Brilliant Book Titles #265

three uses

A paperback edition of award-winning dramatist David Mamet’s acclaimed collection of theatre essays. Renowned playwright, screenwriter, poet and essayist David Mamet explains the necessity, purpose and demands of drama. A celebration of the ties that bind art to life, Three Uses of the Knife will enthral anyone who has sat anxiously waiting for the lights to go up on Act 1. In three tightly woven essays of characteristic force and resonance, Mamet speaks about the connection of art to life, language to power, imagination to survival, public spectacle to private script. Self-assured and filled with autobiographical touches Three Uses of the Knife is a call to art and arms, a manifesto that reminds us of the singular power of the theatre to keep us sane, whole and human. ‘Mamet’s writing is tight, spare, and as accurate and ruthless as a scalpel’ Sunday Times

(My) Books of the Year

2018? Where in the hell has it gone? How is it Christmas next week – I still have shopping to do!

With that, the Books of the Year feature, where I ask all of our contributors for their book of the year, normally sometime in September, has kind of fallen by the wayside, so I’m going to do my books of the year.

Only problem is is that, in going through the books I reviewed here, I hated a lot of books this year. Of the ones one I reviewed on here, I would highly recommend these three (click each for my review):

Poetry – Autopsy by Donte Collins
Fiction – Rosemary’s Baby by Ira Levin
Non-Fiction – ‘Curing Queers’: Mental Nurses and Their Patients, 1935-74 by Tommy Dickinson

In true Books of The Year fashion, none of those books were published in 2018 (although were read in 2018). And still, I don’t think they were my Books of the Year.

So, I thought I might have a look at books that I have read this year and loved that didn’t make it onto the blog, and within those, I have found my true Book of the Year:

I don’t want to say too much about this – expect a full review in the new year, I am currently starting the third book in the trilogy – but this absolutely floored me and is most definitely my 2018 BOOK OF THE YEAR. Sheer perfection. Recommended to even don’t read fantasy or sci-fi (I don’t, usually, and adored this, and fantasy heads are loving it too).

strike your heart
Runner-up in My Book of the Year, this beautifully written short novel, Nothomb’s 25th, is a perfect distillation of her themes – familial cruelty, female relationships – in this tender, sharp and brilliant, brilliant book. And I’m delighted that Europa are translating more of her work (I hope they translate it all!). [Also, it was published in 2018, so if that’s essential to you, then I suppose this is my Book of the Year].

Honourable Mentions go to:
Philip Ridley’s prose is one of my favourite things. His novel, In the Eyes of Mister Fury, is my favourite novel ever, and this is the new edition (completely rewritten!!) of his early 90’s short story collection. Queer, dark, fantastic, shocking and beautiful – highly recommended.

tj and amal
A giant doorstop of a graphic novel; Amal is fleeing an arranged marriage and TJ is fleeing – well, Amal, doesn’t know – but they end up driving across country and getting closer and closer. A beautifully written and gorgeously drawn graphic novel. One to savour.

obelisk gate
Yes, it’s the sequel to the book of the year but damn if this isn’t excellent also. All three novels in the trilogy won the Hugo Award for Best Novel, and it’s really not hard to see why.

poetic meter
Mark, have you lost it? A late 1970’s manual on the intricacies of poetic metre and form? Yes – it was wonderful and intricate and will explode open how you read and write poetry. Oh, and it’s often quite funny and snarky too!

So that’s my Books of the Year. Let me know if you’ve read any, and what your Books of the Year are in the comments.

Oh, and Happy Holidays! [We’ll return on the 2nd!]

The Amityville Horror by Jay Anson


Everyone, I’m sure, has heard of The Amityville Horror. It has seeped into the public consciousness. Continuing on my Paperbacks From Hell reading list, I plowed through this book in a couple of nights. This very, very silly book.

For anyone who remains unaware, The Amityville Horror tells the “true” story of George and Kathy Lutz, their children and the 28 days spent in 112 Ocean Avenue in Amityville.

Now. This book is atrociously written. The prose is just plain awful and the story almost non-sensical. That said, its stupidity and awfulness almost propelled me through the book. I mean, I read the whole thing.

One thing that bugged me was that there was little to no explanation of the “horrors” that occurred. I suppose since it’s a “true” story, that was their get-out clause.

And why I keep saying “true” is because for years and years its accuracy has been debated, and really, anyone who reads it can tell that it was created, as someone involved in the books production stated, “over a couple of bottles of wine”. And they have every cliché – inverted crosses, demon pigs, levitation, imaginary friends, murder – all jumbled in Anson’s pedestrian prose. But, you know, I’m not mad at it, it is what it is, and it’s a shlocky, switch off your brain read that I can recommend if you want something silly and easy to read. Although, all these years later, you’ll stil have to hunt it down in the non-fiction section like I did!


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

40 Sonnets by Don Paterson

40 sonnets

Saw this in a bookshop in town and noted it down to pick up sometime. My interest came from the fact that I wanted to read an example of a book of sonnets.

This was not a good place for that.

