Brilliant Book Titles #49

An angry, vulgar title that works well given that its a memoir of a hard life and a difficult father-son relationship

another bullshit

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

Nick Flynn met his father when he was twenty-seven years old, working as a caseworker in a homeless shelter in Boston. As a teenager he’d received letters from this mystery father – self-proclaimed poet (and greatest American novelist since Mark Twain), descendant of the Romanov dynasty, alcoholic, and con-man doing time for bank robbery – but there had been no contact. Another Bullshit Night in Suck City (a phrase Flynn senior uses to describe his life on the streets) tells the story of the eerie trajectory that led Nick and his father into that homeless shelter, onto those streets, and finally to each other.

The Art of Asking: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Let People Help by Amanda Palmer

art of asking

I don’t really listen to audiobooks. They always seem like a huge time investment compared to reading books (which they aren’t) but more so, I can’t do anything else when listening to audiobooks (whereas when reading, I’d normally listen to music also). Anyway, my main criteria for listening to an audiobook is who is reading it, and like this one, I tend to only listen to ones read by the author and of author’s I’m interested in.

I’m a long term fan of Amanda Palmer and her former band, The Dresden Dolls, who I’ve listened to for well over a decade now, so I was looking forward to getting this book. I initially got it in paperback but I didn’t get very far with it; I was distracted, and also I wasn’t mad about reading it, however, I ended up getting it through Audible and due to some unusual circumstances, I found myself in the position to listen to hours and hours of an audiobook.

And I was very glad I did. The book completely comes alive when Amanda reads it. More than that, she has punctuated sections with her own music, and occasionally, the music of others, the conceit of which works really well when she’s talking about a specific song.

The book stemmed from her crowdfunding over $1million for her record, Theatre is Evil, and the subsequent TED talk she was asked to give which introduced her to a whole new audience. It’s about much more than that though. Part memoir, part journey through an artist connecting with her fans, part self-help at times (in a good way), this book starts with her working in an icecream shop in Boston and on her days off being a living statue, the 9ft tall “The Bride”, replete in white facepaint and an old wedding dress. She talks about this and how it was good training for connecting with an audience and more than that, being unafraid to ask for help when needed, being unafraid of connecting with someone.

There is so much in this book that I could go on and on about it for ages. Like she is in her music and online, she doesn’t hold anything back, going into detail about her relationship with Neil Gaiman, her abortion, what it was like being hated on the Internet, but more than anything, this book is about a musician seeking to connect, seeking to be an artist, and not feeling ashamed for either. Recommended.


You can reserve a print copy of this book on South Dublin Libraries’ online catalogue here.

Brilliant Book Titles #41

fat chance.png

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

‘Reading it is an intense experience – much sadder and more beautiful than I was expecting … a ballsy paean to self-determination and body confidence … McSharry’s style is a pleasure: precise, colloquial, tightly paced. She’s nailed the elusive directness central to the work of essayists like Lena Dunham. If you read one heart-breaking yet bouncy true-life memoir this summer, make sure it’s this one.’ Sunday Times

‘An absolutely stunning piece of work … just a fantastic book’ Roisin Ingle

‘Hello there @louisemcsharry. Well, I LOVED your book and now I LOVE YOU TOO!!!!! You are INSPIRATIONAL!’ Marian Keyes on Twitter

‘Louise is heartbreakingly honest. A sharp, well-observed, and ultimately inspirational read. Every woman of every age should read this book.’ Louise O’Neill

‘Searingly honest … at times makes for heart-breaking reading but Louise is at her most inspiring talking about her journey towards fat acceptance’ Irish Daily Star

‘Louise’s life reads like a thriller – I had goose-bumps throughout! Brave, funny, emotional and totally relatable for women.’ Roz Purcell

‘Hugely enjoyable. So honest and insightful. I loved the positivity and the REALNESS! Will be amazing for young women to read.’ Una Mullaly

‘Both heart-warming and heart-breaking. Vividly raw and surprisingly visceral, Louise makes you feel every single bit.’ Angela Scanlon

‘Should be compulsory reading for all young people, male and female. Older readers will also be inspired by McSharry’s no-nonsense approach … Whether writing about sex, feminism, family or body acceptance, McSharry is compassionate, funny and wise’ Irish Times

‘A mighty woman, with cojones the size of Mexico and coolness in the face of adversity not seen since John Wayne’s heyday’ Irish Independent

‘She’s a straight shooter, honest and to the point’ The Herald

Louise McSharry’s passion is to talk to young women (and the men who love them), about being a woman in the modern world. Drawing on her own 33 years of life, she writes about everything from surviving a messed up childhood, to crashing out of education and still making it, to figuring out sex, weight, feminism, make-up, friendship, workplace politics and a whole lot more.

