Readers' Recommendations

Our Books

Karina clifford web

Karina Clifford

Dublin born and bred

Where in Dublin do you live?
Where are you from?
Dolphin's Barn

What are you reading right now?

What Love Looks Like by Jarlath Gregory

Tell us a bit about it...

Ben is 17, living in Dublin and looking for a boyfriend. In a post marriage referendum Ireland, this should be plain sailing...shouldn't it?
A cute YA romcom that asks some serious questions about modern Irish society; feels like if Love, Simon had characters who love to hang out in PantiBar.

What is your favourite book of all time?

Back of the Hack: Growing up in the Liberties by Kathleen Clifford

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If you want to know what life in Dublin was like back in the 1950s and 1960s, this is a book you need to read. Especially for the existence of those at the bottom of the ladder, or 'back of the hack', where striving to have at least one meal a day was an everyday struggle.

With humour, compassion and finely tuned rage, the author details vignettes from her life and those around her; the children playing 'chaneys' and shop, the lads in toss schools, the unfortunate men living in the Iveagh Hostel or other homeless shelters, the desperate women having to choose between prostitution and starvation. Above all, this is the story of her family; her father Joe, gentle and physically disabled with a fatal fondness of a drop; her mother Cathy, sharp-tongued and fiery, driven to desperate measures in order to survive; her sister Mary and herself.

Caveat - Kathleen is my mother. It is still one of the most personal, vivid depictions of Dublin I've read.

What book do you remember most from childhood?

The Bookshop on the Quay by Patricia Lynch

Tell us a bit about it...

The story opens with an urchin pressing his face to a bookshop window, while the family within eat their dinner, all the while reading.
As a child who was a voracious reader, this seemed like heaven to me...a bookshop of your own! Nobody objecting to you reading at meals!

Then the story swoops back to the urchin, and the tale broadens to include other parts of Ireland and the different sort of lives there. Dean Swift even plays a cameo role.

It was the first book that made me really SEE that the physical fabric of my city is like a time machine - you can walk the same streets as Dubliners past did and attempt to see the world as they might have.

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

Food for Free by Richard Mabey

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My parents bought this in hardcover in the 1970s. They were interested in foraging and the books battered state attests to the way it was brought on trips as a field guide. If you want to know what roots, leaves and fruit are edible growing in Britain and Ireland, this is the bible. I recall my parents made dandelion wine & sloe gin from their foraging; we spent lots of time picking wild berries too!

I was fascinated as a child by the delicate plant illustrations and pored over it for hours. As an adult, I used it myself to identify unusual wild plants so I could eat them with confidence. It's a treasured book with a torn and tatty cover, and I wouldn't swap it for anything.

What is your favourite book by an international author?

The Wild Places by Robert Macfarlane

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Britain is one of the most cultivated places, for the longest period of time, on the planet; are there any wild places left to discover?
This is a discursive, lyrical ramble - literally and figuratively - through Britain and Ireland, where the definition of 'wild' changes for the author - and the reader.

One of the most beautiful and affecting books I've read.

What book do you feel depicts your own or another culture most vividly?

The Galaxy, and the Ground Within by Becky Chambers

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Becky Chambers writes an intelligent, character driven science fiction series; this is the last book in the Wayfarers quartet. She is brilliant at deft depictions of disparate species; their aims, desires and preferences. A superb book.

Is there a book that changed your mind/perspective about something?

Girls Will Be Girls by Emer O'Toole

Tell us a bit about it...

Fascinating and accessible examination of gender that helped me grasp the difference between sex and gender. Written with clarity but also playfulness and wit, it is a must read.


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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