Mayo Library’s Books of the Year 2019

Posted in Connect on December 11, 2019.


Another year over, and the B(rexit) word and T(rump) word are still continuing to dominate in the non-fiction stakes. Plus ca change, and all of that. Thank goodness for the escapism of fiction, eh? So, without further ado, may we present, the Mayo County Library Books of the Year annual spread for your delight and delectation (and debate). All titles available from your library service – feel free to request online or in your nearest branch.

Olive, Again by Elizabeth Strout
What a treat – to have another outing with Elizabeth Strout’s endearing, engaging and sometimes infuriating character: Olive Kitteridge. She takes no prisoners, does Olive, and we wouldn’t want her any other way. Life, death, mundanity, the ordinary day-to-day – in the hands of a gifted writer like Strout, it’s pure poetry.

The Dutch House by Ann Patchett

Maeve and Danny live in the Dutch House with their father, a house so named not for its architecture but for its original inhabitants. Their mother left when Danny was a baby, and they haven’t seen her since. When Andrea Smith lays claim to their father and moves in with her two daughters, the children know their lives will change.

Akin by Emma Donoghue

Noah misses his wife Joan something rotten. Luckily, she’s still very much present in his head, and forty years of togetherness ensure he still converses with her regularly. When he gets a call from a social worker who tells him she needs someone to take on the care of his 14-year-old grand-nephew, it goes down like a lead balloon with Noah.

Ask Again, Yes by Mary Beth Keane

The new novel from Mary Beth Keane (the author of Fever) starts slowly, almost melodically, saving the first of many sucker punches for a few chapters. Peter Stanhope and Kate Gleeson are childhood neighbours – both the offspring of NYPD cops, both the offspring of Irish immigrants. They are good friends, and their fathers rub along reasonably well, although the odd behaviour of Peter’s mother does not endear her to many.

Skin by E.M. Reapy

Elizabeth Reapy’s Natalie is one of those characters who stays with you long after you’ve finished the book she occupies. Fixated on her body and her tendency to binge at times of stress, she takes the reader on a journey – both literal and metaphorical. What an amazing time for readers in Mayo with the wealth of writing talent that is flying out from the county.

The Outsider by Emily Hourican

Emily Hourican’s new novel is a thoroughly enjoyable and thought-provoking read with an ending that still has us wincing. Jamie and Sarah meet in Portugal while on holidays with their parents. Sarah is a quiet only child, used to entertaining herself, and never one to push herself forward in a group. Jamie is the youngest of four, and with three older brothers she is at home amongst lively chaos. The reader is all too aware that something bad is coming down the track, it’s just a matter of when.

Sweet Sorrow by David Nicholls

Charlie Lewis is 16 and he is just crying out to be minded. His mother has left the family home, taking his sister with her, and his father struggles to stay on top of things. As a result, Charlie is left to his own devices – a lot. An engaging tale of love on the cusp of adulthood, with a poignant undertone that seeps into the pages throughout. Fans of Nicholl’s 2009 hit One Day will love every word.

Shadowplay by Joseph O’Connor

It’s the late 1870s in Dublin, and Bram Stoker is trying to break the news to his lady-friend Florence that he’s planning a move to London for a stint working for the renowned Henry Irving at the famed Lyceum Theatre. He hopes, he tells her, that leaving Dublin might help him to finally write “a decent play.” O’Connor has fashioned a beautiful piece of work.

Cruel Acts by Jane Casey

Jane Casey’s Maeve Kerrigan series just keeps getting better, and if you’re a fan of police procedurals and haven’t come across her before – you are in for seven books of a catch-up treat. In this latest outing, DS Kerrigan and her DI, Josh Derwent, are convinced that newly-released killer Leo Stone is in fact guilty, and they are determined to put him back behind bars.

The Narrow Land by Christine Dywer Hickey

When you see a writer of the calibre of Colum McCann describe a book as “brilliant … beguiling … powerful” you really sit up and take notice. Michael, a 10-year-old refugee from Germany, has been relocated to New York City after World War II and is spending a summer by the sea in Cape Cod with a family, including a boy the same age as himself. When the boys meet a couple living nearby, the friendship between Michael and Jo, the wife of famous painter Edward Hopper, is instantaneous.

