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

John Lonergan horizontal

John Lonergan

Prisoners spend over 18 hours a day confined in their cells and reading is an ideal activity to occupy their minds during such long periods of isolation.

John Lonergan

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

I was born in County Tipperary and grew up in the rural parish of Bansha and Kilmoyler. I joined the prison service in Limerick in 1968. I later became Governor of Mountjoy Prison in 1984, and served there for over 22 years. I was also Governor of the top security prison in Portlaoise for 4 years. I retired in 2010

After working as Governor of Mountjoy, what does your typical day look like now?

I get up every day shortly after 8am unless I have an early appointment for that day. Most mornings I go for a jog for an hour and a half or so. Most days, I have speaking appointments in schools, colleges, business and local communities. I have a keen interest in most sports, but my first love is hurling.

What is your earliest memory of reading? Do you have a favourite book?

I remember joining the public library in Cahir in County Tipperary as a junior member way back in the 1960s, and one of the first books I borrowed was Treasure Island. It is a great little book and is still one of my favourites.

Do you still get time to read? What are you reading right now?

The honest answer is that I don’t have time for a huge amount of reading. Now I read the daily newspapers every day without fail. After that, I read occasionally when I have time on my hands or when someone recommends a good book. I read lots of sports books. Currently I am reading a lovely book Our Journey Home by Jean Vanier. I am a great fan of Jean Vanier.

Do you have a book you use or read again and again? Tell us about it.

Yes I do. On my retirement I was given a present of a book entitled Younger Next Year by Dr. Henry S. Lodge and Chris Crowley. I often refer to this book to keep me focussed and to keep me energised.

You have a long history of working with marginalised people. Do you think books and libraries have a role to play in society?

Yes they do. I believe that books are one of the greatest facilitators of education, and I always encourage parents to read to their children and to pass on to them a love of reading. There is no greater gift we can give to children. Public Libraries were introduced into prisons way back in the 1970s, and today all prisons and places of detention in Ireland have fully equipped libraries. This initiative has proved to be an outstanding success. Prisoners spend over 18 hours a day confined in their cells and reading is an ideal activity to occupy their minds during such long periods of isolation. However, it must be acknowledged that one of the sad realities is that many members of the prisoner community are unable to read or write. This reality continues to be a huge challenge for society and, in particular, for our educational system.

If you could give one book to a child, what would that be and why?

It would have to be ‘Wonder’ by R.J. Palacio. This book proves that there is more to a book than the cover. Indeed, every child and adult should read it. It is a powerful book and very life affirming.

We asked you to read Moonrise...

I did read it and I loved it.

What book captures your Dublin most accurately?

Any of Roddy Doyle’s novels - The Van, or The Snapper, or Paddy Clarke Ha Ha Ha - all capture the Dublin that I love.

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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 …

Share Your Favourites?

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

Take Part

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