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Book ideas for Christmas

“Books are the quietest and most constant of friends; they are the most accessible and wisest of counsellors, and the most patient of teachers.”

So said Charles W. Eliot (1834 - 1926 ) - the American academic and president of Harvard University from 1869 to 1909 - in his book The Happy Life. Indeed there is scarcely a better present you can give at Christmas than a book, for it is something that the receiver can lose himselves in, take time over, and return to. It can also open him up to new ideas, new worlds, and new adventures.

So if you are thinking of getting someone a book this Christmas here are a few suggestions.

If you’re having problems deciding what book to get someone, or you know they like books, but are not sure what kind, then a good choice might be Kenny’s Choice - 101 Irish Books You Must Read (Currach Press ) by Galway bookseller Des Kenny.

Kenny’s Choice is Des’s personal selection of Irish fiction, poetry, and history books he feels are too important not to read, have been overlooked or neglected, or are worth rediscovering. It features 101 reviews - some written as Gaeilge - with author information.

Each review is only two pages in length and written in an accessible manner, yet still manages to yield a wealth of information - always the mark of a good critic. In short, it’s the kind of book you can pick up to check on one review and end up reading for ages, coming back to dip in and out of every now and again.

Major Irish writers such as John Banville, Seamus Heaney, Jennifer Johnston, Brian Moore, William Trevor, Samuel Beckett, and WB Yeats are included. Co Galway authors are well represented through Walter Macken, Pádraic Ó Conaire, Brendán Ó hEithir, Ken Bruen, Máirtín Ó Cadhain, Liam O’Flaherty, and Tom Murphy.

After this, they will have years of books to chose from and to get through.

Those fascinated by Latin America, politics, and the media will relish the book and DVD, Chávez: The Revolution Will Not Be Televised A Case Study of Politics and Media by Rod Stoneman of NUI, Galway’s Huston School of Film & Digital Media.

In April 2002 there was an attempt to overthrow the president of Venezuela Hugo Chávez, but 48 hours later he was back in power.

Galway film company Power Pictures were in Venezuela to make a documentary on Chávez but ended up becoming eyewitnesses to those extraordinary events. From this directors Kim Bartley and Donnacha O’Briain and producer David Power created the documentary The Revolution Will Not Be Televised.

This eyewitness film soon came subject to extensive attack including a formal BBC enquiry. However it has also enjoyed critical acclaim and received many awards.

Chávez: The Revolution Will Not Be Televised (Wallflower Press ) contains a DVD of the film while the book looks at the production and reception of the documentary in the context of the contemporary global economy of the media.

Humour

If you are looking for a laugh this Christmas, than The New Adventures of Keats & Chapman (New Island Press ) by Tom Mathews and The Little Book of Mick (Gill & Macmillan ) by Paul Kilduff are just the ticket.

Tom Mathews is one of Ireland’s best and best loved cartoonists, whose distinctive style of cartooning, combining highbrow references with across the board appeal wit, has graced the pages of the Sunday Independent and Hotpress.

In The New Adventures of Keats & Chapman, he puts his own spin on the ‘Keats & Chapman’ sketches of Flann O’Brien. Here Mathews takes the O’Brien short pieces and restructures them around punch lines and outrageous puns. It is a must for fans of Mathews, O’Brien, and witty, hilarious wordplay.

Love him or hate him, Ryanair’s Michael O’Leary is one of the most compelling, charismatic, and outrageous figures in Irish business. Or, as my aunt, who spent 30 years as a teacher put it: “He’s like the guy in the back of the class who’s a real brat but you can’t do anything about him because you know he’s always right!”

Now novelist Paul Kilduff has compiled the greatest quotes of O’Leary in all their provocative, contradictory, wise, and witty glory in The Little Book of Mick.

A few selections: “It’s called democracy. If the Prime Minister is incompetent...I or every other citizen of this country am free to call him a spineless tosser.” “We want to annoy the f*****s whenever we can. The best thing we can do with environmentalists is shoot them.” “An age old Irish custom is to give an English guy a kick when he’s on the ground.”

Children’s books

Before You Sleep… is a beautifully illustrated and heartfelt bedtime book from Benji Bennett. The book was inspired by the sudden death of Bennett’s four-year-old son Adam in August 2007.

In the book, Bennett’s message is for parents to tell their children that they love them. It also touches on such themes as adventure, happiness, fantasy, wonder, security, magic, friendship, and companionship.

The book is written as a source of comfort and strength to anyone who has lost a child. It is also in support of the Barretstown Camp for Sick Children.

An Spidéal based publishers Futa Fata have just brought out a new book and CD entitled Peigín Leitir Móir which features 30 traditional songs and rhymes as Gaeilge for children.

Songs include ‘Beidh Aonach Amárach I gContae an Chláir’, ‘An bhFaca Tú mo Shéamaisín?’ and ‘Dilín ó Deamhas’ sung and recited by award-winning singer Caitlín Ní Chualáin and stage and screen actor Peadar Ó Treasaigh.

 

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