Explore essays and memoir
The Best Books of Any Year: Three Variations on Post-Truth
‘2016 is almost over but the impact of this year’s political events will reverberate around the globe for decades.’
‘The poor hated the poor, natives hated outsiders, settled migrants hated new incomers, the North hated the South, non-Londoners hated London.’
When Denmark Criminalised Kindness
‘We now know that it is a criminal offence to help refugees in distress.’
The Secret Afterlife of Boats
‘The sea is broken,’ they say. An empty net at night: a drooping lattice of shiny nothingness, a cold and worthless tinsel mesh.
Free will and Brexit
‘Whether or not you think 23 June was a great day for Britain and Europe, it was a very bad one for freedom.’
Violence in Blue
‘One-third of all Americans killed by strangers are killed by police.’
He Had His Reasons
Colin Barrett on the Hawe family murder-suicide, and what the Irish media’s coverage tells us about the nation’s prejudices.
Best Book of 1991: Mao II by Don DeLillo
‘The ultimate goal of each act of art, each work of terror, is to demolish the old, incumbent reality, and create a new one.’
The Raingod’s Green, Dark as Passion
‘If cities are sexed, as Jan Morris believes, then Cork is a male place. Personified further, I would cast him as low-sized, disputatious and stoutly built, a hard-to-knock-over type.’
‘This was the collective trauma of a community discovering, very abruptly, they’d have to uproot their lives.’ Tim Beckett on the ruins of Uranium City.
Best Book of 2000: The Moral Obligation to be Intelligent
Will Boast on why Lionel Trilling’s The Moral Obligation to be Intelligent is the best book of 2000.
On Sonnet 50
‘I love Shakespeare’s slow insistence, which mirrors the action within the poem: there is nothing but grief to reach.’ Paula Bohince on Shakespeare’s sonnet 50.
‘It has been several weeks since I slept for more than an hour, and lately I’ve been feeling on the verge of cracking up.’
Best Book of 1971: Malina by Ingeborg Bachmann
‘The novel submits to an internalized discipline: it is an observation machine’
Best Book of 1943: Love In A Fallen City by Eileen Chang
‘Eileen Chang writes perfectly for the romantic in an unromantic and unrelenting world.’
The Politics of English Forgetfulness
‘Brexit demonstrates one of England’s most trusted strategies of power: deliberate forgetfulness.’
‘There’s a sense, I think, that what that X in the box translates as is seventeen and a half million voices that say, we’re still here.’
Bucharest, Broken City
‘It is only consciousness and memory that hold together the things we sometimes see as solid.’
The Decay of Politics
‘Britain has made the control of borders and the free movement of people its central obsession, its fundamental national anxiety.’ Philip Ó Ceallaigh on Brexit.
Best Book of 1982: Dictee by Theresa Hak Kyung Cha
‘While the terrible pain of speech is made clear, this book ultimately reminds us that we must not be silenced.’
Diary of a Gulag Prison Guard
‘Freedom, even with hunger and cold, is still precious and irreplaceable.’
Five Things Right Now: Diane Cook
Diane Cook shares five things she’s reading, watching and thinking about right now.
‘War is a narrative: it might almost be said to embody the narrative principle itself.’
Africa’s Future Has No Space for Stupid Black Men
‘The night was full of energy. The kind of energy that Africa needs to reinvent itself.’
Sweet William: A Memoir of Old Horse, by John Hawkes | Best Book of 1993
‘Plunged inside the skin of the horse, I felt his sensory burdens, sufferings and fears: his keen sensitivity to sound, smell and touch (even the weight of a saddle)’
Before They Began to Shrink
‘The numbers killed at Aughrim that day will never be known.’
Best Book of 2008: To the End of the Land, by David Grossman
‘David Grossman is a writer who speaks to the heart, and this is his masterpiece.’
‘They knelt at my feet. They crawled naked across gleaming wooden floors.’
Teaching After Trump
‘In a country whose government we do not trust, who do we need more than writers and teachers? And what is more powerful than an inspired youth?’
Best Book of 1993: Written on the Body
‘Influences imprint themselves on our consciousness as light does a photograph, or trauma the psyche’