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Irish non-fiction to look forward to in 2022

From history to photography.

Image: Shutterstock/bbernard

FOR THOSE OF you who tend to lean towards non-fiction when it comes to your reading habits, 2022 looks like a ripe year indeed.

Here are some of the non-fiction reads to look forward to next year – from history books to photography books. (Our fiction round-up is here.)

Lakes of Cavan by Hu O’Reilly

  • The Lilliput Press, January

There is an age-old saying that Cavan has ‘a lake for every day of the year’. Now, for the first time, 365 lakes in the county have been listed and photographed for this book by photographer Hu O’Reilly.

Fit Mind by Pat Divilly

  • Gill, January

Divilly, a podcaster and wellness coach, writes about how to deal with the internal voice that can be critical, sabotaging our attempts to achieve the things we want. His book includes an eight-week practical programme for mental and emotional fitness, which uses journaling, meditation and self-enquiry.

Death on Ireland’s Eye: The Victorian Murder Trial that Scandalised a Nation by Dean Ruxton

  • Gill, February

History fans will be really intrigued by this, a 170-year-old murder mystery about the killing of Maria Kirwan on an inlet on Ireland’s Eye. Her husband William Burke Kirwan was accused of her murder, but was he really guilty?

Elizabeth Boyle, Fierce Appetites 

  • Sandycove, March

Medieval historian Elizabeth Boyle immersed herself in the literature that has been her first love and life’s work for over two decades. Fierce Appetites is the result, where Boyle shares accounts of ancient stories from Ireland and further afield, as well as using historical learning to grapple with the raw and urgent questions she faces. In this book she writes about “grief, addiction, family breakdown, the complexities of motherhood, love and sex, memory, class, education, travel (and staying put) with unflinching honesty, deep compassion and occasional dark humour”, say her publishers.

‘Look Back to Look Forward’: Frank O’Connor’s Complete Translations from the Irish by Frank O’Connor, edited by Gregory A Schirmer 

  • The Lilliput Press, March

Between the mid-1920s and the mid-1960s, O’Connor published 121 translations that give voice to the full range of the centuries old tradition of poetry in Irish. These are collected here for the first time, with the publishers saying the translations “show an uncanny aptitude for carrying over into English verse many of the riches to be found in the originals”.

Unspoken: A Father’s Wartime Escape. A Son’s Family Discovered by Tom McGrath

  • Gill, March

The true-life story of Tom McGrath, as discovered by his son Tom. Tom left County Waterford with his wife Mary in 1937, going on to work for a wealthy family in England. He was then conscripted into the British Army resulting in capture and internment in Prisoner of War camp in Poland. After two years of unspeakable hardship, Tom escaped, first taking refuge in the attic of an old man’s cabin in the woods, then moving house to house thanks to various members of the Resistance and then on to Berlin and Paris and over the Pyrenees into Spain. His incredible story is told by his son.

I Am (Miss D) Amy Dunne: A Very Private Tragedy, a Very Public Case by Amy Dunne, with Orla O’Donnell

  • Gill, March

Amy Dunne was known as ‘Miss D’ after she went to the High Court over her plans to travel for a termination when she found herself pregnant with a baby who had anencephaly. Here, she tells her story for the first time, alongside veteran RTÉ reporter Orla O’Donnell.

Search & Rescue: Stories of Irish Air-Sea Rescues and the Truth about R116 by Lorna Siggins

  • Merrion Press, April

Siggins, who is the former Irish Times marine correspondent, writes about the shocking truth behind the Irish Coast Guard Rescue 116 helicopter crash in 2017, as well as investigating other tragedies and triumphs involving the Irish coastal services.

Quinn by Trevor Birney

  • Merrion Press, April

This is based on three years’ research, and sees Emmy-nominated film producer Trevor Birney writing about the vicious campaign of violence to regain control of the Quinn empire.

This Woman’s Work edited by Sinéad Gleeson and Kim Gordon

  • White Rabbit Books, April

Irish writer and editor Gleeson is joined by musical icon Kim Gordon of Sonic Youth to edit a collection of pieces written by women in the music industry. Anyone familiar with Gleeson’s writing and broadcasting will know she’s steeped in the world of music, while Gordon is a legend in the indie music world – together they’re bound to have chosen an excellent selection of essays on music that explore gender and much more besides. 

Let’s Talk… Relationships, Sexual Health and Intimacy by Richie Sadlier

  • Gill, April

Former professional footballer, pundit and psychotherapist Sadlier pens what looks set to be an essential guide to sex education for adolescents. The book separates sex ed fact from fiction by breaking down the basics of sex and relationships “in an honest and accessible way” for today’s teens. Drawing on his experience of working closely with teenage boys, topics include: an overview of human sexuality; relationships and dating; consent; how to handle sexting, breakups and trust issues; porn vs real-life intimacy; and knowing how to tell the difference between attraction, infatuation and love.

Ireland’s Secret War: Dan Bryan, G2 and the lost tapes that reveal the hunt for Ireland’s Nazi spies by Marc McMenamin

  • Gill, April

Ireland’s Secret War looks at the true extent of Irish Allied co-operation during World War, revealing strategic Nazi intentions for Ireland and the real role of leading government figures of the time. The book is based on over thirty-five hours of previously unpublished audio recordings which have been held in storage in Southern California for over fifty years, and the publishers say it “reassesses the legacy of the Irish contribution to the Allied war effort through the voices of those involved at the time”.