Daisy Jones & The Six by Taylor Jenkins Reid

This is the captivating story of a band called The Six whose fortunes changed irrevocably when up-and-coming singer Daisy Jones joined them on stage. The reader knows from the outset that the band split in July 1979, but the story of how they got to that point is an absolute page-turner. A must for music fans.

The Scholar by Dervla McTiernan

It is such a treat to read a good detective novel set in the west of Ireland – here’s hoping we see a lot more of Dervla McTiernan in the years to come. Set mostly in and around NUIG, it’s a page-turner from start to finish. If you like crime fiction and police procedurals, grab a copy – you won’t be disappointed.

The Lost Man by Jane Harper

Nathan and Bub Bright meet at the remote border of their vast properties in an isolated part of Australia, having been alerted that their missing brother is most likely there. They find his body, ravaged by the scorching, unrelenting sun. But why was Cameron so far away from his car? Another solid winner from Jane Harper, it doesn’t disappoint.

Dirty Little Secrets by Jo Spain

Olive Collins’ dead body has been decomposing inside her house for a few months. Withered Vale, an exclusive gated community, is small enough that people should notice when a neighbour has disappeared without an explanation. But Olive has managed to alienate just about everybody who lives nearby – first insinuating herself into their lives, and then taking umbrage at the slightest of slights.

When All is Said by Anne Griffin

Anne Griffin got the idea for this – her debut novel – during an outing on the Greenway. And so, inspired by Mayo and set in Meath, this touching story focuses on 84-year-old Maurice Hannigan who clearly has his heart set on a course that he knows others would protest against. Sitting at the bar of the grand hotel in his small hometown, he drinks a toast to the people in his life he’s been particularly close to – among them his beloved older brother, the baby daughter who never drew breath, his late wife.

Scrublands by Chris Hammer

Set a remote country town struggling to deal with the murder of five of its citizens, this is a humdinger of a book – full of atmosphere and suspense. A year after the town’s priest opened fire on his congregation, killing five men before being shot dead himself, journalist Martin Scarsden arrives in Riversend to write a piece on how the town is coping. The term must-read was made for this book.

Overcoming – A Memoir by Vicky Phelan

Vicky shares her remarkable personal story of coping with her terminal diagnosis of cervical cancer in late 2017 and her history-making legal action for justice. She describes her eventful life: from a life-threatening accident in early adulthood through to motherhood, a battle with depression and her devastating later discovery that her cancer had returned in shocking circumstances. An inspiring story of rare resilience and power, Overcoming is an account of how one woman can move mountains, even when she is fighting for her own life.

About That Goal by Seamus Darby

The story of the man who scored the most famous goal in GAA history. And everything that came after it – Darby’s business success and failures, his drinking, his marriage break-up and how he finally ended up down and out in London. But it is also a tale of resilience and much humour. A tale that needed to be told.

The Body by Bill Bryson

This is the biology book you wish you’d had in school – a book so packed with arresting facts (you eat 60 tons of food in a lifetime) that you barely notice the sheer volume of anatomical knowledge you’re digesting (sic). As Bryson states “We spend our whole lives in one body and yet most of us have practically no idea how it works and what goes on inside it.” This is the book to change that.

Recovering by Richard Sadlier

When a career-ending injury saw former Ireland and Millwall striker Sadlier retire from football at age 24, his life spiralled out of control. Without structure or a sense of purpose, and fuelled by a dependency on alcohol, he spent years running from the dark memories and feelings that had haunted him since childhood. Until one day, he hit rock bottom and decided to confront his demons. Now a successful soccer pundit, psychotherapist and mental-fitness teacher this is an inspiring and ground-breaking book that is as much about mental health, relationships and addiction as it is about sport.

A Fabulous Creation by David Hepworth

This is the story of an era when carrying an LP under your arm was a mark of identity and sophistication. Hepworth claims the era of the LP began in 1967, with ‘Sgt Pepper’; and ended only fifteen years later, coinciding with the release of Michael Jackson’s ‘Thriller’. By then the Walkman, the CD and soon Spotify would take music out of the home and into the streets. Nobody would play music or listen to it in quite the same way ever again. A beautiful nostalgic book for music fans.

