Because Dad

My dad’s not a book pusher, not like Mom. He reads voraciously, but I don’t think I’ve ever heard him recommend one. Not that he doesn’t think someone else won’t enjoy them, he is just happy answering questions about whatever he’s reading and leaving it at that. His tastes run wild and free and I have never regretted reading a book that I know he’s enjoyed. The following are a few of my favorites:

The Travels of Jedediah Smith by Maurice S. Sullivan

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I’ve written about my father’s love for mountain men – and my subsequent interest in them – before. I think his love started with all the traveling he did growing up. I grew up  listening to stories about Liver Eating Johnson because he grew up hearing them. I’m not sure when Dad first read this book, but I didn’t get to it until last year.  They’re Smith’s edited journals and he had a literary gift!

Through Dad and this book, I learned of Hugh Glass. I was very impressed with Michael Punke as many of his details matched those in Smith’s journal.

Two Years Before the Mast by Richard Henry Dana, Jr.

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I don’t remember much about this book, I was about eight or ten years old when Dad read this to our family.

What I do recall is being utterly fascinated by Dana’s countless adventures and looking up Cape Horn on our globe.

Oh yeah, and both my parents used this story to get us to eat more oranges and saur kraut, ‘cuz no one wants scurvy!

They Called Him Wild Bill: The Life and Adventures of James Butler Hickok by Joseph G. Rosa

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Dad called me about this book about eight months ago. He had just finished reading it and was impressed with the detail and documentation. I told him it sounded familiar and sure enough, it was a continuation of his previous work (that I’d read years ago for a class), but with more information recently gained from the family.

If you are interested in the old west and the legend that is Wild Bill (especially how he got this name), then this is the book for you!

The Saga of Hugh Glass: Pirate, Pawnee, and Mountain Man by John Myers Myers

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I actually haven’t read this one, but it’s been on Dad’s bookshelf as long as I can remember. I’m having a hard time locating this book at a reasonable price, but I will persevere… and leave you with a teaser about his life:

Captured by Jean Lafitte and turned pirate until he was able to escape into Pawnee country (where he was captured again), Hugh Glass is most famous for being mauled by a grizzly and left for dead. He then dragged himself across hundreds of miles to seek his revenge.

Blind Man’s Bluff: The Untold Story of American Submarine Espionage by Sherry Sontag, Christopher Drew, and Annette Lawrence Drew

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I grew up listening to my Dad tell me very funny stories about his submarine service years.

Whenever I’d ask him about the specifics: the dangers and duties, etc., he pointed me to this book. He said this was the best description.

I haven’t read it yet, but it’s high on my to-read list.

True Grit by Charles Portis

Screen Shot 2015-06-18 at 9.43.38 PMI grew up watching this John Wayne movie and vaguely remember Dad always saying “the book is better.”

Well, I finally read this classic two years ago and Dad was right. It’s not a big book, but it packs quite the wallop!

At first I wasn’t keen on the recent Hollywood reboot, but having now watched it with my Dad (and thoroughly enjoyed his laughter at Rooster’s one-liners), I’m glad that new generations are being exposed to this tale of a young girl’s courage in the face of seemingly insurmountable odds.

Undaunted Courage: Meriwether Lewis, Thomas Jefferson, and the Opening of the American West by Stephen Ambrose

Screen Shot 2015-06-19 at 11.58.10 AMThere is a small possibility that I read this book before Dad did, but only because he had it on his shelf.

This is a fabulous work on Lewis and Clark Expedition across the Louisiana Purchase. It also follows Meriwether Lewis’s sad demise after this adventure. It’s one of my favorite books – top ten, easy! I also highly recommend that you try the Ken Burns “Lewis and Clark” documentary on PBS. What you couldn’t quite visualize while reading truly comes alive here – added bonus: Stephen Ambrose is a program adviser!

The Alamo by Lon Tinkle

Screen Shot 2015-06-17 at 7.02.40 PMI read this tiny paperback when I was in the 8th grade, mostly during my History teacher’s lectures on the Alamo, ironically.

This book is memorable for two reasons: first, it is exciting and second, I got in trouble for reading it in class, but when asked a question – meant to humiliate me into revealing I wasn’t paying attention – I was able to answer it perfectly because I just so happened to be reading that part of the book! Ha!

There’s definitely a pattern here and I’m sure you’ve realized that Dad is where I got my enduring love of history – fictionalized and biographical. He’s half way across the country right now, but this is my “Happy Father’s Day” to him (in addition to a card and photo-memory collage). Thank you for instilling in me an appreciation for the past!


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