Kilmichael: the Life and Aftermath of an Ambush  by Eve Morrison

  • Irish Academic Press, April

This is described as an “incisive new account of the most controversial military engagement in the Irish War of Independence”, and features previously unpublished interviews with Kilmichael veterans.

The Politics of a Pandemic

  • Gill, April

Former The Journal reporter Hugh O’Connell, now at the Irish Independent, and Irish Times reporter Jack Horgan-Jones delve into the politics of the Covid-19 pandemic through over 100 interviews with Ireland’s highest-ranking government and health-service officials. expect a pacy look at the world behind the scenes of government as the global pandemic hit Ireland. 

The Written World by Kevin Power

  • The Lilliput Press, May

Power’s most recent novel, White City, saw him making an excellent return to the world of fiction – and we’ve yet more great writing in store with this. It’s a collection of reviews and criticism written by him since 2008. He also writes about how he became a critic and what he thinks criticism is, and includes two new personal essays about his mental and writing block after publishing Bad Day in Blackrock and his decade-long journey to White City. 

Yeah, But Where Are You Really From? by Marguerite Penrose

  • Penguin Ireland, May 

Marguerite was born in a Dublin mother-and-baby home in 1974, the daughter of an Irish mother and a Zambian father, and while young was diagnosed with scoliosis. At three, she was fostered – and later adopted – by a young couple, Mick and Noeline, and acquired a mam, dad, sister, Ciara, and loving extended family. However, she faced racism growing up, and her book explores the big questions of: Who am I? How do I live in world made for people with bodies different to mine? And why does anyone care about my skin colour?

Living with My Century: A Memoir by Eda Sagarra 

  • The Lilliput Press, May

Professor Eda Sagarra, born in 1933, has been a significant and influential figure in Irish and European academic policy-making, contributing to the early development of the Erasmus scheme. This memoir is one for people interested in the history of gender equality in Ireland and feminist history.

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Negative Space by Cristín Leach

  • Merrion Press, May

Cristín Leach’s work as an art critic is top class, so there are high hopes for this memoir. It’s described as a “searingly intimate literary debut”, which marries memoir and personal essay to explore writing, art, resilience, and the unravelling of a broken heart.

The Game: A Lifetime Inside and Outside the White Lines by Tadgh Coakley

  • Merrion Press, May

In this combined memoir and essay collection, Coakley lyrically contemplates how sport has shaped his life, and looks at its influences, both good and bad, upon our wider world.

Left Without a Handkerchief by Robert O’Byrne

  • The Lilliput Press, June

This book is a history of the owners of Big Houses whose homes were burned by the IRA in the 1920s. It uses material held by the national archives of both Ireland and Britain, including correspondence between claimants and the relevant authorities. The book will look at the extent of suffering experienced by those whose houses had been burnt, and its impact on the local communities. It also includes extracts from letters, diaries, and memoirs, some of it coming directly from descendants of the house owners and not previously shared in public.

Untitled (Essays) by Roe McDermott

  • Tramp Press, August 

Journalist and critic Roe McDermott is set to publish her debut essay collection with the formidable independent publishing press Tramp Press, which will look at the intersection of PTSD and creativity. The publishers say McDermott’s debut “challenges the perception of the disorder as predominantly afflicting men and war veterans, re-centring women within the politics of trauma”.

Little Republics: The Story of Bungalow Bliss by Adrian Duncan

  • The Lilliput Press, September

Bungalow Bliss by Jack Fitzsimons in 1971 had a massive effect on living and building in rural Ireland. In Little Republics: The Story of Bungalow Bliss, Adrian Duncan looks at the well-known form of the bungalow in a fresh light, and celebrates this modernist vernacular of post-1970s Ireland.

Fierce Love: The Life of Mary O’Malley by Bernard Adams,

  • The Lilliput Press, October

Fierce Love is a timely full biography of this Cork-born theatre pioneer (1918–2006) who was the founder and director of Belfast’s Lyric Players Theatre from 1951–81. Mary O’Malley was immersed in Dublin’s social and theatrical scenes, and a key member of the New Theatre Group and countless societies such as the Irish Society for Intellectual Freedom. She started Belfast’s Lyric Players Theatre in the former stables at the back of her Malone Road home, and pioneered the new theatre, with protégées Gabriel Byrne, Stephen Rea and others. The book is sourced from production notebooks and correspondence held in NUI Galway.

Can Ireland Be One? By Malachi O’Doherty

  • Merrion Press, October

Journalist and novelist Malachi O’Doherty, who was born on the border, explores just how practical a united Ireland could be, and wonders how well the different parts would fit together.

A History of the GAA in 100 Objects by Siobhán Doyle

  • Merrion Press, October

National Museum curator Doyle has travelled the country to select 100 artefacts, from a fifteenth-century cow-hair hurling ball to the Liam McCarthy Cup, to create a history of the GAA that also functions as a history of Ireland and its people.

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