The Art of Reading Book Club with Colm Toibin 2023

In partnership with the Laureate for Irish Fiction, libraries present The Art of Reading monthly book club for individuals and book clubs across the country.  

See The Art of Reading Book Club with Colm Tóibín 2022 here

Readers, book lovers and book clubs everywhere are invited to join in the Art of Reading monthly bookclub, a collaboration between libraries and the Laureate for Irish Fiction, Colm Tóibín. 

Over the course of 2023, the Laureate will meet a different library book club each month to discuss a novel by an Irish writer, highlighting outstanding Irish writing and celebrating readers and book clubs. Each event will be recorded and available to watch online or to listen to as a podcast. 

The selected titles include new work by contemporary Irish writers and works from the past that the Laureate wishes to bring to a new generation of readers. 

Readers everywhere can take part 

There are a few ways you can get involved. 

Libraries Ireland and the Arts Council have paired library book clubs with selected titles for 2023. These book clubs will have the first chance to hear the Laureate chat about the books, and will have an opportunity to take part in the discussion. 

Even if you’re not in one of the selected book clubs, you can still take part! You can watch or listen to a video and audio recording, which will be available on this page and on the Art of Reading web page on the last Thursday of each month

Each event will also be available as a podcast, which will be available from the Arts Council podcast channel at the end of each month.

December Book Club Pick

The December Art of Reading Book Club pick is This Plague of Souls by Mike McCormack. 

“In the Irish Times preview of the best novels forthcoming in 2023, Martin Doyle writes: ‘The prospect of a new novel [by Mike McCormack] is one to savour. Part roman noir, part metaphysical thriller, This Plague of Souls deals with how we might mend the world – and is the story of a man who would let the world go to hell if he could keep his family together.” (Colm Tóibín)

In 2016 Solar Bones was awarded the Goldsmiths Prize and the Bord Gais Energy Irish Novel of the Year and Book of the Year; it was also long-listed for the 2017 Man Booker Prize. In 2018 it was awarded the International Dublin Literary Award. 

Watch Laureate for Irish Fiction, Colm Tóibín, in conversation with Mike McCormack below




October Book Club Pick

The October Art of Reading Book Club Pick is My Father's House by Joseph O'Connor. 

“My Father’s House is set in Nazi-occupied Rome in the middle of the Second World War. Monsignor Hugh O’Flaherty who, using the Vatican as his headquarters, sets about smuggling thousands of Jews and Allied prisoners out to Italy to safety. The Financial Times writes that ‘the diverse ventriloquism of O’Connor’s novel evokes a city in peril with wonderful vitality'.” — Colm Tóibín

Watch Laureate for Irish Fiction, Colm Tóibín, in conversation with Joseph O'Connor below.

September Book Club Pick

The September Art of Reading Book Club Pick is Dance Move by Wendy Erskine.

"The Guardian writes of Wendy Erskine’s collection of stories: ‘She identifies what is most fruitful about her characters’ predicaments – the emotional core, the most resonant ironies – and traces with rapt and infectious attention their doomed if valiant attempts to shimmy away from the real.’ The stories, the Dublin Review of Books writes, ‘are gloriously offbeat tales of people who live on the flip side and are out of step with those around them.’" (Colm Tóibín)

Watch Laureate for Irish Fiction, Colm Tóibín, in conversation with Wendy Erskine below


July Book Club Pick

The Art of Reading Book Club pick for July is Nothing Special by Nicole Flattery.

Nothing Special is set at a very particular New York moment. It is 1966. Mae, the protagonist, lands a job as typist for the artist Andy Warhol who is embarking on an unconventional novel by taping the conversations of his associates and friend. Mae moves on the edges of Warhol’s world, attending the counterculture parties. The novel dramatizes her coming-of-age in Warhol’s New York. (Colm Tóibín).

Watch a discussion between Laureate for Fiction Colm Tóibin and the author.

June Book Club Pick

The Art of Reading Book Club Pick for June is Iron Annie by Luke Cassidy.

