Being Alive, edited by Neil Astley

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This anthology of poems from many sources is a follow up to the excellent “Staying Alive” edited by Astley, also. What a delight this book is, you can dip into it when you have a spare few minutes or indulge yourself of a wet day, sitting by the fire, gorging on it’s riches.

You will find poems here from a diverse range of nationalities and viewpoints. From well- known poets such as Elizabeth Bishop and Pablo Neruda to unfamiliar gems from poets whose work is presented in translation, this collection covers an impressive span of human experiences and emotions. It manages to be intensely unique and personal while having that universality of feeling and experience that characterise all good literature and art. The personal in the poet speaks to us.

The anthology is arranged in a satisfying set of themes, such as “Taste and See”, “Family”, “Love life”, “Being and loss”. It truly lives up to it’s title as it covers a great deal of the experiences and questions that concern us all in being alive. The thing about this book is, it will entwine itself around your heart and you won’t be able to return it to the library. I’m afraid you will just have to buy a copy. We owe a huge debt of gratitude to Neil Astley for gathering this rich array of treasures for us in one volume. The power of poetry to transform lives was never more evident than in this wonderful book.


You can reserve a copy online at South Dublin Libraries’ catalogue here.

5 New Music Books to Watch Out For

Some Fantastic Place: My Life In and Out of Squeeze by Chris Difford (31 Aug 2017)
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Chris Difford is a rare breed. As a member of one of London’s best-loved bands, the Squeeze co-founder has made a lasting contribution to English music with hits such as ‘Cool For Cats’, ‘Up The Junction’, ‘Labelled With Love’, ‘Hourglass’ and ‘Tempted’. Even before his first release in 1977, his love of writing lyrics has never wavered.

Over the course of a thirteen-album career with Squeeze, it was clear from the very beginning that Difford has few peers when it comes to smart, pithy lyricism. His ‘kitchen-sink drama’ style has drawn plaudits from fans on both sides of the Atlantic, and his influence is keenly felt today. The likes of Lily Allen. Mark Ronson, Kasabian, Razorlight and many more have recognized the debt they owe to Squeeze’s music and to Difford’s way with words, while journalists were moved by his winning combination with Glenn Tilbrook to dub the pair ‘The New Lennon and McCartney’.

In Some Fantastic Place, Chris Difford charts his life from his early days as a dreaming boy in south London with a talent for poetry to becoming a member of one of Britain’s greatest bands and beyond. Along the way he reveals the inspiration and stories behind Squeeze’s best-known songs, and his greatest highs and lows from over four decades of making music.

David Bowie: A Life by Dylan Jones (7 Sep 2017)
david bowie a life
Dylan Jones’s engrossing, magisterial biography of David Bowie is unlike any Bowie story ever written. Drawn from over 180 interviews with friends, rivals, lovers, and collaborators, some of whom have never before spoken about their relationship with Bowie, this oral history weaves a hypnotic spell as it unfolds a remarkable rise to stardom and an unparalleled artistic path. Tracing Bowie’s life from the English suburbs to London to New York to Los Angeles, Berlin, and beyond, its collective voices describe a man profoundly shaped by his relationship with his schizophrenic half-brother Terry; an intuitive artist who could absorb influences through intense relationships and yet drop people cold when they were no longer of use; and a social creature equally comfortable partying with John Lennon and dining with Frank Sinatra. By turns insightful and deliciously gossipy, DAVID BOWIE is as intimate a portrait as may ever be drawn. It sparks with admiration and grievances, lust and envy, as the speakers bring you into studios and bedrooms they shared with Bowie, and onto stages and film sets, opening corners of his mind and experience that transform our understanding of both artist and art. Including illuminating, never-before-seen material from Bowie himself, drawn from a series of Jones’s interviews with him across two decades, DAVID BOWIE is an epic, unforgettable cocktail-party conversation about a man whose enigmatic shapeshifting and irrepressible creativity produced one of the most sprawling, fascinating lives of our time.

Reveal: Robbie Williams by Chris Heath (21 Sep 2017)
An intimate, funny and frank account of the moments behind the music, of the truth behind the headlines and of the fascinatingly complicated man behind the imperious entertainer, Reveal is Robbie Williams as you’ve never seen him before.

