Entertainment Books

Friday 19 October 2018

Now relax, sit back, and feast your eyes

I AM reading David Landes's fascinating Dynasties: the Fortunes And Misfortunes Of The World's Great Family Businesses (Viking) about how some of the great family businesses made, and in some cases, lost, their fortunes.

Aidan Clarke's The Old English in Ireland 1625-42 (Gibbon & McKee) shows that the story we were always taught in history classes about our relationship with the British and that it was "us and them" is more complicated than that.

It shows how we were part of the British project -- not that we liked it! -- and how the English civil war was played out in Ireland.

One of those books that everyone tells me I've got to read is Peter Ackroyd's Hawksmoor (Penguin). When I worked in the City of London, I used to go and look at Hawksmoor's churches at lunchtime to get away from the madness of finance.

David McWilliams's new book, The Generation Game, is published next month

IT'S A Jim Thompson summer for me. I've just read Pop. 1280 (Orion) about the philandering, seemingly dim-witted high sheriff of Potts County, a man with a lot of trouble on his hands and evil on his mind.

Next was The Getaway (Orion), the story of Doc McCoy, a career criminal trying to pull off the perfect bank job with his errant wife and shady associate. Thompson is a brilliant writer. Right now, I'm 30 pages in to Dirty White Boys, by Stephen Hunter (Arrow), about three escaped convicts blazing a trail through the American Southwest. Sparse prose, vicious, no-blood-spared kind of stuff. Excellent.

Alex Barclay's crime novel, The Caller, was published in April by HarperCollins

PUBLISHERS seem to have switched away from tiresome avalanches of tournament-related sports books in recent years and the overhyped soccer biographies, some of which were such a disaster in 2006.

The downside of this is there is nothing special on the sports shelves this summer, although I did enjoy the hilarious GAA Confidential by Darragh McManus (Hodder Headline Ireland), an eclectic collection of anecdotes by an immensely talented Tipperary-born writer domiciled for a long time in Clare (say no more).

Sports misery seems to be a good theme of the summer, with former soccer star Peter Marinello's autobiographical tale Fallen Idle (Headline) and Alex Higgins' From The Eye Of The Hurricane (Headline) promising more than it delivered -- it ricocheted off the pocket rather than going straight in. However, Eamon Dunphy's terrific biography of Sir Matt Busby, A Strange Glory (Aurum) has just been reissued to cheer us all up.

Eoghan Corry's latest sports book is the Illustrated History of the GAA, published by Gill & MacMillan

I THINK The Last Fine Summer (Picador) has to be the best-titled book of the past few years. I read it last year, even though it came out in 1998. Author John McKenna writes in a simple, beautiful way.

When I saw that he had a new memoir out I grabbed it for my annual break in Spain. Things You Should Know (New Island) is a sad but compelling story of a marital break-up, as poignant as it is honest.

I will finish it sitting on the hot sands of Fuengirola. I'll probably have a little cry and then move on to Joe O'Connor's Redemption Falls (Harvill Secker) and after that, the new Patrick McCabe, Winterwood (Bloomsbury).

Peter Sheridan is the author of two memoirs, 44: Dublin Made Me, and 47 Roses, and a novel, Big Fat Love

AFTER a hectic year on the domestic political scene, believe it or not I hope to spend some of my holiday time reading about two international political figures.

I am looking forward to seeing Carl Bernstein's take on the life of Hillary Clinton, A Woman In Charge: The Life of Hillary Rodham Clinton, (Hutchinson), a woman with a very full and interesting past as well as a future yet to be determined.

I also plan to tuck into The Blair Years: The Alastair Campbell Diaries (Hutchinson), recounting his time with the British PM.

Having read The Kite Runner, I am looking forward to Khaled Hosseini's A Thousand Splendid Suns (Bloomsbury), a fictional work detailing the lives of two women in Afghanistan. Like many grown-up children, I am also eagerly anticipatng the final instalment of Harry Potter, Harry Potter And The Deathly Hallows (Bloomsbury).

Mary Hanafin is Minister for Education and Science

I AM half-way through Marina Lewycka's Short History of Tractors in Ukrainian (Penguin) -- I read 150 pages in 24 hours and found it very readable, if a little odd.

I am also reading with great interest Joseph O'Connor's Redemption Falls -- Iwas hooked by his Star Of The Sea which was so brilliant. Scott Turow is a stunning writer and I have just finished his latest, Limitations (Pan, forthcoming in paperback), about a judge who serves on the Court of Appeal and is about to revisit a dark secret in his life.

I have to admit that I found Patrick McCabe's Winterwood very disturbing, although it is a great novel about a difficult subject.

On a completely different subject, The Dark Side Of The Moon: The Magnificent Madness Of The American Lunar Quest, by Gerard DeGroot (Jonathan Cape). Although it is a factual book, it reads more like a thriller.

Charlie Bird is chief news correspondent at RTE News

I LOVE reading books that are so far removed from food -- if I want to switch off I go for murder! I've just started a new Lee Child novel, Bad Luck and Trouble (Bantam), and Geoff Abbot's Panic (Time Warner) -- it's a terrific book, although I was expecting a few more plot twists -- I love to be outsmarted as a reader.

As a fan of Kathy Reichs, I am looking forward to reading Crossbones.

