Books of the Year (Part 2)

Welcome back to our annual Books of the Year feature. Let’s dive right in:

Sinead’s pick
better than before
I loved this book as it was the only self-help book I read this year where I actually managed to implement and keep up the changes I made when I read it. It definitely improved my year, would highly recommend!
[Original review here]

Ciaran’s pick
[Original review here]

Sarah’s pick
when breath becomes ir
[Original review here]

Morgan’s pick
half a man
Just a perfect little gem of a book, condensing so much emotion and insight into such few pages and with a wonderful message to boot. Brilliant for kids and parents alike.
[Original review here]


Thanks for reading! Let us know your Books of the Year in the comments.

We’ll be back on January 2nd! Happy New Year!

Books of the Year (Part 1)

Welcome to the first of two posts detailing our Books of the Year! Today, here are four of our Books of the Year:

Mark’s pick
This book was the first book I reviewed this year, and in it, I said that it would’ve been my book of the year for 2016. I wondered if anything would beat this book, but nothing did. This suspenseful mystery had me stop everything to finish it. Highly recommended (and her new book, Object of Desire, is out in May next year – which I shall be immediately buying).
[Original review here]

Eleanor’s Pick
grudge match
As always, Jessica Gadziala gives us a great story with fun characters and allows us to escape into a world I’ve fallen in love with. She has the most amazing ​secondary characters that make her stories so great and this is why I picked this book as my book of the year 2017
[Original review here]

Helen’s pick
Anne Enright’s writing is extraordinary. What a gifted author, this work is full of savage, seering truth and it strikes an uncomfortable note of recognition in the heart. The Green Road is a remarkable embodiment of highs and lows of family, attachment, love and self awareness. Bloody magnificent!
[Original review here]

Maria’s pick
kolyma tales
”The Kolyma Tales”, often characterized as the greatest prose work of the 20th century, is a most powerful reading on gulag literature and on man’s ability to survive under the most harrowing conditions.
[Original review here]


What’s your book of the year? Let us know in the comments!
See you on the 29th for Part Two!

Happy Christmas from Ballyroan Reads


A very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year to everyone! Thanks for reading Ballyroan Reads, day after day, and being part of this wonderful blog we love so much.

This will be our last post before Christmas – but fear not, we will be here for the post-Christmas, pre-New Year slump: our annual Books of the Year feature will be in two parts on Weds 27th and Fri 29th December

Brilliant Book Titles #170

dont lets go.jpg
You can reserve a copy online at South Dublin Libraries’ catalogue here.

Alexandra Fuller was the daughter of white settlers in 1970s war-torn Rhodesia. Don’t Let’s Go to the Dogs Tonight is a memoir of that time, when a schoolgirl was as likely to carry a shotgun as a satchel. Fuller tells a story of civil war; of a quixotic battle against nature and loss; and of her family’s unbreakable bond with a continent which came to define, shape, scar and heal them. In wry and sometimes hilarious prose, she looks back with rage and love at an extraordinary family and an extraordinary time.

‘Like Frank McCourt, Fuller writes with devastating humour and directness about desperate circumstances . . . tender, remarkable’ Daily Telegraph

‘A book that deserves to be read for generations’ Guardian

‘Perceptive, generous, political, tragic, funny, stamped through with a passionate love for Africa . . . [Fuller] has a faultless hotline to her six-year-old self’ Independent

‘This enchanting book is destined to become a classic of Africa and of childhood’ Sunday Times

‘Wonderful book . . . a vibrantly personal account of growing up in a family every bit as exotic as the continent which seduced it . . . the Fuller family itself [is] delivered to the reader with a mixture of toughness and heart which renders its characters unforgettable’ Scotsman

‘Her prose is fierce, unsentimental, sometimes puzzled, and disconcertingly honest . . . it is Fuller’s clear vision, even of the most unpalatable facts, that gives her book its strength. It deserves to find a place alongside Olive Schreiner, Karen Blixen and Doris Lessing’ Sunday Telegraph

Augustus by John Williams


I’m a bit of a classicist nerd so I was always going to be naturally predisposed to a novel like this one; but even still, Williams’ retelling is excellent treatment of the last days of the Roman republic and the establishment of the Roman Empire under emperor Caesar Augustus.

