Reading between the shelves

THERE is no question that books will eventually be bought almost exclusively online or that we are living through the end of an era for the printed book.

But for some, Kindles and iPads will never replace the feel, the smell, the very heft of a good old-fashioned ink-on-paper book.

And for those of us, fully paid-up, card-carrying members of this literary resistance, the bookshop remains a focal point in our lives; so the Bord Gáis Energy-sponsored Bookshop of the Year Award announced this week was welcome indeed.

Voted for by the public through the Bord Gáis Energy (BGE) book club, 10 shops were shortlisted and Cavan’s Crannóg Bookshop claimed the crown. Though certain restrictions meant there was no place in the competition for Galway’s legendary Charlie Byrne’s, (and this writer’s favourites, Connolly’s in Cork and Chapter One in Schull), BGE spokesperson Irene Gowing said this would be reviewed in the future. “We will be ensuring that there is a place in the competition for all bookshops next year,” she said. We asked some dedicated bookshop lovers to share their own personal favourites.

Reader: Conal Creedon (Writer)

What do you like about Vibes and Scribes? When I was growing up, there were three bookshops on Bridge Street, but one by one during the ‘80s they were forced to close — a big loss. When V&S opened, people around here were delighted. It’s a top class bookshop, all the new titles and an extensive specialist list, history, art, children’s books etc and a huge secondhand collection. Over the years, I’ve picked up some pure gems in the rare/out-of-print section. But it’s more than just a bookshop, there’s a social and community aspect. It hosts two book clubs, junior and adult, and the staff have an amazing knack of being friendly and helpful, yet invisible. It’s the sort of place where you bump into old friends or, equally, browse away uninterrupted to your heart’s content.

What do you like to read? Factual, biography and history.

What was the first book you remember reading? I can’t remember, but the first book that really affected me was Buttons: The Making Of A President, about the first Hell’s Angel’s Chapter set up in England. It blew my 10-year-old mind.

What is your favourite book? Couldn’t possibly pick one but I love A Christmas Carol. It magically straddles adult and children’s literature. It’s mad, trippy, redemptive, beautifully written and has the powerful quality of being both current and perennial.

Who is your favourite author? It’s impossible to pick one, but at the moment I’m thinking a lot of Patrick Galvin, a magical poet, a mystical prose writer, and a dear friend.

Reader: John Lynch

What do you like about Killarney Bookshop? The friendliness of the staff is the first thing that attracts you, they are very knowledgeable, very good readers with very good advice. When they get to know your tastes, they offer very helpful suggestions.

What do you like reading? Mostly fiction, especially thrillers but I read a lot of non-fiction: medieval history, ancient Egypt, archaeology, history.

What was the first book you remember reading? Patricia Lynch, a children’s writer from the 1940/50s. I was five or six.

What is your favourite book? Ken Follett’s The Pillars of the Earth

Who is your favourite author? There would be many, RJ Ellory, John Connolly, Michael Connolly, PD James, Ruth Rendell. I like all the thriller writers.

Reader: Joanna Willford

What do you like about Dingle Bookshop? Uniqueness: it does such a fabulous job in minute scale compared to the big shops. They are very active, with readings and promotions and on top of all the new stuff, even the more obscure books.

What do you like reading? I have evolved, nowadays, I have more time and the shop gives me the courage to try things I wouldn’t have tried before. I like contemporary fiction, a good story well written. Accordion Crimes by Annie Proulx bowled me over. I also enjoy biographies now.

What was the first book you remember reading? Heidi, aged five.

What is your favourite book? I couldn’t possibly say: a couple of Paulo Coehlo’s; Kate Mosse; as a child, my grandfather had Around the Boree Log, an Australian book written by an Irish priest, John O’Brien. I have two copies.

Who is your favourite author? Couldn’t say one, depends on my humour, David Baldacci, Vince Power, Alain de Boton, John Boyne.

Reader: Frank Hedderman, Belvelly Smoke House

What do you like about Liam Ruiséal’s? As a child going to school in the city, we had a colossal lunch break and there was only so much ‘conkers’ and ‘alleys’ you could play. I’d walk around town bored out of my mind, then I discovered Ruiséal’s. I always remember old Mr Russell, white suit, white hair, reminded me of Yeats. It is one of those places from childhood that stays with you and the staff are very helpful. We buy quite a lot of our books there, children’s books, cookery books, and we like to ‘leave it local’.

What kind of books do you like reading? Generally, non-fiction — I don’t do an awful lot of fiction, fiction is where I switch off and I don’t allow myself to switch off too often — a lot of cookery books, biographies, I just finished Dante in Love by AN Williams.

What was the first book you remember reading? Gulliver’s Travels, a present in 1970, that was MY first book. I still have it.

What is your favourite book? I think Miss Smilla’s Feeling for Snow (Peter Hoeg), I just get lost in it. I have four copies and keep going back to it.

Who is your favourite author? I started The Dark (John McGahern) again the other night — the lyricism! — I have five copies of Amongst Women. I love him and Edna O’Brien. I have 800-900 cookbooks, Simon Hopkinson is very clear, easy to follow but Myrtle Allen’s first book is seminal.

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