Booksellers’ favourite books to give for Christmas 2021

Some of Ireland’s independent booksellers recommend their best reads for Christmas

Booksellers recommend their best reads for Christmas 2021. Photograph: iStock

Booksellers recommend their best reads for Christmas 2021. Photograph: iStock

 

As they prepare for a Christmas they hope will provide a lifeline after lockdown, some of Ireland’s independent booksellers recommend their best reads for Christmas 2021. And in the children’s section, some young readers share their favourite recent books.

FICTION

Still Life
By Sarah Winman (Fourth Estate)

Still Life is a clever, heart-warming book that starts in war-torn Tuscany in 1944, where two strangers have an extraordinary meeting. It combines a charming cast of characters as they move between London and Florence and is a story of love, art, family and fate. A joy to read from start to finish.
Joanna Hamilton, Bridge Street Books, Wicklow town (bridgestreetbooks.ie)

The Mountains Sing
By Nguyen Que Mai (Oneworld)


A light, yet beautifully written book full of Vietnamese history, traditions and culture. The story begins in 1972. Tran Dieu Lan holds tight to her granddaughter as the American bombs fall, an experience familiar to her from her youth, as the war of resistance waged through Vietnam. Told in alternating stories, The Mountains Sing is a multigenerational story that tells the history of modern Vietnam through the eyes of a grandmother and her granddaughter.
Joanna Hamilton

The Man Who Died Twice
By Richard Osman (Penguin)


The triumphant sequel to the acclaimed Thursday Murder Club is a riveting mystery following the same four sharp, diverse main characters. This charming and witty novel follows the antics of a group of senior citizens investigating a case of stolen diamonds and ruthless murder. While remaining intelligent and thoroughly readable, the mystery central to this story will keep its readers turning pages.
Kerri McIntyre, Vibes & Scribes (vibesandscribes.ie), Cork city

People from my Neighbourhood
By Hiromi Kawakami, translated by Ted Goossen (Granta)


This book, an ideal stocking filler, contains small stories with enormous imagination. Told in matter-of-fact prose, they are bizarre and surreal but the narrator’s fondness for the neighbourhood brings a warmth to the strange tales. Many of the characters appear repeatedly – the narrator’s delinquent best friend and her older sister; Dolly, who had been neighbours with a princess in America; Hachir, who lives with a different family every year. Like the best chocolates, each story is rich and dark with just the right sweetness.
Louisa Cameron, Raven Books (ravenbooks.ie)

December Stories II
By Ian Sansom (No Alibis Press)

In these 31 short stories (one for each day in December), Ian Sansom’s vivid and varying characters peel back the many layers of the winter month. From a lonely mother to a guardian angel, a pest-controller to a “bar-bar-bar owning brother” and a baker selling lockdown sourdough kits, these snippets of lives are revealing and beautifully familiar. Each member of staff has their own favourite. Which will be yours?
John Bittles, No Alibis Bookstore (noalibis.com)

NON-FICTION

Saving Eden: The Gearagh and Irish Nature
By Kevin Corcoran (The Gearagh Press)

Ecologist and writer Kevin Corcoran has written a book that is a wonderful blend of social, family and nature history, about The Gearagh, Ireland’s last primeval forest. Illustrated throughout with beautiful watercolour and ink sketches, this is a book about nature, certainly, but so much more. It explores myths, legends and traditions and gives a sobering account of a centuries-old way of life that was swept away in the name progress. Both a lament for a vanished civilisation and a cautiously optimistic blueprint for the way ahead.
Joan Lucey, Vibes & Scribes

The Coastal Atlas of Ireland
By Robert Devoy, Val Cummins, Barry Brunt, Darius Bartlett, Sarah Kandrot (eds) (Cork University Press)
This visually stunning and comprehensive atlas of the coast of Ireland is published by Cork University Press, following their incredibly successful Atlas of the Irish Revolution and Atlas of the Great Irish Famine. This celebration of Ireland’s shorelines features written contributions from more than 100 authors from across the island of Ireland and beyond. A beautiful coffee-table book, it would make an ideal gift for anyone interested in the splendour and beauty of Ireland’s coastal landscape.
Brian Wong, Vibes & Scribes

The 32: An Anthology of Working-Class Voices
By Paul McVeigh (ed) (Unbound)
All 32 writers in this outstanding collection are exceptional storytellers. Their mini-memoirs cover the whole of Ireland and beyond – from Limerick to London, via Belfast and Cork. Some look back over family generations, some stay current in lockdown isolation. There is a betting-shop robbery, a first period, a day spent fishing. Filled with humour, drama, sorrow, love, pride and shame, each essay is absorbing on its own and contributes towards a class-defying whole.
Louisa Cameron, Raven Books, Blackrock, Co Dublin (ravenbooks.ie)

Exteriors
By Annie Ernaux, translated by Tanya Leslie (Fitzcarraldo)

The celebrated author of The Years has long been a favourite of the staff in the shop. Her latest work to be translated into English finds the writer documenting a series of random encounters and overheard conversations to create a snapshot of her exterior world. The results are witty, humane and full of warmth. With sentences so good you immediately want to underline or jot them down, this is a book too good to give away as a present. Buy it for yourself.
John Bittles

CHILDREN’S

Róisín Egan, Patrick Doody, Oliver Ward and Sean Pilkington
Oisín Egan, Patrick Doody, Oliver Ward and Sean Pilkington

Ivy and Bean Break the Fossil Record: Book 3
By Annie Barrows (Chronicle Books)

The Ivy and Bean books are really interesting. They go on lots of adventures together and have lots of fun. They are given a world record book and they want to break a world record. First, they think they can’t find fossils but in the end they do. It’s always good to keep trying – that’s what Ivy and Bean do.
Jessica Armstrong (age 7)

I Swapped My Brother on the Internet
By Jo Simmons (Bloomsbury)

It’s about a boy who thinks his brother is really annoying and he goes around swapping his brother on the internet. He swaps his brother maybe five times. In the end, they’re all more annoying than his brother, so he wants his brother back. But his brother has found a different version of him.
Sean Pilkington (11)

Sports Legends: 50 Inspiring People to Help You Reach the Top of Your Game
By Rick Broadbent (Walker Books)
It’s really interesting because it shows sports people when they are doing really badly, but they just stay at it and get really good. Lionel Messi is in it. So is Usain Bolt – his one was really good.
Oliver Ward (12)

Fing
By David Walliams (Harper Collins)
It’s about a girl called Myrtle. She’s really greedy. She has everything and she just wants more. And there’s this thing she wants called a Fing. Her parents are librarians and they go to the library and find a book about the Fing, and the father has to go out to the jungle to get one. It starts off really small but then it starts eating things and gets bigger.
Oisin Egan (12)

Elon Musk
By Tracey Turner (David Fickling Books)

It’s really good because it goes from Elon Musk as a boy, creating rockets in his garden, to Elon Musk creating actual rockets, and Tesla, and becoming a billionaire. The first three rockets he made all exploded, and then, on his fourth rocket, he had no more money to make any more rockets, so if that failed, he’d have to shut down the company. But it worked, so then he expanded the company.
Patrick Doody (12)

Oisin, Patrick, Oliver and Sean have a book club based in Dublin. They meet once a month to discuss books