“Iron Annie is written with astonishing energy and verve. It is set in the criminal underworld of Dundalk, but more important, it is written in a tone that is intriguing and unforgettable. It uses a living and contemporary language distilled by Cassidy into a radically original style, a style that establishes him, with this debut book, as one of the most exciting writers in Ireland now.” — Colm Tóibín

Watch Laureate for Irish Fiction, Colm Tóibín, in conversation with Luke Cassidy below

May Book Club Pick

The May Art of Reading Book Club Pick is Haven by Emma Donoghue.

Haven, Emma Donoghue’s fourteenth novel, is set on Skellig Michael in the year 600 when three Irishmen decide to establish a monastery on this extraordinary piece of bare rock. The Chicago Review of Books has written: ‘In classic Donoghue narrative style, it all unfolds in a confined space under cramped conditions ... convincingly conveyed by Donoghue’s raw descriptions and her exceptional skill with emotionally authentic dialogue (Colm Tóibín)

Watch Laureate for Irish Fiction, Colm Tóibín, in conversation with Emma Donoghue below

April Book Club Pick

This Art of Reading Book Club, rescheduled from April, is on The Singularities by John Banville.

"In this brilliant and dreamy novel, John Banville gives life to the many characters who have peopled his fiction over fifty years. He allows them to meet each other, revisit old scenes not as ghosts or as revenants but as fictional protagonists with their own precise memories, their own pressing desires. There are some resonant evocations of place but all is bathed in a sense of pure aftermath" (Colm Tóibín)

Watch a discussion between Laureate for Fiction Colm Tóibin and the author below.

March Book Club Pick

The March Art of Reading book club features Laureate for Irish Fiction Colm Tóibín in conversation with writer Philip Ó Ceallaigh about his collection of short stories, Trouble.

Colm Tóibín and Philip Ó Ceallaigh met online with members of Granard Library book club to discuss the book. 

“Philip Ó Ceallaigh is a brilliant, uncompromising and ambitious writer who has long been resident in Bucharest. Of his collection of stories ‘Trouble’, the Los Angeles Review of Books wrote: ‘Ó Ceallaigh writes with such immediacy, such confessional intensity, that when the narrator leans in close and says, “Look — there lies trouble,” it is impossible to look away.”

February Book Club Pick

The February Art of Reading book club features Laureate for Irish Fiction Colm Tóibín in conversation with writer Louise Kennedy about her book Trespasses.

The unforgettable protagonist of Louise Kennedy’s Trespasses is 24-year-old Cushla Lavery, a Catholic schoolteacher living in 1975 in a small town outside Belfast. The novel narrates the story of her love affair with an older, married, Protestant barrister with the same wit and eye for detail as are on display in her book of stories The End of the World is a Cul de Sac. - Colm Tóibín

Louise Kennedy grew up in Holywood, Co. Down. Her short story collection, The End of the World is a Cul de Sac (Bloomsbury 2021) won the John McGahern Prize. Her debut novel, Trespasses (Bloomsbury 2022) won Eason’s Novel of the Year at An Post Irish Book Awards, and was shortlisted for the Waterstones Debut Fiction Prize and the Barnes & Noble Discover Prize. Before she started writing, she spent nearly thirty years working as a chef. She lives in Sligo.

January Book Club Pick

The January Art of Reading Book Club Pick is A Girl is a Half-formed Thing by Eimear McBride.

In describing his idea for the Art of Reading Book Club series Colm Tóibín said:  “Our experience of reading became more intense and more essential during the lockdown. Although reading is mainly done in silence and when alone, it includes a sense of community, an idea of sharing. Readers want to talk about the books they like, to think about the internal workings of a novel or a story, and exchange ideas on books, all to enrich the experience of reading. Reading, as much as writing, is an art. It requires a creative response to the text. No books matters unless someone is reading it. The purpose of the Art of Reading Book Club is to deepen the idea of a community of readers and to recognize the vitality and excitement in the act of reading and thinking about books.”

Watch Laureate for Irish Fiction, Colm Tóibín, in conversation with Eimear McBride below