More than twelve years ago, Robbie Williams and Chris Heath published a ground-breaking memoir, Feel, about Robert P. Williams’ rise to fame; a book that was met with worldwide acclaim, from critics and fans alike.

Since that time, Robbie has released six solo albums, reunited with his old band Take That and, in the wake of his twelfth UK number-one album, has returned to the stage with a sold-out run at Wembley Stadium.

In Reveal, bestselling author Chris Heath has been working closely with Robbie for many years to create a personal and raw account of fame, fortune, family and music; a vivid and detailed story of the real highs and lows as Robbie has found his way forward, that is unprecedented in its intimacy and honesty.

Long-awaited by millions, Reveal is the uncensored and compelling portrait of the man as you’ve never seen him before.

“It’s a diary of a very modern entertainer and his ever-changing thoughts, the story of somebody who escaped Butlins, and the tale of a pop star trying to find his feet again after coming out of early retirement. It’s true, and funny, and occasionally sad, and well-written, and very entertaining. I hope people enjoy it.” Robbie

What Does This Button Do? by Bruce Dickinson (19 Oct 2017)
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A long-awaited memoir from the larger-than-life, multifaceted lead vocalist of Iron Maiden, one of the most successful, influential and enduring rock bands ever.

Pioneers of Britain’s nascent Rock & Metal scene back in the late 1970s, Iron Maiden smashed its way to the top, thanks in no small part to the high-octane performances, operatic singing style, and stage presence of its second, but twice-longest-serving, lead singer, Bruce Dickinson. As Iron Maiden’s front man – first from 1981 to 1993, and then from 1999 to the present – Dickinson has been, and remains, a man of legend.

But OTT front man is just one of the many hats Bruce wears. In addition to being one of the world’s most storied and well-respected singers and songwriters, he is an airline captain, aviation entrepreneur, motivational speaker, beer brewer, novelist, radio presenter, and film scriptwriter. He has also competed as a world-class level fencer. Often credited as a genuine polymath Bruce, in his own words (and handwritten script in the first instance!), sets forth many personal observations guaranteed to inspire curious souls and hard-core fans alike.

Dickinson turns his unbridled creativity, passion, and anarchic humour to reveal some fascinating stories from his life, including his thirty years with Maiden, his solo career, his childhood within the eccentric British school system, his early bands and his recent battle with cancer.

Bold, honest, intelligent and very funny, WHAT DOES THIS BUTTON DO? is an up-close look inside the life, heart, and mind of one of the most unique and interesting men in the world; a true icon of rock.

Vinyl (Hayes Operating Manual) (6 Nov 2017)
The Vinyl Manual is the 21st century companion for anyone who is bringing their vinyl music collection back to life or discovering the joys of vinyl for the first time. With chapters on turntables and audio kit, it is a step-by-step guide to getting the most from your vinyl collection and understanding the technology behind it. We explain how vinyl delivers the unique sound so loved by audio enthusiasts and its evolution over 100 years, from the 78’s of the late 19th century to today’s advanced electronic formats.


Kingdom of Strangers by Zoe Ferraris


Katya Hijazi is one of the only women in the police force in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia. She actually works in the lab in forensics but her dream is to be an investigator. Through a combination of hard work, being in the right place at the right time and doing some investigating out of hours Katya is allowed assist in a case involving a serial killer who has murdered at least nineteen women. Inspector Ibrahim Zahrnai is the lead detective on the case, more women start to go missing including the detective’s mistress, Sabria and the disappearances are linked to the serial murders. Adultery is punishable by death in Saudi Arabia and Zahrani has to take Katya into his confidence if he is to find the culprit. Time is of the essence as the kidnapped women could still be alive

I always find novels based in different countries very interesting. Being set in Saudi Arabia, there are lots of cultural references which gives an insight into life there and lots of different customs and traditions. There are several twists in the plot which will keep you guessing until the end.


You can reserve a copy online at South Dublin Libraries’ catalogue here.

