Open a page on the world: Irish celebs share their top books to read while self-isolating

Open a page on the world: Irish celebs share their top books to read while self-isolating

Joe Duffy, John Cooper Clarke, and Lisa McInerney are among those offering tips to Richard Fitzpatrick about good books to read while self-isolating.

JOE DUFFY, BROADCASTER

Open a page on the world: Irish celebs share their top books to read while self-isolating

Childhood: My childhood favourites are all outdoor books. 

I always recall Mark Twain’s great saying, “I can live for two months on a good compliment”, a reminder that kindness is a universal language. 

If you haven’t read The Adventures of Tom Sawyer, do it now! 

Remember, Samuel Clemens (Mark Twain) is 110 years’ dead next month so his books are out of copyright. 

Very inexpensive versions available in bookshops, online or your local library.

All-time: Books to return to especially in times of isolation are those of our greatest travel writer, Lismore-native Dervla Murphy. 

With nearly 30 travel books to her name over four decades, Dervla invariably travels alone, on her bicycle, through obscure parts of the world, bringing her unique angle and philosophy to the people and places she visits.

Wonderful in these self-isolating times.

Contemporary: My current favourite book is Ronan Farrow’s Catch and Kill, one of the greatest journalists of his or any generation. 

It is a brilliant telling of how he exposed the powerful monster that is Harvey Weinstein. 

All done despite opposition from his bosses at NBC, threats to his life and being hacked, trailed and watched by a team of private detectives. 

We can claim some credit: Ronan’s mother was the Roscommon-born actress Maureen O’Sullivan. 

Farrow reminds us of the power and importance of good journalism.

  • Joe Duffy and Freya McClements’s Children of the Troubles: The Untold Story of the Children Killed in the Northern Ireland Conflict is published by Hachette

    LISA MCINERNEY, WRITER

    Open a page on the world: Irish celebs share their top books to read while self-isolating

    Childhood: Lewis Carroll’s Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland. I’ve recently bought myself an Alice-themed teapot and mugs (it’s the little things), so it’s the perfect time to curl up and get reacquainted with this exquisitely funny story. 

    It’s even better as an adult. 

    All together now: “You are old, Father William…”.

    All-time: I read Emily Bronte’s Wuthering Heights every couple of years. 

    It’s anarchic, stuffed full of black humour and eviscerating social commentary, and its cast are the most delightfully appalling human beings (except Hareton, the poor eejit). 

    Heathcliff is the devil, but the devil gets all the best tunes.

    Contemporary: The book that’s brought me most joy in the past few weeks is Bill Bryson’s The Body, which is clever and chatty, the kind of book that becomes a friend. 

    And you’ll be full of amazing facts when you emerge from isolation. 

    No more awkward silences!

    JOHN COOPER CLARKE, PERFORMANCE POET

    Open a page on the world: Irish celebs share their top books to read while self-isolating

    Childhood: The first book I remember being really taken with was Billy Liar by Keith Waterhouse. 

    It wasn’t so much that he was a liar but that he had a vivid imagination. 

    It was recommended to me by my mother. 

    She must have seen some personal similarities with myself and the hero of the book, Billy Fisher!

    All-time: One of my favourite writers is Jonathan Meades. 

    The subtitle of his book Museum Without Walls, which is about architecture, really spoke to me: “There’s no such thing as a boring place.”

    It consolidated what I already felt. 

    I’ve bought loads of cars but I can’t drive, but I love being in the passenger seat of a car, riding around through suburbs and places. 

    It’s one of those books you never want to end.

    Contemporary: Dino: Living High in the Dirty Business of Dreams by Nick Tosches is a biography about Dean Martin. 

    It’s terrific. What a guy. 

    Nobody has a bad word to say about him. 

    Everybody loved him, including himself. 

    Like a lot of Americans, he invented himself — in his case as this joie de vivre, people’s balladeer, serenader of women, somebody who didn’t take himself too seriously, liked a drink, a night bird like the rest of the rat pack, but unlike them he didn’t stay up all night. 

    He was married with kids. He fostered the myth. 

    He’d get photographed with the rat pack, with a glass of scotch or a martini in his hand and a cigarette on the go, but after the photo op, he’d go home to his wife. 

    He liked watching westerns on his TV.

    RISTEÁRD COOPER, ACTOR

    Open a page on the world: Irish celebs share their top books to read while self-isolating

    Childhood: I was 13 or 14 when I read JD Salinger’s The Catcher and the Rye, which was the perfect time to read it. 

    There’s a lot of humour in it. 

