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Make a book list and check it twice

Staying In

Bríd Conroy

I’ve heard it said around me and I say it too; I dread the onslaught of winter. Yet the approaching darkness gives rise to another voice lurking in the shadows, the voice of my inner child waiting patiently for Christmas to come around once more.
The magic of giving and receiving gifts has never left me. I relish the anticipation of opening a parcel knowing it might be a book. So, for Neil and myself, despite spending our days around books, preparing our Christmas book list is still an imperative, as the season approaches.

Neil’s list
‘A Life On Our Planet’, by David Attenborough, published by Witness Books. We watched the Netflix documentary by the same name and were blown away by Attenborough’s ability to explain in layman’s terms how we as humanity are destroying the ability of our planet to sustain us. This is a book I feel we all need to read.
‘Around The World In 80 Trains’, by Monisha Rajesh, published by Bloomsbury. The Covid crisis made us think about the impact overseas travel has on our planet. So we have decided, when we can travel again, we are going by train (and boat). This book is about Monisha and her fiancée, who embark on an adventure from London to Mongolia and beyond by train.
‘Conquistadors: A new History’, by Mexican historian Fernando Cervantes, published by Allen Lane. This book cuts through the layers of myth and fiction to reveal the real story of what actually happened when the Conquistadors landed in the new world.
‘An Elephant in Rome: Bernini, The Pope, And The Making Of The Eternal City’, by Loyd Grossman, published by Pallas Athene. We both celebrated our 50th birthdays in Rome, and we are fascinated by the history and culture of the eternal city. This book brings to life the art, culture and history from the Renaissance period.

Brid’s list
‘Piranesi’, by Susanna Clarke, published by Bloomsbury. This beautifully produced work of fiction is perfect for the season, when we can curl up on the coach with an easy read. Not too moralistic, not too smushy, rather adventurous and very mysterious.
‘The Japanese: A History in Twenty Lives’, by Christopher Harding, published by Allen lane. I’ve always loved Japanese culture (as a teenager I practised the art of writing Japanese script on the walls of my bedroom, much to my mother’s despair) and history. This wonderful book tells the story of Japan from the earliest accounts to modern day, through the lives of 20 remarkable people, including shamans and warlords, poets and revolutionaries, scientists, artists and adventurers.
‘The Ickabog’, by JK Rowling, published by Little Brown. I couldn’t resist reading this after learning that a picture of a peacock by Westport’s Lottie Billington is featured on page 36… and I love a kid’s story anyway. It is a gorgeous book, and really there is something in it for everyone. ‘The Penguin Book of Christmas Stories’, edited by Jessica Harrison, published by Penguin Books. This year, at the bookshop, along with the book club for writers, we have rediscovered the joy of short stories. This book features Christmas stories by some of our greatest writers, including Anton Chekhov, Laurie Lee, Dylan Thomas and Irene Nemirovsky. It’s a wonderful chance to read them all in one go, with a blazing fire and a box of chocolates.
Don’t forget your lists this Christmas!

Bríd Conroy and her husband Neil Paul run Tertulia – A Bookshop Like No Other at The Quay, Westport.