With Christmas approaching and shopping lists being ticked off, the book industry has an array of great titles to choose from this year, with the An Post Irish Book Awards 2021 winners providing a comprehensive guide to the best of the best from this year’s bookshop shelves.
Sally Rooney goes from strength to strength, Aisling and the City marks the welcome return of Emer McLysaght and Sarah Breen’s eponymous heroine, while Séamas O’Reilly’s poignant and funny memoir continues to delight.
Fintan O’Toole took the Non-Fiction Book of the Year category with his magisterial We Don't Know Ourselves: A Personal History of Ireland Since 1958, which comes highly recommended. Charting Ireland’s social, economic and political history across his lifetime, O’Toole reveals an intimate psychological portrait of Ireland since 1958.
My Name Is Philippa
Among other notable books available this year is the memoir of Philippa Ryder. Philippa is a civil servant, a former union representative with IMPACT, and a medal winning cyclist who has represented Ireland in the World Games as part of Sporting Pride.
Philippa is also transgender and has just published her memoir My Name Is Philippa, which documents her transition from male to female, helping to transform Irish culture along the way.
Growing up as a boy in the 1960s seemed wrong to her. Why did she want to dress in her sister’s clothes and later her wife’s? It wasn’t until the 1990s, that he found she wasn’t the only person to do this.
My Name is Philippa is a remarkable and honest memoir, clearly written with humour and grace, offering answers to many of the questions people ask.
She describes the physical as well as the emotional process of transition. Above all, it’s a story about love, understanding and a family who stuck together as Philippa moved from husband and father to wife and mother.
Suir to Jarama
For anyone who added Giles Tremlett’s authoritative The International Brigades: Fascism, Freedom and the Spanish Civil War to their book collection last year, Liam Cahill’s latest offers an Irish perspective on that conflict, highlighting the crucial role of volunteers from both parts of Ireland in one of the most important battles of the Spanish Civil War, at Jarama, outside Madrid, in February 1937.
From Suir to Jarama looks at the Irish involvement on the Republican side in the Spanish Civil War through the life and fate of a young Irish volunteer. The book tells the story of Mossie Quinlan, a member of a prominent political and business family in Waterford, who was an infantry soldier in the British Battalion of the 15th International Brigade and who fought and died at Jarama. A sniper shot him while he was rescuing a wounded comrade.