A Galway Christmas book hamper

AT THE risk of milking a cliché to death, rumours of the demise of the book are greatly exaggerated if the amount of books published in Galway over the last 12 months is any indication.

The publishing activity has been so busy there is not enough space to mention every book that saw the light of day during 2013. Many of these will make perfect Christmas presents for friends and relations.

Non-fiction

Four books in particular jump to mind for those living abroad. Paul Duffy’s Galway History On A Postcard provides an intimate tour of County Galway through the author’s own comprehensive and extraordinary collection of postcards. Most of the postcards are the work of local photographers and the book provides an unusual and serendipitous insight into the life and history of Galway as seen by locals between 1890 and 1930.

The third volume of William Henry’s Galway Through Time & Tide is a varied series of articles relating to unusual aspects of Galway history from the Famine to Titanic survivors to the legacy of the Great Southern aka the Railway aka the Meyrick Hotel.

There is the wonderful, innovative, and exciting publication created by Liam Duffy, The Artistic Atlas of Galway, which provides yet another aspect of this enigmatic city of ours through the eyes of its visual artists and poets, with the odd story thrown in.

Staying with history, Tim Collins’s biography of Dick Dowling, Dick Dowling - Galway’s Hero of Confederate Texas, brings to life the central role this Tuam native played in defending the Confederacy in Texas during the American Civil War, when he and 43 companions, many from Tuam, defeated the Union navy at the battle of the Sabine Pass.

Moving back to the city, there is the bright and cheerful story of the Claddagh School edited by Seán Leonard to celebrate the school’s 80th birthday.

More than just a political memoir, Padraic McCormack’s The Rocky Road to Dublin was written because the author felt he had something to say about the realities of being a politician in today’s Ireland.

Celebrating Irish Salmon by Connemara’s Máirín Uí Chomáin is a culinary joy containing as is does more than 100 recipes, some of which have not appeared in book form before and are suitable for the health conscious chef. It also includes short articles on the history and the culture of this fish which has been part of Ireland’s natural heritage for 10,000 years.

Ó Cló Iar-Chonnact tá leabhar na mBlian as Gaeilge again. Le níos mór na deich blian anuas tá Micheál Ó Conghaile ag bailiú amhrán traidiúnta na Gaeilge ar an sean nós and san leabhar seo tá 400 díobh again agus tá nótaí cuimsitheacha cúlra ag dul le gach uile cheann díobh, le breis agus tríocha saineolaí, idir scoláirí agus amhránaithe, maidir le cé dar díobh iad, cé a chum, an chaoi ar scaipeadh iad, an dream a chasann iad sa lá atá inniu ann.

Last year, Calm the Soul was the inspirational bestseller. While the Poor Clares’ spiritual offering is still deservedly selling well, another wonderful heart lifting title which has stocked the bookshop’s shelves is Ronan Scully’s Time Out, a book of everyday stories symbolic of man’s kindness to man in all sort of strange ways. These seemingly innocuous and unusual moments allow us to take a minute out and take stock of who and where we are.

Poetry and fiction

One of the more delightful poetry publications of the year comes from Currach Press. Along the same lines as the successful Favourite Poems We Learned At School series, Headford’s Thomas Walsh has compiled an anthology Best Loved Poems Favourite Poems from the West of Ireland. While what constitutes a poem from the west is rather loosely interpreted, this is a wonderful collection. Graced with the photographs by Liam Lyons, along with other evocative illustrations, it is sure to charm and delight.

As has been the trend over the last number of years, new short story collections abound. From Arlen House we have new voices in Hugging Thistles the enigmatic first collection by Aideen Henry; Psychotic Episodes, the seminal collection by Alan Monagle; and more recently, from the same press, the third sharp collection, Hellkite, from the pen of the ever cheerful Geraldine Mills. It is refreshing to see the reprint of Mike McCormack’s wonderful first collection Getting It In The Head.

The short fiction anthology from Doire Press and edited by Lisa Frank, Galway Stories is an equally quirky reflection of contemporary life in our city and county as seen by 20 contemporary writers with Galway connections. The spirit of the collection is epitomised by Alan McMonagle’s Women Drivers on Taylor’s Hill.

For those who prefer novels, there is Ger Burke’s Braided Love from Wordsonthestreet, an absorbing story set in the west of Ireland of the eighties about a woman trying to face down her demons. From Loughrea comes a thriller by first time writer Tony Callanan entitled Encounters, which follows the fortunes of a Loughrea family from the Civil War to the Kennedy era.

During the Galway Theatre Festival, The Galway Youth Theatre and Galway Community Theatre staged a wonderful production of Pat McCabe’s fable The Adventures of Shay Mouse and to mark the occasion, the Galway Arts Centre republished the wonderful book with delightful illustrations by Margot Quinn from Knocknacarra.

Dolores Andrew-Gavin has published two charming biliongual fairy tales which are set in Barna Woods dealing with bullying and depression. These last three books would make wonderful fillers in any child’s stocking.

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