Brilliant Book Titles #137


Tales of “fearlessly offbeat” horror from the author of Lost Souls and Exquisite Corpse (Locus).

Poppy Z. Brite, an acclaimed horror fan favorite, is known for going to the edge and back—and this collection of stories, many set against the backdrop of the author’s native New Orleans, explores the outermost regions of murder, sex, death, and religion.

Featuring titles such as “In Vermis Veritas,” “Entertaining Mr. Orton,” and “Mussolini and the Axeman’s Jazz,” as well as collaborations with Christa Faust and David Ferguson, this volume also offers notes on each story by the author, an introduction by #1 NewYork Times–bestselling author Peter Straub, and an afterword by Caitlín R. Kiernan. Are You Loathsome Tonight? is an edgy, gruesome tour of “the darkness at the heart of things [with] a number of superb stories, powerful in style and characters” (Locus).

Brilliant Book Titles #136

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You can reserve a copy online at South Dublin Libraries’ catalogue here.

In April of 1994, the government of Rwanda called on everyone in the Hutu majority to kill everyone in the Tutsi minority. Over the next three months, 800,000 Tutsis were murdered in the most unambiguous case of genocide since Hitler’s war against the Jews. Philip Gourevitch’s haunting work is an anatomy of the killings in Rwanda, a vivid history of the genocide’s background, and an unforgettable account of what it means to survive in its aftermath.

Kolyma Tales by Varlam Shalamov

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Kolyma Tales is a collection of short stories written by the Russian author Varlam Shalamov (1907- 1982) about the labour camps under the Stalinist regime and the brutal, dehumanizing conditions of living for the convicts at the Gulag (an acronym for the Russian phrase, ‘Main Administration of Corrective Labor Camps.’ ). In Kolyma Tales Shalamov combines raw realism and elements of fiction to describe his own personal experiences as a political prisoner in the frozen landscapes of Kolyma’s gold-mining camps. Shalamov’s settings are characterized by a laconic style, devoid of long descriptive passages, in the same way that his characters’ portrayal is devoid of any signs of melodrama. One of the culminating examples of the affirmation of humanism in Kolyma Tales, is the story ”The Resurrection of the Larch”. The ability of man to survive through such harrowing conditions, when the humiliating reduction of human nature at its basest becomes an everyday reality, is here symbolized by the Larch:

“The larch is a very serious tree. It is the tree of knowledge of good and evil — no, it wasn’t the apple
tree, nor the birch! — the larch was the tree standing in the Garden of Eden before the expulsion of Adam and Eve from paradise.

The larch is the tree of Kolyma, the tree of the concentration camps.

In Kolyma birds don’t sing. The flowers of Kolyma — bright, hasty, crude — have no smell. The short summer — in the cold, lifeless air — brings dry heat and freezing cold at night.

In Kolyma only the mountain dog rose smells, with its ruby-red flowers. There is no scent from the pink, crudely-fashioned lily of the valley, nor the huge violets, the size of a fist, nor the sapless juniper, nor the evergreen dwarf pine.

And only the larch fills the forest with its elusive smell of turpentine. At first it seems like the smell of decay, the smell of the dead. But if you look and inhale this smell more deeply, you will understand it is the smell of life, the smell of resistance to the North, the smell of victory.

Besides, the dead in Kolyma don’t smell — they’re too atrophied, too anaemic, and anyway they’re preserved in the permafrost.

No, the larch is a tree unfit for romances, you won’t sing or shape this twig into a romance. It speaks of a different depth, another layer of human feelings.

A man sends a Kolyma twig by airmail: but it was not of himself that he wanted to remind people. He was sending a memento not of himself, but a memento of those millions who were killed, tormented, who were discarded in communal graves to the North of Magadan.

To help others create a memory, and release one’s soul of this heavy burden: to see the worst and find the courage not to tell, but to create a memory. A man and his wife adopted a little girl — a convict girl whose mother had died in prison — as if, in their own personal way, to take on some sort of obligation, fulfil some sort of personal duty.

To help one’s comrades — those who remained among the living after the concentration camps of the Far North…

To send this coarse, slender twig to Moscow.

