Amongst the traditional Christmas gifts books feature high on the list. How about giving an Irish-themed, readable present then?
"A Long, Long Way" by Sebastian Barry
A moving book on the experience of Irish soldiers fighting in the British Army during the First World War - a largely forgotten chapter of history in today's Republic. Told through the eyes of Dublin youngster Willie Dunne. A compelling read.
"Horrible Histories - Ireland"
I know this book is for "young adults" ... but it is so much fun it would be a crime not to enjoy it as an adult too. Learn about Irish history the fun way. All the facts are there and true, but the comments and cartoons are hilarious. From the Celts to the Duck-Feeding-Truce of 1916. It is the one history book I keep coming back to ...
"The Gathering" by Anne Enright
Winner of the prestigious Booker Prize and a must-read for the literati, especially those with an Irish connection. But be warned - it is not a-laugh-a-minute stuff. In fact it is pretty dreary. And is is not easy going either. Maybe "The Gathering" should only be considered by those who take their Irish literature seriously.
"Angela and the Baby Jesus" by Frank McCourt
Not another helping of Limerick in the eternal rain, but a rather inspirational tale about McCourt's mother Angela. Who, as a child, took pity upon the baby Jesus and offered Him a home. Not to put too fine a point upon it - she stole the figurine from the crib and hid it ...
"The Third Policeman" by Flann O'Brien
Having enjoyed some overseas popularity due to a cameo appearance of his work in "Lost", Flann O'Brien is indeed an author you could read when stranded on an island. Funny, witty, full of wry observations and eminently re-readable. And some of the happenings on his books will make polar bears and mysterious hatches appear positively normal.
A Decent Road Atlas of Ireland
Even the armchair traveler needs one - no general map of Ireland will give you all those small places you read or hear about. But the standard road atlas issued by Ordnance Survey Ireland will get you from A to B. Or help you to find "the auld sod" granpa was always waxing lyrical about.
"McCarthy's Bar" by Pete McCarthy
If you intend to read just one travelogue about Ireland, head straight fof "McCarthy's Bar". It is as much a journal about traveling through Ireland as a look at what it means to be Irish. Written in a well-informed yet hilarious style that does not shirk from heaping scorn at shoe-wearing clergy in St. Patrick's Purgatory.
"How the Irish Saved Civilization" by Thomas Cahill
Ambitious title and a hiberno-centric take on the dark ages. Basically the author works from the premise that without the Irish Europe would have remained barbarous forever. Only the early Christian monasticism saving us from sliding quietly back into our caves. Interesting read and full of facts you didn't know - though the jury is still out on the final conclusions.
"Rebels" by Peter de Rosa
A moving account of the 1916 Easter Rising, full of historical detail yet eminently readable. Though it occasionally descends into pure hero-worship (do not expect too critical an analysis here), it is one of the most accessible accounts of the Irish rebellion.
The big daddy of all visual guidebooks to Ireland - full of travel information, gorgeous photographs and those specially commissioned artworks Dorling-Kindersley are famous for. Maybe the best all-round guide to Ireland.
"The Pope's Children" by David McWilliams
One of the most-discussed books in recent years, it documents the rise of Ireland in the thrity-odd years after John Paul II's visit. Full of true observations on Ireland's potentially fatal love-affair with blatant consumerism. Will make you pause for thought ... or occasionally fume with anger.