I have never read Don Paterson, and I won’t be again. His tone is grating, and his work just seems to lack heart. Perhaps it’s because there’s lots of homages to people and things in this book, and it doesn’t feel grounded in humanity, in people. It is an experiment in form, first and foremost.

And the form, is fine. I don’t know, I think I just don’t like the poet’s voice. The best poem here, An Incarnation, seems to be something other than that voice – a one-sided phone conversation – whereas the rest just vaguely irritated me.

So yeah, again, another poetry collection I didn’t like! Avoid.


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

Brilliant Book Titles #264

theft by finding.jpg



He’s like an American Alan Bennett, in that his own fastidiousness becomes the joke, as per the taxi encounter, or his diary entry about waiting interminably in a coffee-bar queue’ Guardian review of An Evening with David Sedaris

The point is to find out who you are and to be true to that person. Because so often you can’t. Won’t people turn away if they know the real me? you wonder. The me that hates my own child, that put my perfectly healthy dog to sleep? The me who thinks, deep down, that maybe The Wire was overrated?

For nearly four decades, David Sedaris has faithfully kept a diary in which he records his thoughts and observations on the odd and funny events he witnesses. Anyone who has attended a live Sedaris event knows that his diary readings are often among the most joyful parts of the evening. But never before have they been available in print. Now, in Theft by Finding, Sedaris brings us his favorite entries. From the family home in Ralegh, North Carolina, we follow Sedaris as he sets out to make his way in the world. As an art student and then teacher in Chicago he works at a succession of very odd jobs, meeting even odder people, before moving to New York to pursue a career as a writer – where instead he very quickly lands a job in Macy’s department store as an elf in Santaland…

Tender, hilarious, illuminating, and endlessly captivating, Theft by Finding offers a rare look into the mind of one of our generation’s greatest comic geniuses.

Brilliant Book Titles #263

why will no one


You’ve written a book, triumphantly typed ‘The End’, but now, it seems, no-one wants to publish it.

What do you do next?

Don’t give up: ask yourself what went wrong, then do something about it.

Author of over thirty novels, stories and screenplays, and tutor on the prestigious creative writing course at Bath Spa, Fay Weldon has a lifetime of wisdom to impart on the art of writing.

Why Will No-One Publish My Novel? will delight and amuse, but it isn’t just another how-to-write handbook: it shows you how not to write if you want to get published.

Rosemary’s Baby by Ira Levin

rosemary's baby

Rosemary’s Baby is famous in a way that few stories are. Pretty much everyone has heard of its plot, the book or the movie, and I certainly had stuck in my head the line from the movie (about an intended nursery), ‘It’s perfect for a child’.

What I had never done was read it, nor any of Levin’s books (who also wrote The Stepford Wives, A Kiss Before Dying and The Boys From Brazil). I recently re-read Grady Hendrix’ excellent primer, Paperbacks from Hell: The Twisted History of 70’s and 80’s Horror Fiction, except this time I made a list (so expect many more horror reviews!).

I read Rosemary’s Baby in one evening, almost in one sitting. Its clear, crisp prose hides a multitude of horror that slowly creeps up on you, and I use that word very specifically: I found this book very creepy.

Rosemary and Guy Woohouse move into the Bramford, a fantastic, old and very exclusive New York brownstone/block that has been split into apartments. Guy is an actor and Rosemary sets about doing up the house from magazines and planning a baby, in that typical 50’s housewife manner.

What sets this book apart is the way Levin approaches the topic of Satanism and Satanic Cults. That is very slowly and out of the corner of one’s eye. It again creeps up on Rosemary, all of it explainable by rational means, or so it seems.

The book is quite disturbing. Rosemary’s impregnation by Beelezbub – which she thought was a dream – wasn’t half as disturbing as her husband the next day saying he had sex with her when she was passed out drunk because they were trying for a baby and it was “Baby Night”. Right then and there, you know something is seriously wrong. The most disturbing bit of that is though she is pissed off about it, and even says the word rape, she lets it go. And it just gets worse; she spends months in pain from the fetus, contradicted by those around her, and convinced that nothing is wrong, all the while becoming more and more isolated from her friends, and anyone who can help is sidelined.

This book is full of emotional manipulation and gaslighting. Of friends being enemies. Of being totally alone with the horror of an unwanted pregnancy (and yes, I think Levin is drawing a parallel here – an exaggerated one, but nonetheless, a parallel that I just fully realised when writing this review). It rockets towards its satisfying conclusion that manages to retain its credibility, in the face of the spawn of Satan and cultish neighbours.

A disturbing, quick read that, as the introduction by Chuck Palahniuk pointed out, was the first to shift the horror from some remote castle to an apartment, any apartment. One just like yours. Recommended.


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

Most Requested #7 – Dec 2018

I used to do an occasional feature of what books were most requested nationally, but it kind of fell by the wayside, being a monthly thing, so in lieu of a Five New Books to Watch Out For, here’s five that everyone is reading:


Lauded by pretty much everyone, this book is everywhere right now, and enters our top 5 with 647 holds.

normal people
Longlisted for the 2018 Booker Prize, and named 2018 Waterstones Book of the Year, this Irish novelist has been called ‘Salinger for the Snapchat Generation’ and Normal People has been called ‘a future classic’ by The Guardian. It currently has 683 holds in the Irish public libraries system.


