February Books for Blokes

Since we’ve been on a bit of an Irish kick here for the past couple of weeks – part of our continuing investigations of the world’s whiskies – we asked our resident man of letters, Russell Smith, to recommend a couple of books that dwell on the Emerald Isle and its troubled past. It’s part of this month’s list of Books for Blokes.

Eureka Street, by Robert McLiam Wilson: A rollicking and hilarious story of Belfast during the most recent round of troubles (the 1990s). This is a perfect guy’s book, full of black humour, drunken sex and meaningless violence. There’s lots of broad satire of the situation, too: both Catholics and Protestants come off as nuts.

Troubles, by J.G. Farrell: This classic novel is set in Ireland in 1919, and is another funny combination of failed romance and awkwardness set against the backdrop of violent social upheaval. Something about the Irish enables them to keep a sense of humour about the tragedies.

Loving, by Henry Green: We’ve recommended a book by this great experimental modernist before: it was called Party Going, and it was about the frivolous rich in London in the 30s. This one is about the class “below stairs”: it’s set in a country house in Ireland during the second world war. The aristocratic owners are away and the servants’ competitive and amorous interaction makes for tense reading. Green is a master of style: every paragraph is lovely.

When The Lights Went Out: How One Brawl Ended Hockey’s Cold War and Changed the Game, by Gare Joyce: A painstaking account of the brawl at the 1987 World Junior championships between Canadians and Soviets – the last time the two hockey superpowers faced each other as Cold War rivals. Gare Joyce is often said to be one of the best sports writers on the continent, and his engaging and colourful style proves it.

Web of Deceit: The History of Western Complicity In Iraq, From Churchill to Kennedy to George W. Bush, by Barry M. Lando: Not a fun read, but a convincing one, this is a detailed account of every way in which the Western powers contributed to the creation of the very dictatorial state that the U.S. so proudly toppled a few years ago. The proof that the U.S. armed and supported Saddam right up until the invasion of Kuwait is here. Depressing but fascinating.

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