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Buy a Book This Christmas: Author’s Top Five Recommendations

Writing.ie | Recommended Reads

By Sarah Webb, Catherine Ryan Howard & Jane Travers

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Christmas is coming up and, before all the happiness and eating, comes the stress of Christmas shopping.  Fret not, Writing.ie has the answers.  We firmly believe that everyone should get at least one book as a Christmas present (in fact, we think it should be in the Constitution).  Children, in particular, should be getting books as stocking fillers.  Remember, a book is for life and the batteries won’t run out.  With that in mind we have asked noted Irish authors to gives us their top five choices in their genre, to assist you in your book buying decisions.  We will start this week with Sarah Webb’s Top Five Children’s Books, Catherine Ryan Howard’s Top Five eBooks and Jane Traver’s Top Five Cookbooks.  Have a read and then head to your nearest bookshop!

Sarah Webb’s Top Five Children’s Books

Picture Books for Younger Readers

1) Stuck by Oliver Jeffers

A new picture book book with stand out illustrations from the wonderful Oliver Jeffers. When a Floyd’s kite gets stuck up a tree he throws up his shoe know it down, but that gets stuck too, along with a pot of paint, a ladder, the kitchen sink a whale and many other amazing things.
2) Sally Go Round the Stars by Sarah Webb and Claire Ranson, illustrated by Steve McCarthy

O’Brien Press

Steve McCarthy did such an amazing job with the illustrations that I just have to mention this collection of nursery rhymes for youngsters, even though it has my name on the cover! All the old favourites are here, plus lots of Irish rhymes and songs such as Janey Mac and Skinny Malink. All royalties go to the National Children’s Hospital.

Books for Young Readers of 6+

3) Marco Moves In by Gerry Boland, illustrated by Aine McGuinness
O’Brien Press

A sweet, warm book featuring the friendship between a young boy, Patrick, and Marco, a grizzly bear who appears on his doorstep one day. Original and highly readable, it would also make a great read aloud.

Books for Confident Readers of 9+

4) Skulduggery Pleasant: Death Bringer by Derek Landy

Derek Landy is a world class writer and this fantasy-horror adventure about a skeleton detective and his teenage side kick is a hilarious, rip roaring read. It’s book six in the series, so if your young reader isn’t a fan yet (and they will be!), best to start at book one.

5) Eva’s Holiday by Judi Curtin
O’Brien Press

Curtin has a deliciously warm touch and this book is perfect for girls of 8+. Eva loves fashion and hanging out with her friends, so when she has to spend the whole summer in a cottage down the country, she’s not happy. But soon she finds out that there’s more to life than clothes and having the right friends. Highly recommended.

Sarah Webb’s latest book for age 10+ is Ask Amy Green: Love and Other Drama-ramas.

Catherine Ryan Howard’s Top Five eBooks (click the book titles for a link to buy them on Amazon)

1) 21st Century Dodos by Steve Stack (fascinating trivia, perfect for dipping into)

In 21st Century Dodos, Steve Stack has catalogued well over one hundred objects, traditions, cultural icons and, well, other stuff that is at risk of extinction, Some of them have vanished already. Cassette tapes, rotary dial phones, half-day closing, milk bottle deliveries, Concorde, handwritten letters, typewriters, countries that no longer exist….

2) The Snowman by Jo Nesbo (the perfect wintry murder-mystery – check out our Crime Scene blog for the latest Nesbo news)

It It is November in Oslo and the first snow of the year has fallen. Birte Becker comes home from work and praises the snowman her husband and son have made in the garden. But they haven’t made a snowman. As the family stand by the sitting room window looking out in amazement at the snowman, the son notices that it is facing the house. The black eyes are staring at the window. At them. Detective Inspector Harry Hole receives an anonymous letter signed “The Snowman”…

3) Skipping Christmas: A Novel by John Grisham (the title says it all, really!)

Imagine a year without Christmas. No crowded malls, no corny office parties, no fruitcakes, no unwanted presents. That’s just what Luther and Nora Krank have in mind when they decide that, just this once, they’ll skip the holiday altogether.

4) The Help by Kathryn Stockett 

(on the off chance you haven’t read it yet – read it before you see the movie!)

Before you see the film starring Emma Stone.  Enter a vanished and unjust world: Jackson, Mississippi, 1962. Where black maids raise white children, but aren’t trusted not to steal the silver…There’s Aibileen, raising her seventeenth white child and nursing the hurt caused by her own son’s tragic death; Minny, whose cooking is nearly as sassy as her tongue; and white Miss Skeeter, home from College, who wants to know why her beloved maid has disappeared.

5) How Ireland Really Went Bust by Matt Cooper (you know, if Christmas isn’t depressing enough for you!)

