The Irish Times books of the year: John Kelly’s favourite titles of 2021

Seeking inspiration for a book to read or give as a gift? This selection could help you

William Blake vs The World by John Higgs is a wonderful adventure in politics, art and spiritualty. Comparative religion, neurobiology and even quantum physics all deployed to better understand a misunderstood genius.

Nina Simone's Gum by Warren Ellis – about a piece of used chewing gum as kind of sacred totem – is a book on connections, friendships and the delights of the artistic process itself.

Paul McCartney The Lyrics edited by Paul Muldoon is a thing of great beauty and insight. It references FR Leavis, as does another welcome arrival – the new Muldoon collection entitled Howdie-Skelp.

I read hardly any fiction these days but I was captured by Barcelona Dreaming by Rupert Thomson and by Claire Keegan's brilliant novella Small Things Like These. She's an astonishing writer. There's nobody like her.


John Kelly’s first collection of poetry, Notions, is published by Dedalus Press. A second collection, Space, will be published in 2022