Last Minute Gifts for Dads Who Read Books

If the latest gadget or a pair of socks isn't likely to tickle your Father's fancy, a classic book may be perfect for Dad on Father's Day. As Mark Twain once said: "The man who does not read good books has no advantage over the man who can't read them."

Whether Dad wants to improve his writing, speaking, or just relax during a business trip, Mark My Words: Mark Twain on Writing, ( St. Martin's Press, $17.95), is a humorous source of wisdom offering 150 pages of Mark Twain's selected quotations.

This is Twain (1835-1910) at his best and Mark My Words makes a fine introductory capsule to the career of one of America's most popular writers. The words are drawn from Twain's letters, essays, lectures, dictations, and fourteen books, reflecting both his widely known wit—"Supposing is good, but finding out is better"—and his soul: "Laughter without a tinge of philosophy is but a sneeze of humor. Genuine humor is replete with wisdom."

Editor Mark Dawidziak, who dedicates Mark My Words to his father, includes a chronology of Twain's life, an introduction, bibliography and an index, which makes Mark My Words a handy reference. Perhaps the best reason to give Dad this book comes from Twain's daughter, Clara Clemens, quoted here from her own book, My Father, Mark Twain, (1931): "Genius lives in a world of its own, in places of enchantment...Everybody lives, but only Genius lives richly, sumptuously, imperially." Reading the words of Mark Twain puts the reader squarely in his world.

Most fathers will probably enjoy Michael Rutherford's colorful photographs of today's cowboy, accompanied by a collection of "cowboy insights, experiences and reckonin's," in the leather-bound edition, Silver Spurs & Cowboys Two-Bit Wisdom, (Silver Oaks Publishing, www.silverspurs-cowboys.com, $49.95).

From cowgirls and guns to horses and holsters, Rutherford's steady focus evokes the legendary way of life in grit and glory. One cowboy writes: "A cowboy was born the first time some guy raised his hand from under the yoke of oppression and said, with a twinkle in his eye, 'I'm going yonder. I guess we've been going yonder ever since.' "

"The cowboy is not a vanishing breed," insists another. "He's a hero wherever you go. We're not dying out. We're just keeping the best to ourselves." Rutherford's brilliant photographs are also featured in the handsome leather edition of the Silver Spurs & Cowboy Journal, (Silver Oaks Publishing, $44.95), which includes portraits of the rugged individualist at work on the ranch. Dad will practically hear the snap and crackle of the fire as he writes his thoughts of the day.

If he likes Tom Clancy's techno-novels and today's political thrillers, Dad is likely to be captivated by the riveting suspense and drama of the late Allen Drury's Advise and Consent, available at virtually any bookstore in hardcover or paperback. Drury twists his political plot with sex, intrigue and scandal in the U.S. Senate and the Supreme Court. The 1959 Pulitzer Prize-winner pits idealists against pragmatists in an unforgettable drama that rocked Washington—especially the press—when it was published and it still rings true today.

Veterans may remember the Korean War, also known as the forgotten war. Martin Russ, whose service in the Marines earned him a Purple Heart, describes one of the war's most intense contests—second only to Gen. Douglas MacArthur's masterful landing at Inchon—in Breakout: The Chosin Reservoir Campaign, Korea 1950, (available in PenguinPutnam paperback). This year marks the 50th anniversary of the agreement between communist North Korea and the United States-led U.N. forces to stop fighting, which is often mistakenly referred to as an armistice.

Russ's gripping account, citing Chinese, Korean and American sources and combat and eyewitness reports, describes the battle in which 60,000 communist Chinese troops surrounded 12,000 Marines on frozen and rough ground. Plagued by frostbite, diminishing fuel and food and weapons that were rendered useless by the freezing temperatures, the Marines are truly heroic. Quoting several dispatches, Russ contends that the U.S. Army contributed to the Marines' predicament, though he's a bit harsh on a branch of the military whose members were drafted. Breakout is both a tribute to the irrepressible men of the Chosin campaign and a stirring remembrance of a pivotal point in the Korean War.

For younger dads, The Family Car Songbook: Hundreds of Miles of Fun, (Running Press, $9.95, paperback), makes the perfect companion for a summer road trip. With music, lyrics and illustrations, the Songbook, shaped like a minivan, includes 79 songs, from "Camptown Races" and "Oh, Susanna!" to "Home on the Range" and "Yankee Doodle."

This 2003 article was published in the Los Angeles Daily News.

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