Monday 27 March 2017

Holiday surprises and old favourites

Our round-up of summer reading, compiled by Jennifer Ryan, ranges from Irish rebels to wicked humour

GREGORY'S GIRL: Scarlett
Johansson, in the cinema
adaptation of 'The Other
Boleyn Girl'
GREGORY'S GIRL: Scarlett Johansson, in the cinema adaptation of 'The Other Boleyn Girl'

Jennifer Ryan

Sinead Mac Aodha: When your job is to promote Irish literature abroad, you're sure to have a list as long as your arm of recommendations.

Mac Aodha is busy prepping for the Frankfurt Book Fair, but nonetheless is glued to Molly McCloskey's Circles Around the Sun. The memoir, which details her brother Mike's paranoid schizophrenia and the impact that illness has had on her family, is "heart-breakingly honest, entirely lacking in sentiment and deeply moving". Before this Mac Aodha opted for fiction and flew through The Forgotten Waltz by Anne Enright, "an absolutely brilliant account of infidelity, of the wanton excesses of the Celtic Tiger years and of the complexities of intergenerational female relationships. It's also, as is so often the case with her writing, wickedly funny". Resting on the bedside locker is Man Booker longlisted On Canaan's Side by Sebastian Barry. Mac Aodha is a fan, "There's an epic quality to the plot and like almost all of Sebastian's writing, it's beautifully lyrical". And one for the bank holiday weekend? "Mistaken by Neil Jordan has caught my eye and impressed many of my friends. I'm looking forward to it."

Darragh "Dazzy" Oglesby

Travelling around Germany with the band seems to be making drummer Oglesby a little homesick. "I'm re-reading Roddy Doyle's A Star Called Henry. It's a handy one for the plane because it's easy to digest! In general though, I really love books set in Dublin, particularly ones set in the past." Fiction or non-fiction? "I love biographies. Brendan Behan's The Borstal Boy and Memoirs of an Irish Rebel are favourites." Has he always preferred Irish writers? "I guess it's just what I can relate to. Although my mother is a big reader and she's suggested Richard Dawkins' The God Delusion, so that's waiting for me on her shelf at home. That's next, maybe."

Mark Cagney

TV3's early starts mean extra hours in the day for Cagney to kick back with a good book, and when we chat he's raving about Things The Grandchildren Should Know, the autobiography by Eels singer/songwriter Mark Olive Everett. "I've had it since Christmas but am just getting to it now. It's fairly hefty, essentially about family. His father was a genius, a founder of quantum physics but was discredited and eaten up by bitterness. His sister committed suicide. Yet despite all this it's a beautifully written and deeply poignant story." Not our average rock memoir then? "No, definitely not!" Anything a little lighter for those precious off-camera moments? "I loved, loved, loved Eoin Colfer's Plugged. There was a real sense of madness and surrealism in there. I think he's definitely made his own niche in the crime genre."

Mary Mitchell-O'Connor

Former school principal Mitchell-O'Connor hasn't let political life interfere with her love of reading since her election to the Dail earlier this year. "I've always enjoyed reading. We had a mobile library in Galway when I was a child. You could borrow two books each but I was there with three sisters so we always went home with eight books between us!" Lined up on the shelf for bank holiday reading are Kevin Rafter's The Road to Power: How Fine Gael Made History and a paperback version of Conor O'Cleary's May You Live in Interesting Times, "both were recommended by colleagues in Dail Eireann". After that it's onto fiction, Philippa Gregory's The Other Boleyn Girl and "hopefully Emma Donoghue's Room as I've heard so much about it".

Keith Barry

Barry never reads to chill out, "I only ever read books related to what I do, I enjoy them. One I'm dying to read is Flipnosis: The Art of Split-Second Persuasion by Kevin Dutton. It all about learning how to make people do whatever you want them to do!" Sounds like a handy trick for the man whose show, 8 Deadly Sins, includes mentally extracting the imaginary sins of audience members. Barry doesn't read novels, he prefers biographies or history. "Right now I'm reading a book about Erik Jan Hanussen, he was basically Hitler's Jewish clairvoyant. I don't believe in psychics, a lot of people say they do no harm but two of the foremost psychics that ever lived were this guy Hanussen and another guy, Wolf Messing, who was Stalin's right-hand man." And if you want to brush up on your self-hypnosis skills Barry advocates Get The Life You Want by neuro-linguistic programmer Richard Brandler. For something a little lighter Barry recommends Steve Martin's biography Born Standing Up, "funny guy".

