The first 8/80 books that I have on my shelves
So for my Bucket List, my aim is to read at least 80 books. My bookshelves groan under the weight of an eclectic mix of book types. These are some of the books I still hold onto including fiction (romance, thriller, crime) and non-fiction (biographies, history, poetry). Because we have such great writers, I have a bias towards Irish story-tellers and in my opinion they are world-class. So
I’ve chosen a selection of my books at random from my bookshelves and listed them here in alphabetical order. My aim is to produce 10 lists of 8 books I’ve read…..this being the 1st list.
1. A Classical Education: The Stuff You Wish You’d Been Taught At School by Caroline Taggart
How many times have you wished that your history stretched all the way back to Greek and Roman myths and legends? Or that you'd been taught Latin at school? Or perhaps you wish you knew all about the great inventions and medical developments that have made our world what it is today?
A Classical Education provides all of these classical facts that modern schooling leaves out and many more. Perfect for parents who wish to teach their children and for those who would like to learn or relearn the facts themselves, A Classical Education is informative and educational, but above all accessible. It includes: Latin and Greek; Logic and philosophy; Natural sciences; Art and architecture; Poetry and drama; History and Classical literature.
This is a humorous book which gives you an overview of the most important information on the classical world. It is just about detailed enough to help you know your Sophocles from your Cicero. Quick to read. – Mary @80b480
“See if you can tell your Tantalus from your Tacitus!” - The Daily Telegraph
“This book aims to fill you in on the stuff you wish you'd been taught at school.” - The Times
“An invaluable overview of the principles and discoveries of the Ancients, providing all those classical facts that modern schooling leaves out... and many more.” - Lancashire Evening Post
“A cutely old-fashioned volume covered in Roman centurions' helmets.” - Yorkshire Post
“This book will jog the memory just enough, reviving tales of heroic deeds and ungodly behaviour, without getting bogged down in dull technicalities.” - The Field
“If you wished you'd paid more attention at school, then this is the book for you. Fascinating!” - The Good Book Guide
About the Author
Caroline Taggart was born in London of Scottish parents. She is the bestselling author of I Used to Know That and, in the same series, A Classical Education and An Apple a Day. She also co-wrote My Grammar and I (or should that be 'Me'?). Her other books include Her Ladyship's Guide to the Queen's English, The Book of English Place Names and The Book of London Place Names.
She also appears frequently on radio and TV giving her opinion on such subjects as whether or not there should be an apostrophe in Druids Cross and, if so, where it should go.
2. A Nation And Not A Rabble by Diarmaid Ferriter
The decade 1913-1923 marked a watershed in Irish history. From the First World War to the Irish war of Independence, which ended with a compromise Treaty with Britain and then the enmities and drama of the Irish Civil War. The decade was packed with violence, political drama, social and cultural upheaval, and saw the emergence in Ireland of the Ulster Volunteer Force to resist Irish home rule and in response, the Irish Volunteers, who would later evolve into the IRA, the rise of Sinn Féin, intense Ulster unionism and conflict with Britain.
Drawing on an abundance of newly released archival material, witness statements and testimony from the ordinary Irish people who lived and fought through extraordinary times, A Nation and not a Rabble explores these revolutions. Diarmaid Ferriter highlights the gulf between rhetoric and reality in politics and violence, the role of women, the battle for material survival, the impact of key Irish unionist and republican leaders, as well as conflicts over health, land, religion, law and order, and welfare. He also looks at the revolution’s legacy and how it has been remembered, distorted and celebrated over the past century.
Heavy reading at times and perhaps for those who are already familiar with the basics of Irish history. Otherwise, highly recommended as a well-researched histiography showing the complexity of the issues. – Mary @80b480
“The book is as much about social history as political history.” – RTE Book Reviews: Paddy Kehoe
“Ferriter…brings the whole period to life with a vividness that reflects the cry of pain of the victim as well as the bombast of the gunman ….but the real value is in hearing the voices of ordinary people who are suffering…a wonderful book.” - Irish Independent
“Very illuminating…thoughtful, balanced, even-handed.” – Irish Times
“Engrossing and highly stimulating.” – Sunday Independent
“Ferriter’s book is of such comprehensive and original scope…immensely readable and impressive.” – Sunday Business Post
About the Author
Diarmaid Ferriter was born in Dublin in 1973 and is an Irish historian, broadcaster and university professor. His books include “The Border: The Legacy of a Century of Anglo-Irish Politics” (2019), “Ambiguous Republic: Ireland in the 1970s” (2012), “Occasions of Sin: Sex and Society in Modern Ireland” (2009) and “Judging Dev: A Reassessment of the Life and Legacy of Eamon de Valera” (2007). He lives in Dublin with his wife Sheila, and three children.
