What Do You Mean You Haven't Read...?

Galwegians recommend the best books to read during the coronavirus restrictions

Gugai - Róisín Dubh music promoter and founder of Strange Brew Records, chooses Foucault’s Pendulum by Umberto Eco

Gugai

I'LL ALWAYS get drawn back to Foucault’s Pendulum by Italian semiotician and novelist Umberto Eco. It Is one of the more accessible works by Eco, which, in fairness, is not saying a lot.

I read it first at about 15, and it almost all went completely over my head. Actually, I’m pretty certain it still does. While there is a kind of overarching central narrative, it certainly feels like misdirection.

The novel, ostensibly, is based around three vanity book editors, with a keen interest in medieval secret societies – Roisicrucians, Knights Templar, Illuminati – who invent a game, The Plan, which ties together various conspiracy theories and occult groups, into one great design, a search for a secret power to control the world. The longer they spend immersed in the game, the more connections they see, the more things actually seem to fit The Plan.

Connections between their game and the real world no longer seem just coincidence. The Plan turns out to be real (or is it? ) and they become the target of an actual secret society (or are they? ) who think they have discovered the Templars’ ancient secrets. Did they actually discover or invent The Plan? Are their adversaries actually an ancient secret society or were they too created by the creation / discovery of The Plan?

I get something new out this every time I read it. It’s an incredible work – the first few hundred pages are a kind of history of the Templars, fascinating itself, but just information you will need to process for later on. The sheer scope of this is just staggering. It delves so deep into esotericism, philosophy, history, modern culture, it is hard not to get lost in it.

Poet Kevin Higgins chooses Gargantua and Pantagruel by Francois Rabelais

Kevin Higgins

I FIRST heard of Francois Rabelais in secondary school when he was mentioned, along with the likes of Erasmus, as one the key Renaissance writers and thinkers.

However, I didn’t read his pentalogy of five novels until I was given them as a 50th birthday present by my poetry students at the Galway Arts Centre. Rabelais was, among other things, a 16th century French monk, but he was not your average common or garden monk. The novels are an extended fable about the birth and life of the giant Gargantua – from whose name ‘gargantuan’ derives – and his son Pantagruel.

The tone for this extraordinarily bawdy satire on us human beings – and, in particular, the human body – is set with the conception of Gargantua which is tastily described: “And these two [Grandgousier and Gargamelle, daughter of the King of the Butterflies, a pretty wench with a good mug on her] often played the beast-with-two-backs, rubbing their bacons together hilariously, and doing it so often that she became pregnant with a fine son and carried him to the eleventh month.”

The novels are a festival of bodily functions. No orifice nor appendage is left undisturbed. For those worried they might get bored with such an extended story, Rabelais several times breaks the narrative to include whole chapters of explicit and gloriously vulgar insults. As I say, Rabelais was not your average type of Franciscan.

Érin Grant, founder of Little Human Rights and blogger at Papemachemind, chooses Notes On A Nervous Planet by Matt Haig

AS SOMEONE who tackles most problems with a cup of tea and a good book, I have a pile to choose from for when we need a little bit of inspiration and love in our lives.

I am sorry to the other books glaring at me from my shelf but, Notes On A Nervous Planet by Matt Haig is a compass for understanding what it means to be human in a world that is afraid to slow down. A truly wonderful read, I first picked up a copy of this when I was aimlessly strolling through a bookstore with a nervous disposition and a bad nail biting habit. From the first page, I knew it was what I was looking for.

A rich collection of short pieces, lists, and chapters such as ‘Where does anxiety end and news begin’, this book showed me how to better understand myself and the world we live in. Haig’s writing style allows the pages to feel more like a conversation with a friend. He sees us for who we really are; the matter of stars with beauty and flaws, navigating life on a nervous ball floating in space.

I loved every page, and I hope it brings you as much comfort as it brought me, it is something soothing for the time we live in (I would also suggest delving into his earlier publication, Reasons To Stay Alive, which is a deep love affair with survival ).

 

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