Books newsletter: Christmas book appeal; Storyshaped podcast; media and conflict symposium

A preview of Saturday’s books pages and a round-up of the latest literary news


In tomorrow’s Irish Times books coverage, award-winning author Philippe Sands talks to Mary Carolan about Brexit, Irish unity, British imperialism and his latest book, The Last Colony: A Tale of Exile, Justice and Britain’s Colonial Legacy. There is a Q&A with Ireland Professor of Poetry Paul Muldoon and Laureate na nÓg Aine Ní Ghlinn selects the best Irish-language books of the year.

Reviews include Chiamaka Enyi-Amadi on The Light We Carry by Michelle Obama; Declan Burke and Declan Hughes choose their crime favourites of 2022; Eoin Ó Broin on Ireland, Revolution, and the English Modernist Imagination by Eve Patten; Sarah Byrne on Hysterical by Elissa Bassist; Paschal Donohoe on Edible Economics by Ha-Joon Chang; Diarmaid Ferriter on Republicanism, Crime and Paramilitary Policing in Ireland by Brian Hanley; Tony Clayton-Lea on The Definitive Desert Island Discs By Ian Gittins; Clíona Ní Ríordáin on Second Voyages, Poems by Eiléan Ní Chuilleanáin and Essays by various writers, edited by Peter Fallon; and Sarah Gilmartin on Mine Boy by Peter Abrahams.

This weekend’s Irish Times Eason offer is the thriller Hide and Seek by Andrea Mara, which you can buy with your newspaper for just €4.99, a €5 saving.

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‘Everyone has a story to tell, and one of the greatest gifts we can give a child is to help them discover theirs.’ That’s according to Children’s Books Ireland, which this week launched its annual Christmas Appeal, asking the public to help them share the gift of reading with children across Ireland in 2023.

This year’s appeal focuses on the need for children to see stories like theirs in the books on their shelves. Elaina Ryan, CEO of Children’s Books Ireland, said: “We know that books have the power to ignite a child’s imagination, helping them escape from their worries to a place of comfort and security. But they also have the power to help children express themselves and their own stories.

“Recent research from BookTrust UK highlighted the importance of representation and diversity in children’s books, not just for children from ethnic minority backgrounds, but for all. Reading allows children to discover experiences different to their own, developing their empathy and understanding as well as a sense of solidarity and connection with others.”

Children’s Books Ireland’s Christmas Appeal welcomes both once-off and monthly donations; online, by post or by phone. childrensbooksireland.ie/christmas-appeal

Storyshaped is a new podcast all about children’s books, particularly the stories that shape us into the people we are, hosted by Irish children’s writers Susan Cahill and Sinéad O’Hart. It’s for anyone who loves children’s books – children and grown-up children alike. Some episodes are deep dives into children’s books that the hosts loved and others are interviews with well-known children’s authors (many of them Irish) about the stories that influenced them. Guests have included bestselling author Louise O’Neill and Man Booker longlister Sam Thompson. MG Leonard, author of Beetle Boy and Twitch and SF Said, author of Tyger are lined up for upcoming episodes. You can find Storyshaped on all major podcast providers and follow them on Twitter @StoryshapedPod and Instagram @StoryshapedPod.

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Robert Savage wrote the first draft of his new book, Northern Ireland, the BBC, and Censorship in Thatcher’s Britain (OUP Oxford) while at Trinity College Dublin’s Long Room Hub Humanities centre. Instead of a traditional book launch, he is hosting a public symposium next Thursday, December 15th, from 6-7.30pm, entitled Censorship, Media and Conflict, the Case of Northern Ireland.

The event will include BBC reporter/editor Roger Bolton (of Death on the Rock fame) and Tommie Gorman, RTÉ's former Northern Editor. Both worked in Northern Ireland during some of the most difficult days of the conflict. TCD Prof Aibhe O’Neill, who has written about the media, law and censorship, will also contribute.

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Little Island Books has announced the acquisition of The Lonely Book, a verse novel about non-binary identity – and independent bookshops! – by award-winning queer Irish author Meg Grehan. Publisher Matthew Parkinson-Bennett acquired world rights directly from the author.

The Lonely Book (April 2023), Grehan’s fourth title with Little Island, sees her return to middle-grade after the well-received YA novel Baby Teeth (2021). Grehan’s previous book for this age-group, The Deepest Breath (2019), was shortlisted for the Waterstones Children’s Book Prize and won the Judge’s Special Prize at the Children’s Books Ireland Awards.