Irish publishers' top picks for 2013
With Christmas presents in mind we asked Irish publishers to choose the book they were most proud of bringing out this year . . . and the book they feel did not get the attention it deserved
The book we are most proud of publishing this year is The Secret Son by Jennifer Burke -- this book was the winner of our Write a Bestseller competition with TV3. It has been highly praised and has been selling consistently since its publication in September.
It's a more literary novel -- about a family in Wicklow and a contested will -- and the positive response it received has resulted in Poolbeg starting a brand-new literary imprint called Ward River Press, which we will be launching in February. Jennifer's second book, Levi's Gift, will join this imprint, which we hope will give a voice to those writers who remain under the radar here.
The House by A O'Connor is our 'One That Got Away'. It didn't get much attention, but it's a terrific read and would be a great present for someone who's a big fan of Downton Abbey.
The Lilliput Press
My colleague at Doubleday Ireland, Eoin McHugh, will cover our star writer of 2013, Donal Ryan, whose award-winning novel was jointly published in Ireland with ourselves at Lilliput.
Our most challenging book this year has been Elske Rahill's Between Dog and Wolf, a daring, high-octane novel set in Trinity College Dublin about that perennial preoccupation of young women (and men), the reconciliation of sex and love.
Our 'One That Got Away' -- the one we feel was most under-appreciated -- was Ciaran Carty's The Intimacy of Strangers, a dazzling, revealing kaleidescope of interviews with writers, directors and film professionals from Europe, Africa and the Americas, by this wisest of Ireland's critics and cineastes.
We had a huge success with Eamon Dunphy's book, but in a year of remarkable literary debuts we were delighted that Niamh Boyce's The Herbalist got such wonderful reviews and also captured the public's imagination.
It has sold more than 20,000 copies and Niamh was named Newcomer of the Year at last month's Irish Book Awards, which was the icing on the cake for us. Based on real events, the novel is set in the midlands in the 1930s, when a foreign man comes to live in a town and mesmerises local women with his potions; backstreet abortion emerges as part of the story.
The 'One That Got Away' on us was Great Irish Reportage. It did not get half the attention it deserved. It's the sort of book that ought to be in every Irish home: a collection of brilliant journalism by superb writers like Olivia O'Leary, Colm Tóibín, Maeve Binchy and Eamon Dunphy. We're a few thousand homes short! But I think over time this anthology by John Horgan will be seen as a classic.
New Island Books
Probably the most important book we've published this year is Sarah Maria Griffin's Not Lost: A Story about Leaving Home.
Emigration is such a reality for those of Sarah's generation, and in Not Lost, Sarah has captured that experience in beautiful and funny detail. She writes with passion, openness and with an honesty and intensity that really grabs readers. She explores the feelings of confusion modern emigrants experience in an always-connected world. The book is an impressive achievement and marks her out as a future star of Irish literature. A good present for any young emigrant who is coming home for Christmas, or to send to those who can't get home.
Gill & Macmillan
Making a book can mean so many things in this digital era, so publishing the physical work of art that is Chapter One: An Irish Food Story was uplifting.
From the outset, we wanted this to be more than a cookbook. We wanted it to be a celebration of Irish achievement. So when the first review says this book 'makes you proud to be Irish', you know you've achieved your goal -- and it doesn't get better than that. Chapter One is the marriage of many creative talents, all pitching in their expertise to help bring Ross Lewis's vision to life.
The generosity Ross gives to his artisan suppliers he also gave to the creative team, and the results speak for themselves. It's an example of how successful collaboration can be when it really works.
The Collins Press
The book we published this year of which I am proudest is Frank Nugent's In Search of Peaks, Passes & Glaciers: Irish Alpine Pioneers. The project has taken 10 years to come to fruition so it is gratifying to see it in print, and we are particularly pleased with the quality of the finished product. The book outlines the achievements of Irish mountaineers from the 1850s to the early 20th Century, such as John Tyndall, Charles Howard-Bury, Elizabeth Hawkins-Whitshed and Anthony Adams-Reilly. The book is a good companion to Frank's first book, Seek the Frozen Lands.
Our one that got away was The Secret of Kit Cavenaugh -- I would love to see it doing better; it's a great adventure story blending history and romance, by an established author, and it's true.
Hachette Books Ireland
It's been a year to be proud of for Hachette Ireland, with two of our books winning Book of the Year Awards. Louise Phillips won the Crime Fiction Award with The Doll's House. Michael Harding's bestselling memoir Staring at Lakes won both the Listeners' Choice and the Nonfiction Book of the Year awards and then went on to win the overall Book of the Year.
But the book we're most proud of this year is the latest in the Vanishing Ireland series. Historian Turtle Bunbury and photographer James Fennell have created a unique record of Ireland in this bestselling series and the fourth volume, Friendship and Community, is one of the year's bestselling illustrated books. I am very proud as a publisher that, in this digital age, we have all four volumes of Vanishing Ireland in print and on the shelves of bookshops around the country. These books will be treasured for generations to come.
It's been an extraordinary year for everyone associated with the phenomenon that is The Spinning Heart by Donal Ryan. For Doubleday Ireland, the new literary imprint that is part of Transworld Ireland, it's just been incredible to have had the good fortune of such early success.
From Irish Book of the Year in 2012 through to the Booker long-listing in July of this year, and on recently to the Guardian First Book Award, it's been an amazing 12 months. Donal is the real deal, a writer of the first rank who has been a joy to work with. His second novel, The Thing About December, has just been published and it too is already enjoying stunning early reviews.
Our bestseller this year was Lethal Allies, now in its fourth reprint. The book covers a series of loyalist killings between 1972 and 1978 and British collusion in these events. We published the book because we felt it was important to expose the circumstances of these deaths and the devastation wreaked on the families of the victims.
Our One That Got Away would be another very interesting book that we published titled 1916: What the People Saw. This is a fascinating view of the Easter Rising from the civilian perspective yet, due to a lack of media interest, it has not reached as wide an audience as we had hoped.