this is a touching and incredibly imaginative exploration of a son’s complex relationship with his father, as the son sets out to separate fact from fiction in his sometimes absent father’s constant telling of extremely tall tales from his life.
This one’s funny, touching, and ultimately leaves you feeling hopeful and curious about your own parents.
8. Danny, the Champion of the World by Roald Dahl
Roald Dahl’s books know no age limit, so this is a great one for dads to read, or better yet, read with their sons.
Danny the Champion of the World is Dahl’s ode to fatherhood, with a boy named Danny going on a wild adventure with his exciting and larger-than-life father, William.
The book pleads with dads, and boys who will grow up to become fathers, to show their kids adventure, excitement, and above all, love.
9. Dad Camp by Evan S. Porter
I’m cheating here — this is my book!
My debut novel Dad Camp comes out in summer of 2024 from Dutton books, and it’s about a dad who takes his 11-year-old daughter to a daddy-daughter “summer camp” to bond before he loses her to teenage girlhood forever.
I wrote it as a celebration of dads everywhere and to highlight just how damn hard and messy it is sometimes. There’s a lot in it about how you lose a bit of yourself in parenting, why male friendship is so hard, and more — in the end though, I hope it’s full of laughs and leaves you feeling light and inspired.
I’ll update this post as we get closer to publication. Thanks for indulging me!
That’s not an exhaustive list of books for dads, but it includes a lot of my favorites.
(OK, and my own novel, which I know is cheating. Please forgive my self-promotion.)
Before you go, stick around and check out some of my other favorite articles like:
- The best compliments for dads
- How to be a better dad according to science
- Why stay-at-home dads matter
Hope this helps!