The annual Book Week NI is celebrating its 8th year between the 16-22 October, encouraging everyone to embrace the joys and benefits of reading. This year the initiative has expanded by partnering with BBC Northern Ireland and Libraries NI alongside the Education Authority, Education Library Service, and local universities with the aim of encouraging people of all ages to embark on a literary journey and immerse themselves in a good book.
Reading for pleasure not only offers a multitude of benefits for mental health and overall wellbeing, but it also serves as a means of escape and relaxation whilst also reducing stress.
As part of our ‘NI Hub’ in the Office of the Northern Ireland Executive Brussels, we have ‘The Study’ with its own collection of books and poetry written by authors from across Northern Ireland. For each day of Book Week NI, the office will be recommending a book from our collection that we hope you enjoy as much as we did!
1982. Northern Ireland. Nuala Malin is tied to a life she doesn’t want by her daughter Sam and baby son PJ. An affair with a seventeen-year-old boy reminds her of a future she hasn’t given up on, but it can’t last, and when her chance to leave comes, she takes it.
1994. If Sam Malin has a god, then it is Kurt Cobain. Music is the only thing that brings her peace. She wants a life away from the North and its troubles, away from her da who can’t talk about the past but seems stuck there, waiting for Sam’s mother to return. A mother Sam barely knew.
Escape seems out of reach until Sam meets a jagged, magnetic older man, drawn to him in a way she can’t yet comprehend.
She falls for him, unable to say no.
Sam is more like her mother than she knows.
Olivia Fitzsimons is from Northern Ireland but now lives in Wicklow. Her debut novel, ‘The Quiet Whispers Never Stop’ was a winner of the Irish Writers Centre Novel Fair 2020 and shortlisted for The Butler Literary Award and Kate O’Brien Debut Novel Prize.
Blank Pages is a collection of twelve extraordinary new stories that show the emotional range of a master. ‘Blackthorns’, for instance, tells of a poor out-of-work Catholic man who falls gravely ill in the sectarian Northern Ireland of 1942 but is brought back from the brink by an unlikely saviour. The most recently written story here is the harrowing but transcendent ‘The End of Days’, which imagines the last moments in the life of painter Egon Schiele, watching his wife dying of Spanish flu – the world’s worst pandemic, until now.
Bernard MacLaverty was born in Belfast in 1942 and lived there until 1975 when he moved to Scotland with his wife, Madeline, and four children. He has published five novels and six collections of short stories most of which are gathered into Collected Stories (2013).
Cockroach is a memoir. Cockroach is a tale of survival. Cockroach is a creature fundamentally changed by experiences of bullying which hone hair-trigger sensitivities and maladaptive instincts. Cockroach looks back on formative moments of socialisation and instances of missed communication via the lens of learning about neurodivergence; pinpointing turning points and celebrating a lifelong fascination with the ‘other’ in fiction as well as the self. If you are ‘other’, who are your role models? Where do you find solace and belonging? Using examples from horror cinema interwoven through poetry and prose tackling disability and loneliness, Cockroach maps a life.
Elizabeth McGeown is a Pushcart-nominated poet from Belfast. She is the 2022 UK Slam Champion and has been published in journals including Banshee, Abridged, Under the Radar and Poetry Wales. Her debut collection ‘Cockroach’ was published in 2022 by Verve Poetry Press.
It is late June in Ballylack. Hannah Adger anticipates eight long weeks’ reprieve from school, but when her classmate Ross succumbs to a violent and mysterious illness, it marks the beginning of a summer like no other.
As others fall ill, questions about what – or who – is responsible pitch the village into conflict and fearful disarray. Hannah is haunted by guilt as she remains healthy while her friends are struck down. Isolated and afraid, she prays for help.
Elsewhere in the village, tempers simmer, panic escalates, and long-buried secrets threaten to emerge.
Jan Carson was born in Ballymena, Northern Ireland, but now resides in Belfast. She was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature in 2023. Jan has written five novels, one of which, The Fire Starters (2019). Won the EU Prize for Literature in 2019.
Tony, Hugh and Karen thought they’d seen the last of each other thirty years ago. Half a lifetime has passed and memories have been buried. But when they are asked to reunite – to lay ghosts to rest for the good of the future – they have their own reasons to agree. As they take the ferry from Northern Ireland to Scotland, the past is brought into terrible focus – some things are impossible to leave behind. In The Last Crossing memory is unreliable, truth shifts and slips, and the lingering legacy of the Troubles threatens the present once again.
Brian McGilloway is a crime fiction author from Derry, Northern Ireland. Brian lives in Strabane with his wife and their four children. His 2020 novel, The Last Crossing, was nominated in the 2021 Theakston’s Old Peculiar Crime Novel of the Year Award.
Readers can get involved in Book Week on social media by posting using the hashtag #bookweekni and tagging @LibrariesNI and @BBCnireland on Twitter, @LibrariesNorthernIreland and @BBCNI on Facebook and @librariesni and @bbcni on Instagram.