THE time has come to take a break from the usual routine and enjoy the Christmas festivities.
If you also find some time to relax and unwind over the holidays, you might well be after a good book to keep you company.
Luckily for you, we have compiled a list of some of the best books by Irish authors, or those with an Irish theme, of 2021.
So, if you’re into fact, fiction, history or healing, there’s plenty here to get stuck into.
You may need to restock your bookshelf or sort a last-minute gift, or you can simply choose a literary cracker to curl up with over the festive season…
The Irish Diaspora: Tales of Emigration, Exile and Imperialism, by Turtle Bunbury
Thames and Hudson. £19.99
The Irish have always been a travelling people.
In the centuries after the fall of Rome, Irish missionaries carried the word of Christianity throughout Europe, while soldiers and mariners from across the land ventured overseas in all directions.
Since 1800 an estimated 10 million people have left the Irish shores and today more than 80 million people worldwide claim Irish descent.
Turtle Bunbury explores the lives of those men and women, great and otherwise, whose journeys - whether driven by faith, a desire for riches and adventure, or purely for survival - have left their mark on the world.
Wunderland: A Novel, by Catriona Lally
New Island Books. €14.95
The keenly anticipated second novel from the Rooney Prize-winning author of Eggshells, centres on Roy, who has been exiled from Ireland under dubious circumstances and now works as a cleaner at the Wunderland miniature exhibition in Hamburg.
Struggling to connect with those around him, he commits secret acts of violence against the tiny scenes and figurines on display.
Then, to Roy’s palpable annoyance, his sister Gert visits, determined to uncover what really prompted his sudden move abroad and carrying a threadbare hope that she might finallyfigure him out.
Atmospheric, humorous and ultimately uplifting, Wunderland is a brilliantly wrought dual character study that sensitively wrestles family and mental health, identity and the erasure of self.
Did Ye hear Mammy Died? A Memoir, by Séamas O’Reilly
Little, Brown Book Group. £16.99
O’Reilly’s memoir is a book about a family of argumentative, loud, musical, sarcastic, grief-stricken siblings, shepherded into adulthood by a man whose foibles and reticence were matched only by his love for his children and his determination that they would flourish.
It is the moving, often amusing and completely unsentimental story of an Irish boy growing up in a family bonded by love, loss and fairly relentless mockery.
Old Ireland in Colour 2, by John Breslin and Sarah-Anne Buckley
Merrion Press. £21.99.
Old Ireland in Colour 2 is a photographic history of Ireland stretching back to the very start of photography in the country in the mid-19th century.
It is a sequel to 2020’s award-winning bestseller Old Ireland in Colour.
The book further celebrates the rich history of Ireland and the Irish people from all walks of life in 150 images, with all thirty-two counties represented.
The book covers rural and urban scenes in Ireland that have largely disappeared, along with scenic views, portraits of political figures, writers, farmers, fishermen and explorers.
The series of books has been collated by John Breslin, a Professor at NUI Galway, and Sarah-Anne Buckley, a lecturer in History at NUI Galway and President of the Women’s History Association of Ireland.
The Treaty: The gripping story of the negotiations that brought about Irish Independence and led to the Civil War, by Gretchen Friemann
Penguin Books. £14.99.
On the morning of October 11, 1921, the world's media watched as the most wanted man in Ireland bounded through the door of 10 Downing Street.
Moments later, Michael Collins grasped the hands of the Prime Minister.
Such was the mind-bending melodrama of the events leading up to what is known in Ireland, very simply, as 'the Treaty' - a document that had been designed to end one violent conflict and soon gave rise to another.
A century on from its signing, Gretchen Friemann has produced a gripping and definitive account of the negotiations, shining a fresh light on the complex politics and high-stakes bargaining that produced the agreement.
The Treaty is a stunningly vivid piece of narrative history that resonates across the intervening century to the age of Brexit.
It is a must-read for anyone who wishes to understand modern Ireland and the enduring complexities of British-Irish relations.
