Books of 2016

As I did last year, I am going to list off the ten books I’ve read in 2016 that I think are worth hearing about. Many, if not most, are – like with my 2015 list – not actually necessarily published in 2016. I just happen to have read them in the last year. As it was with 2015, what I’ve enjoyed reading in 2016 has been motivated in part by the fact that I have once again moved countries; this time from the Czech Republic to Norway, and so some books I’ve read since coming here and have been using to help me learn more about my new home are present.

As usual the struggle with reading is tied up in the struggle with writing and the constant struggle to widen the horizons of the kinds of books I read. Such a list is also affected by the fact that it’s easier for me to recall what I’ve read probably in the last 3-6 months of the year than in the first half, but here goes.

Claire Louise Bennett – Pond

I’ve already written a long piece on the blog earlier this year after reading this book. A string of connected short stories, Pond is a powerful examination of secluded living. Absolutely essential piece of fiction.

Karl Ove Knausgård– A Death in the Family

The biggest name in Norwegian literature there is at the moment, Knausgård’s six-volume autobiographical novel, Min Kamp (My Struggle), a title which self-consciously invokes comparison with the title of Adolf Hitler’s screed Mein Kampf, is anything but. A Death in the Family is the English-language title of the first book in the series and, broadly speaking, revolves around Knausgård coming to terms with the death of his father although that hardly begins to do the novel justice. The fifth volume has just come out in English, and the sixth is on its way. The series has cemented Knausgård’s reputation and many more books are available in Norwegian and English of his. I am also currently reading his Home and Away, a series of letters he wrote with a Swedish author friend around the 2014 World Cup.

Neil Gaiman – American Gods

A book I’ve been vaguely aware of for years, I read this in the first few weeks of moving to Norway and I enjoyed it immensely, I read it just after finishing the next book on the list, and the centrality of a character named Wednesday, in homage to Odin, suited my new surroundings well. It is, I think the first piece of fantasy I have read in many years, and it was a thorough page-turner. A party I’m very late to, but glad to have arrived at nonetheless in the end.

Robert Ferguson – The Hammer and the Cross

Ferguson has just released a new book, Scandinavians, which reflects on his many years experience of life in Norway and the other Scandinavian countries. I picked up this book, The Hammer and the Cross, to get some better historical bearings on the viking period and the shifting sands of Norwegian and broader Scandinavian history. An excellent read, it provides a great overview of the impact that Viking invasion had not just on the countries they invaded but also the impact those places had on Viking belief systems in turn. A good companion book is Michael Pye’s The Edge of the World, a history of the world from the point of view of the North Sea.

Mike Savage – Social Class in the 21st Century

This Pelican introduction book, which was based in large part on the recent Great British Class Survey was assembled by a team of sociologists. It is an extraordinary attempt to map class as it appears in modern Britain (with parallels for Ireland and elsewhere). Attempting to define class in an age when someone may be economically less well off while having significant cultural and social capital is difficult but this book makes a fairly successful stab at asking questions around what things like the precariat really are and how it is that new forms of cultural capital actually operate.

Stephen King – On Writing

In an effort to spur myself into writing more again, I picked up this hugely entertaining memoir that while offering advice on writing in parts, is really the story of how to build writing into your daily life regardless of the motivation for that writing. It’s not a style guide or a strategy to write your first novel, but as a well-written book about the craft of writing, it provides its own fine example.

Susanna Clarke – Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell

Spurred on by the positive experience I had with Gaiman’s American Gods, I finally went on to read this book which has recently been adapted as a TV series by the BBC. Among the most fun aspects of the book are the copious footnotes and the entire world of magical scholarship which Clarke builds into the narrative.

Alberto Manguel – Curiosity

The first Alberto Manguel book I bought a few years ago was The Library at Night, a book which many of my friends will know, is among my favourite works of non-fiction. Here in Curiosity, Manguel uses Dante’s inferno and his guide in Virgil as the basis for an exploration of different forms of human curiosity. As you’d expect from Manguel if you’re familiar with his writing, it is erudite, philosophical, playful and ultimately affirming.

