This year's 'Buy Dad A Real Book' campaign might be slightly overshadowed by "events, dear boy, events" but that still doesn't mean, amongst the swirling chaos and uncertainty of the next few weeks (and that's just the football) we still can't carve out a moment of calmness and sanity, and treat Dad to a special book.
Yes, if ever there was a moment to pull the plug on the 24/7 world of news, punditry, opinions, trolling, tweets and status updates, Sunday June 19 might just be that day...
As has become customary over the past few years, here's our selection of books for you to choose from. We have many more recommends for you to pick in the shop, so why not come in and ask for a special recommendation for the Dad in your life.
And - as has also become customary, and with inclusion uppermost in our minds - we offer this piece of wonderful wisdom told us in the shop by a lady who remembers her Dad every year by reading a book she knows he would have enjoyed. Kudos.
Abingdon's ATOM Science Festival kicks off at the end of June, and ‘Atoms under the Floorboards’ is a light-hearted science read that gets down to the things around us and looks at them at an atomic level. Chris Woodford takes us on a fun and fascinating journey that will answer questions such as 'why dust never blows away' and 'why ice is slippery', to 'how you can split an atom in your living room'. Focusing on our daily lives, yet choosing imaginative subject matter, this will interest those curious about the scientific underpinnings of the modern world.
‘Anatomy of a Soldier’ is the riveting story of the everyday life of a soldier and coming to terms with a life-changing injury. Harry Parker tells the brave tale in an unusual but effective style, using objects around the soldier to demonstrate and explore the extremes both of boredom and danger. How does a solder deal with the ever-present threat, yet have to face and try to understand the enemy? How does he or she cope with the thoughts of those at home? A thought-provoking, at times chaotic book that looks set to become one of the must-reads of 2016.
A whole plethora of picture books has been published aimed at little ones, and celebrating the father-child relationship (bizarrely, many of them seem to feature animals - go figure). We appreciate that a title that seems unbearably cute to one chap might represent the epitome of saccharine queasiness to another - so our bookseller Imogen has hunted through the titles for the best of the bunch.
In ‘School for Dads’ the talented writing partnership of Adam and Charlotte Guillain (who wrote the brilliant 'Socks for Santa' and 'Treats for T-Rex') come up trumps with a great, inclusive celebration and an imaginative and respectful twist on the 'clueless Dad' character who seems to crop up a lot in contemporary culture.
All the dads that are late to pick up their children are sent to school for the day, where the children teach them everything from play time to ‘being fair’. The dads are made to do P.E. and are not allowed sweets for lunch, and the children begin to realise that it might be pretty difficult to be an adult sometimes. A sweet, funny story perfect for dad that will remind them of their own days at school, and the cold floor they had to sit on in assembly...
Little Monster can’t wait to grow up like his dad in ‘When I’m a Monster like you, Dad’ by David O'Connell. Little Monster can be big and scary, but Dad knows there is also fun in staying small and young, and playing games.
Thanks to big, bold illustration by illustrator Francesca Gambatesa, this is a really fun story about how dads and their little monsters can mess around like children and enjoy their time together.
If that dose of cutesiness has got you gasping for something a bit more in the way of good old British sarcastic humour (!), then look no further than 'How It Works: The Dad'. Another in the genius 'Ladybird Books for Grown-Ups' series, it's another brilliantly funny gem, featuring genuine artwork from the original Ladybird books.
It's a fine celebration of the institution of fatherhood. So if your Dad has superpowers (such as the ability to turn invisible whilst picking his nose in traffic) then we reckon he'd love to get a copy of this book...
There's no denying the boom in lycra-clad men on bikes in recent years, but cycling is most definitely booming, and we're extremely lucky in Abingdon to have arguably one of the country's most dynamic and exciting cycle shops, Outdoor Traders (they even have their own race team who won the Oxfordshire Road Race League in 2015).
So if you know someone who dreams of doing legendary Tour de France climbs but perhaps needs a bit of motivation to get there, we reckon they will love 'Tour de France Legendary Climbs on Google Earth' by Richard Abraham. They feature 20 notorious 'Hors Categorie' Tour de France Climbs, which you can follow through the power of Google Earth. From the dizzying heights of the 2,715-metre ascent of Col de la Bonette to the historic Great St Bernard Pass, this is a book to inspire (albeit from the safety of the living room and a laptop).
