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Open thread: What books gave you comfort in 2020?

We fill you in on what worked for us.

Image: Shutterstock/Evgeny Atamanenko

A BOOK IS a portal to another place – a way to escape. You can jump into the past, explore the future, or take a sidestep into someone else’s life in just a few pages. 

So what with 2020 being, well, the year that it was, it’s no surprise that many of us turned to books to get a bit of a break. 

So we want to know: what books brought you comfort this year, and why? Let’s kick things off with what brought some of our writers a bit of respite. Plus, here’s what some of Ireland’s best authors turned to for comfort reading this year.

Conal

“I re-read all of the Montalbano detective series, read Dario Fo’s plays and, most recently, Hannah Arendt’s report of Adolf Eichmann’s trial in Jerusalem which absolutely did not bring me comfort but was very good. Camilleri’s lovable detective Salvo Montalbano is a tonic. The novels transport the reader to the mean streets of Sicily where the sun beats down every day. A far cry from cold Ireland in lockdown.”

Ian:

“I loved The Kingdom by Emmanuel Carrere. It’s a French bestseller that uses the story of the early church as a parable for Carrere’s own life.”

Daragh:

“The John Delaney book (Champagne Football) – because it was such a good read got through it in a couple of days.”

Aoife:

“I don’t often read books aimed at teens, but I realised what I was missing when I read The Boldness of Betty by Anna Carey. It’s set at the time of the 1913 lockout, as seen through the eyes of a 14-year-old girl living in Dublin’s North Strand. It has fully-fleshed characters, a great feminist spirit, and taught me about Dublin’s history in a really natural way. It tackled big topics, like class, unions, strikes, and the lockout itself, in an open-hearted but factual way. Seeing the world through Betty’s eyes brought me some calm and joy. It was a great bit of feelgood escapism from an excellent writer. Sara Baume’s book Handiwork also helped me tap into my creative brain when things felt a bit dead.” 

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Adrian V: 

“The Priory Of The Orange Tree, by Samantha Shannon – as a big fantasy lover, I was impressed by the richness and the complexity of the world, especially its geopolitical history. It’s almost 900 pages, but everything is fluid and I couldn’t feel the time passing. There’s a narrative switch between the four points of view at the perfect moment to keep us in suspense. Also, The Bear And The Nightingale by Katherine Arden. If you like old Russian stories, you will love this one. It is a book which perfectly mixes feminism, fantasy, fairy tale creatures. It’s difficult to synopsise, but it was like reading an old book before the light of a fireplace. It is atmospheric more than narrative, even if characters’ relationships are complex and the stakes of the story make us anxious about the protagonist’s destiny. This first book of the Winternight trilogy was my favorite book of the year, without a doubt.”

Gordon

“It’s got to be a sports book for me, The Dynasty by Jeff Benedict that came out this year. It’s all about the New England Patriots but goes a lot deeper then just reliving season by season. Tells the full story of how the Patriots became greatest sports dynasty of the 21st century. It’s an inspiring story from a business perspective too to hear how Robert Kraft bought the team he supported and brought his kids to. But also how they handled adversity (deflategate and the Aaron Hernandez murder trial, etc) while never being happy after one successful year, and it always being about the team as opposed to the individual which is rare in the NFL . I’m not a Patriots fan, but could not put this one down. The detail and insights are what sports fans what to hear about, in my opinion. Why it brought me comfort? Sports is my escape, and having no sport for the first part of this pandemic really made me appreciate it even more when it came back, especially with the NFL this season.”

Paula: 

“I loved Keelin Shanley’s autobiography, A Light That Never Goes Out. Despite the obvious element of tragedy, she takes such a pragmatic approach to life and death in the book that reading it did bring me some comfort! Plus there were some great behind the scenes bits from the Six One and Prime Time, like herself and Catríona Perry sneaking off to watch a performer on one of the other RTÉ sets minutes before going on air, but leaving their mics on and being caught rotten by the producers.”

What about you? Let us know in the comments.

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