Christmas Gifts: The Pick Of Books For 2014

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anne o'neillLocal writer, Anne O’Neill, gives her pick of the books for Christmas for all the family…

Christmas 2014 lies tantalizingly on the horizon and the annual frenzy to find gifts for loved ones has begun.

I’ve always been a great believer in gifting books at Christmas. They are, after all, the gift that can be opened and enjoyed again and again.

Few gifts are as personal as books; giving a book that is meaningful to you or one that reflects the individual interests of friends and family can demonstrate thoughtfulness and care.

An inscription written and signed with love can be the pièce de résistance and imbue the book with great nostalgic significance.

Here are some of my choices for Christmas 2014…

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Unravelling Oliver 1‘Unravelling Oliver’ by Liz Nugent

It’s always good to support Irish authors especially at Christmas time. This is a debut from Liz Nugent who has worked in Irish film, theatre and television before penning this engaging novel.

Liz has burst onto the literary scene this year with her riveting psychological thriller which in emotive prose tries to unravel the complexities behind the sociopathic Oliver, who in the opening chapter beats his wife so brutally that she ends in a coma.

The novel is ambitious in its scope as a chilling back story emerges which attempts to explain the brutal behavior of Oliver. It’s a good buy for any reader who enjoys a touch of Irish noir on a Winter’s night.

there-are-little-kingdomsShort story collections

Short story collections are ideal gifts for readers who are time poor but still like an immersion in a carefully constructed literary world.

Kevin Barry is the king of the Irish short story and I would defy anybody not to derive enjoyment from the stories in his collection ‘There Are Little Kingdoms’.

Young Skins 2014_2Following in his wake is the amazing Colin Barrett whose extraordinary debut short-story collection ‘Young Skins’ has been shortlisted in the Guardian First Book Award.

Both Kevin Barry and Colin Barrett evoke and describe characters in rural Ireland and this form of fiction has been affectionately described as culchie noir.

‘Young Skins’ is set in a fictional town in Co.Mayo but it could equally be any town in rural Ireland.  Either collections would make a great gift for 20 or 30 somethings who would like to see modern Ireland depicted with a subtle touch of sensitivity and harshness.

Assassination‘The Assassination of Margaret Thatcher’ by Hilary Mantel

Twice Booker Prize winner Hilary Mantel is one of the most accomplished and acclaimed writers and she has published a collection of short stories called The Assassination of Margaret Thatcher.

This collection is an ideal buy for any readers who like her whimsical wry and intelligent style.

Nora Webster UK‘Nora Webster’ by Colm Toibin

Lovers of Brooklyn will love this new novel by Toibin as he returns to Ireland in the late 60’s and follows the trials and triumphs of Nora Webster and her four children in the aftermath of her husband’s sudden death. Character and place take precedence over plot in this quiet and atmospheric novel.

US‘Us’ by David Nicholls

I was a huge fan of One Day and can only imagine how difficult it was for Nicholls to write the follow up. The publication of Us has been eagerly awaited by readers and I have just got my copy today. This novel takes us on a European tour with a mismatched couple.

This is a picaresque and poignant tale of a marriage under strain, where the biochemist anti-hero Douglas Petersen undertakes an InterRailing trip across Europe with his wife Connie and teenage son Albie.

The holiday becomes Doug’s last chance to win back the affections of his wife and son, a story told with affection and humour by Nicholls whose skill as a writer helps to engage the reader’s empathy with all the characters. I expect it will be top of the list at all Book Clubs this year.

Biographies of Sporting Heroes 

Paul GalvinSports fans are spoiled for choice with the latest offerings from Paul Galvin and Brian O’Driscoll.

Frankly who wouldn’t want to have either of these sporting heroes in their Christmas stocking?  Galvin is one of the greatest GAA footballers of the modern era and has had a career marked by courage, passion and the odd controversial incident.

His book, ‘In My Own Words’ is a compelling read of his journey in his inimitable style and in his own words.

Brian O'DriscollFor the rugby fan this long awaited autobiography by the greatest rugby player of our time, Brian O’Driscoll, would be an ideal gift.   ‘In The Test’ shares details of both personal and professional milestones and tries to pack his long and glittering career into just 400 pages.

Children and Young Adult Books for Christmas

David WalliamsWhat better Christmas stocking-filler for the junior bookworm in your house than a new book?

Once the initial excitement of the traditional dawn raid on Santa’s presents and selection boxes has worn off a few hours peace may just be guaranteed with the right choice of reading material.

David Walliams is currently the fastest-growing children’s author in the UK and the comedian’s style has been compared to Roald Dahl.  His book is beautifully illustrated by Tony Ross and has been described by a young reviewer friend as a really good laugh and as one of the funniest books ever.

For young adults you can’t go wrong with any of the books by author John Green from The Fault In Our Stars to Paper Towns.   Greens novels are an example of how literature can increase our empathy and allow us to glimpse other lives.

I’ve often gifted The Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger.  The hero Holden Caulfield with his cynical voice and adolescent angst still strikes a chord with the teenager of the iPad generation.

Lots of suggestions above for holiday reads and gifts.  Best enjoyed next to a roaring fire in a comfy chair.  Happy reading…

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