3. America’s Queen: The Life of Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis by Sarah Bradford
I’ve always had a fascination with the Kennedys and for their Massachusetts connection as my own maternal great grandparents were also Irish immigrants in Brookline, Massachusetts in the late 1880s (though they later returned to Co. Waterford where my grandfather, Jack, was born). I was amazed to find that I’m actually vaguely related through marriage to Jackie Kennedy Onassis as she was the stepdaughter of the uncle of the husband of my second cousin once removed. (Hahaha!! I know! I know!!)
Jacqueline Bouvier Kennedy Onassis has captivated the American public for more than five decades. From her introduction to the world as "debutante of the year" in 1947 to her untimely death in 1994, she has truly remained America's answer to royalty. In America's Queen, the acclaimed biographer of Queen Elizabeth and Princess Grace reveals the real Jackie in a sympathetic but frank portrait of an amazing woman who has dazzled us for years.
Using remarkable new sources—including in-depth interviews with Jackie's sister, Lee Radziwell—Sarah Bradford has written a timely celebration of a life that was more private than commonly supposed. Jackie's privileged upbringing instilled rigid self-control while her expedient marriage into the overwhelming Kennedy clan consolidated her determination. Revealing new testimony from many of the couple's friends shows the profound complexities both of this apparently very public relationship and of her controversial marriage to Aristotle Onassis.
Here is the private Jackie—neglected wife, vigilant mother, and working widow—whose contradictory and fascinating nature is illuminated by all that Bradford has discovered.
My hardback version is chunky at 690 pages but if you are interested in the Kennedy lore and want some real in-depth reading about Jackie, this is the place to start. Sarah Bradford is thorough in her research and there is enough detail to satisfy. There was and still is a great deal of gossip, rumour and just plain lies out there about Jackie and her life, but Sarah sticks with facts. An in depth biography of a remarkable women who led quite a fascinating life. At times I wasn’t sure I liked her, at times I wondered what on earth she was doing but by the end I felt great empathy for her. – Mary @80b480
“Some of the most personally knowledgeable observations about [Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis] that have ever been put into print.” —The Boston Globe
“Bradford brings out Jackie's appealing qualities - her intelligence, curiosity and sense of fun, as well as her selfless devotion to her children and her extraordinary courage. But the real Jackie remains concealed behind the protective shell with which she surrounded herself since childhood to keep an ugly and dangerous world at bay.” – The Guardian
“Compulsively readable” —The Washington Post
About the Author
Sarah Bradford is an historian and biographer. She is the bestselling author of several biographies, including Disraeli, selected as a New York Times Notable Book of the Year; George VI; Princess Grace; and The New York Times bestseller Elizabeth. Married to the Viscount Bangor, she lives in London.
4. Amongst Women by John McGahern
The novel is set in County Leitrim in the rural midlands of the Republic of Ireland. The story spans a period of twenty years in the middle of the twentieth century. It centres on Michael Moran, patriarch of the Moran family and a former IRA member who was an officer and guerrilla fighter in the War of Independence and the Irish Civil War in the 1920s.
Although Moran is a well-respected member of his community and a devout Catholic, there is a cruel, violent, and controlling side to his character. He dominates the lives of his second wife, Rose, and his five children. His children strive to establish their own lives while remaining loyal to the family.
Most of the story is told through the use of flashbacks, as Moran's daughters attempt to recreate Monaghan Day for their elderly and depressed father, because it was the day when he always seemed to be at his best. Moran is an old Republican whose life was forever transformed by his days of glory as a guerrilla leader in the War of Independence. Now, in old age, living out in the country, Moran is still fighting - with his family, his friends, even himself - in a poignant struggle to come to terms with the past.
The plot is slow paced and not recommended for those who enjoy fast paced, all-action literature but I strongly recommend this for those with an interest in Ireland and human nature. – Mary @80b480
“John McGahern was one of the rare writers who manned the breach between the language of truth and beauty and the language of control, dogma and power.” – Irish Times
“At barely 190 pages, McGahern’s study of Irish family life is a miracle of unaffected brevity and unconsciously an elegy for a lost world. It is also a hauntingly beautiful evocation of a world and a landscape that McGahern knew well, the liminal society of County Leitrim, caught between Eire and “the six counties” of the north.” – The Guardian
“A lyric lament for Ireland, McGahern's lovingly observed family drama is dominated by an almost pathetic paterfamilias.” – Publisher’s Weekly
“In ''Amongst Women,'' John McGahern walks the line between the beautiful and the archaic, and the result is a kind of double elegy. You feel as if you are saying goodbye not merely to an old man dying, but to a world. It is a world others said goodbye to long ago, and not dissimilarly.” – New York Times
About the Author
John McGahern was born in Dublin in 1934 and brought up in the West of Ireland. He was a graduate of University College, Dublin. He worked as a Primary School teacher and held various academic posts at universities in Britain, Ireland and America.
