Lifetime Achievement Award for Roy Foster; Louise Nealon’s Snowflake to be Dublin’s One Book

Books newsletter: a wrap of the latest news and a preview of tomorrow’s pages

In The Irish Times tomorrow, Roy Foster reflects with me on his distinguished career ahead of receiving the Lifetime Achievement at next week’s Irish Book Awards. Former state pathologist Marie Cassidy tells Fiona Gartland about her debut thriller, Body of Truth. Freya McCements talks to Stephen Davison about his new photobook explaining the visceral thrill of motorcycle road racing but not shying away from the high price paid by some participants. Ellen O’Donoghue talks to Lynn Goldsmith about her photobook, Bruce Springsteen & the E Street Band: Darkness on the Edge of Town. Keith Duggan talks to Anthony Summers and Robbyn Swan, Waterford-based writing and life partners. And there is a Q&A with Books Ireland editor Ruth McKee about the book she has edited, The Irish Writers Handbook.

Reviews are Séamas O’Reilly on the best graphic novels of the year; NJ McGarrigle on Topographia Hibernica by Blindboy Boatclub; Kate Demolder on Karma: My Autobiography by Boy George; Claire Hennessy on the best new YA fiction; Catherine Toal on Dublin Tales; Maria Johnston on Eilean Ní Chuilleanáin’s The Map of the World; Ian Hughes on The Kindertransport: What Really Happened; Alex Peake-Tomkinson on Comfort Eating by Grace Dent; Keith Duggan on A Fabulous Failure: The Clinton Presidency and the Transformation of American Capitalism by Nelson Lichtenstein & Judith Stein; Barry Houlihan on A Deep Well of Want: Visualising the World of John McGahern by Paul Butler; and Declan Ryan on Three Hundred Thousand Kisses by Séan Hewitt and Luke Edward Hall.

This weekend’s Eason offer is The Great Alone by Kristin Hannah, just €5.99, a €5 saving, with your paper.

Prof Roy Foster is the recipient of this year’s Bob Hughes Lifetime Achievement Award. The award will be presented on November 22nd at the 2023 awards ceremony in The Convention Centre, Dublin.


Foster will join a host of other distinguished recipients including Anne Enright, Sebastian Barry, Colm Tóibín, Thomas Kinsella, Eavan Boland, John Montague, JP Donleavy, Paul Durcan, John Banville, Maeve Binchy, John McGahern, Edna O’Brien, William Trevor, Séamus Heaney and Jennifer Johnston. All previous winners of The Lifetime Achievement Award can be found here.

Foster has published widely on Irish history and has taught at some of the world’s most prestigious universities including University of London, Oxford, and Princeton. Foster’s oeuvre includes a two-part biography of WB Yeats, which was awarded the 1998 James Tait Black Memorial Prize for Biography, and Vivid Faces: The Revolutionary Generation in Ireland, 1890-1923, which won a British Academy Medal and the Frokosch Prize from The American Historical Association. Other titles by Foster include Luck and the Irish: A Brief History of Change from 1970 and On Seamus Heaney.

In conferring the award, the Board of the Irish Book Awards stated: “Roy Foster has been described as “one of the most distinguished modern heirs of the great tradition of Anglo-Irish liberalism, which flows through Wolfe Tone and Charles Stewart Parnell to W.B. Yeats and on to such latter-day luminaries as the essayist Hubert Butler and the historian F.S.L. Lyons.”

Brendan Corbett, Chairperson of the An Post Irish Book Awards, said: “The Board of the An Post Irish Book Awards is delighted to present the 2023 Lifetime Achievement Award to Professor Roy Foster. Foster is an internationalist and his knowledge, brilliance and passion are apparent through his many publications. He has enabled Irish social and political history to be accessible to all and is an inspiration for both writers and historians alike.”

Fintan O’Toole, historian, literary editor, journalist and critic, said: “The great writers are the ones who really make us think about ourselves. Roy Foster has been an absolutely crucial figure in making Irish people think about what it means to be Irish, and I think most people believe that he’s done us a great service in making us think about the idea of being Irish as containing a lot of different identities and a lot of contradictions.”

Snowflake by Louise Nealon is the ‘One Dublin One Book’ choice for 2024, following on from The Coroner’s Daughter by Andrew Hughes in 2023.

‘One Dublin One Book’ aims to encourage everyone in Dublin to read a designated book connected with the capital city during the month of April every year. Dublin City Librarian Mairead Owens said: “A debut novel, Snowflake from Louise Nealon is a tender story of a college student from the country adjusting to her new life in Dublin. Raw, yet affirming, this book will appeal to all readers as it explores life’s milestones, family, mental health and how we ultimately connect with others while facing big challenges. I am excited about reaching new audiences with this book and generating discussion among readers in the city and beyond next April.”

Nealon said: “I am delighted that Snowflake has been chosen as next year’s ‘One Dublin One Book’. I could never have imagined, upon entering Dublin as a lost culchie, that my confrontation with the place would fuel the world of a novel. Dublin has a habit of showing people who they are. In the early stages of writing Snowflake, the characters stayed within the confines of their rural village. It was only when I sent them to Dublin that they began to reveal themselves to me. It is an honour to unleash this story into the imagination of a city that helped to bring it to life.”

