Ten Irish celebrities tell us their favourite book of 2018

From old classics to modern literary fiction and meditation, ten celebs tell Richard Fitzpatrick their favourite read of 2018.

Sinead Moriarty, Writer

Educated by Tara Westover

(Hutchinson, €15.99)

Tara Westover comes from this extreme, fundamentalist Mormon family in Idaho. Her father is a conspiracy theorist. His kids’ births were never registered; they didn’t go to school. He doesn’t believe in medicine so he never took them to the doctor’s. She was supposed to be home-schooled but basically worked in her father’s scrapyard from a very young age. Somehow through grit and determination she insisted at around 17 that she wanted to go to school. She’d no idea about the Second World War or any basic historical facts. She was completely clueless but she goes on and ends up with a PhD from Cambridge. Some of her siblings didn’t fare so well so the story’s quite sad as well. I absolutely love this book.

Theo Dorgan, Poet

Europe: A Natural History by Tim Flannery

(Allen Lane, €27.00)

“Europe,” says Tim Flannery in his Introduction to this marvellous book, “is where the investigation of the deep past began.” At a time when political Europe is in turmoil, it is salutary to be reminded of just how ancient Europe is. The first distinctively European organisms appeared, says Flannery, around 100 million years ago. The first musical instrument we have was created 42,000 years ago, in the Danube corridor – an ivory flute. Such breath-taking perspectives are both terrifying and salutary. A magisterial and very readable scholarly book that will feed your dreaming self all through the winter.

Colm Williamson, Waterford Whispers News

The 12th Planet by Zecharia Sitchin

(Harper Collins, €8.99)

Allegedly translating Sumerian tablets, Zecharia Sitchin’s The 12th Planet describes a highly advanced race of beings who came to earth from the 12th planet in our solar system called Niribu over 450,000 years ago to mine the earth for precious metals. These “gods,” Sitchin claims, were responsible for genetically modifying primates on the young earth to help work the mines in South Africa called “the black headed people”, whom the gods later began procreating with against their own laws. Sitchin delivers an intriguing account of our ancient history. I felt like a kid again reading this book. It’s a fantastic read, from a man with a brilliant imagination who seems to conveniently join the dots to suit his own story.

Paul Howard, Writer

Normal People by Sally Rooney

(Faber & Faber, €14.99)

The thing about Sally Rooney is that when I read her I can’t believe she’s 27. It’s not just her prose style. It’s what she knows at 27 about human nature and human interaction – it’s terrifying. Normal People reminded me of early Brett Easton Ellis – kind of like an Irish Less Than Zero, but better. I didn’t particularly like the characters but I really cared about them. The sign of a good novel is when I’m wondering about the characters afterwards and what happened to them. Are they OK? Which I suspect with Normal People is that they’re not OK. Sally Rooney is just the real deal. I can’t wait to see what she does next.

Steve Wall, Musician/Actor

Crime and Punishment by Fyodor Dostoyevsky

(Penguin Classics, €8.99)

I’d never read Dostoyevsky’s Crime and Punishment until I picked it up on my Kindle while on holidays. It’s really enjoyable. Basically it’s a murder story, and the desperation that leads to it – to this young man committing a heinous crime. The desperation that drove him to do it

resulted in him not planning it very well. It’s a gruesome outcome in the end. He doesn’t make any material gains from it. He’s driven by a state of mind. You can see an awful lot of parallels in it with a lot of the grim stories that you read in the papers every week of knife crimes and domestic crimes. Even though it’s written many years ago, it feels quite contemporary.

Kevin Barry, Writer

You Should Have Left by Daniel Kehlmann

(Vintage, €12.55)

Daniel Kehlmann is a critically acclaimed, youngish German writer. The book is short, about 120 pages. I’d never read anything by him. I was coming to it completely fresh. It absolutely plastered me to the wall. It’s a ghost story about a German screenwriter who has had a big success. He goes off with his wife and his young daughter to a retreat up in the Alps. He’s struggling to write the second screenplay. He’s there with the notebook and things aren’t going great. Then what happens is that words start to appear in the notebook and he didn’t put them there. From there on very strange things start to occur connected with time and space. What I’ve always struggled with when reading ghost stories are that they are never scary, but with this one you get a really chilling sensation.

Kevin Barry’s novel Night Boat To Tangier will be published in 2019.

