Valentine’s gifts for book lovers
Dr Damian Smyth, Head of Literature at the Arts Council gives us his top books to give as gifts this Valentine’s Day.
The top seller this February is still Normal People by Sally Rooney (Faber), the complex developing friendship between two teenagers in our very contemporary Ireland – Crisis! Trauma! Insecurity! Class.
Something similar maybe is the classic Little Women by Louise M Walcott, issued in a gorgeous new paperback edition to mark the blockbuster movie starring the likes of Saoirse Ronan, Emma Watson, Florence Pugh and Laura Dern.
Then there’s the great Eoin Colfer’s first adult novel, Highfire (Jo Fletcher Books), described as a fantasy for grown-ups from the creator of Artemis Fowl.
For those whose idea of love needs testing, jump on in with Adrian McKinty’s bestseller The Chain which is set to be a movie and is already a classic from the Carrickfergus-born author.
It might seem unpromising as a Valentine’s snuggler, but Shirley-Anne McMillan’s Every Sparrow Falling (Atom Books) has gathered great reviews and is a classy read on loneliness and love with good laughs throughout.
If you’re looking for a relaxing travelogue-cum-poetry-cum memoir-cum-Antrim-love-affair, then scoop No Far Shore: Charting Unknown Waters (Seren, £9.99) by the distinguished emigrée poet Anne-Marie Fyfe from Cushendall, by way of Orkney, Felixstowe and Swansea to Martha’s Vineyard, Cape Cod and Nova Scotia.
Finally, one of the queens of romantic fiction is actually from Northern Ireland. Catherine Tinley from Newry is a star in the romance firmament – last year, she became the first woman from Ireland to win one of the most prominent awards given in the genre – a RITA from the romance writers of America – for her debut novel Waltzing with the Earl. Her career has encompassed speech & language therapy, NHS management, maternity campaigning and being president of a charity, and she now works in Sure Start. Just out right this minute is Rags-to-Riches Wife. If you or your partner like Georgette Heyer with a touch of Catherine Cookson, this is the very breathy item for you.