Camouflage: My Story by Eoin Larkin

Larkin says he is “a high-functioning depressive” who just happened to win eight All Irelands.  He was a soldier who undertook NATO and UN tours of duty in Kosovo and Syria, he fought many a battle in the famous black and amber but his biggest fight was his fight against depression. Told with honesty and raw emotion, this is a moving and revealing book that will surprise and inspire GAA fans who have followed Larkin’s stellar career and will further open up the very topical debate around mental health in sport.

Me by Elton John

A cast of thousands, epic excess, countless costume changes, this is a rock memoir on a grand scale. Lunch with Michael Jackson, cocaine with John Lennon, a love triangle with Princess Di and Richard Gere are just a few of the outrageous revelations in this unashamedly ostentatious memoir.

My Life and Rugby by Eddie Jones

Eddie Jones is one of the most experienced and decorated coaches in world rugby. His career has spanned four World Cups: from his success with South Africa in 2007 to causing the greatest upset in the history of the game in 2015 when he masterminded the Japanese victory over South Africa. Most recently, he led England on their incredible run to the final of the 2019 World Cup. The book shows what it takes to be the best in the world and leaves you wondering if he had made it as a player would he have been such a great coach.

The Age of Football by David Goldblatt

Football is the most popular sport in the world. But it has paid a huge price for its universal popularity. Goldblatt charts football’s global cultural ascent, its economic transformation and deep politicisation, taking in prison football in Uganda and amputee football in Angola, the role of football in the Arab Spring  to China’s declared intention to both host and win the World Cup by 2050, and the FIFA corruption scandal. A must for all Match of the Day fans.

Face It by Debbie Harry

Musician, actor, activist and the iconic face of New York City cool, Debbie Harry was the front woman of Blondie, a band who created some of the most beloved pop songs of all time. Face It recreates the grit, grime and glory of the downtown scene of 1970s New York City, where Blondie played alongside the Ramones, Talking Heads, and David Bowie. It follows her path from glorious commercial success to heroin addiction, the near-death of partner Chris Stein, her bankruptcy, and Blondie’s break-up as a group to her acting career and the triumphant return of her band. A memoir as dynamic as its subject.

On Chapel Sands by Laura Cumming

In 1929, a small child was kidnapped from a Lincolnshire beach. The child was Cumming’s mother who only learned of her abduction decades later. She grew up enthralled by her mother’s strange tales of life in a seaside hamlet of the 1930s, and of the secrets and lies perpetuated by a whole community. So many puzzles remained to be solved. This is a book of mystery and memoir as Cummings uncovers the story of her mother’s disappearance.

War Doctor: Surgery on the Front Line by David Nott

David Nott is widely acknowledged to be the most experienced trauma surgeon in the world For more than twenty-five years, he  has taken unpaid leave from his job as a general and vascular surgeon with the NHS to volunteer in some of the world’s most dangerous war zones: Sarajevo, Aleppo, Afghanistan, Darfur, Congo, Iraq, Yemen, Libya, Gaza and Syria. Driven by passion and a desire to help others and the thrill of extreme personal danger, his story is brave compassionate and inspiring.

Magic and Madness by James Laffey

The story of Midwest Radio is hot off the press. From its pirate days, its controversies, its financial highs and lows, right through to today, the story of the most popular station in the west is told in 448 pages of stories and 64 pages of photographs by journalist and author James Laffey. The ideal Christmas gift for the redneck in your life.

The Pressure Game by Kevin McStay

For the first time, one of our top GAA managers reveals the inside story of what it’s like to ‘Walk the Walk on a County Sideline’. Former Mayo Allstar footballer Kevin McStay gave up 20 years of working as an analyst on RTE’s Sunday Game to take up the position of Roscommon team manager in 2016.The whole country watched to see how he would survive on the sideline – and how he would face up to the pressures of Dublin, Mayo and Kerry on the toughest stage in Gaelic football. In his three years in charge, McStay led Roscommon to a Connacht title in 2017 and a prized place in the Super 8s in 2018 before quitting the job. This is the amazing inside story of The Pressure Game.

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