In the opinion of the Observer, John McGahern was 'Ireland's greatest living novelist'. He was the author of six highly acclaimed novels and four collections of short stories, and was the recipient of numerous awards and honours, including a Society of Authors Travelling Scholarship, the American-Irish Award, the Prix Etrangère Ecureuil and the Chevalier de l'Ordre des Arts et des Lettres.
Amongst Women, which won both the GPA and the Irish Times Award, was shortlisted for the Booker Prize and made into a four-part BBC television series. His work has appeared in anthologies and has been translated into many languages. His last book, Memoir, was published in 2005. John McGahern died in 2006.
5. An Evil Cradling by Brian Keenan
Brian Keenan went to Beirut in 1985 for a change of scene from his native Belfast. He became headline news when he was kidnapped by fundamentalist Shi'ite militiamen and held in the suburbs of Beirut for the next four and a half years. For much of that time he was shut off from all news and contact with anyone other than his jailers and, later, his fellow hostages, amongst them John McCarthy.
Brian Keenan's release from captivity was the first ray of hope for those hostages held in the Middle East. He describes the plight of his fellow hostages with first-hand knowledge. The language he uses reflects his past efforts as a poet in describing the pain and claustrophobia of imprisonment.
Fascinating read on the depth of the human will to survive and how friendship can help you overcome even the most challenging trials. – Mary @ 80b480
"Incredibly moving." - Daily Express
"An early nineties classic... It reminds you of the privilege of freedom" - Joseph Fiennes Daily Express
"There may have been more important books than Brian Keenan's An Evil Cradling, but its thoughtfulness and delicacy of feeling are unforgettable. Four years of savage captivity in Lebanon have been transmuted into understanding, not bitterness: a remarkable achievement" - Daily Telegraph
"From the horror has come something wonderful. An Evil Cradling is a great book... it has been created from harsh reality, and it has been created by a true writer... With the publication of An Evil Cradling, Brian Keenan is not letting the world forget. This is a mighty achievement by a magnificent writer" - Irish Times
"Scriptural in its resonances and its broad artistry, while being as gripping as an airport thriller" - Observer
About the Author
Brian Keenan was born in Belfast in 1951. An Evil Cradling is the story of his four years' captivity in Beirut and is recognized as a non-fiction classic. He is also the author of the novel, Turlough and two travel books, Between Extremes (with John McCarthy) and Four Quarters Of Light. He lives with his family outside Dublin.
6. Annie Dunne by Sebastian Barry
It is 1959 in Wicklow, Ireland, and Annie Dunne and her cousin Sarah are living and working together to keep Sarah's small farm running. The farm is in a remote and beautiful part of Wicklow. All around them roads are being tarred, cars are being purchased, a way of life is about to disappear.
Then, when Annie’s nephew and his wife are set to go to London to find work, their two small children, a boy and his older sister, are left in grand-aunt, Annie’s care. Unprepared for the chaos that the two children inevitably bring, but nervously excited nonetheless, Annie finds the interruption of her normal life and her last chance at happiness complicated further by the attention being paid to Sarah by a local man with his eye on the farm.
A summer of adventure, pain, delight, and, ultimately, epiphany unfolds for both the children and their caretakers in this poignant and exquisitely told story of innocence, loss, and reconciliation.
I’m a huge fan of Sebastian Barry’s work. This book does not disappoint. As always, it brings the countryside, the houses and their inhabitants vividly to life. – Mary @ 80b480
“Intimate, meaningful, resonant, respectful and, above all, honest." – Irish Independent
“There are beautiful passages of writing…the closest that fine writing can ever come to prayer.” – Irish Times
“Annie's passionate observations and shifting moods-rendered in dense prose that's close to poetry-fuel this fine novel."— The New York Times Book Review
"A subtle but powerful novel of a spinster's life in the Irish countryside rises to great emotional heights...this is a deliciously poetic book."--The Washington Post
"Barry has given us a heroine of delicate complexity in a setting of rugged beauty. His flawless use of language and plot hold the reader rapt from beginning to end. --Jeanne Ray, Boston Herald
"Superb...Annie emerges from the novel as one of the most memorable women in Irish fiction."--San Francisco Chronicle
"As a wordsmith, Barry is at times amazing, his descriptions poetic and insightful."--The Philadelphia Inquirer
About the Author
Sebastian Barry was born in Dublin in 1955. His plays include Boss Grady's Boys (1988), The Steward of Christendom (1995), Our Lady of Sligo (1998), The Pride of Parnell Street (2007), and Dallas Sweetman (2008). Among his novels are The Whereabouts of Eneas McNulty (1998), Annie Dunne (2002) and A Long Long Way (2005), the latter shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize. His poetry includes The Water-Colourist (1982), Fanny Hawke Goes to the Mainland Forever (1989) and The Pinkening Boy (2005).
