Books newsletter: Sally Hayden on Baillie Gifford longlist; Granard festival; Murder One

A preview of Saturday’s pages and a round-up of the latest literary news

In The Irish Times this Saturday, Alice Ryan, daughter of former Irish Times literary editor Caroline Walsh, talks to Alex Clark about her debut novel; Dara McAnulty discusses his new nature book for children with Patrick Freyne; Deirdre Falvey meets the crew behind the stage adaptation of The Blackwater Lightship by Colm Tóibín; Jay Roszman of UCC, author of Outrage in the Age of Reform, writes about Ireland’s long influence on British politics; and there is a Q&A with popular historian Ben Macintyre, author of a ground-breaking new book on Colditz.

Reviews are Joseph O’Connor on Crazy Dreams by Paul Brady; Una Mullally on Road to Repeal; NJ McGarrigle on The Making of the Modern Middle East by Jeremy Bowen; Declan O’Driscoll on the best new translations; Tom Clonan on Command by Lawrence Freedman; Ronan McGreevy on The Irish Civil War in Colour; John O’Donnell on Lessons from the Bench by Gillian Hussey; Nicholas Canny on the Devil over the Sea by Sarah Covington; Helen Cullen on Less is Lost by Andrew Sean Greer; Eilis Ni Dhuibhne on A Little Unsteadily Into the Light, edited by Jan Carson and Jane Lugea; and Sarah Gilmartin on Kate Atkinson’s Shrines of Gaiety.

This Saturday’s Irish Times Eason offer is The Paris Apartment by Lucy Foley. You can buy this bestselling thriller for just €4.99, a €6 saving, with your paper this weekend.

My Fourth Time, We Drowned: Seeking Refuge on the World’s Deadliest Migration Route by Sally Hayden has made the longlist for the Baillie Gifford Prize for Non-Fiction, which celebrates the best in non-fiction writing. The winner will receive £50,000 and each shortlisted author will receive £1,000.


The 11 other titles longlisted are Legacy of Violence: A History of the British Empire by Caroline Elkins; Invisible Child: Poverty, Survival & Hope in an American City by Andrea Elliott; The Escape Artist: The Man Who Broke Out of Auschwitz to Warn the World by Jonathan Freedland; Otherlands: A World in the Making by Thomas Halliday; Dinner With Joseph Johnson: Books and Friendship in a Revolutionary Age by Daisy Hay; Original Sins: A Memoir by Matt Rowland Hill; The Restless Republic: Britain Without a Crown by Anna Keay; A Fortunate Woman: A Country Doctor’s Story by Polly Morland; The Barefoot Woman by Scholastique Mukasonga, translated by Jordan Stump; Super-Infinite: The Transformations of John Donne by Katherine Rundell; Kingdom of Characters: A Tale of Language, Obsession, and Genius in Modern China by Jing Tsu.

Caroline Sanderson, chair of judges, said: “It was a fiendishly difficult, but also highly enjoyable process by which my fellow judges and I arrived at the final 12 books in contention for the 2022 Baillie Gifford Prize. I’m delighted with our longlist which shows off non-fiction in all its splendid breadth, depth and scope; from outstanding reportage, and compelling memoir to illuminating history books and mind-expanding popular science. And perhaps most importantly, all 12 books have been written with the experience of the reader firmly in mind.”

The six-book shortlist will be announced on October 10th at Cheltenham Literature Festival. The winner will be announced on November 17th at an award ceremony at the Science Museum. Last year’s winner was Patrick Radden Keefe for Empire of Pain.


Granard Booktown Festival will take place from April 21st to 23rd, 2023 and will feature some of the finest international, national and local writers showcasing a wealth of storytelling from climate change to international politics to the place of history and farming in rural Ireland.

The festival is run by a committee of local writers, artists and academics and will be a fully accessible festival. It has already attracted significant literary figures from Ireland and abroad as patrons, notably Man Booker prize winner Richard Flanagan, Emmy nominated journalist and Longford native Shaunagh Connaire, former Longford County librarian Mary Carlton Reynolds and RTE radio host and founder of Ireland’s largest book club, Rick O Shea.

