The Art of Reading Book Club with Colm Toibin 2022

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.  

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 2022, 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 2022. 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.

Read more about the selected books here

November Book Club Pick

The November Art of Reading Book Club Pick is The Last September by Elizabeth Bowen.

The Laureate says “This is another novel set during the Irish War of Independence. Just as Martina Devlin’s book is about solitude and introspection, this centres on a house party, scenes filled with chatter and strange silences, things unmentioned and unmentionable. And in the background are the insurgents, the sense of impending doom.”

Watch Laureate for Irish Fiction, Colm Toibin in conversation with writer Thomas McCarthy at Cashel Library.

October Book Club Pick

The October Art of Reading Book Club Pick is Edith by Martina Devlin.

The Laureate says “Edith is an engrossing and sensitive portrait of the writer Edith Somerville during the War of Independence when her writing partner Violet Ross is dead and her own career as a writer not flourishing. It is a portrait of a sensitive, solitary figure in a time of turmoil, of a woman striking out as an artist in a time when there were many barriers”.

Watch Laureate for Irish Fiction, Colm Toibin in conversation with the author.

September Book Club Pick

The September Art of Reading Book Club Pick is The Ante-Room by Kate O'Brien.

The Laureate says “This novel is written with great intensity, being set over a time period of three days in which the focus is on the entire life of a single family, all the secrets and treacheries coming into the open. Time and character are dealt with in this book with sharp insight, masterful precision.”

Watch Colm Tóibín in coversation with author Una Mannion, filmed in the Ballymun Library in Dublin.

August Book Club Pick

The August Art of Reading Book Club Pick is The Barracks by John McGahern.

The Laureate Colm Tóibín says “This bleak, unrelenting novel portrays a woman in the Irish midlands who has married a policeman and become a surrogate mother to his children in the time after his first wife’s death. Elizabeth, too, is facing her own death. Her character is drawn with great sympathy. The most intimate moments are handled with piercing sensitivity and truthfulness."

Watch Colm Tóibín in conversation with author, editor, and Professor Frank Shovlin, filmed in the Bantry Library in County Cork.

July Book Club Pick

The July Art of Reading Book Club Pick is Exciting Times by Naoise Dolan.

What the Laureate for Irish Fiction Colm Tóibín says "This novel is a tour-de-force work about exile and the world of expats in Hong Kong. Seeking accommodation, looking for love, teaching English as a foreign language, dealing with foreigners, being Irish, calling home, are all dramatized with wit and emotional accuracy and a refusal to settle for easy narrative solutions."

Watch Colm Tóibín in conversation with author Naoise Dolan filmed at the City Library in Cork.

June Book Club Pick

The June Art of Reading Book Club book is In the Middle of the Fields by Mary Lavin.

The Laureate says “These stories are written with a spareness, a wryness, that manage to make the source of their immense power ambiguous and mysterious. In the title story, it is unclear what the dominant emotion is, whether it is grief or shock or fear or resignation. That way of writing at an angle to easy assumptions, easy interpretations, makes Mary Lavin’s stories luminous and memorable”

Watch Colm Tóibín in conversation with Mary Lavin’s granddaughter Alice Ryan and author Sinead Gleeson filmed at the Lexicon in Dun Laoghaire.

May book club pick


The May Art of Reading Book Club book is Homesickness by Colin Barrett.

Colin Barrett has the ability to create character and create a scene in a few sentences. His dialogue that seems so spare and clipped manages to establish mood and build tension. His scenes are constructed with great sympathy, but there is also a bleakness in his vision. What is remarkable in his work is the texture of the language, the use of metaphor, the handling of rhythm.

Watch Colm Tóibín in conversation with Colin Barrett below.

April book club pick 


The April Art of Reading Book Club book is The Pages by Hugo Hamilton. 

This is an ingeniously told story, narrated by an actual book, a novel by the Austrian writer Joseph Roth, offering an account of its picaresque travels to America and back to Europe, while in the background we learn of the life of Joseph Roth himself and the dark times he lived in.

Watch Colm Tóibín in conversation with Hugo Hamilton below.

March book club pick 


The March Art of Reading Book Club book is Esther Walters by George Moore. 

The book club event features Colm in conversation with Adrian Frazier, professor emeritus of National University of Ireland, Galway and author of George Moore, 1852-1933 (2000).

February book club pick


The first Art of Reading book club choice is Small Things Like These by Claire Keegan

This short novel manages to dramatize both private life and public matters. It does so by working in careful, meticulous, emotionally-accurate detail, making no grand statements about character or circumstance. Everything is intimate, almost low-key, and yet the implications of the narrative are far-reaching. 

Watch Colm Tóibín in conversation with Claire Keegan below.