I received an email recently from Ken which read, "I am looking for a book, or biography, or a life experience narrative that speaks to an older male, lives alone, has no health issues, widower. There seem to be plenty of books out there written by and for women, but would like to know how other men have traveled this road?"
Although a few titles came to my mind, I was stumped for that special book to recommend to Ken, so asked our Facebook followers for their ideas. Within a couple of hours we had a wealth of suggestions, all of which, it occurred to me, could also be great recommendations for Father's Day, especially as a gift from an adult child.
Anne M recommended Rules for Old Men Waiting by Peter Pouncey saying, "I just re-read it last week and it is still amazing on the second go-round." She also suggested East of the Mountains by David Guterson.
Serena A-C suggested Tuesdays With Morrie, a record of the final meetings between Mitch Albom and his former college professor, Morrie Schwartz, leading up to Morrie's death from ALS.
Julie L and a number of others put forward Major Pettigrew's Last Stand by Helen Simonson, a BookBrowse favorite set in the small English village of Edgecombe St. Mary.
Donna C thought that The History of Love by Nicole Krauss might hit the mark. It tells the fictional story of a long-lost book that mysteriously connects an old man searching for his son and a girl seeking a cure for her widowed mother's loneliness.
Sharlene K felt she'd hit the bull's eye with One Man's Wilderness: An Alaskan Odyssey which records the thirty years Richard Proenneke spent living alone in the wilderness of Twin Lakes, Alaska
Barbara A hedged her bets with two suggestions: The Angle of Respose by Wallace Stegner, winner of the 1972 Pulitzer Prize for Fiction; and The Finkler Question by Howard Jacobson.
Pepper E agreed with Barbara about Angle of Repose and also sugested Unbroken: A World War II Story of Survival, Resilience, and Redemption by Laura Hillenbrand (which a number of others also recommended). Pepper also thought that Cutting for Stone by Abraham Verghese might be a possibility.
Jennifer D suggested two novels by Anne Tyler, Noah's Compass and The Accidental Tourist. The first is a novel about a schoolteacher, who has been forced to retire at sixty-one, coming to terms with the final phase of his life; the second revolves around Macon Leary, a writer of travel guides whose son has been killed in a shooting at a fast-food restaurant. Jennifer also suggested The Widower's Tale and Three Junes by Julia Glass.
Sharon D suggested that while Winston Graham's Memoirs of a Private Man might not be a perfect fit it was worth a look; and Alex A suggested Home by Marilynne Robinson.
Jennifer W recommended anything by Frank McCourt, while Donna H recommended the books of Rick Bragg.
Chara V-P suggested the works of James A. Michener, in particular Caravans and Poland; while Pam D put in her two-penny-worth for the works of Wallace Stegner.
Although not spot on for his described interests, Barbra W thought that Ken might enjoy Shadow Divers: The True Adventure of Two Americans Who Risked Everything to Solve One of the Last Mysteries of World War II by Robert Kurson; and also recommended Water for Elephants by Sara Gruen.
Sandra L had just finished reading the recently published West Of Here by Jonathan Evison and thought it might fit the bill. While Laurie C suggested the memoirs of New England poet Donald Hall, who has been a widower for a number of years; Hall's memoirs include The Best Day the Worst Day: Life with Jane Kenyon, Eagle Pond, and Unpacking the Boxes: A Memoir of a Life in Poetry.
Susan K seconded Donald Hall and added books by Kent Haruf. As something of a wild card she thought that the later poems of Charles Bukowski might resonate "because he never lost his sense of humor or his sense of irony."
Mónica Ferrer Falque suggested Italian Shoes by Henning Mankell, a stand-alone novel described as a voyage into the soul of a man, specifically that of sixty-six year old Frederick Welin.
Lynne H took a classical turn with her recommendation of The Brothers Karamazov, the final novel of Fyodor Dostoyevsky, which is described as a passionate philosophical novel that enters deeply into the ethical debates of God, free will, and morality. She also recommended Travels with Charley in Search of America by John Steinbeck, as "her dad swore it was one of the best books he ever read." The book records Steinbeck's travels around America in a camper van with his dog at a time when, according to his oldest son, he knew he was dying and wanted to see his country one last time.
More than thirty suggestions later, I asked Ken if we'd managed to find one or two books that were just what he was looking for and, sadly, it appears we had not as he wrote back saying, "I have just finished reading The Beautiful Struggle by Ta-Nehisi Coates. It is a blend of prose and poetry and Hip Hop and speaks to the authentic real life experiences of man/boy growing up in the ghetto. I related to the struggle and even today it colors me. I am seeking that voice in a book, that speaks to my struggles. I want authenticity, colors, nuances, and robust reflection. An author as a pilot flying over the word of aging, solitude, loss of cognitive functions, diminished controls of body, flexibility and libido, as well a world free of obligations, destinations and imminent financial failure."
Ken did say that a few of the books, at first glance, looked like they might come close, including Major Pettigrew's Last Stand; One Man's Wilderness, and Memoirs of a Private Man ; and I suspect that a number of others would speak to him loud and clear if and when he gives them a chance - but in the meantime I hope that these suggestions will inspire your reading and gift giving, not just for Father's Day but for all times of the year!
... and if you have any suggestions for Ken - please do note them below!
Davina - BookBrowse editor