Though she has the raw material (the early death of her father and being taken into care at seven because of her mother’s alcoholism) the last thing Louise wanted do was to write a misery memoir. She wasn’t keen on writing a cancer survival story either (she went through treatment while planning her wedding … trying on white dresses while sweating and hairless – not a good look).

So, though it has its sad moments, Fat Chance is honest, upbeat, irreverent and inspirational – just like a long chat with a best friend. A fabulous, funny and wise best friend!

When Breath Becomes Air by Paul Kalanithi

when breath becomes ir

This book has had phenomenal sales worldwide, since it’s publication in January 2016.

Paul Kalanithi was a 35 year old neurosurgeon with the world at his feet and a glittering future ahead, when  he was stopped in his tracts by a diagnosis of terminal cancer. This  book, published posthumously, is the record of his journey towards the inevitable and while this sounds like a gloomy book, it is anything but.

Kalanithi was clearly an immensely talented man, having majored in English and Biology before turning to medicine. His story will grip you and refuse to let go, told in elegant, language that soars to heights of power and wonder. One of the most striking features of his account is the degree to which he gains comfort and meaning form literature, this is rarely so evident in a man of science, but then Paul Kalanithi was a very rare and unique individual.

Be aware that when you read this book, it will remain with you and resonate with your own personal quest, to come to terms with your own mortality and the meaning of your life.

The book is enhanced by an epilogue written by Paul’s wife, Lucy and a forward by Abraham Verghese, author of “Cutting For Stone” In between these “bookends”, is a story like you never heard before, heartbreakingly sad, moving and life affirming, all at once.

Read it.

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

Also, this post is our 100th post!


BONUS POST: Five new memoirs to look out for

[Most of the links below redirect you to South Dublin Libraries’ online catalogue so you can reserve a copy online]

famous nathan
Famous Nathan: A Family Saga of Coney Island, The American Dream and the Search for the Perfect Hot Dog by Lloyd Handwerker and Gil Reavill (21 Jun 2016)
Beginning with just five feet of counter space on Coney Island in 1916, Nathan’s Famous – based on the basic principles of quality ingredients, hard work and a price everyone could afford -soon stretched across the globe, launching the hotdog as an American food staple and Nathan Handwerker to national fame. But the story behind the dog is even tastier…

Fleeing Eastern Europe as the shadow of WWI looms large with nothing but twenty dollars in his socks, Nathan arrives in New York with the insatiable desire to make a better life, and within two years he sets up a shop of his own, hawking frankfurters for five cents at the sleepy little beach retreat of Coney Island. As New York booms, pushing trains and patrons to the shore, so too do Nathan’s humble hotdogs. Within ten years he has the whole corner, and a brand as recognizable as Coca-Cola and Cracker Jack. Nathan’s is famous.

But with success comes difficulties, and as Nathan’s two sons vie to inherit the family dynasty a story of Biblical proportions plays out, mirroring the corporatization of the American food industry.

Written by Nathan’s own grandson, and at once a portrait of a man, a family and the changing face of a nation through a century of promise and progress, Famous Nathan is a dog’s tale that snaps and satisfies with every page.

stanley kubrick
Stanley Kubrick and Me: Thirty Years at his Side by Emilio D’Alessandro and Fillppo Ulivier (23 Jun 2016)
This intimate portrait by his former personal assistant and confidante reveals the man behind the legendary filmmaker–for the first time. Stanley Kubrick, the director of a string of timeless movies from Lolita and Dr. Strangelove to A Clockwork Orange, 2001: A Space Odyssey, Full Metal Jacket, and others, has always been depicted by the media as the Howard Hughes of filmmakers, a weird artist obsessed with his work and privacy to the point of madness. But who was he really? Emilio D’Alessandro lets us see. A former Formula Ford driver who was a minicab chauffeur in London during the Swinging Sixties, he took a job driving a giant phallus through the city that became his introduction to the director. Honest, reliable, and ready to take on any task, Emilio found his way into Kubrick’s neurotic, obsessive heart. He became his personal assistant, his right-hand man and confidant, working for him from A Clockwork Orange until Kubrick’s death in 1999. Emilio was the silent guy in the room when the script for The Shining was discussed. He still has the coat Jack Nicholson used in the movie. He was an extra on the set of Eyes Wide Shut, Kubrick’s last movie. He knew all the actors and producers Kubrick worked with; he observed firsthand Kubrick’s working methods down to the smallest detail. Making no claim of expertise in cinematography but with plenty of anecdotes, he offers a completely fresh perspective on the artist and a warm, affecting portrait of a generous, kind, caring man who was a perfectionist in work and life.

playing scard
Playing Scared: My Journey Through Stage Fright by Sara Solovitch (30 Jun 2016)
Stage fright is one of the human psyche’s deepest fears. Over half of British adults name public speaking as their greatest anxiety. Laurence Olivier learned to adapt to it, as have actors Salma Hayek and Hugh Grant. Musicians such as Paul McCartney and Adele have battled it and learned to cope.

