The lazy, hazy days of summer continue: here in Ireland we’re experiencing a heatwave, so things are a bit odd because the notion of the mercury rising as high as 30° was until this week unimaginable.

While others are outside enjoying suffering the heat, I have decided to stay indoors and curl up with a few books.


At least, that’s the plan.

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Every summer my good friend Cathy of 746 Books runs her 20 Books of Summer Challenge, and every year I fail to get around to reading all the books I promise myself I will (or if I read them, I can’t quite muster the energy to review them).

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This summer, however, I have managed to get through quite a few books, so here are some recommendations for books to take with you to the beach, or the back garden, or (if you’e sensible) a corner chair well out of harmful, dizzying sunlight.

New Yorker



Poet Patrick Deeley‘s wonderful memoir of growing up in 1960s Galway is a love letter to his parents, the melancholy wonder of solitude, and a rural way of life that was already on its last legs when he was a child. A while back I interviewed Deeley about the book.



Another Irish childhood memoir, this time from Irish Times columnist Hilary Fannin. Written with an awareness of the immediacy of experience that only a child knows, this is a moving, occasionally startling read.


The Man Booker Prize announces its longlist next week. I’ll be very surprised if Mike McCormack‘s remarkable Solar Bones isn’t included in the list. The novel has received high praise for its adventurous, modernist (or is it post-modernist?) form and use of language. The book – a ghost story told from the point of view of the ghost – is written in one long sentence.


Tom Bullough has written a modern saga of the Welsh-English border that is as much about the Welsh and English languages as it is about Wales and England. Filled with beautiful passages and marked by the insistent use of the local dialect (sans glossary, so you just have to go along with it), Addlands is a novel about change, technology, manhood, and violence.


Conor O’Callaghan‘s debut novel hasn’t received the same amount of attention that his countryman Mike McCormack’s Solar Bones has, and that’s a pity.


Mia Gallagher‘s huge, tough, remarkable, moving, bizarre, and ultimately tragic Beautiful Pictures of the Lost Homeland is a book not easily forgotten. It’s one of the most adventurous Irish novels in years, taking in issues of terrorism, identity, refugees, transgenderism, and the look and feel of Dublin in the grimy 1970s, and as with Solar Bones, I expect to see it on the Booker longlist. You can listen to Gallagher discussing the novel’s many themes here.


The dreaded, ever-growing To-Be-Read pile:


2 thoughts on “Books on the Shelf

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