An Independent Christmas Selection

In a slight departure from past Christmas suggestions we’ve asked only one bookseller, Louisa Cameron from Raven Books,  to suggest some books for the season, I think you’ll agree she knocks it out of the park.

A sumptuous gift book, The Horse & Irish Society (The History Press Ireland), displays David O’Flynn’s insightful photography into the many, many ways in which horses are integrated into Irish society – from the rich breeding grounds in Kildare to racing bareback across the cobblestones in Smithfield. David has an excellent eye for picking out the subtle interactions between equine and human, and has carefully curated the presentation of the photographs with a gentle humour.

Another notable gift book is Glorious Galway: Hookers, Curachs, Lake & River Boats by Donal Lynch (Meitheal Mara & Galway County Council). The bi-lingual text is accompanied by photographs, paintings, drawings, charts and maps, with a helpful glossary of nautical terms as well as a thorough bibliography for further reading. Though the book does take a historical look at maritime activity in the area, it brings readers right up to the present day giving perspective on what has and hasn’t changed in the role boats play in Connemara.

There is a plethora of picture books for young children with wonderful illustrations and seasonal stories – P.J. Lynch is well-known to Irish readers but less well know is Jan Brett whose detailed drawings evoke the northern European folk tales filled with mischievous trolls, ice bears and reindeer, and the importance of a simple celebration with family at the darkest time of the year. Each page has a border with a second story – elves counting down the days to Christmas, or a hedgehog making a nest from a lost mitten.

With his fourth book Gangsta Granny (HarperCollins), David Walliams has catapulted into the “must read” category for confident readers (approx. 9+). His Dahlesque humour and sense of whimsy is a welcome addition to shelves lined with dark, deeply perilous, violent tales. In Raven Books, he is being bought with a mischievous grin by many grannies!

For those who have had enough of cold, grisly Scandinavian crime, Daniel Woodrell’s The Bayou Trilogy (Mulholland Books) was released this year in a single volume (and chosen by Barak Obama for his summer reading!). Set in the fictional southern town of St. Bruno, detective Rene Shade is pitted against gangsters and politicians, as well as his own ghosts from the past. Beautifully written, well crafted noir where nothing is black & white.

And finally, Irène Némirovsky maintains her appeal with the most recent of her novels in translation, The Wine of Solitude (Chatto & Windus), selling well alongside her biography by Olivier Philipponnat and Patrick Lienhardt (Vintage), and a book by her daughter Élisabeth Gille, The Mirador (NYRB). Though Élisabeth was only five when Irène was taken away by the Gestapo, she has pieced together her mother’s short life in what she calls ‘dreamed memories’, a haunting tribute to a remarkable person.