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9 books to help you get through your commute (or Christmas shopping list) this December

There’s something for everyone on your Christmas list here this month.

1. The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas 

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Although this book was written with teenagers in mind, it blew readers of all ages away and made it to the No. 1 spot on the New York Times Bestseller list, where it remained for 50 weeks. The timely novel was then made into a movie, which hit cinemas this year. The story is named after Tupac’s THUG LIFE concept, which stood for the sentence The Hurt U Give Little Infants Fucks Everybody.

This novel tells the story of a 16-year-old black girl named Starr Carter, who is drawn to activism after she witnesses a police officer shooting one of her childhood friends. It’s the first book written by Angie Thomas, and it was based on a short story she wrote in college following the shooting of Oscar Grant. This is a powerful read that is as suitable and important for the book-loving teen in your life as it is for you. 

2. Feminists Don’t Wear Pink (and other lies) by Scarlett Curtis

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Over the last few weeks, chances are you’ve encountered plenty of hype from celebrities about this book which has contributions from Irish stars like Saoirse Ronan, Evanna Lynch and Jordan Hewson, as well as celebs from further afield like Keira Knightley, Emma Watson and eh, Bridget Jones. Released in October, this book looks at what feminism means to 52 different women and has been lauded by the likes of Reese Witherspoon. 

3. Say Nothing by Patrick Radden Keefe 

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This book takes its title from a famous Seamus Heaney poem, “Whatever you say, say nothing.” Patrick Radden Keefe takes a look at the abduction of Belfast widower Jean McConville in 1972, with a forensic account of the events that resulted in her death, while building a portrait of the world in which this brutal crime occurred. Jean’s story is weaved into many other stories of the time, like those of Dolours Price and Gerry Adams. 

4. Truth and Dare: Stories About Women Who Shaped Ireland by Martina Devlin 

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Martina Devlin looks at some of the leaders, rebels and pioneers who changed Ireland, from Countess Markievicz and Hanna Sheehy Skeffington to Dr Kathleen Lynn and Belfast’s Mary Ann McCracken. Rather than looking at the biographies of each of these Irish women, Devlin examines them and the changes they exacted in society through a series of short stories. 

 5. Clock Dance by Anne Tyler 

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Anne Tyler’s latest novel, Clock Dance impressed critics across America and the UK. It follows a middle class, bewildered protagonist from Arizona named Willa. As with Tyler’s previous work, she’s following her lead character with the question “What does it all mean?”

From a young age, Willa is asking herself that very question, but it’s not until much later in life, after a few defining moments (her mother’s disappearance when she was a child, a proposal she received in her early twenties, and an accident that prematurely makes her a widow) that she begins to understand the answer. 

6. Future Popes of Ireland by Darragh Martin 

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A novel that is in equal parts hilarious and devastating. The story kicks off in 1979, when the Pope’s visit to the Phoenix Park has left a woman named Bridget Doyle with but one goal left in life – to see her family produce the first Irish pope. To try and make her dreams come true, she sprinkles papal-blessed holy water on her son and daughter-in-law’s bed after they marry, but it ends in tragedy, when her daughter-in-law passes away in childbirth.

After thirty years pass, it doesn’t seem as though any of Bridget’s grandchildren are going to fulfill her wish, as one’s a bit of a lothario, another is struggling to tell her he’s gay and her granddaughter Rosie has dyed her hair blue and is more concerned about saving the environment than going to mass. 

7. My Mum Tracy Beaker by Jacqueline Wilson 

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If you haven’t heard about this one yet, Jacqueline Wilson released a followup to the Tracy Beaker series back in October, which looks at Tracy Beaker’s life 27 years on from her introduction. She’s all grown up now with a daughter of her own named Jess, who is the narrator in this new novel, which is aimed at both children and adults alike.

Ahead of the books release, Jacqueline explained that, “A knowing teenager or adult will read something and understand it, while it will go straight over Jess’s head.” Tracy Beaker is now grown up, a single mother who is struggling in London. Jacqueline said she wanted the book to be as realistic as possible: “How many young women without much education earn enough, with a daughter, to be able to buy their own home in London today? Being Tracy, she wants to be independent, but with a child how can she be?” 

8. The Female Persuasion by Meg Wolitzer 

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An instant New York Times Bestseller earlier this year, this engrossing novel looks at power and influence, ego and ambition, and the pulls and tensions between different generations of women. Readers of all ages and temperaments will happily binge this book in a few sittings, and get plenty of laughs out of it along the way. 

9. The Haunting of Hill House by Shirley Jackson 

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If you (or someone you know) went mad for this Netflix series around Halloween when it was released, the book that inspired the whole series is definitely worth checking out. Written in 1959 by Shirley Jackson, the palpable terror provided to the reader has managed to sustain itself for nearly six decades.

Shirley Jackson had stumbled across a reading based on some nineteenth century “psychic researchers” who had studied a house and somberly reported their supposedly scientific findings to the Society for Psychic Research. What Jackson discovered in their “dry reports” was not the story of a haunted house, but rather the story of “several earnest, I believe misguided, certainly determined people, with their differing motivations and background”, which excited her to create a haunted house of her own and the characters who would explore it. That’s house the story you binged on Netflix was born. 

The backstory of the novel is also pretty spooky. When she was researching her novel, Shirley found a photograph of a house in California that she believed was creepy enough to write about, so she asked her mother, who lived in California to help her find more information on the property. 

According to Jackson, her mother identified the house as one the author’s own great-great-grandfather, an architect who had designed some of San Francisco’s oldest buildings, had built.

Don’t see anything you fancy? Check out our previous recommendations > 

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About the author:

Kelly Earley

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