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An Post Irish Book Awards
an post ibas

The Irish Book of the Year has been named

It was announced this evening during a one-hour special on RTÉ One.

FINTAN O’TOOLE’S latest book has been named the An Post Irish Book of the Year 2021.

We Don’t Know Ourselves: A Personal History of Ireland since 1958 by O’Toole was named as the book of the year during a one-hour television special on RTÉ One this evening. 

“To have a book that you hope speaks to people outside of a particular category, I suppose it’s trying to recognise something that maybe hits a chord more generally with Irish people with where Ireland is right now<” said O’Toole. “Also, unlike other books I’ve written in the past, this one is pretty personal – there’s quite a lot of ‘me’ in it, so it feels a bit more vulnerable and therefore you’re just a bit more grateful if people like it!”

There were six book titles up for the award, which were all category winners from the recent An Post Irish Book Awards, and the overall winner was revealed as part of a one-hour special television show aired on RTÉ One, hosted by Oliver Callan.

 The six nominated titles for the An Post Irish Book of the Year 2021 were:

  • Your One Wild and Precious Life – Maureen Gaffney
  • A Hug For You – David King, illustrated by Rhiannon Archard
  • Aisling and the City – Emer McLysaght and Sarah Breen
  • Did Ye Hear Mammy Died? – Séamas O’Reilly
  • We Don’t Know Ourselves: A Personal History of Ireland Since 1958 – Fintan O’Toole
  • Beautiful World, Where Are You? – Sally Rooney

O’Toole’s book won the Odgers Berndtson Non-Fiction Book of the Year award at the recent awards. He said that it’s a book that has been forty years in the making. O’Toole is a literary editor, journalist and drama critic for The Irish Times since 1988, and has received a wealth of prestigious awards, including the Orwell Prize for Journalism, the European Press Prize in 2017 and the NewsBrands Ireland Journalism Awards Broadsheet Columnist of the Year.

His book A History of Ireland in 100 Objects won an Irish Book Award in 2013.

O’Toole was born in Crumlin and educated at Coláiste Chaoimhín and University College Dublin. He now lives in America where he is a visiting lecturer in Irish Letters at Princeton University.  

The An Post Irish Book of the Year 2021 was chosen by a combination of an online public vote and a judging panel comprising: 

  • Maria Dickenson: General Manager of Dubray Books (Chairperson of the judging panel)
  • Madeleine Keane: Literary Editor of the Sunday Independent
  • Marian T Keyes: Senior Executive Librarian with Dún Laoghaire-Rathdown County Council Public Libraries
  • Simon Trewin: Leading UK literary agent. Runs Simon Trewin Creative Ltd
  • David McRedmond: CEO of An Post

Maria Dickenson said: “In the opinion of the five-person judging panel, We Don’t Know Ourselves is a book that will remain important for a very long time – a reflection of who we are and where we came from. Truly, this is a book for the ages. Fintan O’Toole understands Ireland in a visceral way – it isn’t just politics, but culture and popular culture. He ‘gets’ all of Ireland and its turbulent history during his lifetime.”

David McRedmond, CEO of An Post, described it as “an astonishing book, fresh and passionate”. 

Previous winners of the Irish Book of the Year award are:

  •  A Ghost in the Throat – Doireann Ní Ghríofa
  • Overcoming – Vicky Phelan
  • Solar Bones – Mike McCormack
  • Atlas of the Irish Revolution – John Crowley, Donal Ó Drisceoil, Mike Murphy and Dr. John Borgonovo
  • Asking for it – Louise O’Neill
  • Academy Street – Mary Costello
  • Staring at Lakes – Michael Harding
  • The Spinning Heart – Donal Ryan
  • Solace – Belinda McKeon

The An Post Book of the Year TV programme is available to watch on the RTÉ player. 

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