Every month our team members pick a book that’s tickled their fancy and we recommend it to you, our network so that we can all read, learn and grow together – just think of it as our own little book club! Because reading is what? Fundamental!
I’m not so much of a poetry fan – I’ve never had the attention span for long poems and I often lose track of the thread midway through a stanza. Even as a high school emo who so wanted to be able to keep up with Anne Sexton and Sylvia Plath, they just never really resonated with me. When I first discovered a video of O’Hara reading his poem Having a Coke With You on a random Tumblr back in 2009, however, it stuck with me. It was simple, it made sense, and I didn’t have to reach for the meaning. I love how he writes – it’s matter of fact yet profound (obviously I’m not a poet myself). I read Lunch Poems while I was away in Spain, and the more I read of O’Hara’s poetry, the more I appreciated his way of looking at the world.
You may have heard but I was just home in South Africa, so forgive me if I’m feeling a little biased. Circles in a Forest is a coming-of-age story about an Afrikaans woodcutter named Saul Barnard, set in and around the South African town of Knysna in the nineteenth century. Knysna is an area I spent most of my Easter holidays, and make sure I visit whenever I’m home. It is extraordinarily beautiful (picture Jurassic Park forest meets ocean cliffs of Ireland), which made reading this novel all the more special. It focuses on the impact of a gold rush on the Outeniqua forest, its Afrikaans and Khoekhoe residents (the indignieous people) and the now extinct Knysna elephants. It is heartbreaking and moving and beautifully written and even if you haven’t been to South Africa, I’d recommend you give it a read. It’s been translated into 12 different languages (from its original Afrikaans) so the complicated part is done. I’m currently reading another in her ‘Forest Series’, called The Mulberry Forest, and I have been warned that it’s more heart-wrenching than the last, but I’ll let you know.
Seamus O’Hara is a hilarious Irish comedian and writer who is famous for tickling funny bones in a deadpan but endearingly real way. This book, Did Ye Hear Mammy Died, is an honest recollection of his childhood and the passing of his mother who left him, his father, and eleven siblings (yes, eleven siblings, very catholic, very Ireland) behind. Though this scene feels like the backdrop for a very tragic and upsetting tale, and in some respects it is, somehow O’Hara manages to navigate the story with a flair of humour that is totally remarkable, particularly considering the fact that the book is set against the landscape of the Troubles. It’s a truly funny, relatable, and refreshing read and I’d recommend it to anyone who is looking to brighten up their Berlin Winter. Once again I recognise that’s a crazy thing to say about a book that regards a widowed father and twelve children, but truly, that’s how fantastic Seamus O’Hara is.