His awards include the Irish-America Fund Literary Award, The Christopher Ewart-Biggs Prize, the London Critics Circle Award, The Kerry Group Irish Fiction Prize, and Costa Awards for Best Novel and Book of the Year. He lives in Wicklow with his wife Ali, and three children.
7. Are You Somebody? the life and times of Nuala O’Faolain
Given to watching the world - “like a spy behind enemy lines” - Nuala O'Faolain turned that exceptional sensibility upon her own life in one of the most personal Irish memoirs ever written. One of nine children of the pioneering social columnist “Terry O’Sullivan” and a romantic, bookish mother, she writes of 1950s Ireland, her UCD student years, the sexual mores of Dublin in the early 1960s, and the exuberance of Beatles-era Oxford, as well as her years as a university lecturer, and BBC and RTÉ television producer. Always candid, she also touches on some of those affairs of the heart that coloured her struggle for a sense of self as an Irish woman.
This remarkable 1996 memoir is followed by a selection of her columns on people, issues and places from The Irish Times over the previous decade. Taken together, the heartfelt memoir and equally ardent journalism of this book provide a fascinating portrait of both Ireland and one of its most popular and respected commentators.
To be honest, I found this book joyless and a bit depressing. But still worth reading as its Nuala’s take on her own experience of life in Ireland. And that of itself is worthwhile. – Mary @80b480
"This book has to be read." - Zoë Heller, The New York Times Book Review
"O'Faolain understands how the most contented of us can still be overwhelmed unexpectedly by regret for the life not led."- Time
"A profoundly textured, truthful memoir, loving and acerbic, vividly told . . . with lyrical grace and intellectual stamina . . . an immensely courageous undertaking." - The Irish Times
"Searing, unsentimental book."- Maureen Dezell, The Boston Globe
About the Author
Nuala O'Faolain 1940 – 2008, was an Irish journalist, TV producer, book reviewer, teacher and writer. She became well known after the publication of her memoirs Are You Somebody? and Almost There. She went on to write a biography of Irish criminal Chicago May and two novels.
Less than a month before her untimely death from cancer, she transfixed Ireland with a candid, heart-breaking live interview on RTE with her close friend, the presenter Marian Finucane. That interview became iconic and is widely considered one of the best and most extraordinary in the history of Irish broadcasting.
8. Athena by John Banville
Athena is a 1995 novel, the third in a series that started with The Book of Evidence and continued with Ghosts. It is both a literary thriller and a love story. An artist with a violent past meets a woman who appears to emerge from his paintings, and their subsequent compulsive affair is reflected in additional paintings, until the woman suddenly disappears. Morrow is the narrator of this tale.
I found this difficult to get into. The plot isn’t as rich as the similes and metaphors. – Mary @80b480
"A strange and dreamlike book . . . Banville has a breathtaking style."- Boston Globe
“Irish novelist Banville offers a literary thriller in which his guilt-plagued narrator is drawn into both an art theft and a passionate affair with a mysterious woman.” - Publishers Weekly
“One of the most profoundly intelligent, introspective novels of recent years, questioning the perceptions of the author, narrator, reader and critic.” – Good Book Guide
“Sleek, beautiful, breathtakingly cunning prose.” – Sunday Times
About the Author
John Banville was born in Wexford, Ireland, in 1945. He has been the recipient of the James Tait Black Memorial Prize (1976), the Guardian Fiction Prize (1981), the Guinness Peat Aviation Book Award (1989), and the Lannan Literary Award for Fiction (1997).
He has been both shortlisted for the Booker Prize (1989) and awarded the Man Booker Prize (2005) as well as nominated for the Man Booker International Prize (2007). Other awards include the Franz Kafka Prize (2011), the Austrian State Prize for European Literature (2013), and the Prince of Asturias Award for Literature (2014). He lives in Dublin.
Bucket List Items Partly Ticked Off in the above Blog post
Number 55 - Skills - Read 80 Good Books
Other Blog Posts
Blog 7 - Alice Springs, Australia
Blog 8 - Adelaide, Australia
Blog 9 - Melbourne, Australia
Blog 10 - Cairns, Australia
Blog 11 - Sydney, Australia
Did you read any of these books? Which ones? What did you think of them?
If you liked this post, please share. Sharing is caring 😊.
And if you'd like to be reminded of new posts, sign up to my e-mail reminder!
My name is Mary and this is my bucket list blog ...having survived a near-death experience. I hope it encourages you to "live your best life". See how I'm completing my own bucket list items. And let me know how you're getting on with yours!