To say Ireland has always punched far above its weight in the realms of literature is an understatement.

The Covid crisis and lockdown, has driven us to find comfort in words, and one upside in a turbulent time for so many has been the opportunity to curl up on a cold evening with a book, be it an old favourite, or an expanding of horizons.

Homeschooling, too, has brought the inter-generational importance of sharing a good read to light – an opportunity to pass on a love of knowledge, imagination and imagery outside the restraints of classrooms and school buildings.

So, the first national Ireland Reads Day, urging us all to #SqueezeinaRead via social media, is the perfect opportunity to catch up on some recent favourites – from fiction to sporting endeavour, to our cultural milieu, and beyond. 

Marian Keyes – Grown-Ups

The cover of Marian Keyes' Grown-Ups.

The cover of Marian Keyes’ Grown-Ups.

It’s well-established that fiction writer and BBC radio co-host Marian Keyes is, well, a bit of a legend. 

From her breezy, yet uniquely articulate Twitter presence, to taking time out of her lockdown to lead a full, four-part course in fiction writing, she’s rightly regarded as a jewel in our pop-literary crown.

Grown-Ups sees Keyes continue in rollicking form, dressing down the nature of family secrets and interpersonal relationships by examining the marriages of three sisters, and the complications that lie therein when the truth starts coming to light at that most wistfully-missed of occasions: a family gathering.

T.P. Dolan – A Dictionary of Hiberno-English

The 2006 cover of TP Dolan's Dictionary of Hiberno-English, reissued in 2020

The 2006 cover of TP Dolan’s Dictionary of Hiberno-English, reissued in 2020

From our idiosyncratic literary history, to the plethora of regional accents that are playing with language in our domestic hip-hop and spoken-word scenes, Hiberno-English is something we nearly take for granted with our everyday use –  Corkonians in particular.

In 1998, Professor T.P. Dolan took it upon himself to compile a dictionary of slang, vernacular and informal language from all over the island. The result is a reference-format look at our relationship with the world’s lingua franca, our history and our wider cultural impact. It should be on every shelf in the country.

Who better to write the foreword on last year’s hardback reissue, then, than conceptual artist and podcaster Blindboy Boatclub, whose stock-in-trade has involved a glorious command of the idiom?

Doireann Ní Ghríofa – A Ghost in the Throat

Doireann Ní Ghríofa: pictured holding a copy of A Ghost in the Throat. Pic: Clare Keogh

Doireann Ní Ghríofa: pictured holding a copy of A Ghost in the Throat. Pic: Clare Keogh

If you’ve not had the chance to catch up with Clare poet Doireann Ní Ghríofa’s long-form prose debut, you’ve missed out on a spellbinding work of autofiction. 

Telling the story of a troubled young mother who finds an extraordinary poem penned in the 1700s, Ní Ghríofa weaves strands of time, art, influence, struggle and sorrow into something completely new.

Having made an impact with her books of poetry, ‘A Ghost in the Throat’ was received rapturously by critics and took home the Irish Book of the Year Award.

Mark Tighe and Paul Rowan – Champagne Football

Champagne Football: John Delaney and the Betrayal of Irish Football: The Inside Story by Mark Tighe & Paul Rowan (Penguin Ireland)

Champagne Football: John Delaney and the Betrayal of Irish Football: The Inside Story by Mark Tighe & Paul Rowan (Penguin Ireland)

A devastating takedown of former FAI head honcho John Delaney’s time at the top of Irish soccer, ‘Champagne Football’ lays bare the unfettered opulence with which he and his associates lived for fifteen years, to the detriment of the Irish game, from international to grassroots levels. 

Mining their journalistic experience and building upon each revelation and missed red flag at pace, it’s at once an essential piece of sports writing, and an excellent cure for low blood pressure.

