Friday 19 July 2019

History, addiction and life through the eyes of a cow - the books you'll be reading over the next 6 months

Actress Rose McGowan
Actress Rose McGowan
Joanne Lipman
Declan Lynch.
Brent Pope. Photo: Frank Mc Grath

Hilary A White

Non-fiction Corporate skulduggery, cults and crime are just some of the wide range of subjects tackled in new publications over the next six months.


The start of any year is always going to be crammed with self-help titles as people come out of the speed-wobble of Christmas and New Year.

One that stands out, however, will be Slow At Work (Gill Books).

Food writer, events organiser and general wonder woman Aoife McElwain sets out her tips on how to “work less, achieve more and regain your balance in an always-on world”. Freelancers, take note.

Where The Past Begins (Fourth Estate) will see New York Times bestselling author Amy Tan recount her traumatic upbringing as the child of Chinese immigrants to the US.

Open-heart surgery is expected...

The same goes for Brave (HQ), the memoir of American actress Rose McGowan’s early years growing up in a cult.

Arthur Herman’s 1917 (Harper) looks like a fascinating historical and geopolitical investigation into how Vladimir Lenin and Woodrow Wilson changed the nature of foreign policy forever and ushered in a “new world disorder”. 



Award-winning US author Marilynne Robinson returns with a collection of essays entitled What Are We Doing Here? (Little, Brown) that promises to wed matters of the modern political climate with those of faith and spirituality.

Joanne Lipman.jpg
Joanne Lipman

Win Win (John Murray Press), meanwhile, sees acclaimed US commentator Joanne Lipman build on the interest garnered by her Wall Street Journal article ‘Women at Work: A Guide for Men’ and expand its equality-in-the-workplace manifesto.

An issue  beginning to come into sharp focus is screen addiction — meaning that Catherine Price’s How To Break Up With Your Phone (Trapeze) is most timely. In it, the science journalist vows to help you conquer your phone addiction in 30 days.

Waking addicts up to the seriousness of their problem might be a challenge, however.

Real-crime intrigue hopefully awaits us in The Good Mothers (William Collins), Alex Perry’s saga about the heroic women caught at the centre of Italy’s largest mafia family, the ‘Ndrangheta.

Already people are getting excited about Maybe Esther (Fourth Estate), bestselling author Katja Petrowskaja’s telling of her family’s position at the centre of 20th-century European history.

Also bound to garner much attention is Rebel (William Morrow), a tell-all memoir by the great Hollywood enfant terrible and squandered talent, Nick Nolte.



Declan Lynch.

A busy month for non-fiction, this. Declan Lynch (of this parish) has become one of the foremost commentators dealing with the insidious and ruinous addiction of gambling.

In Tony Ten (Gill Books), he teams up with one Tony O’Reilly, a postmaster who swiped €1.75m from An Post to fuel his gambling. This tale has the look of an eye-watering real-life caper — but Lynch can always be trusted to weave in hard truths about this addiction’s inherent poison.

Another matter we must face up to is the horrors of the Tuam Mothers and Babies Home.

Helping to lance the boil will be The Great Shame (Gill Books), in which Alison O’Reilly — the first journalist to write about the discoveries there — relates the nightmare through the eyes of shunned single mother, Bridget Dolan.

Two Sisters (Little, Brown) will see Norwegian war correspondent Asne Seierstad relate the story of 19-year-old Ayan Juma and her 16-year-old sister, Leila, who left their Oslo home in 2013 to travel to Syria, sparking a panicked search by their father.

Revolutionaries of a different kind crop up in War and Revolution in the West of Ireland: Galway, 1913–1922 (Merrion Press), Conor McNamara’s new examination

of how the country’s western regions dealt with the  fallout from the violent struggle for independence on the ground.

Also of interest to students of Irish history will be Gerard Murphy’s The Great Cover-Up: The Truth About Michael Collins at Beal na Blath (Collins Press), an investigation into one of

the most hotly-debated gunshots in Irish history.

More modern political turmoil will come to mind when reading Hard Border (New Island), Darach MacDonald’s post-Brexit Ulster travelogue.

 Suede frontman Brett Anderson will hopefully have plenty of hair-raising rock ’n’ roll shenanigans on offer in his new autobiography, Coal Black Mornings (Little, Brown).

A different energy altogether is likely from The Cow Book (Granta), the hotly-tipped pastoral memoir by rising Longford talent John Connell.

Here, Connell looks to view his own rural upbringing through the prism of an animal that has lived alongside man every step of the way.



PL Brent Pope.jpg
Brent Pope. Photo: Frank Mc Grath

Rugby analyst and mental health campaigner Brent Pope is probably everyone’s favourite Hiberno-Kiwi. 

Win (Hachette) will see him team up with psychotherapist and former All Blacks mental skills coach Jason Brennan to provide “proven strategies for success in sports, life and mental health”. Could be very interesting.

What also looks to be very interesting is Patricia Byrne’s The Preacher and the Prelate: The Achill Mission Colony and the Battle for Souls in Famine Ireland (Merrion Press).

Byrne digs around a very dark past that takes in physical and psychological abuse in Famine-ravaged Connacht.

History fans based in the Pale who relish ‘on the barricades’ moments in history might want to investigate Revolutionary Dublin, 1912–1923: A Walking Guide (Collins Press), in which historians John Gibney and Donal Fallon map out the key touchstones of this axial period in our history in a handy walking tour.



There should be plenty of interest in Making Oscar Wilde (Oxford University Press), Michele Mendelssohn’s new biography that draws on uncovered documentation about the peerless Dublin wit.

A bold and fresh new take on Wilde’s tumultuous life is rumoured.

If John Connell’s The Cow Book is not enough bovine inspiration for you, then Carlow blogger and dairy farmer Lorna Sixsmith releases her latest farm memoir, Till the Cows Come Home: Memories of a Rural Childhood (Black and White Publishing) just in time for the stretch in the evenings.



It might be raking over old coals at this stage of the game, but Sean Hartnett’s Corporate Confidential: Spooks, Secrets and Counter-Espionage in Celtic Tiger Ireland (Merrion Press) looks set to be a suitably infuriating expose of the skulduggery that led to the financial crash at home and abroad.

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