The novel is epistolary in form and charts Augustus’ lifespan, roughly from his late teens when he after the murder of Julius Caesar right up until his death. The narrative switches between diary entries immediately after the fact, public decrees from the senate and letters between friends both concurrent with the main narrative and those from a future vantage point reflecting on past events.

There’s a large cast of characters whose writings we’re privy too, from Mark Antony to Cicero and from Augustus’ daughter Julia to the famous poet Ovid, and it’s quite impressive that Williams manages to imbue each voice with its own individuality so that we’re never uncertain about whose words we are reading. The epistolary form works very well in this regard for this novel, as the story itself is one that has been told so many times, it’s refreshing to revisit in such original fashion.

Only in the final section of the novel do we hear from Augustus himself though, in his letter to his friend and the famous ancient historian Nicolaus of Damascus. It’s clear that Williams saves his most moving and poetic insights for the main man and some of the passages are especially poignant given that we’ve just witnessed them from first hand perspectives. Augustus’ thoughts read more like a treatise on the meaning of life than the conclusion to a novel, but they do a good job of that too. A very, very enjoyable book.


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

Stamped from the Beginning: The Definitive History of Racist Ideas in America by Ibram X. Kendi

stamped image.jpg
Ibram Kendi is an award winning author with “The New York Times” and a professor of history based in Florida. In 2016 he won the National Book Award for Non-Fiction for this work. It’s title promises a lot, with that word “definitive”, but it certainly lives up the that promise. It is an astonishing, towering opus running to over 500 pages. This topic is surely the most topical one facing the US at present. Kendi takes us back to the very roots of the race issue and the era of the Pilgrim fathers and takes us right through to the “Black Lives Matters” movement of today. To all this, Kendi brings rigour and logic but also, when appropriate, righteous anger. In essence, Kendi says there are three strands regarding Race in America: There are those who want Segregation, others who want assimilation( basically trying to make Black people more like White people), and finally , what Kendi refers to as Anti Racists, those who welcome diversity and respect differences.

Throughout, Kendi illustrates this sweeping history of Racist ideas by focusing of well know figures, to illustrate his points. A good example of this is Angela Davis, who was a somewhat revolutionary figure in 1960s and 70s. Kendi has the gift of making the complex accessible and this is especially useful for readers this side of the Atlantic who have a European perspective. I will leave you with a quote which sums up Kendi’s resolutely optimistic outlook for the future of his country: “There will come a time when Americans will realise that the only thing wrong with Black people is that they think something is wrong with Black people.”    


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


Brilliant Book Titles #169

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

An autobiographical work that describes firsthand the great tectonic shifts in English society following the First World War, Robert Graves’s Goodbye to All That is a matchless evocation of the Great War’s haunting legacy, published in Penguin Modern Classics.

In 1929 Robert Graves went to live abroad permanently, vowing ‘never to make England my home again’. This is his superb account of his life up until that ‘bitter leave-taking’: from his childhood and desperately unhappy school days at Charterhouse, to his time serving as a young officer in the First World War that was to haunt him throughout his life. It also contains memorable encounters with fellow writers and poets, including Siegfried Sassoon and Thomas Hardy, and covers his increasingly unhappy marriage to Nancy Nicholson. Goodbye to All That, with its vivid, harrowing descriptions of the Western Front, is a classic war document, and also has immense value as one of the most candid self-portraits of an artist ever written.

Robert Ranke Graves (1895-1985) was a British poet, novelist, and critic. He is best known for the historical novel I, Claudius and the critical study of myth and poetry The White Goddess. His autobiography, Goodbye to All That, was published in 1929, quickly establishing itself as a modern classic. Graves also translated Apuleius, Lucan and Suetonius for the Penguin Classics, and compiled the first modern dictionary of Greek Mythology, The Greek Myths. His translation of The Rubáiyát of Omar Khayyám (with Omar Ali-Shah) is also published in Penguin Classics.

Brilliant Book Titles #168

because i am furniture

Anke’s father is abusive to her brother and sister. But not to her. Because, to him, she is like furniture– not even worthy of the worst kind of attention. Then Anke makes the school volleyball team. She loves feeling her muscles after workouts, an ache that reminds her she is real. Even more, Anke loves the confidence that she gets from the sport. And as she learns to call for the ball on the court, she finds a voice she never knew she had. For the first time, Anke is making herself seen and heard, working toward the day she will be able to speak up loud enough to rescue everyone at home– including herself.