    It captures a transitioning period, and I suppose this is a transitionary period we’re going through, albeit different stakes. 

    It was a book I read outside of school that I read by choice, something I looked forward to reading.

    All-time: When I read Oscar Wilde’s The Importance of Being Earnest, I didn’t know plays could be this engaging, funny or outrageous, everybody basically lying, and getting away with it. 

    I said last night to one of my kids a quote from Lady Bracknell — “Rise, sir, from this semi-recumbent posture. It is most indecorous”— which she says to Jack as he’s down on one knee, trying to propose to Gwendolen.

    Contemporary: I really love Kevin Barry’s Dark Lies The Island, a collection of short stories. 

    It blew me away. He has an amazing capacity to get inside characters’ heads in a way very few writers can do. 

    He’s also very funny. 

    If a book doesn’t make you chuckle, you can forget it as far as I’m concerned, and in life — you have to be made laugh every now and again.

    LOUISE O’NEILL, WRITER

    Open a page on the world: Irish celebs share their top books to read while self-isolating

    Childhood: I had a few authors I absolutely adored: Roald Dahl, CS Lewis and Enid Blyton, ones that come to mind. 

    But if I had a child aged eight to 12 in my house whom I was trying to entertain during self-isolation, I would buy The Storm Keeper’s Island by Catherine Doyle. 

    It’s wonderful.

    All-time: If you’ve never read Marian Keyes, now is the perfect time to start. 

    All of her books are funny, warm and deeply engrossing while still dealing with important issues that impact women’s lives.

    Rachel’s Holiday is an excellent introduction to her work and one of my all-time favourites.

    Contemporary: I adored Such A Fun Age by Kiley Reid, which was brilliantly scathing on race and privilege.

    JACK L, MUSICIAN

    Open a page on the world: Irish celebs share their top books to read while self-isolating

    Childhood: I’ve always been mad into biographies. 

    I remember reading No One Here Gets Out Alive by Jerry Hopkins about Jim Morrison. 

    I remember reading it as a teenager going, “Wow! This is so cool!” 

    It was just the whole Sixties era it depicted and musically The Doors were amazing.

    It was like lightning struck and brought together these four individuals in the one place at the one time.

    All-time: I’ve got about three copies of Carl Jung’s Memories, Dreams, Reflections, which is one of my favourite books. 

    It almost feels like science fiction, but it’s not, about the shared psychological history we have going back to the year dot.

    Contemporary: The Big Yaroo by Pat McCabe, which is the follow up to The Butcher Boy. 

    We all loved Francie Brady and to get a second run at his later years was great. 

    I was delighted he went back to the character. He is the anti-hero. 

    You never know quite where you stand with him, but it’s a character that Irish people can relate to, and the magic realism in that world.

    CLAUDIA CARROLL, WRITER

    Open a page on the world: Irish celebs share their top books to read while self-isolating

    Childhood: I was a great comics’ reader — Bunty, Debbie, Judy, and when I was older, Jackie. 

    I kept the annuals and they just make me smile. 

    They’re very funny with your 1970s retro hat on. 

    It’s astonishing how many women in them who were sent out to fight crime in their underwear.

    All-time: Jane Austen’s Persuasion makes my heart break every time I read it. 

    The heroine is older and she’s been disappointed. 

    She has an awful life. Her family treat her really badly. 

    She’s almost a Cinderella character.

    It seems there’s never any joy in the world for her and it’s about her getting a second chance. 

    It makes me laugh and cry. It’s like putting a comforting blanket on.

    Contemporary: Liz Nugent’s Our Little Cruelties, which has just come out. 

    She gave me an early copy to read. 

    Oh my God: you know the way when you’re reading a book and you forget whether it’s day or night or where you are. 

    It’s about three brothers and this toxic relationship they have. 

    It’s absolutely stunning.

    THEO DORGAN, POET

    Open a page on the world: Irish celebs share their top books to read while self-isolating

    Childhood: I grew up in Cork about 10 minutes from Patrick’s St, with fields all around us on Redemption Rd. 

    We were poised perfectly between the city and the country. 

    In those days, once you were eight or nine, you could go off by yourself or in gangs and nobody worried about you, and Kenneth Grahame’s The Wind in the Willows is a blueprint for kids going rambling. 

    Tree climbing, walking through streams, out the Glen, which was the ultimate location for cowboy movies of the mind. 

    It spoke to all of that— that sense of timelessness in the countryside.

    All-time: Doris Lessing’s The Four-Gated City is the most extraordinary picture of a woman’s mind. 

