Read all about it! It's the year of the book bargains...
Books Editor John Spain on the best value between the covers
This Christmas, thanks to the recession and the intense competition from online sales and e-books, there is extraordinary value to be found in the bookshops. More than in any previous year, stores have slashed the prices of selected books to tempt customers searching for presents.
We're not talking about ancient remaindered stock or the usual 3-for-2 deals (or 342s as they're called in the trade) which mainly offer paperbacks. What we are talking about here are brilliant and/or beautiful newly published books, including leading titles, which stores are now selling at half or well below half their recommended retail price.
These specially selected bargains are available in all book chains but the titles chosen vary from one store group to another. They include big coffee table books that make impressive gifts, hardbacks and large paperbacks. Spotting the genuine bargains among all the other offers in crowded bookshops is not always easy. But the following offer exceptional value:
The biggest bookshop chain in the country with more than 60 stores nationwide has picked a number of titles which they call their Wow Price books. These include Joe Duffy's 400-page hardback autobiography Just Joe which was €25 and is now €16.99; Apple genius Steve Jobs' biography, a 650-page hardback, was €33 and is now €19.99; Jamie Oliver's new cookbook, Jamie's Great Britain, a large format hardback, was €39.60 but is now €19.99; and rugby star Donncha O'Callaghan's Joking Apart, a 320-page hardback, was €25, but is now €13.99.
All these are recent or current bestsellers. Probably the most striking value is the 320-page hardback of short stories by Cathy Kelly called Christmas Magic, which has been at the top of the bestsellers for the past month; it was €17.15 and is now €7.99.
Other titles that offer real value include:
The Dubs: The Road to Sam Maguire -- was €23, now €9.99
As the summer of 2011 began, Dublin's footballers had gone 15 championship seasons without winning Sam. This year it was different. A great account by Malachy Clerkin, with stunning pictures from Inpho.
Jacqueline Wilson Box Set -- was €21, now €8.99
Contains three of the bestselling children's writer's most loved books -- Secrets, Vicky Angel and Midnight.
Catherine's Italian Kitchen -- hardback, was €24.99, now €9.99.
Catherine Fulvio has a new one out at the moment but this one from last year is probably her best, bringing a splash of Italian sunshine and flavour to Irish kitchens.
Chapters on Parnell Street, Dublin, is Ireland's biggest discount book store, so it's used to slashing prices. But the following are stand-out offers:
JFK in Ireland by Ryan Tubridy -- was €24, now €6.99
It's recently been issued in paperback at €13.99 but this is the hardback version from last year, which makes a more substantial gift; it's a beautiful book with evocative pictures and insightful text about a special few days in Ireland
Room by Emma Donoghue -- was €15.99, now €3.99
Again this is the hardback version of the international bestseller, at an unbeatable price; it's at once horrifying and captivating and has now sold over a million copies around the world. A perfect gift if you know someone who has yet to read it.
The GAA: A People's History -- was €29.99, now €9.99
The authoritative and acclaimed 420-page history of the GAA, which marked the 125th anniversary of the organisation; lavishly illustrated with previously unseen photographs and historical documents, a great present for a serious GAA fan
Art of Jack B Yeats by TG Rosenthal -- was €36, now €14.99
This is the last edition of the 320-page large format book on the great painter published by Andre Deutsch, with more than 100 colour plates and 175 black and white illustrations. Interesting not only because he is arguably Ireland's greatest painter but because art of this stature is still a good investment in these uncertain times.
Dublin 1916 by Clair Wills -- was €19.99, now €6.99
The events in and around the GPO in Easter Week from eyewitness accounts -- and the myths that subsequently built up around the iconic building through literature, film and art. By the same author who wrote That Neutral Island, the acclaimed book on our neutrality during the last war.
Hughes & Hughes
Now back in six stores, not just in Dublin but in Ennis and Dundalk, the H&H chain is in great shape after their minor interruption. They have quite a few of the most recent bestsellers at sharply reduced prices:
11.22.63 by Stephen King -- was €18.30, now €13.99
This 752-page blockbuster is now in the bestseller lists. What if you could go back in time and change history? What if the watershed moment you could change was the JFK assassination. Not only a great thriller but a masterful recreation of 1950s and 1960s America.