From the night when the Irish government guaranteed the debts of Irish banks in September 2008, to November 2010 when heavy hitters from the IMF and the ECB arrived in government buildings , Ireland was on a one-way road to ruin. In “How Ireland Really Went Bust” Matt Cooper, journalist, broadcaster and No 1 bestselling author of “Who Really Runs Ireland?”, describes the tumultuous events of that period and he assesses the fall-out and what it means for Ireland’s future

For more from Catherine Ryan Howard, you can read Self Printed here on Writing.ie or;


Writing.ie would also like to recommend Marcy Steel’s Stirred With Love

Jane Travers’ Top Five Cookbooks

Christmas is coming! ‘Tis the season to eat foods you haven’t eaten since December of last year, to prepare dishes you prepare so seldom that you can’t quite remember how to make them. ‘Tis also the season to try new dishes and variations on old dishes, ‘just for a change’. In short, it’s the season to buy cookbooks. Here is our round-up, in no particular order, of the best of the batch this season.

1) Great British Bake-Off: How to Bake: The Perfect Victoria Sponge and Other Baking Secrets by Linda Collister, foreword by Mary Berry and Paul Hollywood

The Great British Bake-Off was huge on the tellybox this year, gaining viewers of up to five million per episode. That’s five million people drooling at any one time, which has got to be some sort of a record.

If, like me, you watched this series avidly and swore to dust off your rolling pin and get baking again, this is the book for you. With well laid-out recipes, simple instructions and beautiful illustrations, you’ll be back in the saddle in no time. At least, you’ll be mixing up cakes and bakes better than I mix my metaphors..

2) Marco Made Easy: A Three Star Chef Makes It Simple by Marco Pierre White

Marco Pierre White is one of the best out there at taking all the nonsense and snobbery out of the creation of good food, and just creating – well – good food. This book contains more than 100 recipes that rely heavily on store-cupboard ingredients such as mustard, jars of mayonnaise and the obligatory Knorr stock cubes to make flavoursome food.

‘It’ll take you longer to wash the dishes,’ White claims, ‘than to make them.’ Well, maybe not the way I cook! Still, it’s refreshing to read a cookbook where I don’t feel vilified for not making my own stock from scratch, or whipping up some homemade mayonnaise to go with that salmon that I caught and smoked myself. This is a real recipe book for real people – highly recommended.

3) 4 Ingredients: Christmas: The Easiest Christmas Cookbook You Will Ever Own by Kim McCosker

The 4 Ingredients books are a worldwide phenomenon, inspiring time-pressed (and talent-pressed) cooks everywhere. There are now several editions in print, including variations for students, vegetarians and coeliacs, to name but a few.

However, I don’t know about you, but THIS is the book I need this Christmas! Maple and Pepper Glazed Turkey? Yes please. A Garden Bed Pavlova? Ok then. Salted Caramel Drops? Oh well, if you insist…!

We all tend to go a little bit insane at Christmas time, worrying ourselves into a tizzy about the perfect stuffings and sauces (what do you mean that’s just me?) so anything that makes our lives easier has got to be a good thing. 4 Ingredients? I can handle that.

4) How to Feed Your Whole Family a Healthy Balanced Diet, with Very Little Money and Hardly Any Time, Even If You Have a Tiny Kitchen, Only Three Saucepans (One With An Ill-fitting Lid) and no Fancy Gadgets – Unless You Count the Garlic Crusher… by Gill Holcombe

Have you ever in your life seen a better title for a cookbook? You have? Liar. I want this book, badly. As far as I’m concerned, anyone who can produce a cookbook with a title like this (and get away with it!) is a genius

But the title aside, this book is actually chock-full of common sense, good advice and large doses of reality for those of us who deal daily with tiny kitchens and fussy children. You need this book. And if you don’t, buy it and give it to me.

5) Tweet Treats: 140 Characters, 140 Celebrities, Recipes for Every Occasion by Jane Travers

Collected entirely via Twitter, this book is a compendium of tiny, perfect recipes, all 140 characters long or less. (For you non-twitter types, that’s about 25 words on average. Yes, it can be done. Really. No, I’m not pulling your leg.)

Did you ever wonder what Amanda Holden likes in her sandwich? Or what Alan Carr gets up to with a butternut squash? Does Joanne Harris really like chocolate? Just what is in Baldrick’s buns? And what peps Paula Abdul up when she’s pooped? Find the answers to all these questions – and some damn good recipes – in this book.

Most cookbooks contain – what? – about 100 recipes? Tweet Treats contains about 10 times that amount, making it quite astounding value for money. And all royalties go to Medècins sans Frontières, making it a socially-conscious gift too.

This book is quite possibly the Greatest Book Ever Written. Not that I’m biased.

(c) Sarah Webb, Catherine Ryan Howard and Jane Travers, November 2011.

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