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Nonfiction books to look out for in 2024

Candid memoirs, searching investigations of dark deeds and uplifting personal stories among the new year’s highlights

Irish nonfiction

Overcoming adversity and unimaginable trauma and uncovering hidden truths are common threads in some of 2024′s most promising titles.

American Mother (Bloomsbury, February), by Colum McCann and Diane Foley, is the story of the mother of the journalist James Foley, who was kidnapped in Syria and murdered by Islamic State in a public beheading a decade ago. Told in collaboration with one of Ireland’s most acclaimed novelists (Apeirogon, Let the Great World Spin), this book is testament to the power of radical empathy and moral courage.

The Last Disco (Eriu, August) by Sean Murray, Christine Bohan and Nicky Ryan promises to tell the true story of the Stardust tragedy, the Dublin nightclub fire which killed 48 people on February 14th, 1981.

Noah Donohoe: The Search for Truth (Mirror Books, April), by Donal MacIntyre: when 14-year-old schoolboy Noah Donohoe went missing in the summer of 2020, the city of Belfast and the wider world prayed that he would be found alive. Tragically, after a six-day search, his body was discovered in a secluded storm drain 100 metres away. How he met his death remains a mystery. With access to police and court documents and exclusive insight from Noah’s family, the best-selling investigative author Donal MacIntyre delves deep to find answers to one of the most talked about news stories of recent years.

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Missing Persons, Or My Grandmother’s Secrets (Penguin, January) by London-Irish critic and cultural historian Clair Wills (Lovers and Strangers; That Neutral Island) focuses on the ordinary people, including her own relatives, whose complicity made Ireland’s system of incarcerating unmarried mothers and their babies possible.

A Hundred to One (Gill, February) by Pat Sheedy is the memoir of a gambling addict who completed a creative writing degree in prison for crimes related to his addiction and won the Listowel Writers’ Week short story prize two years in a row.

Deadly Silence (Hachette Books Ireland, April) by Jacqueline Connolly is the heartbreaking account of a sister’s search for the truth behind one man’s evil deeds, and an inspiring personal journey of overcoming against the odds. In 2016, the author’s brother-in-law Alan Hawe murdered her sister Clodagh and their children Liam, Niall and Ryan.

No Peace Until He’s Dead (Merrion, February) is Amanda Brown’s candid memoir of the unimaginable sexual abuse she and her siblings suffered at the hands of her evil stepfather, the Ireland rugby international and DUP councillor, Davy Tweed, and her courageous pursuit of justice and recovery.

The Bass Player (New Island/Birlinn, September) by Stephen Travers is subtitled A True Story of Savagery, Intrigue, Collusion, Love and Hope. The personal memoir of a survivor of the Miami Showband massacre, which was recently the subject of an Emmy-nominated Netflix documentary.

The Depraved Tallyman: Bill Kenneally, Child Sex Abuse and Cover Up in Waterford (Merrion, September) by Damien Tiernan is the harrowing story of one of Ireland’s most notorious sex offenders, who operated with impunity for decades.

Who Killed Una Lynskey (Penguin, August) by Mick Clifford is the story of the murder in October 1971 of a 19-year-old woman in Co Meath and the botched Garda investigation which resulted in the death of one innocent young man and the wrongful imprisonment of two others while the killer escaped justice.

Shooting Crows: The Loughinisland Massacre, State Collusion and Press Freedom (Merrion, August) by Trevor Birney tells the inside story of the Loughinisland massacre and how justice was corrupted to protect the security forces’ secrets from the dirty war in Northern Ireland, and how the state decided to go after the journalists who revealed the truth rather than the evil killers who carried out the atrocity.

Perfectly Imperfect (Gill, January) by gold-medal winning Paralympian swimmer Ellen Keane is for anyone struggling to embrace who they are. With anecdotes from her own life, practical advice, monthly check-ins and good-natured humour, she dares you to embrace your imperfect, messy self just as you are.