How Ireland Really Went Bust -- was €18.30, now €11.99
Broadcaster Matt Cooper describes the tumultuous events from the night of the bank guarantee in September 2008 to November 2010 when the heavy-hitters from the IMF arrived in Government Buildings.
Vanishing Ireland -- was €30.50, now €19.99
This is the third in the series celebrating the lives of the older generation, mainly in rural Ireland. A glimpse into a different world, now vanishing, as the title suggests. With stunning photography showing the extraordinary dignity of the old folk.
Lines for Living -- was €18.30, now €11.99
Mary Kennedy (of Nationwide) shares her inner world with a collection of stories and musings about life in all it hues and flavours.
Leo Cullen: A Captain's Story -- was €19.99, now €14.99
A great insight into how Leinster won the Heineken Cup, particularly how they turned around the final in the second half.
Hughes & Hughes shops now have extended areas for children's books and art supplies, making present buying for young readers easy. Three of their special offers are:
Lego Brickmaster -- was €24, now €16.99
This book and bricks combo will provide hours of imaginative playtime for a child. Lego City is the best selling series from Lego and this is an ideal book for fans, with 130 bricks included.
Amazing Pop--up Monster Trucks -- was €15.85, now €9.99
A spectacular pop--up book of trucks, to delight all mini Jeremy Clarksons.
Highway Rat -- was €13.45, now €8.99
Julia Donaldson (author) and Axel Scheffler (illustrator), are the pair who produced the phenomenal Gruffalo, which has sold several million books worldwide and has become a mini-industry. This is their latest, about a villainous Highway Rat who gallops along the highway stealing from all the other animals.
Hodges Figgis in Dublin is Ireland's largest specialist book shop, in business since 1768. Every Christmas they pick a selection of unusual books to offer to customers at a third or more off. Some of the interesting titles this year are:
The Prague Cemetery by Umberto Eco -- was €17.60 now €11.50
As one critic put it, imagine Dan Brown with a PhD -- that's Eco. The Italian academic became an international hit with his first novel The Name of the Rose about 30 years ago. His new one is a conspiracy-driven thriller with as many twists as The Da Vinci Code but written for people with a brain.
The 80s Kid by Andrew Murray -- was €18.90 now €13
The perfect present for anyone who had a childhood in the 1980s. The excitement of holding your first Super Soaker 100, the pain of breaking in your cherry coloured DM boots, it's all here.
Vanished Kingdoms by Norman Davies -- was €37.80 now €28.50
Davies is one of the leading historians on European history and this is a fascinating and original take on how the continent has changed over the past century
Greyhound of a Girl by Roddy Doyle -- was €13.90 now €8.99
Roddy Doyle's story is aimed at kids aged 9-12 but will be enjoyed by grown-ups as well. A hilarious but sad story about four generations of a family, including the 12-year-old Mary and her joke-cracking granny who is approaching death.
The Winding Stair
It's not just the big chains that have special offers, of course. The independent bookstores around the country also have great value in selected titles. The Winding Stair Bookshop at the Ha'penny Bridge is one of Dublin's oldest and quirkiest and you can find some beautiful books there at amazing prices, like the following four we spotted:
The Traveller's Daybook -- was €27.99, now €19.99
Just published by Atlantic this fascinating big book by Fergus Fleming is a tour of the world in 366 quotations.
The Country Cooking of Ireland -- was €34.99, now €24.99
A big, sumptuous hardback by Colman Andrews, co-founder of Saveur magazine, who says the much maligned Irish cuisine is one of the most exciting food stories in the world today; dishes include butternut and apple soup and roast pork belly.
The Iveragh Peninsula -- was €59, now €34.99
A magnificent cultural atlas of the Ring of Kerry, 512 glorious pages in a big format book from Cork University Press. Perfect present for someone from the Kingdom.
Titanic: Triumph and Tragedy -- was €30, now €19.99
An impressive, large format 400-page book, just published, and is one of a number on the way for the centenary of the sinking next year.
The Crannóg Bookshop in Cavan took the Bookshop of the Year prize at the Irish Book Awards a few weeks ago. Among the special offers it has are:
Diary of a Wimpy Kid: Cabin Fever -- was €15.60, now €9.99
This one is top of the bestsellers at the moment.
Easy Meals -- was €29.99, now €19.99
The new Rachel Allen at a tasty price.
Red Mist -- was €22.80, now €11.99.
Just published, the new Patricia Cornwell is the one to get for thriller fans this Christmas.