Details will be announced in early 2024.

Fire Weather: A True Story from a Hotter World by John Vaillant was last night named winner of the Baillie Gifford Prize for Non-Fiction 2023. The winner was announced by chair of judges, Frederick Studemann at a ceremony hosted at the Science Museum, London.

Fire Weather: A True Story from a Hotter World tells the story of the devastating wildfires that struck Fort McMurray, Alberta in 2016. Triggered by high temperatures and dry conditions, the conflagration originated in the forest and proceeded to engulf half a million acres of land, including the Athabasca oil sands. This forced 90,000 people to evacuate their homes, many of which were destroyed in minutes as the flames swept through entire neighbouring communities. Through the story of the Fort McMurray wildfire, Vaillant skillfully examines the interconnected narratives of the oil industry and climate science, the immense devastation caused by modern wildfires in our increasingly more flammable world, and the lasting impact on the lives affected by these disasters.

Dublin: Mapping the City by Joseph Brady and Paul Ferguson has been voted Hodges Figgis Irish Book of the Year by the staff of the bookshop.

Paul McGrath, Hodges Figgis Commercial Manager, said: “This engrossing and beautiful book recounts the big and small events that shaped our city, presenting through some gorgeous maps a portrait of Dublin through the ages. It offers through the medium of maps many new perspectives in tracing the growth and development of our capital and is a fascinating snapshot of how and why the city has changed from the early seventeenth century to the present day.”

Joe Brady and Paul Ferguson commented: “We are thrilled and honoured that Dublin: Mapping the City has been selected as Hodges Figgis’ Book of the Year 2023. The shop has always been our ‘go to’ bookshop and there is no better source of books on all kinds of subjects in the city, but especially for the history of Dublin and mapping. This award is a really great Christmas present for us!”

Joseph (Joe) Brady taught in the school of geography at University College Dublin. He has been writing about the development of Dublin for many years and is one of the leading experts in the field. Paul Ferguson is Map Librarian at Trinity College Library, Dublin.

Seanad Éireann and the National Library of Ireland (NLI) have launched a video series to mark the 100th anniversary of the award of the Nobel Prize in Literature to WB Yeats. The 12-part ‘Yeats Nobel Centenary’ series features readings of Yeats’ poems and excerpts from his Seanad speeches from a range of people from the cultural and political world, including poet, performer and playwright, FELISPEAKS; singer and actress, Lisa Lambe; writer and folklorist, Oein DeBhairdúin; Director of the Yeats Society Sligo, Susan O’Keeffe; Ireland Professor of Poetry, Paul Muldoon, senators Jerry Buttimer, David Norris and Lynn Ruane; WB Yeats’ grand-daughter, Caitriona Yeats, and previous winners of the NLI’s Poetry Aloud competition.

The videos are being published on the NLI website , Oireachtas TV and across NLI and Seanad Éireann social channels between November 14th and December 10th , the date on which WB Yeats accepted his Nobel Prize in Literature.

The NLI has the world’s largest collection of material relating to WB Yeats. The Yeats: The Life and Works of William Butler Yeats exhibition is located at the NLI, Kildare Street, Dublin 2, it is open seven days a week and is free to attend.

Dubray, Ireland’s leading dedicated bookseller, is opening a new store in Waterford in late November. This is Dubray’s first store in Waterford and the new 2,000sq ft shop will be situated in City Square, Waterford’s largest shopping centre.

Dubray is celebrating 50 years in business this year and employs over 128 people with shops in Cork, Dublin, Galway, Wicklow and now Waterford.

Dubray began as a single shop in Bray in 1973, owned by Helen Clear, a keen reader who wanted to sell the kind of books she liked to read and recommend. The business built on range and recommendation has gone from strength to strength. In the last five years alone, Dubray has opened five new stores in Cork, Dublin’s Mary St, Dundrum Town Centre, Liffey Valley and most recently in Swords Pavilions.

Halik Kochanski has won the Wolfson History Prize 2023 which was announced at an evening ceremony at Claridge’s in London on Monday.

Halik won the UK’s most prestigious history writing prize for her sweeping history of wartime resistance, Resistance: The Underground War in Europe, 1939-45.

Resistance (Allen Lane) is the first English-language history of resistance to study the whole of Europe, uncovering powerful human stories that have been overlooked across the continent, and revealing remarkable achievements of ordinary people and the formidable challenges that they faced amid oppression from occupying forces.

Praised by Chair of Judges, David Cannadine, as a book which is “impressive in its breadth, blending macro and micro history into a single narrative”, Kochanski receives £50,000 while each of the five shortlisted authors receives £5,000.

The National Museum of Ireland (NMI) - Country Life and Poetry Ireland are excited to present a special event exploring the craft of storytelling and its continued development and relevance, for the third annual What’s the Scéal? mini-symposium.

What’s the Scéal? takes place at 2pm on Friday, 1 December, at the National Museum of Ireland - Country Life, Turlough Park, Castlebar, Co Mayo.

Chaired by poet and writer, Theo Dorgan, the theme of the event is Storytelling and Memory and features a panel discussion with some of Ireland’s best-known storytellers, including Joe Brennan, Eddie Lenihan, Jack Lynch and Simone Schuemmelfeder.