Kincora: Britain’s Darkest Secret (Merrion, August) by Chris Moore is the shocking investigation into Ireland’s true “house of horrors” and the systematic cover up by MI5 and other British state agencies of the paedophile sex ring that operated for the perverted sexual gratification of Britain’s elite classes.

Harpy: A Manifesto for Childfree Women (Icon, May) by Caroline Magennis looks beyond the often-divisive conversation around women who choose to be childfree and offers an alternative message of hope and celebration.

The Lives of Women Without Children (Renegade Books, June) by the Ireland-based Brazilian Nicole Louie tells the story of women who don’t have children. Part memoir, part exploration of childlessness through candid conversations with other women, this book is an attempt to showcase the many ways in which people find fulfilment outside of parenthood.

Walled in by Hate: The Friends and Enemies of Kevin O’Higgins (Merrion, June) by the Father Ted coauthor Arthur Mathews is a fascinating exploration of the life and legacy of the former Free State minister for justice Kevin O’Higgins and an examination of relationships with his family, friends and colleagues, which were tested by the bitter divisions of the Irish Civil War.

Twelve Sheep: Life lessons from a lambing season (Allen & Unwin, April) by the Cow Book author John Connell is a meditation on the rituals of farming life and a primer on the lessons that nature can teach us.

Well Holy God: A Memoir (Merrion, August) by Patsy McGarry of The Irish Times is a superbly written personal, storied and humorous account of life as Ireland’s last religious-affairs correspondent, with unique insights into some of the most sensational Irish events of the last four decades.

Land Is All That Matters: The Struggle That Shaped Irish History (Head of Zeus, May) by Myles Dungan is a sweeping narration of the land wars that shaped Irish history, from the ruinous famine of 1741 to the eve of the second World War.

Killian Sundermann’s Countryfail: Some ****’s Guide to the Countryside (Faber, September) is the hilarious guide you never knew you needed, from the TikTok star and Instagram-hit comedian.

England and Eternity: A Book of Cricket (Apollo, April), by Declan Kiberd, is a teasing but affectionate study of the genius of the English people as seen from a postcolonial perspective – and of the game which was one of their richest, oddest and most lasting gifts to the wider world.

Money: The Story of Humanity (Simon & Schuster, September) by David McWilliams unlocks the mysteries and the awesome power of money: what it is, how it works and why it matters.

Eyewitness to War & Peace (Merrion, February) is the memoir of the leading Irish journalist Eamonn Mallie, who takes the reader on an extraordinary journey through his life on the front line of the Troubles to the corridors of power.

Have You Trouble: Lessons in Life and Death from an Irish Funeral Director (Headline, May) by David McGowan, formerly the subject of the award-winning Netflix documentary, shares lessons learned from a lifetime dealing with the dead.

Peace Comes Dropping Slow (Merrion, March) by Denis Bradley is the compelling memoir of a former priest who was one of three men who secretly brokered the back channel peace negotiations between the IRA and the British government and who helped lead reform of policing in the North.

Tax, Drugs and Rock’n’Roll by Damian Corless (Mirror Books, April) is a portrait of a changing Ireland in the 1980s, with the influx of British pop stars capitalising on a tax break as the unlikely catalyst.

The Hamilton Notes (Black & White, April) by James Mooney, who as the Wandering Paddy has more than 400,000 followers on social media, shares his experiences of overcoming cancer and mental health struggles and the invaluable life lessons he has learned.

Ghosts of a Family: Ireland’s Most Infamous Unsolved Murder and the Origins of the Troubles (Merrion, August) by Edward Burke is the shocking story of the unsolved massacre in 1922 of the Catholic McMahon family in north Belfast.

The Book of Truths (Black & White, April) by James Mooney, who as The Wandering Paddy has more than 400,000 followers on social media, shares his experiences of overcoming cancer and mental health struggles and the invaluable life lessons he has learned.

