6 of 25
By Ta-Nehisi Coates
240 pages; Spiegel & Grau

Because there are great dads, and then there are great dads like this...

The lyrically gifted Coates recalls growing up black in Baltimore in the '80s—that is, in the age of crack. He movingly portrays his father, a man who had seven kids by four women, was involved with the Black Panthers, loved foreign films and literature, ran a press from his basement, and was fiercely determined to keep his sons off the streets and on the path to Howard University (referred to as Mecca). "Dad wanted me present to everything, my entire neurology cocked," Coates writes. This resonant story of race and coming-of-age is proof his father succeeded. — Dawn Raffel