My Bookish Friends


This past year I set myself a bit of a challenge. I’d managed to get myself into something or a reading rut and had been working my way through a number of my favourite authors’ work in its entirety. No bad thing, in and of itself, but I was beginning to feel the need for some new writers to sample and devour and hopefully fall in love with. I asked 100 of my friends who like to read books to recommend two books which had significantly impacted them and was delighted when all 100 quickly got back to me with an eclectic list of potential reads. The people I’d selected were eclectic themselves; the youngest being my 3 year old niece, (who has, I might add, exceptional taste in literature), the oldest an 80 year old lady who has played an enormous role in my life. They came from all over the world and nominated prose, poetry, (so much bloody poetry), theatre, children’s books, theology books, graphic novels, psychology textbooks, biographies and absolutely everything in between. I promised that in return for their involvement I would read one of their recommendations and review, both the nomination and the nominee.

It’s been a wonderful and a challenging reading year.

At first it was difficult to surrender free will when it came to picking books. I kept going to the book store and buying books I wouldn’t be able to read for a year. It was tremendously hard to break old habits. Some of the books were terrible, (Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance sits pretty at the top of this not insubstantial list of clunkers). I wanted to give up and read Kevin Barry but I persevered and, as a result discovered some books which were not only shining lights in my reading year, but what I believe to be lifelong literary friends. I’ve discovered a whole host of authors I’d never read before. I’ve learnt a little more about my friends who read. I’ve had some incredible conversations, (and arguments), about these books. I’ve been tracked down by irritated authors, (some quite famous), who didn’t appreciate my reviews. And, most importantly I’ve developed an even bigger appetite for reading in 2013.

For those who are interested, my Top 5 reads of the year are listed below with their nominees. Buy these people a drink if you know them and if you don’t honour them by going straight to your local independent bookseller and buying all 5 of these books. If you wish to read the extended reviews for all 80 books I’ve read this year, check out my blog at I’ll be continuing to review my reads, (self-chosen), here next year. I’d also love to hear what your favourite reads of the year have been. 2014 is an empty bookshelf right now. Here’s to a great year of reading for all my bookish friends.

Top Reads (In Order)

1. Gunter Grass ”The Tin Drum” – nominated by Sinead Morrissey

2. Vladimir Nabokov “Pale Fire” – nominated by Jude Crozier

3. Angela Carter “Wise Children” – nominated by Marie McCrory

4. Louis MacNiece “Autumn Journal” – nominated by Stephen Connolly

5. George Saunders “Civilwarland in Bad Decline” – nominated by Tiffany Stubbert

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