Ruth Medjber – Twilight Together

Ruth Medjber: pictured holding a copy of Twilight Together, a document of lockdown. Pic: Patrick Bolger

Ruth Medjber: pictured holding a copy of Twilight Together, a document of lockdown. Pic: Patrick Bolger

Having established a distinguished body of work as a photographer specialising in music and cultural events, Dublin-based Ruth Medjber of Ruthless Photography set about doing what she did best when the venue doors closed for coronavirus.

Starting with visiting friends at the windows while locked down, and snapping them for social media, her project became an exploration of her 5k, front window by window, conversation by conversation. 

A poignant reminder of the connections that sustain us, and a visually striking artifact of this time to be treasured by future generations.

Niall McGuirk and Michael Murphy – Great Gig Memories from Punks and Friends

Great Gig Memories From Punks And Friends: a document on the importance of live music

Great Gig Memories From Punks And Friends: a document on the importance of live music

The Hope Collective, for many years, have been a pillar of DIY music in Ireland, from organising gigs to documenting the Irish punk scene online, and in print. Their latest endeavour, already in the waning stages of its second edition summarises the collective’s mission perfectly.

Collating over 200 gig stories from a wide range of bands, promoters and other personalities, from Gang of Four and the Ruts, to Irish legends like Stano and Paranoid Visions, it’s a vital document of the importance of live music to our friendships and cultural diet – and a reminder to cherish the medium dearly when we can get back in the doors.

The Happy Pear – Vegan Cooking for Everyone

Vegan Cooking for Everyone: The Happy Pear's handy guide to plant-based food and all that attends.

Vegan Cooking for Everyone: The Happy Pear’s handy guide to plant-based food and all that attends.

While their sunny disposition can sometimes come off as a little bit much for some people, there’s no doubting the place of the Flynn twins in the current Irish food culture, especially as they’ve been a huge part of people’s explorations into vegetarianism and veganism over the past year.

If you’ve ever wondered about becoming vegetarian or vegan, here’s as good a place to start as any, with a variety of recipes, guides, variations and dietary tips to help anyone negotiate the world of plant-based cuisine.

The O’Brien Press – My First Book of Irish Wildlife

My First Book of Irish Wildlife

My First Book of Irish Wildlife

When it comes to the very youngest of readers, simplicity is of course the key – but it’s also the perfect time to help form a reading habit that goes the usual touchstones.

The O’Brien Press’ ‘First Book of Irish Wildlife’ is perfect in that respect. A board book that’s suitable for little grips, that paints a broad and engaging picture of this country’s native fauna without sacrificing colour and charm.

Sinéad Burke – Break the Mould

Sinéad Burke: holding her Children's Book of the Year award for 'Break the Mould'. Pic: Patrick Bolger

Sinéad Burke: holding her Children’s Book of the Year award for ‘Break the Mould’. Pic: Patrick Bolger

Childhood is where impressions of the world and other people are most profoundly made – a widening of friend groups and horizons brings young people into contact with others, from all walks of life, while those who are made to feel ‘different’ start to notice it a bit more keenly.

Model, activist, advocate and teacher – Sinéad Burke has done a lot in her lifetime, but with ‘Break the Mould’, she taps into her own experience as a little person to talk about difference, and summarise the ongoing conversation of representation, equality and acceptance.

It’s a wonderful piece of work that rightly took home the Junior category of the Irish Children’s Book of the Year award.

Dara O’Briain – Is There Anybody Out There?

Dara O'Briain on stage at Live at the Marquee, Cork in 2015. Pic: Miki Barlok

Dara O’Briain on stage at Live at the Marquee, Cork in 2015. Pic: Miki Barlok

A comedian, telly host, stargazer and videogamer – there are fewer people in the public eye better-positioned to weave together science-fiction and science fact better than Dara O’Briain.

An alumnus of RTÉ’s Young People’s Department (we’ll never forget Echo Island!), O’Briain has always been good at relating to younger heads, and with this book, he sets out to answer questions on space and our place in the universe, weaving common questions with a fictional narrative that sees Clara and her cat Sputnik set out to answer the titular question once and for all.