The songs of Elizabeth Cronin, by Dáibhí Ó Cróinín
Four Courts Press. £50.
Elizabeth (Bess) Cronin, ‘The Queen of Irish Song', as Seamus Ennis called her, is probably the best-known Irish female traditional singer of our time.
Her reputation was such that collectors came from far and near to hear and record her singing.
Seamus Ennis collected her songs for the first Irish Folklore Commission in the mid 1940s, and again with Brian George, for the BBC in the early 1950s.
American collectors also recorded her: Alan Lomax for the Library of Congress, in 1951, Jean Ritchie and George Pickow, in 1952, and Diane Hamilton, in 1956. Over eighty of her songs are captured on tape, but only a few of these have ever been available to the public.
Now for the first time, this new publication offers the complete Bess Cronin collection (in Irish and English), with the texts of all the songs, and a biographical essay.
Accompanying the book is a set of remastered recordings, from public and private collections, illustrating the wide range of her repertoire, which included child ballads, songs in Irish and English, and children's songs.
The author, a grandson of Bess Cronin, brings to this publication a unique range of qualifications: access to Bess Cronin's own autograph song-lists; transcriptions of her songs made by his uncle, Sean Ua Croinin; notes and comments by Bess Cronin recorded by the author's father, Donnacha O Croinin; and photographic material not previously seen.
This personal, family material is combined with unique access to the BBC, IFC, and privately recorded American material to offer a comprehensive account of an extraordinary singer and her distinctive singing style.
Belonging, by Catherine Corless
Hachette Ireland. £15.99.
Catherine Corless could not have known where her interest in local history would lead her, as she began researching the Tuam Mother and Baby Home in Galway in 2010.
Uncovering no less than 796 missing burial records of children born there, the stark truth of their place of rest became clear: a disused sewage tank on the old home site, where two boys had once stumbled upon bones.
But who were these lost children, and what had happened to them in the care of the Bons Secours order of nuns?
Determined to know more, Catherine’s painstaking research led to a quest for justice that continues still as, often against fierce resistance, she brought to light a terrible truth that shocked the world, impacted the Vatican, and led to a Commission of Investigation in Ireland.
Part memoir, part detective story, Belonging is both a personal account – of identity, beginnings and Catherine’s search for her own mother’s lost story – and a recounting of her forensic crusade on behalf of the lost babies of Tuam.
It speaks to the tender love of a mother and her child; to the unforgettable screams which echoed through the corridors as babies were taken against the parent’s will; and to a mystery which continues to this day, as so many still search to know where, and to whom, they belong.
58% Cabbage, by Karl McDermott
Blackspring Press Group. £10.99
Meet Roddy Bodkin. Age 43. He has recently lost his job. His long-term girlfriend is tiring of him. He feels he is getting old and life is passing him by.
Can things get any worse? Oh boy. Definitely. Yes.
Because he now wants to try his hand at becoming a stand-up comedian.
Set in Galway, on the west coast of Ireland, 58% Cabbage chronicles the hapless adventures of a middle-aged Everyman as he grapples with both a sense of loss and a loss of sense while attempting to pursue his comedy dreams.
Calamity and hilarity accompany Roddy Bodkin on his odyssey through funerals, sex, friendship, part-time employment, memory, bad TV, family and Ireland.
Former comedian Karl MacDermott, once described as ‘the Gummo Marx of Irish comedy’ is an Irish humour writer.
He has written for TV and Radio in Ireland and the UK and has written two books of comic fiction.
His most recent book, Juggling With Turnips, published by Eyewear Publishing in 2018, was a success with both readers and critics, described ‘as a very funny book’ by The Sunday Independent and having 'gloriously comic moments' by The Irish Examiner. He is currently writer-in-residence at his home in Dublin.
TG4 @ 25, by Micheál Ó Meallaigh
Cló Iar-Chonnacht. €30.
Ireland’s Minister for Tourism, Culture, Arts, Gaeltacht, Sport and Media, Catherine Martin recently launched the new book TG4 @ 25.