One of our favourite bike books of the last ten years was Robert Penn's 'It's All About the Bike' - about as infectious and inspirational exhortation of a life on two wheels as it's possible to get. But in the course of writing that book - partly from meeting artisan bike builders in California - Robert's latest book is 'The Man Who Made Things Out of Trees'.
With his trademark passion and enthusiasm, he travels across Europe and the USA looking at people who still use ancient techniques with the tree that has been used the most over thousands of years to make everything from wheels and arrows to furniture and baseball bats. With ash trees facing extinction on both sides of the Atlantic, this is also a poignant cri de coeur about keeping our connections with our environment.
As well as bike books, we're currently living through a golden age of sublime 'football literature'. Nick Hornby's 'Fever Pitch' and David Peace's 'The Damned United' come to mind, but also Jonathan Wilson's history of football tactics 'Inverting the Pyramid' (so gripping and readable, it's like a thriller) and Lynne Truss' 'Get Her Off The Pitch' (about how sport in general can take over your life).
Football arouses such passion amongst the British (from a hatred of football culture right the way through to a kind of religious passion) and right at the top of the pile sits 1966. We thoroughly recommend Peter Chapman's tour-de-force look at the wider context of England's last major football triumph in 'Out of Time: 1966 and the End of Old-Fashioned Britain'. It's a highly personal - and unflinching - look at both the exciting opportunities and grim realities of a country on the cusp of social change over the Summer of the 1966 World Cup. From cruel teachers, low expectations, industrial disasters and the London music scene, it's our big recommend for anyone who wants a corrective to the myth behind *that* football match and *that* legendary piece of commentary...
Moving from 1966 to 1666, we've loved introducing readers to Andrew Taylor's 'The Ashes of London'. An historical thriller, set in the aftermath of the Great Fire of London, it involves the son of a Cromwell supporter, jailed for treason, who is investigating a murder victim discovered in the ashes of the fire. Anyone looking for a new 'Matthew Shardlake' are not going to be disappointed, with Taylor pulling off CJ Sansom's trick of a cracking mystery with excellent period detail. We're already looking forward to a sequel.
Just out in paperback, one of Julia's favourite books of last year, 'Arcadia' by Iain Pears. It's a story of three worlds: One present (1970's), one future and the third an invention from the mind of a writer called Henry Lytten. When these worlds collide a whole heap of trouble occurs. A schoolgirl from the nineteen seventies is mistaken for a fairy. Security officers from the future are arrested as Soviet spies and Lytten enters his own story and is worshipped as a deity. This is an eclectic mix of fantasy, history, science fiction and dystopian future which together make an engrossing - and brilliantly original - read.
The 1966 players became rock stars in their day, and Neil Gaiman is the closest thing to a literary rock star (a 'ledge' as the kids might say). Whilst the author of 'American Gods' is viewed as a God by most of his fans, this collection of the best of his non-fiction writing allows you to get inside the head (and heart) of one of our most celebrated writers.
Read 'The View from the Cheap Seats' cover to cover or dip in, you'll find essays on everything from 'How to make good art' to working with Terry Pratchett, from the comic creations of Jack Kirby to the songs of Lou Reed. And if you fancy a treat on how good Gaiman's writing can be, take a look at possibly the finest advice ever offered to authors on how to write. Seriously, utter genius...
We reckon Neil Gaiman likes a drink (although perhaps he's teetotal. Or perhaps he just *says* he's teetotal to gullible journalists?). Anyway, if he *does* drink, we reckon he'd love 'Craft Spirits' by Eric Grossman.
Whilst the 'Craft Beer' movement has taken the world by storm, Craft Spirits is the next big thing, and Grossman is an enthusiastic guide through the international range of craft spirits, with the names to watch and spirits to try with new recipes for cocktails and the stories behind the spirits.
There we go - a dozen recommends for Father's Day inspiration. But don't forget that we are all about recommending for anyone you are buying for. Why not pop into the shop and we can put together your very own shortlist of titles to choose the perfect gift!