“As a child of Longford (Tasmania) to where my Irish forebears were sent as convicts during the Famine, I feel an odd affinity with Longford (Ireland),” Flanagan said. “I know the affirmative and sometimes transformative power of small places dreaming themselves anew and so I was delighted to be asked to be patron of the Granard Booktown Festival. One word follows another and in this way sentences, novels and new worlds are made and so I hope too with this festival and the town it celebrates.’

O’Shea said: “I couldn’t have been more thrilled when I was asked to be one of the Patrons for a brand-new festival and the inauguration of Granard as a Book Town. It’s a place that’s perfect for a new project like this and, in the heartland of what is already a thriving arts scene in Longford, I’m certain it’s going to become one of the annual highlights of the calendar.”

Booktowns are found throughout the world from Wigtown, Scotland (which has been helping the Granard committee to establish Ireland’s first Booktown) to South Africa, Spain and the USA. Booktowns use the arts to bring cultural events to rural communities and house bookstores with the aim of attracting cultural tourists to the area, where writers and the public can meet, discuss books and share in the enjoyment of reading and all things cultural.

Led by Still Voices Film Festival co-founder Ronan O’Toole and author John Connell, Granard Booktown is run by a diverse group of people from across Longford including Viv Huynh, James Cawley, Remu Adejinmi, Belinda McKeon and Turlough McGovern. It is the aim of the board is to see the festival established as one of Ireland’s premier literary festivals and a destination for tourists.


Murder One, Ireland’s International Crime Writing Festival is back live from October 4th-9th with a host of in-person events at a new venue, Dn Laoghaire’s dlr LexIcon Library and Cultural Centre, many of which will be live-streamed online.

Cultural historian and TV presenter, Lucy Worsley, will be discussing her biography of Agatha Christie while Mick Herron, talks to fellow crime author Declan Hughes about his latest novel, Bad Actors. Ann Cleeves tells us about her latest Vera Stanhope mystery, while Steve Cavanagh and Lisa Jewell also headline. In addition to these UK visitors, the festival will showcase the cream of Irish crime writing talent with Catherine Ryan Howard, Brian McGilloway, Andrea Mara, Edel Coffey and Sinead Crowley among those appearing on a range of hot-topic panels. In keeping with the hybrid format extensively used during Covid, two US greats, Laura Lippman and Jean Hanff Korelitz, take part in online interviews.

Murder One is run by crime author Sam Blake and festival director Bert Wright. Blake said: “Murder One is supported this year by Dun Laoghaire Rathdown Libraries as well as the Arts Council and Dublin City of Literature – it’s a festival all about readers and post pandemic, when reading became such an important distraction, we want to re-introduce you to the irreplaceable experience of live author events while retaining an online presence to widen access for those who find it difficult to attend festivals.”

Wright said, “Murder One had only just secured a toe-hold on the festival circuit when Covid hit so it was discouraging to have our momentum so abruptly curtailed in that way. Fortunately, our audience was happy to support us online and hopefully this enthusiasm will carry over to what we think is a stellar programme in our new venue in Dun Laoghaire. It promises to be enormous fun.”

Catherine Gallagher, Dún Laoghaire Rathdown County Librarian said “we are delighted to be involved this year with MURDER ONE. Connecting readers and authors is a key part of what we aspire to do in dlr Libraries and crime books are some of the most consistently borrowed and read. We look forward to welcoming audiences old and new to dlr LexIcon in October.”

Children’s Books Ireland (CBI) returns to the Light House Cinema in Smithfield, Dublin, this weekend for All the Way Home, their annual international conference. Welcoming speakers from across Ireland and the world, this year’s line-up includes much-loved and renowned authors, poets and illustrators such as Carson Ellis, Alex Wheatle, Nikita Gill, Eoin Colfer, Chris Judge and Paddy Donnelly. Also appearing at the two-day event is Steve McCarthy whose beautiful illustration provided the artwork for the conference.

Events of note include the presentation of the Annual CBI Award on Saturday, recognising outstanding contributions to the world of children’s books and reading, and on Sunday the first meeting of the new Waterstones UK children’s Laureate, Joseph Coelho and his Irish counterpart, Laureate na nÓg Áine Ní Ghlinn. The pair will join award-winning children’s author Patricia Forde to discuss their respective work, representing between them, all children on the island of Ireland.


Listowel Writers’ Week is hoping to recruiit a programme curator to devise a literary programme for its 2023 festival, which takes place from May 31st to June 4th. The deadline for applications is September 30th.