The 12 Week Year by Brian P. Moran and Michael Lennington


Wouldn’t it be great if you could accomplish all you want to do in 365 days, in just 12 weeks? That was my hope when I picked up The 12 Week Year by Brian P. Moran and Michael Lennington. However this book is more about setting specific goals every 12 weeks and committing fully to them to see results. This book is probably more useful for a leader in a company trying to bring about organisational change but it does have some benefits for the regular reader.

The whole idea of the book is that when we have an entire year to work on a goal we tend to procrastinate as we think we have plenty of time in the future to reach our goal. Even if we make little progress in the first few months, we convince ourselves that we can make up the difference in the final months. Instead, when we are dealing with a goal over 12 weeks – we don’t have that kind of wiggle room and when something (or someone) isn’t working we are forced to address the problem straight away.

One aspect of the book that I really enjoyed was how the authors viewed greatness. We tend to think that it’s only when we reach our goal that we have achieved greatness. The authors explain that you achieve greatness when you choose to do something and follow through. Someone like Michael Phelps didn’t suddenly become great when he won his Olympic medals. He was great for all the practice he put in beforehand. This is something that we can all take inspiration from.

However, one issue I have with the argument in the book is on the topic of accountability. The authors argue that ‘Accountability is not consequences; it’s ownership’. Accountability is not having someone watching over checking in with you. Instead it’s taking personal ownership of your actions. To me, this is great in principal but where most people struggle. I think some people need outer accountability in order to reach their goals. That’s why organisations like Weight Watchers and Alcoholics Anonymous are so successful. People need that check-in as accountability to stay on track. I don’t think the authors make a convincing enough argument that people are strong enough to be their own accountability.

My overall thoughts on the book is that I like the idea of focusing on one particular goal over a short period of time to help spur some momentum. However I think the book could have gotten the point across in a long article rather than having to write an entire book on it. At times it’s a little repetitive. I’d recommend this book to any boss who is trying to make their workplace more productive.

Vlog Like a Boss by Amy Schmittauer


Anyone who has an interest in blogging, will probably have thought about starting a vlog – I know I have! But vlogging can be a daunting business. It means putting yourself in front of the camera, warts and all!

So to help me get over my fear of starting a vlog, I picked up Vlog Like a Boss by Amy Schmittauer. Amy is the vlogger behind Savvy Sexy Social on YouTube and is a vlogging machine. If anyone can teach you about vlogging, it’s Amy.

My first impressions of the book when I bought it were good. It’s a fairly simple read, not too long so you could definitely read it over the weekend.

The book is well laid out. She starts off by talking about her own YouTube journey. This provides a great lesson to any blogger/vlogger out there that wants to get on the radar of someone better known in their niche. Amy was able to get a major influencer – Gary Vaynerchuk to notice her, just as she was beginning to grow her channel. Being creative is more of an asset than having huge numbers when you are starting out.

Amy goes through the three fears that people have when they start vlogging – 1) Fear of the Gear, 2) Fear of Personality, 3) Fear of ROI. When I tell bloggers that they need to embrace, the common excuses I hear are – “Oh I don’t have a proper camera”, “I hate how I look and sound on camera”, “I don’t have a nice place to film”, “I don’t think I have anything to vlog about” etc. If you nodded your head to any of those comments, Amy’s book will set you in the right frame of mind. There is a quote that I love from the book, it gives me hope and inspiration. “You don’t build a portfolio and a career of over 1,000 videos waiting for conditions to be perfect”. This is the mindset you need to embrace when you start doing video.

Another useful section of Amy’s book is how she breaks down the formula for videos. If you are struggling with structuring your videos, this will help you know exactly what the elements are for a great video. It’ll also provide you with a checklist so you never miss anything.

Overall, I think this book is great for anyone who is a complete newbie to vlogging. If you’ve been vlogging for a while, this book might not be as useful. However if you’ve been vlogging but struggling to grow your audience, this book will help you identify what might be going wrong.

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