    Also at the moment it came, it was beginning to dawn on the world that women are actually people. 

    It’s a foundation novel for modern feminism. 

    The context is England in the aftermath of the Hungarian uprising where a lot of people are re-thinking their relationship to communism, with people looking at the world not as they wish it to be, but as it actually is. 

    This woman is trying to find a sense of identity in the midst of this complex moment. 

    It’s a book about breaking free of roles, about the courage to be yourself.

    Contemporary: Writing Home: The “New Irish” Poets, which is edited by Pat Boran and Chiamaka Enyi-Amadi, is a very good anthology of 51 poets who now call Ireland home. 

    It’s a foretaste of who we’re going to be with so many different strands making up Ireland’s identity and strengthening it.

    Have you noticed you get these 10- or 11-year-olds and they’re negotiators for their families when they’ve to go to housing authorities, to doctors, or anything to do with Official Ireland? 

    Their parents don’t speak good English so they’re the spokespeople. 

    If you look at the pattern of emigrants in other countries, it’s that generation that automatically becomes leadership material as they grow up.

    EILEEN WALSH, ACTOR

    Open a page on the world: Irish celebs share their top books to read while self-isolating

    Childhood: Reading Robert Cormier’s The Chocolate War as a kid made me read all his novels. 

    I just remember it being about bulling and the story was so strong about the kids and their friendship – and having to sell all this chocolate!

    All-time: Anne Enright’s The Gathering is one I’ve gone back to a few times to read. 

    I loved the account of the relationship between the main woman and her brother. 

    I love that their relationship is complicated but very familiar and her relationship with her mother, which is so deep and complicated and dangerous as well.

    Contemporary: A novel that I loved, loved is Donna Tartt’s The Goldfinch. 

    It starts off with a young boy in an art gallery in New York. 

    An explosion happens and he loses his mother. 

    The boy escapes the explosion and takes with him the most beautiful painting. 

    The boy and this painting are intertwined for the rest of their lives. 

    It becomes this historic journey about how art trumps everything.

    It’s a book I would go to bed an hour early to have some time to read.

      Useful information
    • The HSE have developed an information pack on how to protect yourself and others from coronavirus. Read it here
    • Anyone with symptoms of coronavirus who has been in close contact with a confirmed case in the last 14 days should isolate themselves from other people - this means going into a different, well-ventilated room alone, with a phone; phone their GP, or emergency department;
    • GPs Out of Hours services are not in a position to order testing for patients with normal cold and flu-like symptoms. HSELive is an information line and similarly not in a position to order testing for members of the public. The public is asked to reserve 112/999 for medical emergencies at all times.
    • ALONE has launched a national support line and additional supports for older people who have concerns or are facing difficulties relating to the outbreak of COVID-19 (Coronavirus) in Ireland. The support line will be open seven days a week, 8am-8pm, by calling 0818 222 024

  • More on this topic

    We Sell Books: Virus response writes a new chapter for Books UpstairsWe Sell Books: Virus response writes a new chapter for Books Upstairs

    Deluge of entries for children's short story competition as deadline reinstatedDeluge of entries for children's short story competition as deadline reinstated

    Mallow bookshop wins British Book Awards prizeMallow bookshop wins British Book Awards prize

    We Sell Books: Doors are closed but books are still being soldWe Sell Books: Doors are closed but books are still being sold

    More in this Section

    Virus response writes a new chapter for Books UpstairsVirus response writes a new chapter for Books Upstairs

    Ireland's DIYers causing problems for doctors during covid19 crisisIreland's DIYers causing problems for doctors during covid19 crisis

    Damien Enright: Coping with confinement by coronavirus in the CanariesDamien Enright: Coping with confinement by coronavirus in the Canaries

    Richard Collins: Glimmer of hope for the dwindling hedgehogRichard Collins: Glimmer of hope for the dwindling hedgehog


    Latest Showbiz

    James McAvoy is the latest famous figure to make a contribution.Covid-19: Angelina Jolie, Rihanna and Taylor Swift among stars donating money

    He shared an inspiring message to those struggling during the coronavirus crisis.Drake shares first photos of son Adonis with emotional tribute

    The American was one of the biggest box office draws of the 1950s and 60s.‘Affordable’ items belonging to Hollywood star Doris Day to be sold at auction

    Prine’s wife and Donegal native, Fiona Whelan Prine, has also tested positive for the virus.Country star John Prine in 'critical condition' following onset of Covid-19 symptoms

    More From The Irish Examiner