Norah Casey, Broadcaster/Businesswoman

Blue Ocean Strategy by W. Chan Kim & Renée Mauborgne

(Harvard Business Review Press, €22.00)

In my business life, strategy is my skill. I only read the book for the first time about three years ago and it blew all my thinking about strategy out of the water. When the new edition came out, I was dying to see what were the authors’ new thought processes. There are about a thousand examples of blue-ocean thinking that people don’t know about. For example, when I grew up circuses were ill kempt. They were about animal cruelty, small ticket price. They had to move from town to town. Blue ocean thinkers came up with a circus that was adult focused; fixed venue; no animals; high-ticket price – Cirque du Soleil.

Pat Kinevane, Actor

Fear Not by Stephen James Smith

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Happy days, I’m off to the post office now with another batch of #FearNot to be posted to their new homes. The best way to support me is to buy it off me directly or through my website: https://www.stephenjamessmith.com/fearnot Amazingly I sold out of all my books at my London launch, and yes I brought more than 5 with me, 80 in fact! Thanks for all the support, I just need to sell about 200 more to break even on this venture! SJS xxx . . #StephenJamesSmith #Poet #poetsofig #lovepoems #poetryinmotion #wordgasm #wordsmith #poetryporn #Culture #poetrycommunity #wordporn #writingcommunity #instapoetry #instapoem #literature #igpoets #igpoetry #creativewriting #artist #MicroPoetry #PoetryIsLive #PoetsLife #PoetrySociety #GlobalWordSmiths

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(Arlen House, €19.99)

A beautiful Dublin poet. A Young fella, an amazing urban spoken word poet. I met him years ago by accident down at the Listowel Writers Week. He’s performed all over the place with the likes of Glen Hansard. It’s his debut collection. He can be really brutal and searing and then all of a sudden he turns you around and he’s really tender. He’s got one poem and it’s like an ode to Dublin. His turn of phrase is beautiful. He’s very much at the forefront of the resurgence of the spoken word scene in Ireland. A very talented guy.

Pat Kinevane will be touring theatres in Ireland with Fishamble’s production of Before in the New Year.

Joan Lucey, Owner – Vibes & Scribes Bookstore, Cork

The Poetry Pharmacy: Tried-and-True Prescriptions for the Heart, Mind and Soul edited by William Sieghart

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‘Sometimes it catches when the fumes rise up among the throbbing lights of cars, or as you look away to dodge eye-contact with your own reflection in the carriage glass;’ It’s completely normal to sometimes feel disappointed or unsatisfied with one’s life and achievements – it really does happen to the best of us. In #ThePoetryPharmacy I prescribe Stuart Henson’s ‘The Price’ for feeling a little dissatisfied, to prompt some reflection on how lucky you are, and how no matter how much the grass may look greener, there’s no such thing as the perfect life. So, remember to enjoy the one you have, and be proud of the choices and experiences that got you here #TuesdayThoughts #poems #poemsofinstagram #poetry #poetrycommunity #poemoftheday #hope #positivity #positivethoughts #quote #recommended #poetrybooks #prescription #pharmacy #poets #stuarthenson #theprice

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(Particular Books, €13.99)

The spark for the book came when William Sieghart was at a literary festival years ago. Someone asked him to talk to people with a prescription pad, and hear their problems so he could recommend a poem to go with how they felt – to support them or inspire them. His collection’s broken down into different ailments people might have – for mental and emotional wellbeing; self-image and acceptance; losing your spark; the world and other people; love and loss; romantic boredom. There’s one for old age and getting older, or feeling a bit hopeless and pessimistic – Tolkein’s All That is Gold Does Not Glitter. There’s a lovely one by Seamus Heaney – Follower, which is about his father after his father died. You’d nearly find a poem for every mood.

Dermot Whelan, Broadcaster/Comedian

Sacred Powers: The Five Secrets to Awakening Transformation by Davidji

(Hay House, €13.99)

This is by a guy who I liked his book so much I went over and studied with him in California. I’m a meditation teacher. I just qualified recently. His book is everything you would need to know about meditation from a science point of view and from a more spiritual point of view. This guy teaches meditation to the military and the police forces – who definitely are in need of it. For soldiers, he would call it “tactical breathing”, which is language they would understand. He breaks meditation down into very simple forms. One of the questions I get asked all the time: how do I start? Give me something simple. He does something called a 16-second meditation. That is kind of my window in.


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