The second book in the Oh My God, What a Complete Aisling series, which started life as a closed Facebook group, and has since garnered six-figure deals and been referred to as an ‘Irish Bridget Jones’ The Importance of Being Aisling is currrently third on our charts with 784 holds.

A lot of things could be said about this book, but the big thing you need to know is that it won the 2018 Booker Prize, and currently has 1218 holds.

a keeper
And beating out all the prizewinners is the immensely popular Graham Norton, repeating the success Holding had in our library charts, his new novel, A Keeper, is number one with an astonishing 1433 holds.

Two Tribes: Liverpool, Everton and a City on the Brink by Tony Evans

two tribes

Really interesting read. Dives into the social, cultural and political climate of the time and illustrates how football made life bearable for so many people, in particularly, young working class men.

As the two best teams in English football at the time, the focus of the book is on Everton and Liverpool in the 1985-86 season. Evans evokes Liverpool’s reputation as a city apart, a strange “other” inside of Britain’s borders and evokes the myriad challenges the city faced in the 70s and 80s against the backdrop of rampant Thatcherism. In public discourse at the time, Liverpool was spoken about as “the enemy within”, as the city coucil resisted all attempts at freemarket capitalism eviscerating decades of social housing between citizen and state. Alongside this is the underlying racial tensions within Britain. Liverpool was struck with massive waves of irish immigration during the famine, and British antagonism towards these destitute irish emigrants has matured over the decades into a strong suspicion of scousers.

Along with Thatcher, Liverpool, and wider English football, had Heysel to deal with and the total ban on entering European club competitions that came with it. With delcining attendances, hooliganism on the rise and the TV executives circling, football faced nearly as many challenges as did Britain.

Amidst all this, Liverpool the city was still playing by far the best football in the country. The race to the finish in April and May and the climactic FA cup final between both clubs united Merseyside in pride and showed a different side of Liverpool to the rest of the Enlgish public and the football world.

Great read for football fans and amateur sociologists.


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

Brilliant Book Titles #262

a station on the path

With his third novel, Wood’s talent has burgeoned spectacularly. The book is a tremendous achievement, an unputdownable domestic thriller that is also subtle and moving … travelling well beyond his earlier fiction, Wood has produced a tour de force that marks his creative arrival’ David Grylls, SUNDAY TIMES 
‘A novel written from the gut, and with a correspondingly visceral power. A superbly unsettling account of trauma and cautious recovery’ SARAH WATERS
‘Elegant and disturbing … this is a novel of expertly woven tension and frightening glimpses into the mind of the deranged other’ John Burnside, GUARDIAN

The acclaimed author of The Ecliptic, Benjamin Wood writes a novel of exceptional force and beauty about the bond between fathers and sons, about the invention and reconciliation of self – weaving a haunting story of violence and love.

For twenty years, Daniel Hardesty has borne the emotional scars of a childhood trauma which he is powerless to undo, which leaves him no peace.

One August morning in 1995, the young Daniel and his estranged father Francis – a character of ‘two weathers’, of irresistible charm and roiling self-pity – set out on a road trip to the North that seems to represent a chance to salvage their relationship. But with every passing mile, the layers of Fran’s mendacity and desperation are exposed, pushing him to acts of violence that will define the rest of his son’s life.

‘It will grip you and stay with you… Fran is an expertly drawn troubled male… this is the heart of a beautifully constructed novel’ SHORTLIST
‘Propulsive… a story that begins as a poignant, coming-of-age tale spirals almost imperceptibly into harrowing terror’ DAILY MAIL
‘Sinister, highly-detailed’ PRESS ASSOCIATION

‘Tenderly dissecting the limits of love between parent and child while wriggling with a rich, thrilling tension, this palpably atmospheric story found its way beneath my skin and now lives there. Tell anyone who’ll listen, Benjamin Wood is one of the best novelists in Britain’ DAVID WHITEHOUSE

‘A shocking account of extreme violence and its complicated after-effects. It is a vivid and unsettling novel filled with surprises and insights’ IAN McGUIRE

‘A heart-breaking and heart-stopping new novel; a dark Northern noir that moves at breakneck speed but never fails to be tender and vulnerable as well as visceral and terrifying’ ANDREW McMILLAN

‘A novelist to watch’ The Times 

Praise for The Ecliptic, shortlisted for the Sunday Times/PFD Young Writer of the Year Award:

‘A resounding achievement . . . Rich, beautiful and written by an author of great depth and resourceEdward Docx, Guardian

‘Full of suspense and beautifully written, superbly imagined and constructed . . . A terrifically gripping and playful book’ Sunday Times

‘Exhilarating, earthy, cerebral, frank and unflinching . . . A masterfully paced and suspenseful read‘ Independent

‘A rich, intricate and layered work’ Observer

Haunts the imagination long after the final page’ Independent on Sunday 

‘A gorgeous and harrowing work’ Emily St. John Mandel, author of Station Eleven