Spend Father's Day With the Dead Dads Club

Audible editor Katie O'Connor ponders the impact of Father's Day for those whose dads are gone, and pays tribute to her late father, whose love of reading left a lasting impact.

Father’s Day is a particularly sh*tty time of year for the dadless. Living dads are thrown into your face at every turn—commercials, convenience stores, Facebook ads…they’re everywhere. And after a year or two, people who haven’t lost a parent understandably forget that the passing of this day might not be the most fun for you. If you’re not loudly sharing your angst on social media year in and year out, how else are they supposed to remember?

In May of 2015 my father—somewhat unexpectedly—passed away. The first phone call I made was to my best friend—who also happens to be one of my Audible coworkers. In the weeks and months that followed, my community at Audible would prove to be among my most supportive group of friends who helped me navigate the nonlinear terrain of grief. A year into this “process” (FYI—I hate that term) a teammate of mine also lost her father, and we started leaning on each other as we tried to understand the complex emotions that we were grappling with day in and day out. One day we decided to go out to lunch—along with another teammate who had lost her dad about a decade before—and thus the Dead Dads Club (a.k.a. DDC) was born. Our numbers have grown as more and more people have found out about our dark and twisty lunches, and each quarter I get to send out fun invites with names like “Spring Has Sprung, Let’s Have Some Dead Dad Fun” or “It’s Getting Hot but Our Dads Are Ice Cold.” Whenever one of these subject lines gets shared with a coworker who does have both parents, they invariably cringe and get incredibly awkward. That’s part of why I love the DDC so much—we can say whatever we want to about death and grieving, and nobody even flinches.

When I proposed that Audible commemorate this Father’s Day for the dadless, I got a really warm reception. My father was the most prolific reader I ever knew, and one of the greatest gifts he ever gave me was passing on his deep love of literature. Below are some of his favorite books—all of which I now realize translate into important life lessons for me, especially since he’s no longer here to impart that wisdom directly.

So Happy Dad’s Day to everyone out there who’s a member of the universal DDC—you’re not alone, and no one will judge you if you spend this Sunday crying into a pint of your dad’s favorite ice cream.

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Gone with the Wind

When my dad was 16, his father sat him down and handed him a copy of Gone with the Wind by Margaret Mitchell. It became his favorite book, and turned him into a bibliophile. I remember him telling me once that “he didn’t know books could be like that.” At 11 I got my hands on my own copy of the 1,000 page (okay—1,024… yes I remember the exact number of pages) Civil War epic, and devoured it in days. I’d like to say that that too was my defining “I’m a reader!” moment, but as evidenced by the picture above, my dad got his bookish claws into me well before I turned 11.

As I mentioned earlier, my love of literature is one of the greatest gifts my dad gave me. Some people may judge you for having your nose constantly stuck in a book, or for tuning them out completely when you’re wearing your headphones listening to one, but my dad taught me that there’s no shame in getting completely lost in another world. Sometimes it’s more beautiful than the one we’re in.

Rules of Prey

My dad was a very talented trial attorney. Though he never pressured me to follow in his footsteps, I still managed to find myself in law school right after graduating from college. I quickly realized that law wasn’t actually my calling, and returned home to pursue a career in the just-as-lucrative world of book publishing. I was incredibly lucky to have the full support of both of my parents in making this transition, and my dad’s enthusiasm for my new career path only grew when I landed my first job and started bringing him early copies of new books from some of his favorite authors.

As an established and respected lawyer, you’d think that my dad would’ve loved epic histories or narrative nonfiction. Nope. My dad was a thriller guy. One of the Lucas Davenport books by John Sandford was the first book I brought home for him from my new job, and he was ecstatic. For a guy that got his start with Margaret Mitchell you may be surprised at this turn (no offense, Mr. Sandford). But dad had an intense job and when he sat down to read or listen for pleasure, he wanted pure escapism. So whether you love a thriller, or a good romance like I do, there’s no shame in it. If it brings you joy, who cares?

To Kill a Mockingbird

When I was in the eighth grade my class read To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee. For a field trip, my dad took our class to the local courthouse and he became my very own Atticus Finch brought to life. Like Atticus, my dad always led by example in showing me how important it is to treat everyone in your life with respect. I was shocked and overwhelmed when more than 700 people showed up to my dad’s wake. I stood there and shook every single one of their hands. Sure family and close friends were there, but so were his adversaries—men and women who had faced him in court who made a point of telling me what a gentleman he was. But beyond that—and perhaps more astonishingly—his barber was there. His physical trainer. His dry cleaner. The woman who had been our housekeeper over a decade before. His high school wrestling coach. My dad made everyone he met feel respected and like a true friend. Seeing the love he had put out in the world come back to his family in the form of handshakes and hugs made that hard day a bit easier.

Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone, Book 1

To the untrained eye it might look like my dad and I had a ton in common, but believe it or not sometimes our interests did diverge. For example, though it pains me to admit it, my dad did not share my unwavering obsession with all things Harry Potter. My mom and I read all of the books in tandem, and I made it a prerequisite of our marriage that my husband “get on my level” when it came to this series. I own all of the books, audiobooks, DVDs, and yes—I even have my own wand. Though my dad never read them, he would go to the movie theater with me and my mom to see each new film when they got released. I don’t know if he actually loved the experience, but he never said anything to dampen our enthusiasm or joy when leaving the theater. One day I went up to my bedroom and saw a copy of The Tales of Beetle the Bard sitting on my bed. I flew down the stairs and quickly thanked my mom for getting it for me… except, she had no idea what I was talking about. It turns out my dad had bought the book knowing how much I’d love it. My dad never got to meet my son—his namesake—but what he showed me with Harry Potter is something that I hope I’m able to do for my own kids: support their interests, their hobbies, their nerdy obsessions, whether I share them or not.

The Hunt for Red October

Not only is it important to accept your kids’ interests, but it’s also important to accept the people they want in their lives. It can be hard to welcome someone new into the family, but I hope that when my kids find their significant others, I welcome them the same way my parents welcomed my husband. I’m incredibly lucky that they had (and have) such a great relationship (though sometimes it doesn’t feel like luck when my mom and husband share an opinion very different from my own…but that’s a post for another time).

My husband wasn’t a book lover when we started dating, but being around me and my dad, he really had no choice in the matter. When he decided he wanted to check out my dad’s beloved thriller genre, my dad recommended The Hunt for Red October by Tom Clancy. It was his favorite of the Jack Ryan series, and he told my husband “you’re not going to be able to put it down.” A week after my husband started reading it, my dad died. And put it down he did. It was really hard for him to continue—as long as there were still chapters left to finish, it felt like this thing between them was still open. Ultimately he decided to finish it, and he’s since gone on to enjoy more Clancy. And some Daniel Silva. And, just like my dad, he’s asking me if I can get him an early copy of the new James Patterson.

Option B

This book wasn’t one of my dad’s favorites—it actually came out after he died. But for me, it’s been the single most helpful book on dealing with my grief, and I think for that reason alone he’d appreciate its content.

Even if you’re not grieving, or if you’ve been blessed to never lose a loved one, this is a book you should listen to. At some point in your life, Option A will not be a possibility, and you will need to accept and own Option B. Sheryl Sandberg, and her writing partner and friend Adam Grant, teach that resilience is something you can build up. When you’re grieving, it can feel like you’ll never have a happy day again. But Sandberg is proof that joy beyond a loss of this magnitude is possible, and her and Grant are here to help you be resilient. Don’t get me wrong—this book had me ugly crying, and I had to pause a lot while listening, but it was a gift in and of itself for giving me the additional tools I needed to heal and grow.

Gone with the Wind

When my dad was 16, his father sat him down and handed him a copy of Gone with the Wind by Margaret Mitchell. It became his favorite book, and turned him into a bibliophile. I remember him telling me once that “he didn’t know books could be like that.” At 11 I got my hands on my own copy of the 1,000 page (okay—1,024… yes I remember the exact number of pages) Civil War epic, and devoured it in days. I’d like to say that that too was my defining “I’m a reader!” moment, but as evidenced by the picture above, my dad got his bookish claws into me well before I turned 11.

As I mentioned earlier, my love of literature is one of the greatest gifts my dad gave me. Some people may judge you for having your nose constantly stuck in a book, or for tuning them out completely when you’re wearing your headphones listening to one, but my dad taught me that there’s no shame in getting completely lost in another world. Sometimes it’s more beautiful than the one we’re in.

Rules of Prey

My dad was a very talented trial attorney. Though he never pressured me to follow in his footsteps, I still managed to find myself in law school right after graduating from college. I quickly realized that law wasn’t actually my calling, and returned home to pursue a career in the just-as-lucrative world of book publishing. I was incredibly lucky to have the full support of both of my parents in making this transition, and my dad’s enthusiasm for my new career path only grew when I landed my first job and started bringing him early copies of new books from some of his favorite authors.

