House of Leaves by Mark Z. Danielewski

house-of-leaves

I guarantee you something – you will have never read another book like this.

House of Leaves is Mark Z. Danielewski’s first (and best) novel. Tattoo artist Johnny Truant lives in a building with a blind old man called Zampano. When Zampano dies, he finds an extensively detailed book by famous photographer, Will Navidson, called The Navidson Record which details the supernatural goings on in the Navidson’s new house.

Only Truant can’t find any record of this film or Will Navidson. And the book seems, which is footnoted by Zampano, and Truant as he reads it, seems to be having a strange effect on Truant’s mental state.

This book is a typographical masterpiece. It is laid out like no book you’ve ever read before. As mentioned earlier, each narrator has his own footnotes (and typeface) and the further one gets into the book, the more the layout reflects the goings on. When Danielewski’s publisher sent it to the layout people, reportedly, those due to work on it were so flummoxed that Danielewski himself laid out and typeset the entire book.

A ghost story. A love story. A mystery. A story of family ties, of hallways that shouldn’t be there, of caverns, of marriage. Read it.

And so you know what you’re getting into: here’s a few choice screenshots of the book (but despite this, it’s not art for art’s sake, the layouts really serve the book and have a purpose, although you might, like I did, get some strange looks reading it in front of others when you’ve to do things like tilt the book to read it correctly):

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A final note – this only exists as a print book, due to its typographical complexity, but interestingly you can get a regular black and white or a full colour edition (which affects not only the images within, but some of the words in the text!).

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

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Brilliant Book Titles #151

last night i sand.jpg
You can reserve a copy online at South Dublin Libraries’ catalogue here.

Blurb:
Zach is eighteen. He is bright and articulate. He’s also an alcoholic and in rehab instead of high school, but he doesn’t remember how he got there. He’s not sure he wants to remember. Something bad must have happened. Something really, really bad. Remembering sucks and being alive – well, what’s up with that?

I have it in my head that when we’re born, God writes things down on our hearts. See, on some people’s hearts he writes Happy and on some people’s hearts he writes Sad and on some people’s hearts he writes Crazy on some people’s hearts he writes Genius and on some people’s hearts he writes Angry and on some people’s hearts he writes Winner and on some people’s hearts he writes Loser. It’s all like a game to him. Him.God. And it’s all pretty much random. He takes out his pen and starts writing on our blank hearts. When it came to my turn, he wrote Sad. I don’t like God very much. Apparently he doesn’t like me very much either.

Brilliant Book Titles #150

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

Blurb:
Since HOW TO BE A HEPBURN IN A HILTON WORLD was published in 2009, a lot in our world has changed. A new crop of celebutantes are seizing the spotlight–Paris Hilton (remember her?) has been replaced by the Kardashian sisters. But what hasn’t changed is the wisdom of considering others, being gracious, and behaving in a way that people respect.

In this new and fully updated edition of Jordan Christy’s modern classic book on etiquette, Jordan addresses the concerns of a whole new generation of late-teen and twenty-something women. In new chapters she’ll give advice on how to navigate the pitfalls of social media and explore how to develop self-acceptance and self-confidence. She’ll also address the number one question she receives at her many speaking engagements at high schools, colleges, and sororities–How to land an internship and your first job in today’s competitive market.

Like the big sister you wish you had, Jordan provides sage advice in a way that’s both understanding and fun, so readers will be loving a life of style, class in grace in no time!

 

The Miracle Morning by Hal Elrod

the miracle morning

Have you ever dreamed of being a morning person? Do you wish you could wake up early every morning and have time to exercise, meditate, read and work on a side business all before the rest of the world wakes up? If this is the type of life you crave, Miracle Morning might just be able to show you how to live this life!

 

Miracle Morning is written by Hal Elrod. Elrod has had many struggles in his life, including being in a serious car accident caused by a drunk driver and finding himself $425,000 in debt after the 2008 financial crisis. But Elrod has not let these difficulties stop him from building a profitable business and fulfilling life. He has spent years researching what makes people successful and has come to the conclusion that it is down to how these people start their day.

 

He started to develop a morning ritual that completely changed his life, and this book shows you how to set up the same routine.

Elrod breaks it down into 6 steps, which he calls SAVERS.

  • Silence – This can be in the form of meditation
  • Affirmation – This is a mantra or motto that you repeat each morning
  • Visualization – You visualise what it is exactly that you want from life
  • Exercise – A few minutes of exercise each morning prevents us from making excuses later on in the day
  • Reading – Reading a book for a few minutes each day. Elrod suggests aiming for 10 minutes a day. Depending on your reading speed, this could mean you read an extra 18 books a year.
  • Scribing – This means writing your thoughts down every morning. This can give you a special insight into your life and help with personal development.