Sebastian Barry

Fresh from a trip to Sicily, Barry has had time to catch up on some reading. You'd think that after the intense build-up to the publication of his latest title, On Canaan's Side, that Barry would be looking for an easy read. But no. "It took me seven days to read it, but Alan Hollinghurst's The Stranger's Child was worth it. It's tremendous, it won't disappoint." His favourite book so far this year is Ali Smith's There But For The. "She's just a genuinely original writer. I loved the writing in this novel, it was absolutely her. Really playful in a natural way." Understandably, Barry has a keen eye for literary talent and is looking forward to starting Last Man in Tower by Man Booker Prize winner Aravind Adiga. The novel, set in 21-Century India is a follow-up to the Adiga's acclaimed debut, The White Tiger.

Amanda Brunker

Being a busy working mum means Brunker doesn't have quite as much free time for reading as she'd like. Plus she's working on a play, Hello Buoys, which will have a nationwide tour in 2012. "It's a camp comedy set on a cruise ship which will be a lot of fun." For her own holidays Brunker has two Peter Sheridan novels lined up, 44: Dublin Made Me and 47 Roses: A Story of Family Secrets and Enduring Love. "I recently saw [Sheridan] perform a one-man play at Bewley's and it was fantastic. Both books have been winking at me from my bedside locker for some time so I'm dying to get stuck in to them." It seems Brunker has a soft spot for the capital's writers. "The last book I read was Confessions of an Irish Rebel by Brendan Behan. It was brilliant. I've always loved that old Dublin humour. When I was younger I enjoyed reading the plays of Sean O'Casey and Oscar Wilde, so reading Confessions of an Irish Rebel was like reliving my youth and his!"

Sean Gallagher

More famous for his entrepreneurial spirit than his reading habits, it seems fitting that Gallagher chooses to settle down with the inspirational Lance Armstrong's It's Not About the Bike: My Journey Back to Life. "I am a huge fan of Armstrong's and wear his Livestrong wrist band. I really admire how he has used his personal challenges to raise money and awareness of cancer." Never one to rest on his laurels, Gallagher has two more titles lined up for the bank holiday weekend. Cyclone: My Story by former boxing world champion Barry McGuigan, and Joseph O'Connor's Ghost Light. "I have heard so many good things about it that I am saving it for when I have the time to get properly stuck in." Any all-time favourites you like to return to? "The Nibble Theory by Kaleel Jamison. I read it almost 25 years ago. It is a great book about leadership, change and personal growth."

Belinda McKeon

In preparation for her upcoming appearance at the Kilkenny Arts Festival, debut novelist McKeon is catching up on the latest titles from prominent Irish writers. "Right now, I am finishing Edna O'Brien's Saints and Sinners, which is brimming with O'Brien's inimitable wisdom. I tried to save Anne Enright's new novel The Forgotten Waltz for my holidays but I just couldn't wait!" Sitting on the shelf for summer reading are Sebastian Barry's On Canaan's Side, Ross Raison's moving story about Glaswegian shipbuilder Mick Little, Waterline, and Alison Espach's The Adults. Her favourite read of the year so far? "I really enjoyed Michael Longley's beautiful collection of poems, A Hundred Doors, and I also went back -- yet again -- to an old favourite, John Williams' Stoner."

Micheal O Suilleabhain

O SUilleabhAin is a frequent visitor to Coole Park outside Gort and is particularly taken with the "fine audio-visual exhibition" on the life of the Abbey Theatre co-founder Isabella August, AKA Lady Gregory. Out in paperback this year is Judith Hill's Lady Gregory: An Irish Life, and O Suilleabhain loves it. "What a story! An apparently Victorian lady drawn in, by the power of the spirit of the time, to the in-between world of Irish and English politics and culture. I'm looking to revisiting Coole Park in the wake of this book." On a more contemporary note the musician is excited about starting Theosony: Towards a Theology of Listening by spiritual singer and Christian scholar Noirin Ni Riain.

Caitilin Rose

Twenty-one- year-old Rose is looking forward to her Electric Picnic debut in a few weeks. The Tennessee native is used to travelling and uses it as an opportunity to read a few pages here and there.

"I opened A Farewell to Arms on the way to Australia and finished it on the plane back. That flight is almost 19 hours in all so it was ample time. It was perfect, but the ending left me completely gutted for the rest of the flight."

Right now she's brushing up on her classics, "because I really didn't read enough in school".

Any nice discoveries?

"I found a very old blue leather-bound, girls-primary-school-issued collection of Hardy's poetry in a vintage bookshop in Melbourne on that Australian tour. It's palm-sized with gold-leaf etched into the front cover in the form of a cherub and also lining the sides of the pages. I quite like buying books as beautiful as the things written inside of them."

Poetry seems a good choice for between gigs as "there's rarely enough downtime between arrival and soundcheck and curling my hair (the most difficult task of all) to really cut into something. It's on the long drives or in the rare hotel with a tub where I get most of my reading done."

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