books & reading

Norway Revisited

Bergen, NorwayBack in March 2011 I wrote a post on Jo Nesbo, probably the best known and most widely read of the Norwegian crop of crime writers. Jo had been to Dublin, and I had the pleasure of meeting him in Eason's bookshop where he was in conversation with leading Irish crime novelist John Connolly. Since then I have been meaning to revisit Norway (metaphorically speaking on this occasion, have been to Bergen, wonderful in the sun if you can get it!) and talk of some of the other, maybe less well known, Norwegian crime novelists. Then, on the 22 July, the horrendous attacks in Oslo and Utøya that left so many dead and injured, and which are said to have changed Norway forever. And it felt somehow wrong for a time after that to write at all about crime fiction and applaud the many wonderful writers and novels coming out of Europe in general, and Norway in particular. And the very incident itself I know, has impacted not alone on Norwegian society, but also on Norwegian crime writers, and it might be fair to say that their future writings will have the shadow of the Oslo/Utøya tragedy over them. In this regard you may want to read the article "How do you write crime fiction in the wake of a massacre?" that appeared in the Guardian in November 2011.

Spotlight: Muriel Spark

Muriel SparkMuriel Spark (1918-2006) wrote psychological novels, usually set in respectable, middle-class environments but dealing with the darker side of human nature. Her writing is wonderfully economical, so that, though her novels are mostly short, they manage to convey a lot.  Chronology isn’t an important feature: they leap backwards and forwards in time, and you often know the ending at the start, or at least you think you do. Here’s a taster of some of her better-known works.

The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie is probably Spark’s best known work, and one of her best creations. The magnificent and monstrous Miss Brodie teaches her classroom of girls about the art of life and love, while battling against the narrowness of her world, her loneliness, and of course her own prime.

Picks of 2011, Children's and Teen

There are no cats in the bookPart 3 of my three part comments on my own reading during 2011.  Non-Fiction was the first in the series with Adult Fiction second. This is my Children's and Young Adult or Teen reads.  Some great fantasy is being published in the Teen section and I do enjoy the reads.

I read a lot of books over the last year, approximately 290 of which I noted from the library.

Of all the books I read from the library some stood out, I couldn't pick a small number but I'm going to put them into themes and pick the best of that theme.  Sometimes it's hard to pick just one, the first listed is my favourite, the rest are in no particular order.  This isn't a definitive list, it's a list of books that are readable alone or are the start of a series, that I read during 2011, that stood out above the others and that I would recommend to others.

Adult Fiction favourites of 2011

Sprit Thief I was intending to post this earlier this week, and then I got laryngitis and my doctor determined that I needed rest, so here's part 2 of my 2011 favourites.  Fiction, of a more adult nature, post 1 was Non-Fiction and post 3 will be Young Adult and Children's

I read a lot of books over the last year, approximately 290 of which I noted from the library.

Of all the books I read from the library some stood out, I couldn't pick a small number but I'm going to put them into themes and pick the best of that theme.  Sometimes it's hard to pick just one, the first listed is my favourite, the rest are in no particular order.  This isn't a definitive list, it's a list of books that are readable alone or are the start of a series, that I read during 2011, that stood out above the others and that I would recommend to others.

My non-fiction favourites of 2011

Contemporary Irish KnitsI read a lot of books over the last year, approximately 290 of which I noted from the library.  Over the next few weeks I'm going to pick out a few that stood out from the herd.  This week is Non-Fiction.

Write to a friend!

Everything you need to know about letter writingDecember is National ‘Write to a Friend’ Month. With the advent of email and social network sites, few people write proper old-fashioned letters anymore - you know: the kind you don’t need to be logged on to read! The only mail we get through our doors these days is bills and junk mail, so we’ve forgotten how nice it is to get a real letter; and we’ve also forgotten how to write one, which is a shame. Here is a selection of books based on letter-writing to hopefully whet your appetite, stir your imagination, and get you into the mood to write to a friend.

The Snows They Melt The Soonest

As I get older, I increasingly think that it is a great pity that mankind does not follow the example of some of its fellow mammals and hibernate through the bleak months of winter. There is little to be said for a time when Mother Nature shuts up shop and darkness prevails. Thankfully a few things relieve the gloom - Christmas and books. Winter must surely be the ideal time for snuggling up in front of the fire with a good book. Here are a few that will make you glad that you are indoors, safe, and toasty-warm.

Season's Greetings to ye all.

The Worst Journey in the WorldThe Worst Journey In The World by Apsley Cherry-Garrard (1922)

A riveting account of Robert Falcon Scott's ill-fated expedition to the South Pole between 1910 and 1913. Cherry-Garrard joined the journey as a scientific advisor - to collect the eggs of the Emperor Penguin - but instead became a chronicler of horror. Freezing conditions, mental exhaustion, and physical deprivation are catalogued in a clear and simple manner. The spirit-sapping news that Amundsen has beaten them to the South Pole is conveyed without an ounce of self-pity. I dare you not to move closer to the fire when reading this classic of travel literature.

In memory of Anne McCaffrey

Dragon FlightLast night I read that Anne McCaffrey died.  It has been confirmed by several sources, including the Guardian so I can't stay in denial any more.  She was getting older, 85 at her last birthday, so I knew it was going to happen, I just didn't want it to happen now, or ever.

As I've related before, she was one of the first real SF authors I read.  Her books stayed with me throughout my teenage years and into my 20s (and I really need to dust them off and give them a re-read).  They were groundbreaking at the time, female heroes who did things rather than waiting for things to happen.  Menoly from Dragonsong, played music, like me, and kept me sane through the experience of being bullied in school, my own copy is in bits.

Baby Boom!

babyAs we are experiencing a baby boom in Ireland at the moment, more and more of you are becoming parents for the first time. Why not look to your local library for some advice? We have a huge range of books that could help you. Whether you are thinking about starting a family, have just found out that you are expecting a baby or are trying to cope with a demanding toddler, we have something to suit all your needs.

A Winning Night at Bord Gais Energy Irish Book Awards

     Irish Book Awards  Ireland's 'glitterati' came out in force last night at the Bord Gais Energy Irish Book Awards Ceremony in the Concert Hall of the RDS. In a night when Seamus Heaney received the Lifetime Achievement Award, presented by fellow poet Michael D. Higgins, President of Ireland, it would be easier to say who wasn't there, than who was - even former US President Bill Clinton appeared in a pre-recorded tribute to 'one of the world's favourite poets'.

The Irish Book Award winners are voted on by the public and the various categories were hotly contested. All winning and shortlisted books are available to borrow from Dublin City Public Libraries. Winners on the night were;

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