It was published to mark TG4’s twenty fifth anniversary, and recounts when TnaG, a dedicated Irish language television channel, was first launched on Halloween night 1996. The channel was founded by then Minister of Arts, Culture and the Gaeltacht, Michael D. Higgins.
The book documents that history as TG4 embarks on its next chapter, while celebrating the achievements of the broadcaster over the past quarter of a century.
The book is a series of memoirs and photographs, which gives recognition to the programme makers, producers, presenters and writers who have contributed to the creativity and success of TG4, and the preface is written by President Michael D. Higgins.
TG4’s former Commissioning Director, Micheál Ó Meallaigh wrote the book with the support of TG4 team, led by Lís Ní Dhálaigh, TG4’s Director of Marketing and Partnerships. The book was designed by Ignacio Viega and published by Cló Iar-Chonnacht who are based in An Spidéal, Connemara.
Albert Reynolds: Risktaker for Peace, by Conor Lenihan
Irish Academic Press. €22.95.
In the first complete biography of former Taoiseach Albert Reynolds, former Minister of State Conor Lenihan delivers an insider’s account that reveals the courageous personal risks Reynolds took to create the template for peace in Ireland, and the highs and lows of a tempestuous, risk-taking life.
Reynolds was a self-made man, and his ability to do deals meant he quickly climbed the greasy pole of politics.
He was TD for Longford-Westmeath, followed by Longford-Roscommon, finally becoming Taoiseach in1992. He immediately earned himself the nickname ‘The Longford Slasher’ by dispensing with eight of the old Haughey cabinet and firing nine of the twelve ministers of state.
Albert Reynolds: Risktaker for Peace traces his career through Dáil Éireann to becoming head of government, to his final disappointment in not being selected as the Fianna Fáil candidate for the Presidency of Ireland.
The final chapter traces Reynolds descent into Alzheimer’s and finally his death in 2014 at the age of 80.
Former Prime Minister John Major, who visited him during his final years, said on his death: “He was a statesman. Albert Reynolds was at the heart of the success of the Irish peace process. Without Albert, it may never have started — or might have stalled at an early stage — and Ireland, North and South, might still be enduring the violence that scarred daily lives for so long."
The Magician, by Colm Toibin
Penguin Books. £18.99.
From one of Ireland’s greatest living writers comes a sweeping novel of unrequited love and exile, war and family.
The Magician tells the story of Thomas Mann, whose life was filled with great acclaim and contradiction.
He would find himself on the wrong side of history in the First World War, cheerleading the German army, but have a clear vision of the future in the second, anticipating the horrors of Nazism.
He would have six children and keep his homosexuality hidden; he was a man forever connected to his family and yet bore witness to the ravages of suicide.
He would write some of the greatest works of European literature, and win the Nobel Prize, but would never return to the country that inspired his creativity.
Through one life, Colm Tóibín tells the breathtaking story of the twentieth century.
Ancestral Healing Made Easy: How to Resolve Ancestral Patterns and Honour Your Family History, by Terry and Natalia O’Sullivan
Hay House. £10.99
TO understand who we are, we must know where and who we come from.
Husband and wife team Natalia and Terry O’Sullivan have created a manual to help you do just that – while also discovering powerful practices to honour and heal your family lineage.
Ancestral healing is the process of revealing and releasing inherited wounds and traumas that have been passed down by our ancestors,” they explain.
“Anyone researching their heritage will uncover both positive and negative issues that pass through the bloodlines from one generation to the next.
“Once we understand the effects our family has had on our wellbeing, we can find ways to heal their influences and celebrate their legacy.”
Natalia and Terry, whose roots lie in Ireland, have distilled an array of practices, rituals, exercises and meditations in their book to allow their readers to “explore what ancestral healing is and how it can aid you, recognise how unresolved ancestral wounds have impacted your life, learn how to use rituals and practical exercises to honour and communicate with your ancestors and balance your physical, emotional and psychological wellbeing through healing the family wounds”.