If all of that seems like it would take hours to do, Elrod suggests that you can fit it all into an hour every morning. He gives tips and strategies to make it work and help you build up the routine. I tried it for 3 weeks and was definitely more productive those weeks. However it’s a continuing struggle not to hit snooze every morning!

I’d recommend it to anyone that is stuck in a rut in either their work or personal life. Having that extra hour each day helped me gain a fresh perspective on some of my problems and it just made me a more productive person all-round.

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

5 Political Biographies to Watch Out For

What Happened by Hillary Rodham Clinton (12 Sep 2017)
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‘In the past, for reasons I try to explain, I’ve often felt I had to be careful in public, like I was up on a wire without a net. Now I’m letting my guard down.’ – Hillary Rodham Clinton, from the introduction of What Happened

For the first time, Hillary Rodham Clinton reveals what she was thinking and feeling during one of the most controversial and unpredictable presidential elections in history. Now free from the constraints of running, Hillary takes you inside the intense personal experience of becoming the first woman nominated for president by a major party in an election marked by rage, sexism, exhilarating highs and infuriating lows, stranger-than-fiction twists, Russian interference and an opponent who broke all the rules. This is her most personal memoir yet.

In these pages, she describes what it was like to run against Donald Trump, the mistakes she made, how she has coped with a shocking and devastating loss, and how she found the strength to pick herself back up afterwards. With humour and candour, she tells readers what it took to get back on her feet – the rituals, relationships and reading that got her through, and what the experience has taught her about life. She speaks about the challenges of being a strong woman in the public eye, the criticism over her voice, age and appearance, and the double standard confronting women in politics.

She lays out how the 2016 election was marked by an unprecedented assault on democracy by a foreign adversary. By analysing the evidence and connecting the dots, Hillary shows just how dangerous the forces are that shaped the outcome, and why Americans need to understand them to protect their values and democracy in the future.

The election of 2016 was unprecedented and historic. What Happened is the story of that campaign and its aftermath – both a deeply intimate account and a cautionary tale.

Adults in the Room: My Battle with the European and American Deep Establishment by Yanis Varoufakis (3 Oct 2017)
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A Number One Sunday Times Bestseller

What happens when you take on the establishment? In Adults in the Room, the renowned economist and former finance minister of Greece Yanis Varoufakis gives the full, blistering account of his momentous clash with the mightiest economic and political forces on earth.

After being swept into power with the left-wing Syriza party, Varoufakis attempts to renegotiate Greece’s relationship with the EU–and sparks a spectacular battle with global implications. Varoufakis’s new position sends him ricocheting between mass demonstrations in Athens, closed-door negotiations in drab EU and IMF offices, and furtive meetings with power brokers in Washington, D.C. He consults and quarrels with Barack Obama, Emmanuel Macron, Christine Lagarde, the economists Larry Summers and Jeffrey Sachs, and others, as he struggles to resolve Greece’s debt crisis without resorting to punishing austerity measures. But despite the mass support of the Greek people and the simple logic of Varoufakis’s arguments, he succeeds only in provoking the fury of Europe’s elite.

Varoufakis’s unvarnished memoir is an urgent warning that the economic policies once embraced by the EU and the White House have failed–and spawned authoritarianism, populist revolt, and instability throughout the Western world. Adults in the Room is an extraordinary tale of brinkmanship, hypocrisy, collusion, and betrayal that will shake the global establishment to its foundations.

Grant by Ron Chernow (2 Nov 2017)
grant
A dramatic portrait of one of America’s most compelling generals and presidents, Ulysses S. Grant, by Pulitzer Prize winner Ron Chernow, author of the book on which the astonishing musical Hamilton is based.

As late as April 1861, when the American Civil War broke out, Ulysses S. Grant was a dismal failure. A competent officer in the war against Mexico, he had resigned from the army over his drinking and had sunk into poverty as a civilian, losing all his money in hopeless investments. He had failed to secure the command of a volunteer unit and was about to return to his abject life working in his family’s leather-goods store when he was offered the colonelcy of an Illinois regiment. Less than four years later he was the commanding general of the victorious Union armies and was hailed as a military genius. He later served two terms as President of the United States. This is the epic biography of a very unheroic American hero, a modest, reticent and principled man who surprised the world and changed it for the better.