On the food side of things, Kitchen Con, by Trevor White (Mainstream), was just great: he's not afraid to say what he thinks. Jane Grigson's Good Things And English Food and Elizabeth David's Mediterranean Cooking, French Country Cooking are just lovely books to read about food, and the way Nigella Lawson writes is really beautiful, on a par with Elizabeth David.

Nigel Slater is fantastic, and I get inspired with the lovely photos and cool Sydney-style cooking of Bill Grainger.

Rachel Allen is the author of Favourite Food At Home

RECENTLY, I unearthed a cache of presents from my 50th birthday party -- 13 years ago -- which includes a complete set of the works of Maria Edgeworth.

I'm re-reading the books with far more insight and pleasure than I did 40 years ago as an undergraduate. And her influence on Jane Austen is so clear: in The Absentee And Ormond (Oxford World Classics), which I'm reading at the moment, there is the line, "since she could not be a beauty, she would be odd", echoed in Jane Austen.

As a judge of the Bisto Book Awards, I'll include The Boy In The Striped Pyjamas, by John Boyne (David Fickling Books) on my reading list for my house in Cyprus, as well as a little-known work of Beatrix Potter -- a full novel, with very few illustrations, called The Fairy Caravan, which I discovered in a charity shop near my home.

She writes in such a lyrical and evocative way about the Lake District and celebrates animals in such a lovely way.

David Norris is a member of Seanad Eireann

I'M just back from holidays and Claire Keegan's stunning collection of short stories Walk the Blue Fields (Faber), was perfect for the plane journey. Keegan possesses enormous skill in telling a good story where the last few lines always leave you reeling!

Keegan's stories are fairly dark though and so I was glad of the light relief of my second newly discovered author, Italian Niccolo Ammaniti, whose novel Steal You Away (Canongate) had me laughing out loud on the beach!

On returning home I immediately bought Ammaniti's earlier novel, I'm Not Scared, which couldn't be more different. A haunting, atmospheric thriller that was an international bestseller, it's another page-turner!

Finally, I had enjoyed Ian McEwan's On Chesil Beach before I went on holidays and so I took his Atonement (both Jonathan Cape) along too. McEwan has a way with words, and in this novel he captures the horrors of war and the moral dilemma of his intriguing central character.

Aedin Gormley presents Artszone and Green Room Cinema on RTE Lyric FM

IN the Workhouse Museum in Dunfanaghy, I bought Wee Hannah (Workhouse), an 18-page transcription of the 90-year-old eponymous woman's account of her life through the Famine, workhouse, hired farm-labour, beggary, and a one-room cottage gifted to her by locals.

A Mrs Law, the wife of an Anglo-Irish MP, recorded her story. Seldom have I been so wrecked.

The Diana Chronicles by Tina Brown (Century), is also compelling. Charles met her only 13 times before they married in a startling resemblance to the similarly arranged marriage between Hannah's father and his cruel second wife.

I am saving Colum McCann's Zoli (Phoenix) about Romanian Romas, for a really rainy day.

Nell McCafferty is a journalist and writer

Given their recent disappointing general election result, The Irish Labour Party 1922-73 by Niamh Puirseil (published by UCD Press) seems a timely academic and historical analysis.

I'm also looking forward to John McGahern's brilliantly precise prose in his Creatures Of The Earth: New And Selected Stories (Faber) and Khaled Hosseini's A Thousand Splendid Suns, dealing with the women of Afghanistan, which I suspect will be devastating as well as inspiring, if his previous book The Kite Runner is anything to go by.

Diarmaid Ferriter is a historian and broadcaster

HAVING been a huge fan of The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini, I rushed out to buy his new book, A Thousand Splendid Suns and was not disappointed. The story of two women married to the same wretched man, who find consolation in each other, it's a wonderful story about friendship and heroism.

Another book I recently read and enjoyed is Ian McEwan's On Chesil Beach. The book explores how a moment can change your life forever. It's very thought-provoking and heartbreaking.

I had the good fortune to get a preview of Monica McInerney's fantastic new book, The Faraday Girls (Pan), which comes out on October 1. Set in Australia, New York, London and Ireland, it tells the story of the five charismatic sisters, the niece they collectively raised and a dark family secret that threatens to destroy them.

Finally I have to recommend Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows. I've just finished reading it and it didn't let me down, a fitting end for the brave wizard.

Sinead Moriarty's new novel, In My Sister's Shoes, is published by Penguin Ireland

I'VE just finished reading Don De Lillo's Falling Man (Picador). It's not just about 9/11, but about the emotional fallout for people who lived in New York.

The central character in the novel is a man who was caught up in the bombing and who finds himself back at the home of his ex-wife.

Obviously, it's not perfect, but at a time when we are in a state of confusion personally, nationally, globally and we won't get guidance from politics, here is a writer getting to grips with something which is all-consuming for Americans. I'm also re-reading a novel which I originally reviewed for The View, William Gibson's Pattern Recognition (Penguin). I wouldn't normally be interested in science fiction or technological novels, but this is set in the near future, and is crisp, clear and beautifully written. It's about a woman who is allergic to logos even though she is engaged in branding, and Gibson knows his stuff.

Finally, as I've just been to New Orleans, and I like to read about where I'm going, I've revisited A Confederacy Of Dunces, by John Kennedy Toole (Penguin Red Classics).

John Kelly presents RTE 1's The View and the JK Ensemble on Lyric FM

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