Sending the twig, the man did not comprehend, did not know, did not think, that it would be revived in Moscow, that, in its resurrection, it would smell of Kolyma, that it would break into blossom on a Moscow street, that the larch would prove its strength, its immortality — the six hundred years of the larch’s life is practically immortality for man — or that the people of Moscow would touch with their hands this rough, plain, coarse twig, would look at its dazzling green needles; that they would look at its rebirth, at its resurrection; that they would inhale its smell, not as a memory of the past, but as living life.”

(“The resurrection of the Larch” 1966 translation by Sarah J. Young)


You can reserve a copy online at South Dublin Libraries’ catalogue here.


5 New Science Fiction Books to Watch Out For

A Man of Shadows by Jeff Noon (3 Aug 2017)
a man of shadows
The brilliant, mind-bending return to science fiction by one of its most acclaimed visionaries. Below the neon skies of Dayzone where the lights never go out, and night has been banished lowly private eye John Nyquist takes on a teenage runaway case. His quest takes him from Dayzone into the permanent dark of Nocturna. As the vicious, seemingly invisible serial killer known only as Quicksilver haunts the streets, Nyquist starts to suspect that the runaway girl holds within her the key to the city’s fate. In the end, there’s only one place left to search: the shadow-choked zone known as Dusk.


2023: a trilogy by The Justified Ancients of Mu Mu (23 Aug 2017)

Well we’re back again,
They never kicked us out,
twenty thousand years of

Down through the epochs and out across the continents, generation upon generation of the Justified Ancients of Mu Mu have told variants of the same story – an end of days story, a final chapter story. But one with hope, even if the hope at times seems forlorn.

The story contained in this trilogy is the latest telling. Here it is presented as a utopian costume drama, set in the near future, written in the recent past.

Read with care.

for K 2 Plant Hire Ltd.


In the Spring of 2013, the undertakers Cauty & Drummond were on a tour of the Western Isles of Scotland. It was while staying at Jura’s one hotel that they came across a strange-looking book. The book was titled Back in the USSR and authored by someone using the name of Gimpo. Back in the USSR was the memoir of a young woman who had been a nurse in the Falklands War in 1982.

Gimpo ended up in Kiev in what was then the Soviet state of The Ukraine. Here she met with two women named Tat’jana and Kristina who went under numerous aliases, the most widely used being The KLF. Also in Back in the USSR it was claimed that Tat’jana and Kristina had been heavily influenced by a book originally written in English as The Twenty Twenty-Three! Trilogy by someone calling themselves George Orwell. But this George Orwell was in turn the pen name of Roberta Antonia Wilson.

What you are about to read is what they read – well, almost. As for Back in the USSR, if we are able to sell the initial edition of this book and make a return on our investment, we hope to publish that. As for the current whereabouts of Tat’jana and Kristina, we have no idea. They were last seen disappearing into the depths of the Black Sea in their decommissioned Project 865 Piranha submarine. This supposed disappearance happened on 23 August 1994. Rumour on the internet has it they would not reappear for another twenty-three years.

Provenance by Ann Leckie (28 Sep 2017)
Following her record-breaking debut trilogy, Ann Leckie, winner of the Hugo, Nebula, Arthur C. Clarke and Locus Awards, returns with a thrilling new story of power, theft, privilege and birthright.

A power-driven young woman has just one chance to secure the status she craves and regain priceless lost artefacts prized by her people. She must free their thief from a prison planet from which no one has ever returned.
Ingray and her charge will return to their home world to find their planet in political turmoil, at the heart of an escalating interstellar conflict. Together, they must make a new plan to salvage Ingray’s future, her family, and her world, before they are lost to her for good.

