Books for lists and stockings

Staying In


Great reads, from fiction to nature, tall tales to travel

Book review
Bríd Conroy

I feel so privileged, having been a bookworm all my life, to now have my very own bookshop with a vast selection of books at my disposal. However, that in no way takes away from the excitement of adding books to my list for Santa. Here are some vying for attention on my list this year.   
Starting with non-fiction, I’d love to get ‘Viral Justice – How We Grow the World We Want’ by Ruha Benjamin, published by Princeton University Press. During Westival just gone in October, we held an event entitled ‘What Do We Owe the Future?’. We discussed the absolute need to hang on to our positive contributions that we are making to the future. Behavioral science will say that change comes when we can see positive results. It sustains us as we move forward.
Benjamin had been doing groundbreaking research pre-Covid on race, technology and justice focusing on big, structural change but events including Covid. This inspired her to rethink the importance of small individual actions, and I wholeheartedly agree. “So, come, brick by brick we’ll start to build a world where, eventually, we can lower our defenses because the weather won’t be so god-damn lethal,” she writes.
Classics are my one true love when it comes to fiction, and I’m dying to read a new edition of ‘Lodore’ by Mary Wollstoncraft Shelley, with a gorgeous cover which has just come out.
Shelley, famous for her ‘Frankenstein’, was also an activist for political change and the rights of women. This story follows the fortunes of the wife and daughter of character Lord Lodore, killed in a dual, leaving a trail of financial and legal obstacles for the two heroines to negotiate.
Also in this category is ‘Darling’, written by India Knight and published by Penguin Books Ltd. This is a modern rewrite of the Nancy Mitford novel ‘The Pursuit of Love’. All the main quirky characters are there in the story: A wealthy family stretches out from Uncle Matthew who is a one-time-famous, now-retired rock star. They live a secluded life in Norfolk away from modern day distractions and have an opinion on almost everyone, and most of it is negative. However, life catches up to them and many other characters intertwine in their story. It’s got romance, humour and relationships. Like ‘Lodore’, it also a beautiful cover. Two perfect holiday reads.
Travel books with trains are also perfect for Christmas presents as we plan our sustainable adventures for the year ahead. ‘Slow Trains around Spain’, written by Tom Chesshyre and published by Octopus Publishing Group, is about the author’s 3,000 mile journey around Spain on only slow trains, taken to capture the essence of the country. He meets ticket inspectors, sellers and fellow travellers in this lovely, slow-paced book.
Also in this category is ‘Wild Women Anthologies’, by Mariella Frostrup, published by Head of Zeus. This is a collection of the greatest women’s travel writing from Constantinople to Crimea, Antarctica to the Andes, as selected by Frostrop, a journalist and presenter. Women throughout history have made many epic journeys to escape persecution or to explore, but their stories have always been overshadowed by those of men. This book helps tip the balance somewhat. It’s a keeper this one.
‘The Golden Mole and other Living Treasure’, by Katherine Mundell, published by Faber and Faber, is a book about nature and our relationship with some of the most amazing creatures we share this planet with. It is a lovely gilt-edged, illustrated book that can be read in one go or picked up and read in part at any time. Reflective and full of beauty, it is a much-needed reminder of how we must protect and reconnect with all of our planet’s creatures.
And lastly, ‘The Strange Tale of Barnabus Kwerk’, by Erika McGann, published by O’Brien Press, is a book for eight to 12 year olds and upwards. (It’s not on my Santa list, but could be a lovely gift for someone!) This is a follow up to ‘Tabitha Plimtock and the edge of the World’, which we just loved at the bookshop. This time Barnabus lives in Undle with his most unusual, stinking rich, dreadful family. He wants to go to school and be like everyone else, but alas that is denied to him – until Aunt Jemima shows up.
The evenings have drawn in, the temperature has dropped and  Christmas is coming. So what better time to get stuck into some of the amazing books out this year.

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