You Can’t Spell America Without Me: The Really Tremendous Inside Story of My Fantastic First Year as President Donald J. Trump (A So-Called Parody) by Alec Baldwin & Kurt Andersen (9 Nov 2017) 
trump
Political satire as deeper truth: Donald Trump’s presidential memoir, as recorded by two world-renowned Trump scholars, and experts on greatness generally

“I have the best words, beautiful words, as everybody has been talking and talking about for a long time. Also? The best sentences and, what do you call them, paragraphs. My previous books were great and sold extremely, unbelievably well–even the ones by dishonest, disgusting so-called journalists. But those writers didn’t understand Trump, because quite frankly they were major losers. People say if you want it done right you have to do it yourself, even when ‘it’ is a ‘memoir.’ So every word of this book was written by me, using a special advanced word processing system during the many, many nights I’ve been forced to stay alone in the White House–only me, just me, trust me, nobody helped. And it’s all 100% true, so true–people are already saying it may be the truest book ever published. Enjoy.”

Until Donald Trump publishes the ultimate account of his entire four or eight or one-and-a-half years in the White House, the definitive chronicle will be You Can’t Spell America Without Me: The Really Tremendous Inside Story of My Fantastic First Year As President. Trump was elected because he was the most frank presidential candidate in history, a man eager to tell the unvarnished truth about others’ flaws and tout his own amazing excellence. Now he levels his refreshingly compulsive, un-PC candour at his landslide election victory as well as his role as commander-in-chief and leader of the free world.

There are intimate, powerful, mind-boggling revelations on every page. You are there with him during his private encounters with world leaders, a few of whom he does not insult. You are there at the genius Oval Office strategy sessions with his advisers. You are there in his White House bedroom as he crafts the pre-dawn Twitter pronouncements that rock the world. And, of course, you are there on the golf course as Trump attempts to manage the burdens of his office.

President Trump explains each of the historic decisions that have already made America great again, and how he always triumphs over the fake news media. You’ll learn what he really thinks of his cabinet members and top aides not related to him, of the First Lady and the First Daughter and the additional three or four Trump children. Included at no extra charge is a lavish and exclusive portfolio of spectacular, historic and intimate colour photographs of President Trump in private – inside the White House, inside Mar-a-Lago, at Trump Tower and more.

You Can’t Spell America Without Me is presented by America’s foremost Trump scholar Kurt Andersen as well as America’s foremost mediocre Trump impersonator, Alec Baldwin.

My Life, Our Times by Gordon Brown (9 Nov 2017)
gordon brown]
As former Prime Minister and our longest-serving Chancellor, Gordon Brown has been a guiding force for Britain and the world over three decades. This is his candid, poignant and deeply relevant story.

In describing his upbringing in Scotland as the son of a minister, the near loss of his eyesight as a student and the death of his daughter within days of her birth, he shares the passionately held principles that have shaped and driven him, reminding us that politics can and should be a calling to serve. Reflecting on the personal and ideological tensions within Labour and its achievements – the minimum wage, tax credits, Bank of England independence and the refinancing of the National Health Service – he describes how to meet the challenge of pursuing a radical agenda within a credible party of government.
He explains how as Chancellor he equipped Britain for a globalised economy while swimming against the neoliberal tide and shows what more must be done to halt rising inequality. In his behind-the-scenes account of the financial crisis and his leading role in saving the world economy from collapse, he addresses the question of who was to blame for the crash and why its causes and consequences still beset us.

From the invasion of Iraq to the tragedy of Afghanistan, from the coalition negotiations of 2010 to the referendums on Scottish independence and Europe, Gordon Brown draws on his unique experiences to explain Britain’s current fractured condition. And by showing us what progressive politics has achieved in recent decades, he inspires us with a vision of what it might yet achieve today.

Riveting, expert and highly personal, this historic memoir is an invaluable insight into our times.

 

Transmetropolitan

I have read this entire series three or four times through. It’s been on my mind to re-read it since I read an article in the Guardian where they say that it illuminates the current state of American politics.

Transmetropolitan is about Spider Jerusalem, extreme gonzo journalist for an extreme overrun cyberpunk future America, where you can change your race at will, become a dust cloud, live on a reservation of the past. It is a hyper-advertised, highly political city, and Spider documents it all, writing a column called I Hate It Here, and he really does, but he’s a political animal and needs to be near the heart and guts of the political machine.

Transmet, as the kids call it, is largely about Spider coming back from his mountain hideaway and writing again, getting sucked back into the black heart of politics. He named the current president The Beast, and so apt was it that it stuck, to the point that even his wife calls him The Beast. Up against him, however, is an even more dangerous foe – whom Spider dubs The Smiler, an amoral callous man who wants to become president to burn down the who house, like a bully picking legs off a spider (sorry!)

Heavy going at times, yes, but not really. Transmet is funny. Really funny. And smart and clever and full of heart and grit and verve. Give this to people who don’t vote, and honestly, maybe they will. Maybe we can all avoid a world with The Smiler or The Beast if we read Spider’s adventures. The comic is nearly perfect (I still have some quibbles, but they’re minor quibbles of someone whose read it a number of times) and quite frankly, essential reading for anyone interested in politics.

