As bookshops and libraries got fully back to business again, 2022 proved to be a great year for non-fiction and biographies. Meanwhile Irish crime writing continued its exceptionally strong streak while TikTok started a whole new conversation about books, putting refreshing emphasis on commercial and women's fiction.

Here then, are some of my personal favorites from 2022:

Haven - Emma Donoghue

This year's publication from the celebrated Irish author was a relatively quiet book, but no less effective for its restrained tone. It’s the story of a group of 7th century monks who set up camp on the Skelligs but find that living a life dedicated to God is not easy when you are struggling for earthly survival. My full review is here.

Trespasses - Louise Kennedy

Already a best seller, Trespasses has picked up many accolades, the most recent being Novel of the Year at the An Post Irish Book Awards. The novel tells the story of Cushla, who lives in a small town outside Belfast in the 1970s but it’s as much a love story as it is a ‘Troubles novel’, and a fascinating family portrait. My full review is here.

Book Lovers – Emily Henry

US author Emily Henry is ‘huge on TikTok, but I actually came to her work via another app, the BorrowBox service from Dublin City Libraries. Henry writes what would loosely be termed ‘romantic fiction’, but like all good romance there are far more layers to this story than a simple ‘boy meets girl’ tale. Book Lovers depicts a flirtation between a literary agent and an editor and is a hilarious read, particularly for anyone with inside knowledge of how the literary world operates.As with all of Henry’s work, there is pain alongside the passion and Book Lovers also deals with loss, grief and moving on.

We need your consent to load this YouTube contentWe use YouTube to manage extra content that can set cookies on your device and collect data about your activity. Please review their details and accept them to load the content.Manage Preferences

London with Love – Sarra Manning

A classic ‘will they, won’t they’ story, set over two decades in London, which is itself a character in this charming novel. A must read for anyone who remembers paisley shirts, and wore Docs first time around!

Carrie Soto is Back – Taylor Jenkins Reid

Taylor Jenkins Reid first came to my attention through her brilliant book, Daisy Jones and the Six which is set in the world of 1970s rock music. I adore books about music so that one was an easy sell to me, and when I heard that her latest book was set in the world of competitive tennis, something I care little about, I wondered if this novel would hold my interest in the same way. Turns out I had nothing to worry about. Carrie Soto is reared by a widowed father who puts all of his energy into coaching his talented daughter and helping - or pushing? - her along the road to tennis stardom.Winning matches, however, turns out to be the easy part of growing up. This is a well-researched, exciting and genuinely tender book.

CRIME FICTION

Everyone loves a bit of intrigue over the turkey sandwiches, and one of my favorite books this year was the gripping With a Mind to Kill, Anthony Horowitz’s final spin in Bond’s Aston Martin. This third Horowitz/Bond instalment begins at M’s funeral – but who killed him? Add in spies, brainwashing and some superb set pieces and you get a gloriously entertaining and surprisingly poignant novel that would make a better movie than many of the Bond stories that actually made it to the big screen.

We need your consent to load this rte-player contentWe use rte-player to manage extra content that can set cookies on your device and collect data about your activity. Please review their details and accept them to load the content.Manage Preferences

Listen: Anthony Horowitz talks to Ryan Tubridy

The Winter Guest sees Irish author WC Ryan set a story in Ireland for the first time. It’s January 1921 and while the Great War in Europe is over, Ireland is of course still in the grip of unrest. This is a chilly, beautifully written mystery with a Big House and an actual ghost – the perfect fireside read.

And speaking of chills, The Last to Disappear sees Dublin author Jo Spain heading to Finland and giving us an atmospheric thriller with plenty of tension but also her trademark lightness of touch. My crime novel of the year.

SHORT STORIES

Homesickness by Colin Barrett is an outstanding collection, telling tales about young men and women navigating modern Ireland.

Witty, perceptive and frequently poignant, these stories will leave you shaking your head with recognition and wanting to go back for a second look.

We need your consent to load this rte-player contentWe use rte-player to manage extra content that can set cookies on your device and collect data about your activity. Please review their details and accept them to load the content.Manage Preferences

Listen: Colin Barrett reads from Homesickness for RTÉ Arena

NON FICTION

Seán Hewitt was initially known as a poet but his memoir, ‘All Down Darkness Wide’ is a superb piece of prose, the elegantly written memoir of a young gay man coming to terms , first with his own needs and then the devastating mental illness of his partner. I read this beautiful book in one go and was thinking about it for a long time afterwards.

We need your consent to load this rte-player contentWe use rte-player to manage extra content that can set cookies on your device and collect data about your activity. Please review their details and accept them to load the content.Manage Preferences

Listen: Sean Hewitt talks to RTÉ Arena

Fierce Appetites by Elizabeth Boyle

This is a tough book to describe – is it a memoir? A pandemic story, an academic work of medieval history? Fierce Appetities is, in fact all of that, and more. Dr Elizabeth Boyle is a specialist in medieval Irish history and early Irish, a daughter, a mother and a heavy metal fan and she brings all of her interests to bear on this fascinating collection of personal essays. Don’t try and explain it, just read it.

We need your consent to load this rte-player contentWe use rte-player to manage extra content that can set cookies on your device and collect data about your activity. Please review their details and accept them to load the content.Manage Preferences

Listen: Elizabeth Boyle talks to Ryan Tubridy

From Russia with Blood – Heidi Blake

Events in Ukraine earlier this year sent me searching for books to teach me more about Russia and Vladimir Putin and one of the most accessible I found was From Russia with Blood by Heidi Blake. The book chronicles more than a dozen suspicious deaths over the past two decades and draws together strands of the story in an engaging, journalistic style.

We need your consent to load this YouTube contentWe use YouTube to manage extra content that can set cookies on your device and collect data about your activity. Please review their details and accept them to load the content.Manage Preferences

The Last Good Funeral of the Year – Ed O’Loughlin

This book begins as journalist Ed O’Loughlin learns of the death of his ex-girlfriend, Charlotte. Such an event would be cause for reflection at any time, but Charlotte’s funeral takes place in February 2020 and so becomes the last gathering O’Loughlin will attend for many months. This thoughtful, moving and often funny memoir follows one man during the long, strange months of 2020 but asks many universal questions about aging, achievement and acceptance.

Time and Tide – Charlie Bird with Ray Burke

Charlie Bird was the best known journalist in the country during his years with RTE and retained his profile after his retirement, continuing to broadcast, podcast and campaign on issues including the Stardust tragedy. However his life took an unexpected and unwelcome turn in late 2021 when he was diagnosed with motor neurone disease. This book is a compassionate and appropriately journalistic look at what transpired, including the Climb with Charlie initiative which raised over three million Euro.

We need your consent to load this YouTube contentWe use YouTube to manage extra content that can set cookies on your device and collect data about your activity. Please review their details and accept them to load the content.Manage Preferences

And finally, in a twist absolutely anyone who knows me will have seen coming...

Surrender – Bono

The 'buke what he wrote himself', is an engaging, self-aware and genuinely funny account of a life spent in the public eye and the efforts one rock star has made to use his fame as currency. The printed book is a great read, but the audio version, read by the singer, has documentary level prodution values and raises the bar for music audio-biographies. My full review can be found here, alongside with an interview with the man himself. Well, it is Christmas!

Wishing you a merry one...