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  • irishtimes.com - Posted: November 29, 2008 @ 12:48 pm

    Books of the year

    Fiona McCann

    Colm Tóibín tips Sebastian Barry’s The Secret Scripture, while Harry Clifton was impressed by the “magical” Life on Earth by Derek Mahon. Joseph O’Neill’s Netherland, Jim White’s Manchester United and biographies of Thomas Moore, Daniel O’Connell and Gabriel Garcia Marquez are all in there in this year’s selection of books of the year by sundry poets and politicians. So step up and be counted alongside John Gormley, John Connolly, Claire Kilroy and the like, and tell us what the best books published over the course of 2008 were for you. . .

    • Chris says:

      I loved ‘The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao’ by Junot Diaz- the funniest, saddest and most educational book I’ve read in a long time. ‘Netherland’ by Joseph O’Neill was great too, a very different kind of New York story and a world away from most Irish writers’ take on the immigrant experience. My other favourite book was ‘Darkmans’ by Nicola Barker, but I think that was published last year. Still, an amzing read, full of great characters and mad plot deviations.

    • Sinéad says:

      Tried leaving a lengthy comment the other day but it kept asking for my name/email which I had already filled in.

      I’ll try again.

    • Sinéad says:

      Loved Sebastian Barry’s book, he should have won the Booker. Every other book on the shortlist was quite disappointing, I thought.

      Fiction: Marilynne Robinson’s Home and Chris Cleave’s The Other Hand

      Poetry: Ciaran Carson’s For All We Know

      Non-Fiction: Chuck Klosterman’s Sex, Drugs & Cocoa Puffs

      Short stories: Anne Enright’s Taking Pictures, Lorrie Moore’s Collected Stories and Gerard Donovan’s Country of the Grand

      My favourite book of the year was Alexsandar Hemon’s The Lazarus Project.

    • Fiona says:

      Chris: Haven’t read the Junot Diaz but Netherland was also one of my books of the year.

      Sinead: Thanks for alerting me to the comment problem, I don’t think you were the only one so I’m going to get on to the IT folks about it.
      Sebastian Barry is by my bedside table (the book, as opposed to the man himself, I should clarify) but I have forbidden myself from opening it untilI have finished Gilead. It’s taken me a while to appreciate the pace, which at first was a little lingering for my liking, but I am now beginning to enjoy it more. It’s a bit like listening to your grandfather in a way – that slightly laborious apparent long-windedness that pays dividends in terms of attention to detail. I’ll let you know when I finish it.

      From a poetry perspective, I loved Colette Bryce’s Self Portrait in the Dark and Leontia Flynn’s Drives, while I’m still working my way through Tobias Wolff’s wonderful Our Story Begins and have Unaccustomed Earth by Jhumpa Lahiri on the to-do list, as far as short stories are concerned. Phew.

      As for non-fiction, can I sneak a mention for a 2006-published but newly discovered guilty pleasure by Rich Cohen, Sweet and Low: A Family Story? Fascinating stuff about his own family written by the disinherited grandson of the man who founded the no-cal sugar substitute.


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