Playing Scared is Sara Solovitch’s journey into the myriad causes of stage fright and the ways we can overcome it. Using her own experience as inspiration, Sara has written a thoughtful and insightful cultural history of performance anxiety and a tribute to pursuing personal growth at any age.

dark night
Dark Night: A True Batman Story by Paul Dini and Eduardo Risso (30 Jun 2016)
The Caped Crusader has been the all-abiding icon of justice and authority for generations. But in this surprising original graphic novel, we see Batman in a new light — as the savior who helps a discouraged man recover from a brutal attack that left him unable to face the world. In the 1990s, legendary writer Paul Dini had a flourishing career writing the hugely popular Batman: The Animated Series and Tiny Toon Adventures. Walking home one evening, he was jumped and viciously beaten within an inch of his life. His recovery process was arduous, hampered by the imagined antics of the villains he was writing for television including the Joker, Harley Quinn and the Penguin. But despite how bleak his circumstances were, or perhaps because of it, Dini also always imagined the Batman at his side, chivvying him along during his darkest moments. DARK NIGHT: A TRUE BATMAN STORY is the harrowing and eloquent autobiographical tale of Dini’s courageous struggle to overcome a truly desperate situation. It is a Batman story like none other and one that will truly resonate with fans. Art by the incredible and talented Eduardo Risso (100 BULLETS, TRANSMETROPOLITAN).

This Is Not My Beautiful Life: A Memoir by Victoria Fedden (1 Jul 2016)
ONE OF “PUBLISHERS WEEKLY”‘S TEN MOST ANTICIPATED MEMOIRS OF THE SEASON IF YOU THINK IT SUCKS TO LIVE WITH YOUR PARENTS WHEN YOU RE THIRTY-SIX AND NINE MONTHS PREGNANT, JUST WAIT TILL THE DEA COMES KNOCKING (WITH THE IRS IN TOW): WELCOME TO VICTORIA FEDDEN S LIFE.When a squad of federal agents burst through her parents front door, Victoria Fedden felt ill-prepared to meet them: She was weeks away from her due date and her T-shirt wasn t long enough to hide her maternity undies. As for the question of how to raise a child when you ve just discovered that your mother and stepfather have allegedly masterminded a pump-and-dump scheme? She was pretty sure that wasn t covered in “What “”to Expect When You re Expectin”g and she really hoped that Bradford Cohen, the noted criminal defense attorney who famously waived his exemption on “The Apprentice,” would prove them innocent.”This Is Not My Beautiful Life” is the story of how Victoria lost her parents to prison and nearly lost her mind. No one ever said motherhood would be easy, but as she struggles to change diapers, install car seats, and find the right drop-off line at pre-school no easy task, when each one is named for a stage in the lifecycle of a f*cking butterfly she s also forced to ask herself whether a jump-suit might actually complement her mom s platinum-blonde extensions and fend off the cast of shady, stranger-than-fiction characters (like the recovering addict who scored a reality show when he started an escort service for women) who populated her parents world.A real-life “Arrested Development” that could only unfold in southern Florida, “This Is Not My Beautiful Life” is a hilariously funny and unexpectedly moving memoir of a just-functional family you ll never forget.”

Brilliant Book Titles #4

An occasional series of blog posts whenever something takes my fancy.
I came across this book this morning. Apparently, it’s been republished as just “Clothes Music Boys” which is nowhere near as good as the original.


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


In 1975, Viv Albertine was obsessed with music but it never occurred to her she could be in a band as she couldn’t play an instrument and she’d never seen a girl play electric guitar.

A year later, she was the guitarist in the hugely influential all-girl band the Slits, who fearlessly took on the male-dominated music scene and became part of a movement that changed music.

A raw, thrilling story of life on the frontiers and a candid account of Viv’s life post-punk – taking in a career in film, the pain of IVF, illness and divorce and the triumph of making music again – Clothes Clothes Clothes Music Music Music Boys Boys Boys is a remarkable memoir.