[Note: Transmetropolitan spans 60 issues, which is collected in the 10 trade paperbacks seen above].

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You can reserve Transmetropolitan here.

WE WON BEST BOOKS AND LITERATURE BLOG OF THE YEAR!

I have no words! Ballyroan Reads WON Best Books and Literature Blog of the Year!

V By Very Blog Awards 2017 - Winner

Last year, as some of you may know, myself and my colleague Eleanor (and her blog, YAPS!) were nominated in Best Arts and Culture Blog (Corporate) and Ballyroan Reads got bronze with Eleanor taking home the trophy, winning the category.

This year, the categories have changed a little and we’re in Books and Literature (a much better fit, I feel!) and YAPS! was awarded the Bronze Award in Best Books and Literature and Ballyroan Reads WON the category.

Which meant I got an actual award:

me with award

And here’s a pic of me onstage, looking flustered, getting the award!

On stage 1

And finally, here’s a lovely pic of myself and Eleanor celebrating afterwards!

me and eleanor

Thanks to Eleanor for all of these pics (and please go visit YAPS! if you get a chance, it’s a wonderful blog), to all the contributors who have made this site what it is, and to all of you for reading!

Brilliant Book Titles #149

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

Blurb:
In this frank and damning exposé of the Teresa cult, Hitchens details the nature and limits of one woman’s mission to help the world’s poor. He probes the source of the heroic status bestowed upon an Albanian nun whose only declared wish was to serve God. He asks whether Mother Teresa’s good works answered any higher purpose than the need of the world’s privileged to see someone, somewhere, doing something for the Third World.

He unmasks pseudo-miracles, questions Mother Teresa’s fitness to adjudicate on matters of sex and reproduction, and reports on a version of saintly ubiquity which affords genial relations with dictators, corrupt tycoons and convicted frauds. Is Mother Teresa merely an essential salve to the conscience of the rich West, or an expert PR machine for the Catholic Church? In its caustic iconoclasm and unsparing wit, The Missionary Position showcases the devastating effect of Hitchens’ writing at its polemical best.

 

Brilliant Book Titles #148

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

Blurb:
A delightful excursion through the Yiddish language, the culture it defines and serves, and the fine art of complaint

Throughout history, Jews around the world have had plenty of reasons to lament. And for a thousand years, they’ve had the perfect language for it. Rich in color, expressiveness, and complexity, Yiddish has proven incredibly useful and durable. Its wonderful phrases and idioms impeccably reflect the mind-set that has enabled the Jews of Europe to survive a millennium of unrelenting persecution . . . and enables them to kvetch about it!

Michael Wex—professor, scholar, translator, novelist, and performer—takes a serious yet unceasingly fun and funny look at this remarkable kvetch-full tongue that has both shaped and has been shaped by those who speak it. Featuring chapters on curse words, food, sex, and even death, he allows his lively wit and scholarship to roam freely from Sholem Aleichem to Chaucer to Elvis.

Perhaps only a khokhem be-layle (a fool, literally a “sage at night,” when there’s no one around to see) would care to pass up this endearing and enriching treasure trove of linguistics, sociology, history, and folklore—an intriguing appreciation of a unique and enduring language and an equally fascinating culture.

How I Escaped My Certain Fate: The Life and Deaths of a Stand-Up Comedian by Stewart Lee

lee

Stewart Lee is my favourite comedian. He’s intelligent, belligerent, difficult, hilarious, obssessed with language, and very, very funny. You might know him from his four BBC series, Stewart Lee’s Comedy Vehicle.

This book, on the face of it, compiles the transcripts of three of his shows, “Stand-Up Comedian”, “90s Comedian” and “41st Best Stand-Up Ever”, with lots of annotations and footnotes, however, this description doesn’t really do the book justice.

This is the one of the best books on comedy I’ve ever read. He dissects and lifts the mask on crafting comedy. He also talks about the real-life and on-stage Stewart Lee, and the differences between them and his work is so meta, its unreal. His technical craft: use of repetition, callbacks, even creating tension between segments of the audience, or between his character and the audience, are fascinating. Seriously, if you love comedy, or have ever thought about performing, this strikes me as essential.

I would’ve thought that reading a transcript of shows I know really well might be boring but the way he talks about them, dissects them, even points out where they didn’t quite work, or what his intentions were, is a fascinating behind the scenes look at one of the most singular, brightest and best comedians working today.

Following this is his “If You Prefer a Milder Comedian, Please Ask for One EP” short book, taking the same approach to that show, and eventually (hopefully, it’s been announced and the dates changed ten million times, but given that the tv series is finished, I cannot wait for an annotated version of TV Comedian! – are you listening Faber?)

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