Featured Readers

Each month we sit down for a chat with a ‘Featured Reader’, to find out about their favourite books of all time, their literary preferences, recommendations, revered authors, & the likes...

This Month

Clare standing in front of ambulance

Clare Fitzgerald

I never leave anywhere without a book. I know I'm not going to read [at work] but I like having it over the visor - knowing that it's there ...

Clare Fitzgerald, Paramedic

Tell us a bit about yourself, where did you grow up?

I grew up in Newbridge, Co. Kildare. I'm the youngest of five - I have four brothers and I’m a twin.

What is your earliest memory of reading?

Books for six year olds and seven year olds [the series], are my first reading memory - those were the ones that I started to be able to pick for myself.

Another early memory would be my dad reading to us. George's Marvellous Medicine was the one that I really remember because he was so stupid - he did the voices, he did all the ridiculous hand motions and it was mine and Eamonn's (my twin brother) goodnight story for a few months.

Do you have a favourite book or author from childhood?

Roald Dahl and also the Nancy Drew books - [I loved] all her shenanigans, she had so many variations. I think it’s where the love of mystery and thrillers came from.

Is there a book you think every child should have on their shelf?

You can’t go wrong with Roald Dahl. He didn't pander to kids. He just spoke to us at a very realistic level and they were just ridiculous fun.

Did you go to your local library as a child?

Every week - it was a big event in our house. I loved to go, but my twin brother Eamonn and older brother Barry hated it. From the ages of around seven or eight, you got to choose your own books so I loved going in and having that freedom and the time.

Do you have a favourite library?

Before we moved [to Stoneybatter] it was Kevin Street - the staff were just so enthused by everything, they were so much fun. Cabra is my go to at the moment, it has a great mix of older staff and younger staff. They do Blind Book Date - where they cover the books up and have a post-it on the front where they describe a book in three words. I read a book by a Japanese author - The Good Son by You-Jeong Jeong - I would never have read before.

They have a lot of recommendation aisles for different genres, so I love that too.

Blind Book Date from Cabra Library.

Which of your books is battered and worn from using over and over again?

I keep certain books I've read once or twice but the main one I come back to is Wild by Cheryl Strayed. This book struck a chord - her brutal honesty really spoke to me.

I also return to comics, a new media for me, which my partner introduced me to - like Box Office Poison by Alex Robinson and Dykes to Watch Out For by Alison Bechdel.

What are you reading right now?

I just finished Platform 7 by Louise Doherty, it’s a really nice mystery and just before that I finished The Vanishing Half by Brit Bennet. It’s an amazing story of twins who separate in their teenage years and choose very different lives. It deals with racism, internalised shame, and identity.

Thrillers are one of your favourite genres, why is that?

I enjoy the straightforwardness of a thriller - I know what I’m going to get, I’m going to get a murder of some description, an anti-hero or a hero. I like the mystery and problem solving, and the psychology behind it and what makes people like that tick.

The escapism part is good as well, because you can just switch off with thrillers.
That's why I don't like autobiographies as much, because in a way I listen to people's stories all day.

What’s that like, listening to people’s stories while they’re in that moment of an emergency?

You just kind of tap in - you're whatever type of personality they need you to be at that time.

Listening to people’s stories it’s an important aspect of the job. We are often the first point of contact for people in an emergency scenario. I see that even simply listening can give relief, comfort and a sense of calm to the patient or next of kin. We are one of the few professions that are always welcomed into people’s homes, often on their worst days. However hard it can get, it’s a privilege.

You do need some down-time in between calls. I never leave anywhere without a book. I know I'm not going to read [at work] but I like having it over the visor - knowing that it's there so that if I need to have a moment, I can sit and have a read for 20 minutes.

That's why again, I like a captivating story like a thriller.

The Good Son by You-Jeong Jeong

It sounds like you like books that take you to other worlds?

Yeah, definitely, in the last three or four years I have definitely started to try and read more of worlds that don't represent me to try and give me more information.

Is there a book in particular that opened up another culture to you?

Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie gave me a new perspective on women, black writers, and just women identifying themselves in their 30s.

This book was my kind of awakening into [reading] a female black protagonist, leaving America going back to Africa, and being discriminated against because she was an American.

I thought it was fascinating. I read her book We Should all be Feminists then and I was speaking to a friend at the time who was deliberately trying to search out more Irish female writers.

So I made a decision to say okay I'll try and read more black authors, and more female authors. So that was definitely a game changer for me.

Similarly, are there any books that have changed your perspective?

I’ve just started to read With the End in Mind by Kathryn Mannix. I’m picking it up and down because it’s a hard read. She talks very frankly and openly about death, about us prepping for conversations first, and it will help me with work and with my own life as well.

It’s a confronting read but it will be one that's going to change me, I think.

I want to be able to arm myself with as much kind of worldly knowledge that I can, because I'm meeting such a cross section of society of different ages of different afflictions.

Do you have an all-time favourite book?

I have authors that I love - Jeffrey Eugenides, Carol Ann Duffy, David Sedaris, Chuck Palahniuk, Cheryl Strayed, Tayari Jones, and Hanya Yanagihara.

Do you have any book recommendations for aspiring young paramedics?

The main thing is you need to know your anatomy. I think the main thing is they read books that open their minds, because they're going to be dealing with every single type of [ person in] society.

shelves

The Books

We have been finding out about the books that matter to you, to grow this virtual bookshelf that represents the lives, families and culture of the people that call Dublin home. Here are a selection of some of the books that you have been telling us …

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We want to hear about the books that matter to you. Tell us about your most cherished books, what you’re reading right now, your favourite book from your childhood, and the books that make up the story of your life. Share your recommended reads and take part here

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