It’s not Christmas without a good book (or twelve). Here’s what Books Editor Orna Mulcahy is recommending this year …
It’s been another phenomenal year in the book publishing world following record sales in 2020 (when Irish readers spent over €161m curling up with a book). This suggests that the book business, whether print or audio, is in rude good health and there is no shortage of brilliant books to give and receive this Christmas. Memoir, history and self-help guides all feature strongly, along with elegant novels, sports autobiographies and historical fiction. Here are just a few suggestions for the bookworm in your life.
1 Disaster strikes early in Jon McGregor’s LEAN FALL STAND as Robert suffers a stroke during an Antarctic expedition but it’s his wife Anna whose life is severely curtailed in this unsettling, moving novel. 4th Estate, €8.63.
2 It ain’t easy to grow old with grace and purpose, but Maureen Gaffney’s YOUR ONE WILD AND PRECIOUS LIFE might help with plenty of advice for staying engaged rather than enraged. Penguin, €14.02.
3 Michael Harding’s soulful, soothing ruminations with illustrations by Jacob Stack make A CLOUD WHERE THE BIRDS RISE something quite special. Hachette Books Ireland, €18.
4 Sophie Ellis-Bextor’s SPINNING PLATES: MUSIC, MEN, MOTHERHOOD AND ME follows the singer’s kitchen disco success in lockdown with a warm and witty memoir. Coronet, €18.74.
5 Not a lot happens in PANENKA, Rónán Hession’s tale of retired footballer Joseph and his small family but the gentle pace and graceful conclusions have made it a word-of-mouth success in troubling times. Bluemoose Books, €12.75.
6 If you dream of one day seeing David Sedaris live, in the meantime there’s A CARNIVAL OF SNACKERY: DIARIES 2003–2020 in which he is now rich, successful and still laugh-out-loud funny. Little, Brown, €16.39.
7 Kazuo Ishiguro’s KLARA AND THE SUN pairs teenager Josie with a robot companion, but illness threatens their friendship in this sad and sinister story. Faber & Faber, €16.65.
8 Emily Hourican’s second novel based on the lives of brewing heiresses, Aileen, Maureen and Oonagh THE GUINNESS GIRLS: A HINT OF SCANDAL traces their joys, sorrows, fabulous wardrobes and homes. Hachette Books, €16.38.
9 AISLING IN THE CITY sees the gal from Ballygobbard take on New York where she works her socks off, battles through Bloomingdales and takes all Bumble has to offer. A total delight. Gill Books, €18.72.
10 From controlling bishops, to “cognitively impaired” politicians: Fintan O’Toole’s WE DON’T KNOW OURSELVES is a highly readable account of Irish life since 1958. Head of Zeus, €18.08.
11 Rock superstar David Grohl is on a roll with his latest book THE STORYTELLER which tells of life on the road with Nirvana and Foo Fighters in a highly engaging way. Simon & Schuster, €11.71.
12 Patrick Radden Keefe’s EMPIRE OF PAIN: THE SECRET HISTORY OF THE SACKLER DYNASTY is a damning account of how this pharmacy giant stoked the market for Oxycontin. Doubleday, €11.70.
BONUS BOOK: 13 Rachel Cusk’s SECOND PLACE is the gift for fans of her superb Outline trilogy though it takes a new direction in a tale that beautifully skewers the artistic male ego. Faber & Faber, €15.21.
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