Looking for a great read? Here are 10 new books we loved in April

Must-read titles from Louise Kennedy, Kevin Power, Emma Dabiri, John Cameron and more

10 new books we loved in April

10 new books we loved in April

 

FICTION

The End of the World Is a Cul de Sac
By Louise Kennedy
Bloomsbury, £14.99
Louise Kennedy’s outstanding debut collection, The End of the World Is a Cul de Sac, contains 15 stories, each a scrupulously worked dark gem. She is a storyteller of stunning gifts and immense authority. This is writing that makes Francis Bacon at his bleakest seem like Mary Poppins. I am haunted by these unforgettable short stories and believed every single line of every one of them. Louise Kennedy is a very major talent. Read Joseph O’Connor’s full review here

Nora
By Nuala O’Connor
New Island, €16.95
James Joyce set Ulysses on June 16th, 1904, as a tribute to the day he first “walked out” with Nora Barnacle. In her fifth novel, Nuala O’Connor recounts Nora’s life from that fateful rendezvous. Joycean Dublin is well-trodden ground, not least by Edna O’Brien, but O’Connor keeps the story fresh with the vivid language of her fictionalised biography.Whether Nora directly influenced Joyce’s writing, as some scholars have argued, or was more of a muse, O’Connor’s fleshed-out “little f**kbird” is no adjunct. Read Mia Levitin’s full review here

Midfield Dynamo
By Adrian Duncan
Lilliput Press, €12
Adrian Duncan’s arresting collection of stories consolidates his reputation as one of the most captivating and distinctive voices in contemporary Irish writing. His previous two novels, Love Notes from a German Building Site (2019) and A Sabbatical in Leipzig (2020), signalled the arrival of a writer with an exciting attention to the formal possibilities of fiction and an unfailing eye for neglected details that shore up a life. Read Michael Cronin’s full review here

Boys Don’t Cry
By Fiona Scarlett
Faber, £12.99
Unlike Shuggie Bain, a superficially similar novel about growing up in hard times and hard places, the people in Boys Don’t Cry are not monstrous, broken or precocious but quietly doing the best they can in circumstances where “good” choices are few and come at painful cost. For my money, this is the better book. Read Sarah Moss’s full review here

White City
By Kevin Power
Scribner, £14.99
White City has passages of striking lyrical subtlety, and the different storylines are managed with great dexterity. Much has changed in Ireland since Bad Day in Blackrock was published, but as Kevin Power’s adept and absorbing new novel reminds us, much has not. White City demands to be read. Read Michael Cronin’s full review here 

NONFICTION

What White People Can Do Next: From Allyship to Coalition
By Emma Dabiri
Penguin, £7.99
What White People Can Do Next should be in the back pocket of every political-party member needing guidance on integration and community building. It is a useful guide to every old-media organisation that has bumbled its way through apologies that have started with Father Ted levels of “not racist” exclamations and every new-media outlet that thinks its inclusivity policies immunise it from criticism. Most importantly, this book is for everyone. We should also appreciate that we have an academic like Emma Dabiri writing as if James Connolly and Audre Lorde had a love child. Read Jess Kav’s full review here

The Best Catholics in the World: The Irish, the Church and the End of a Special Relationship
By Derek Scally
Sandycove, £16.99
Derek Scally, the Irish Times correspondent in Berlin since 2001, cares about religion and the Irish Catholic Church to the extent that he has written a reflective, textured, insightful and original book that is rich with history, interrogation and emotional intelligence. It is also commendably full of doubt and uncertainty; Scally describes himself as a “grappling Catholic”, not ready to fully let go, seeking to understand rather than just condemn, and the book is all the better for that. Read Diarmaid Ferriter’s full review here

Boy 11963: An Irish Industrial School Childhood and an Extraordinary Search for Home
By John Cameron with Kathryn Rogers
Hachette Books Ireland, €16.99
The story of a childhood spent in the notorious Artane industrial school mightn’t be top of everyone’s reading list. But this one proved to be one of the biggest and most pleasant surprises of my reading life. Read Estelle Birdy’s full review here

A Very Strange Man: A Memoir of Aidan Higgins
By Alannah Hopkin
New Island, €17.95
Alannah Hopkin is unflinching about how hard things became, but there is another side of the book that does justice to the adventure on which she embarked when she met Aidan Higgins in 1986. She emphasises in a tone that is clear-eyed and candid, but generous too, and wise, how vivid those years seem; they are rich and textured as she re-creates them here. Read Colm Tóibín’s full review here

New Yorkers: A City and Its People in Our Time
By Craig Taylor
John Murray, £25
Craig Taylor’s intimate, loving and lyrical oral history of New York doesn’t shy away from the darkness and despair of city life. He’s more interested in the pavement than the penthouse, more concerned with the people who keep the city running than with the super-rich. Taylor isn’t afraid to address the tragedies of the past two decades, but he invariably does so with an eye on the everyday, and therefore extraordinary, moments of humanity, kindness and love amid disaster. Read Karl Whitney’s full review here

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