Robert MacFarlane – Landmarks

I had several years ago considered buying MacFarlane’s The Old Ways, his walking tour of Britain’s lost, old or obscured roads and routes but put it off. Living in the Czech Republic and now Norway, my interest in walking, and the kinds of knowledge it gives has only increased. So, when I saw this book by him which considers the words-we-don’t-use-much-anymore to talk about landscape and features of nature while out walking, I couldn’t resist. Although it focuses on words and names related to the British Isles, it is such a treasure trove of writing, and a brilliantly curious book, that it will make walking anywhere – through any place name – a much more interesting experience.

Frederic Gros – A Philosophy of Walking

As I continue to do more walking, and to think more about the pleasures of walking and hiking, this book provides an excellent overview of some of the philosophical aspects of what different kinds of walking mean. Whether you are keeper of assiduous habits always walking the same route at the same pace at the same time daily, are an ambler, stroller, parader or conqueror, this book will give you pause for thought about what it is we are doing, what we are actually after when we go out walking.

Are any of these in your top books of 2016, or any time? Anyway, here’s to a year of good reading and to a year of good reading to come in 2017!

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Beyond the Garrison Game at PRONI, Belfast February 2017

Myself and Conor Curran are delighted to announce that on the 17th February 2017 at the Public Records Office of Northern Ireland in Belfast, in association with the British Society of Sports History, there will be a one day symposium to celebrate the publication of a special issue of Soccer & Society which we edited earlier this year.

The talks will take place throughout the day and the full timetable can be found here. The event is FREE but places are limited so be sure to register with eventbrite to secure your place for the day.

football

On the day the talks will take in a wide range of historical, economic and coaching related talks about soccer in Ireland north and south from the end of the nineteenth century to the present day. The line-up is as follows:

Morning Session: The Early Years

9.55 am-10.15 am Paul Gunning (Independent Scholar): The ‘Socker’ Code in Connacht, 1879-1906: Association Football in the Shamrock Shire’s Hy Brasil
10.15 am-10.35 am Aaron O’Maonaigh (Dublin City University): “Who were the Shoneens?”: Irish militant nationalists and association football, 1913-1923
10.35 am-10.55 am Tom Hunt (Independent Scholar): Harry Cannon: a unique Irish sportsman and administrator
10.55 am-11.10 am Questions and Answers

Late Morning Session: The 1960s onwards

11.40 am-12.00 pm Cormac Moore (De Montfort University): Football Unity During the Northern Ireland Troubles?
12.00 pm-12.20 pm Daniel Brown (Queen’s University, Belfast): Linfield’s ‘Hawk of Peace’: pre-Ceasefires reconciliation in Irish League football
12.20 pm-12.40 pm Helena Byrne (Independent Scholar): How it all began: the story of women’s soccer in sixties Drogheda
12.40 pm-12.55 pm Questions and Answers

1.00 pm-2.00 pm              Break for lunch

Afternoon Session: Coaching and Developing the Game

2.00 pm- 2.20 pm Conor Curran (Dublin City University): The development of schoolboy coaching structures for association football in Ireland, 1945-1995
2.20 pm- 2.40 pm Seamus Kelly (University College Dublin): Pedagogy, Game Intelligence & Critical Thinking: The Future of Irish Soccer?
2.40 pm- 2.55 pm Questions and Answers

Late Afternoon Session: Supporters and Governance

3.00 pm- 3.20 pm Mark Tynan (Independent Scholar): ‘Inciting the roughs of the crowd’: Soccer hooliganism in the south of Ireland during the inter-war period, 1919-1939
3.20 pm- 3.40pm Robert and David Butler (University College Cork): Rule Changes and Incentives in the League of Ireland from 1970 – 2014
3.40pm- 3.55pm Questions and Answers
3.55pm- 4.15 pm Closing Comments

It promises to an interesting and enlivening day of discussion and isn’t to be missed. We look forward to seeing you there in the New Year!