You Spin Me Round (PVA, February) edited by Adrian Duncan, Niamh Dunphy and Nathan O’Donnell features essays on music from Ciaran Carson, Wendy Erskine and other leading writers.

Distant Summers: Remembering Philip Casey (Arlen House, January) edited by Katie Donovan, Eamonn Wall and Michael Considine is a beautiful collection of tributes, memoirs and essays to the late and much-loved Irish writer.

International nonfiction

Knife: Meditations on an Attempted Murder (Penguin, April) is Salman Rushdie’s deeply personal account of surviving a brutal attempt on his life 30 years after a fatwa was issued against him. He answers violence with art and reminds us of the power of words to make sense of the unthinkable.

It’s OK to Be Angry About Capitalism (Penguin, January) by US politician Bernie Sanders challenges the status quo that has enriched a few billionaires at our expense and a blueprint for change.

The Road to Freedom: Economics and the Good Society (Penguin, April) by Joseph Stiglitz is a major reappraisal by the Nobel Prize-winning economist of the relationship between capitalism and freedom.

The Invisible Doctrine: The Secret History of Neoliberalism (Penguin, May) by George Monbiot and Peter Hutchison explores the once fringe ideology that now dominates our lives.

In Empireworld: How British Imperialism Has Shaped the Globe (Penguin, January), Sathnam Sanghera, best-selling author of Empireland, extends his examination of British imperial legacies beyond Britain as he travels the globe.

Four Shots in the Night (Quercus, March) by Henry Hemming is the story of how the 1986 killing of Frank Hegarty, a spy in the IRA, led to the biggest murder investigation in British history, into the role of Stakeknife, a British agent in the IRA.

Everything Is Predictable: How Bayes’ Remarkable Theorem Explains the World (W&N, April) by Tom Chivers fuses biography, razor-sharp science communication and intellectual history. A captivating tour of Bayes’ theorem and its impact on modern life. Many argue that Bayes’ theorem is not just a useful tool, but a description of almost everything – that it is the underlying architecture of rationality and of the human brain.

Learning to Think (Penguin, March) by Tracy King is a memoir about the power of education to overcome a childhood of poverty and trauma, which should appeal to fans of Poor by Katriona O’Sullivan, Educated by Tara Westover and My Name Is Why by Lemn Sissay.

Under a Rock (Corsair, June) by Chris Stein is, at its heart, a love story. The codependent bond between Chris Stein and Debbie Harry carried Blondie through their many tribulations, and Stein lays it all bare with blunt sincerity and humour.

A History of the World in Twelve Shipwrecks (W&N, February) by David Gibbins stretches from the Viking warship of King Cnut the Great to the sinking of the Bismarck, the German battleship, by the Allies.

The Battle for the Bird: Jack Dorsey, Elon Musk and the $44 Billion Fight for Twitter’s Soul (Hodder & Stoughton, June) by Kurt Wagner paints a vivid portrait of power struggles, bitter rivalries and ground-breaking decisions that have shaped the evolution of Twitter.

The Blues Brothers: An Epic Friendship, the Rise of Improv, and the Making of an American Film Classic (White Rabbit, March) by Dan De Vise is the story of the epic friendship between John Belushi and Dan Aykroyd, the golden era of improv, and the making of a comedic film classic.

Garden Against Time (Picador, May) by the writer and critic Olivia Laing investigates paradise and its long association with gardens, from Milton’s Paradise Lost to John Clare’s enclosure elegies, the improbable queer utopia conjured by Derek Jarman on a beach at Dungeness to the fertile vision of a common Eden propagated by William Morris.

The House of Hidden Meanings: A Memoir (4th Estate, March) by Ru Paul is a self-portrait of the word’s most famous drag artist, chronicling his rise to global fame, growing up black, poor and queer in a broken home before discovering the power of performance, found family and self-acceptance.

Reading Genesis (Virago, March) by the award-winning novelist and committed Christian Marilynne Robinson is a powerful consideration of the profound meanings and promise of God’s enduring covenant with man.