Friday, 19 December 2008

Irish Books for Christmas

Where Clare Leads Ireland FollowsAs usual there are plenty of new books available in the bookshops for those looking for Christmas gifts or just wishing to treat themselves to a good read. In Days We Remember Deirdre Purcell interviews twenty-five people who embody our memory of the events over the last forty years that have made us who we are today. Included are Gay Byrne’s account of the outcry when Ann Lovett died in a Marian garden in Granard, Ray Houghton on scoring that goal and Gill Bowler on the freedom of travelling to a sun holiday. This beautifully illustrated book would have broad appeal.

The Irish Times Book of the Year, an annual publication, covers the highlights of the year 2008 as recorded in The Irish Times.

In Sunday Miscellany , a selection from 2006-2008, edited by Clíodhna Ní Anluain, a selection of writing broadcast by the popular RTE Radio 1 Sunday Miscellany programme is showcased. Among the 106 writers featured are Seamus Heaney, Anne Enright, Hugo Hamilton, Colm Tóibín, Joseph O'Connor and Nuala Ní Dhomhnaill. There are more than 150 pieces here on all sorts of subjects - literary, musical historical, political, topographical, sporting, personal. An entertaining book for dipping into as and when time permits.

The Irish Times Universal Atlas of the World would make an attractive addition to any bookshelf or coffee table and might even prove useful for finding one’s way to the establishments featured in The Irish Pub by Turtle Bunbury and James Fennell - a tour of the most charming and atmospheric hostelries in the country.

For those with a more local interest, Where Clare Leads, Ireland Follows would be sure to please. Richard Fitzpatrick profiles 20 of the leading lights of modern Clare in the many fields of sport, the arts, music, politics, religion, minority causes, the media, social issues and much more. Sharon Shannon, Michael D. Higgins and Tony Griffin are just some of those featured.

Clare: History and Society, edited by Matthew Lynch and Patrick Nugent, is a more academic book covering all aspects of the county’s history from the analyses of settlement patterns, the decline of the Irish language, the importance of traditional music and folklore, to the history of religion in the county.

Paddy Hillery’s biography by Dr. John Walsh profiles the long political career of one of Clare’s most famous sons. There is also a new biography of Mary McAleese – First Citizen by Patsy McGarry.

For the history buff there are plenty of other books from which to choose. Great Irish Speeches by Richard Aldous – a book and CD - is a celebration of 50 speeches that have shaped Irish history. Aldous is also the author of We Declare: Landmark Documents in Ireland’s History - the most momentous and stirring documents in the history of Ireland. Great Irish Heroes by Sean McMahon covers characters from Collins to Cuchulainn, from Dev to Daniel O'Connell. In Great Irish Lives, The Times brings together a unique collection of obituaries of Ireland's most distinguished individuals from the last two centuries.

Sports fan are also well catered for in the books that are on offer this Christmas. It has been the year of Padraig Harrington, Munster rugby triumphant, three Irish boxing medals in Beijing and Kilkenny and Kerry keeping the Liam McCarthy and Sam Maguire Cups firmly in their grip. All of these events and more are covered in The Setanta Sports Yearbook 2008-2009 while Trapattoni – a Life in Football will please the Irish soccer fan. Ronan O Gara’s or Anthony Foley’s (Axel) autobiographies will keep the rugby fans happy and Touching Greatness: Tales from Inside Irish Golf by Dermot Gilleece has the golf enthusiasts covered. Crashed and Byrned: The Greatest Racing Driver You Never Saw by Tommy Byrne with Mark Hughes has just been named the William Hill Irish Sportsbook for 2008.

Cookery fans would be delighted to receive Rachel's baking secrets : from cookies to casseroles, fresh from the oven or The Clatter of Forks and Spoons by celebrity chefs Rachel Allen and Richard Corrigan respectively. Vegans and vegetarians would welcome Cornucopia at Home, featuring a selection of the most popular and enduring recipes from the Cornucopia Vegetarian Wholefood Restaurant in Dublin.

The Beatles Irish Concert by Colm Keane will bring back happy memories to Beatles fans. Ronnie by Ronnie Drew and Joe Dolan by Ronan Casey profile two of Ireland’s best loved musicians, both of whom are recently deceased.

Through the Year with Brian D’Arcy contains a short reflection for every day of the year on matters cultural, political, social and religious.

For the fiction reader, there is plenty from which to choose. Sebastian Barry’s Secret Scripture has been described as one of the greatest novels of this century. Mr S and the Secrets of Andorra’s Box continues Ross O’Carroll-Kelly’s saga and is bound to raise a smile. There are also The Sea and the Silence by Peter Cunningham, Open Handed by Chris Binchy, Leaving Ardglass by William King, Going it Alone by Clare Dowling for chic-lit fans and for crime fans The Dying Breed by Declan Hughes.

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