As an established and respected lawyer, you’d think that my dad would’ve loved epic histories or narrative nonfiction. Nope. My dad was a thriller guy. One of the Lucas Davenport books by John Sandford was the first book I brought home for him from my new job, and he was ecstatic. For a guy that got his start with Margaret Mitchell you may be surprised at this turn (no offense, Mr. Sandford). But dad had an intense job and when he sat down to read or listen for pleasure, he wanted pure escapism. So whether you love a thriller, or a good romance like I do, there’s no shame in it. If it brings you joy, who cares?

To Kill a Mockingbird

When I was in the eighth grade my class read To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee. For a field trip, my dad took our class to the local courthouse and he became my very own Atticus Finch brought to life. Like Atticus, my dad always led by example in showing me how important it is to treat everyone in your life with respect. I was shocked and overwhelmed when more than 700 people showed up to my dad’s wake. I stood there and shook every single one of their hands. Sure family and close friends were there, but so were his adversaries—men and women who had faced him in court who made a point of telling me what a gentleman he was. But beyond that—and perhaps more astonishingly—his barber was there. His physical trainer. His dry cleaner. The woman who had been our housekeeper over a decade before. His high school wrestling coach. My dad made everyone he met feel respected and like a true friend. Seeing the love he had put out in the world come back to his family in the form of handshakes and hugs made that hard day a bit easier.

Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone, Book 1

To the untrained eye it might look like my dad and I had a ton in common, but believe it or not sometimes our interests did diverge. For example, though it pains me to admit it, my dad did not share my unwavering obsession with all things Harry Potter. My mom and I read all of the books in tandem, and I made it a prerequisite of our marriage that my husband “get on my level” when it came to this series. I own all of the books, audiobooks, DVDs, and yes—I even have my own wand. Though my dad never read them, he would go to the movie theater with me and my mom to see each new film when they got released. I don’t know if he actually loved the experience, but he never said anything to dampen our enthusiasm or joy when leaving the theater. One day I went up to my bedroom and saw a copy of The Tales of Beetle the Bard sitting on my bed. I flew down the stairs and quickly thanked my mom for getting it for me… except, she had no idea what I was talking about. It turns out my dad had bought the book knowing how much I’d love it. My dad never got to meet my son—his namesake—but what he showed me with Harry Potter is something that I hope I’m able to do for my own kids: support their interests, their hobbies, their nerdy obsessions, whether I share them or not.

The Hunt for Red October

Not only is it important to accept your kids’ interests, but it’s also important to accept the people they want in their lives. It can be hard to welcome someone new into the family, but I hope that when my kids find their significant others, I welcome them the same way my parents welcomed my husband. I’m incredibly lucky that they had (and have) such a great relationship (though sometimes it doesn’t feel like luck when my mom and husband share an opinion very different from my own…but that’s a post for another time).

My husband wasn’t a book lover when we started dating, but being around me and my dad, he really had no choice in the matter. When he decided he wanted to check out my dad’s beloved thriller genre, my dad recommended The Hunt for Red October by Tom Clancy. It was his favorite of the Jack Ryan series, and he told my husband “you’re not going to be able to put it down.” A week after my husband started reading it, my dad died. And put it down he did. It was really hard for him to continue—as long as there were still chapters left to finish, it felt like this thing between them was still open. Ultimately he decided to finish it, and he’s since gone on to enjoy more Clancy. And some Daniel Silva. And, just like my dad, he’s asking me if I can get him an early copy of the new James Patterson.

Option B

This book wasn’t one of my dad’s favorites—it actually came out after he died. But for me, it’s been the single most helpful book on dealing with my grief, and I think for that reason alone he’d appreciate its content.

Even if you’re not grieving, or if you’ve been blessed to never lose a loved one, this is a book you should listen to. At some point in your life, Option A will not be a possibility, and you will need to accept and own Option B. Sheryl Sandberg, and her writing partner and friend Adam Grant, teach that resilience is something you can build up. When you’re grieving, it can feel like you’ll never have a happy day again. But Sandberg is proof that joy beyond a loss of this magnitude is possible, and her and Grant are here to help you be resilient. Don’t get me wrong—this book had me ugly crying, and I had to pause a lot while listening, but it was a gift in and of itself for giving me the additional tools I needed to heal and grow.

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