Christmas Book Ideas

Many of you may be panicking that there’s only a few shopping days left, but you can always head into your local bookshop and buy everyone you know a perfect present in the form of reading material. At least that’s my philosophy. I have done a few of these gift guides before in 2012, and 2010, and 2009.  You may find ideas there but here are some new ones just in case.

For the little ones

I’ve become an aunt in the last few years and so I have been discovering children’s books all over again. I love Andrea Beaty’s Rosie Revere, Engineer and Ada Twist, Scientist, both of which provide a nice antidote to the princessy ‘happily ever after’ nonsense. I also loved The Fox and the Star, a magical book by Coralie Bickford-Smith. And if you want something Irish, A Dublin Fairytale by Nicola Colton features well-known landmarks in gorgeous illustration.

For the teenager

Asking For It by Louise O’Neill has received a huge amount of press since it was published in 2015. It even generated a documentary on sexual consent presented by Louise herself and broadcast this year on RTE. It’s a book that teenagers of all sexes need to read.

For the bookworm

I wholeheartedly recommend Sinead Gleeson’s The Glass Shore which I reviewed on the blog a while ago. I also love The Winter Papers, a beautifully produced anthology of the arts in Ireland, volume two of which was published in October this year. Mike McCormack’s Solar Bones has won the 2016 Goldsmiths Prize and the Bord Gáis Energy Irish Book Awards Novel of the Year 2016 and has been lauded by everyone I know who has read it (unfortunately I have yet to get to it, but it’s on my list).

For the music lover

Bruce Springsteen’s autobiography Born to Run gives a real insight into the icon including his bouts with depression and the catharsis he finds in his legendary live performances. Leonard Cohen’s volumes of poetry are amazing reading (I have this one) and a great gift for a grieving fan. And Sylvia Patterson’s I’m Not With The Band is a bawdy no-holds-barred memoir from a music journalist who started her career with Smash Hits.

For the oenophile

Hugh Johnson’s On Wine: Good Bits from 55 Years of Scribbling is a compilation from the foremost writer on the subject, and A Hedonist in the Cellar by Jay McInerney is another great read from one of America’s most well-known novelists.

For the creative person

Neil Gaiman’s commencement speech in 2012 for The University of the Arts in Philadelphia was published in 2014 as a cute collectible hardback entitled Make Good Art. I was given a copy of it by my sister for my birthday a few years ago and I’d recommend it as a stocking-filler for any artist who needs a little affirmation.

And finally…

If you need any other recommendations, please feel free to ask in the comments. (I offered a recommendation service before and many people emailed me so if you’d rather do that my email address is here.)  For any subject other than sport, I am at your service!


Make Good Art – Neil Gaiman

Posting has been very far from prolific over the last few weeks at this here Multiverse. Sorry about that, folks. The reason is that I was working like a demon to finish the last draft of my book (which is now complete and even has a title!) and getting it ready to send out to agents. Needless to say, if there is any news on that front in the coming months I’ll let you know. Anyway things should get back to normal now, posting-wise.

So you could say that over the last few weeks I have been trying to do what Neil Gaiman advocates in this inspirational commencement speech he made at The University of the Arts in Philadelphia: make good art. Gaiman made this speech on May 17th 2012 and it has since become very well known and even been printed as a book. In fact my sister gave me a copy of it for my birthday this year and it’s a gorgeous little work of art in itself.

The speech is twenty minutes long and well worth a watch. Here’s my favourite section quoted below. Have a great week everyone!

“And remember that whatever discipline you are in, whether you are a musician or a photographer, a fine artist or a cartoonist, a writer, a dancer, a designer, whatever you do you have one thing that’s unique. You have the ability to make art.

And for me, and for so many of the people I have known, that’s been a lifesaver. The ultimate lifesaver. It gets you through good times and it gets you through the other ones.

Life is sometimes hard. Things go wrong, in life and in love and in business and in friendship and in health and in all the other ways that life can go wrong. And when things get tough, this is what you should do.

Make good art.”


Writing by hand

As I have often said, the only thing I write by hand anymore is my signature. Like everyone else of my generation we didn’t have computers in school so I did all my schoolwork and exams in longhand (anyone else remember massaging the palm of your hand in the middle of a Leaving Cert. exam because it was cramping so much – it’s called hand dystonia, trivia fans) but when I got to college that was the end of it. From then on it’s been computers all the way: in 9-5 jobs, in recreation time and of course when writing.

I read an article on Flavorwire last week about the writing tools of 20 famous authors. I was surprised to see that some of the contemporary writers featured use pencils and notebooks rather than a computer. Many of them say that writing in longhand forces you to think about what you are writing and refine the sentence before you commit it to the page. Neil Gaiman says: “I discovered I loved the fact that handwriting forces you to do a second draft, rather than just tidying up and deleting bits on a computer. I also discovered I enjoy the tactile buzz of the ritual involved in filling the pens with ink.”

I’m toying with the idea of doing the first draft of my next book in longhand. I reckon it’s always a good thing to shake up the creative process and any way of doing this is worth a try. I can certainly see that you would become less slapdash as you won’t have the simple option of hitting the delete key or cutting and pasting text. You would have to think about every sentence before writing it down and perhaps you would end up with a better novel in terms of style. It’s certainly a better option when traveling abroad: a pen and notebook are far more portable than a laptop, and you can hide away in a corner of a cafe and write rather than creating a fuss about WiFi passwords and broadband connections.

Any other writers want to weigh in on this? Would love some other feedback or opinions!

Mark Twain working in bed (Photo Credit: Corbis)
Mark Twain working in bed (Photo Credit: Corbis)