Machine Learning: New and Collected Stories by Hugh Howey (3 Oct 2017)
A new collection of stories, including some that have never before been seen, from the New York Times best-selling author of the Silo trilogy

Hugh Howey is known for crafting riveting and immersive page-turners of boundless imagination, spawning millions of fans worldwide, first with his best-selling novel Wool, and then with other enthralling works such as Sand and Beacon 23. Now comes Machine Learning, an impressive collection of Howey’s science fiction and fantasy short fiction, including three stories set in the world of Wool, two never-before-published tales written exclusively for this volume, and fifteen additional stories collected here for the first time. These stories explore everything from artificial intelligence to parallel universes to video games, and each story is accompanied by an author’s note exploring the background and genesis of each story. Howey’s incisive mind makes Machine Learning: New and Collected Stories a compulsively readable and thought-provoking selection of short works–from a modern master at the top of his game.

The Autobiography of Jean-Luc Picard by David A. Goodman (17 Oct 2017)
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The Autobiography of Jean-Luc Picard tells the story of one of the most celebrated names in Starfleet history. His extraordinary life and career makes for dramatic reading: court martials, unrequited love, his capture and torture at the hand of the Cardassians, his assimilation with the Borg and countless other encounters as captain of the celebrated Starship Enterprise.

Aphex Twin’s “Selected Ambient Works Volume II” by Marc Weidenbaum

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33 1/3 are a wonderful imprint of books. The premise is – each little pocket size book is about a single famous album. The full list is very diverse ranging from Dusty Springfield to industrial legends Throbbing Gristle to the Super Mario Bros soundtrack. The issue, however, with each album being a different beast, and each book by a different author that the quality can vary hugely, as can the format of the books – the PJ Harvey book, for example, was less a critical music book and instead viewed the album through short stories. Most however are music journalism.

This book, by Marc Weidenbaum, however fails to capture the record for me. It didn’t really illuminate for me one of my favourite records (and certainly my favourite going to sleep record), didn’t put forth any new tidbits really, bar an interview with the guy who named the famously unnamed tracks.

I don’t know – the book just didn’t gel. While it picked up later, the first lengthy chapter discusses other critics who maintain that the album is beatless despite Weidenbaum asserting that it isn’t, or is, honestly I’m not quite sure (for the record: it isn’t beatless, there are beats, and it is an ambient record, these things can co-exist!). However having such an in-depth, and some may say pointless argument heading the book left me a little exhausted. The expected interviews crop up but nothing in this book extended my reach of the album. Now, I understand that this is a difficult album to talk about BUT I didn’t decide to write a book about it. A missed opportunity.

You can reserve a copy of this book at South Dublin Libraries’ catalogue here.

[However, I still love 33 1/3 and would recommend these:
#15 – Radiohead’s OK Computer
#36 – My Bloody Valentine’s Loveless
#54 – Throbbing Gristle’s 20 Jazz Funk Greats
Next up on my list to read is #120 – Angelo Badalamenti’s Soundtrack from Twin Peaks – I’ll let ye know how I get on!]

Brilliant Book Titles #135

how to talk about books
You can reserve a copy online at South Dublin Libraries’ catalogue here.

In this disarmingly mischievous and provocative book, already a runaway bestseller in France, Pierre Bayard contends that in this age of infinite publication, the truly cultivated person is not the one who has read a book, but the one who understands the book’s place in our culture. Drawing on examples from works by Graham Greene, Umberto Eco, Oscar Wilde, Montaigne (who couldn’t remember books he himself had written), and many others, he examines the many kinds of ‘non-reading’ (forgotten books, unknown books, books discussed by others, books we’ve skimmed briefly) and the many potentially nightmarish situations in which we are called upon to discuss our reading with others (with our loved ones, with the book’s author, etc.).At heart, this is a book that will challenge everyone who’s ever felt guilty about missing some of the Great Books to consider what reading means, how we absorb books as part of ourselves, and how and why we spend so much time talking about what we have, or haven’t, read.

Brilliant Book Titles #134

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You can reserve a copy online at South Dublin Libraries’ catalogue here.

I looked around and people’s faces were distorted…lights were flashing everywhere…the screen at the end of the room had three or four different films on it at once, and the strobe light was flashing faster than it had been…the band was playing but I couldn’t hear the music…people were dancing…someone came up to me and I shut my eyes and with a machine he projected images on the back of my eye-lids…I sought out a person I trusted and he laughed and told me that the Kool-Aid had been spiked and that I was beginning my first LSD experience…