Comfort Eating by Grace Dent takes an amusing and nostalgic look at what we eat when there’s nobody around.

This week: fiction, non-fiction, memoir, self-help and a little magic for youngsters

There’s a mixed bag this week of fiction, non-fiction, memoir, self-help and a little magic for youngsters from a well-known mentalist of international renown.

The Worst Thing You Ever Did, Karen Perry, Michael Joseph, €12.99

A tense psychological thriller, this is the story of Faye and Michael and something they did as students in Barcelona in 2010, when the continent became covered in the volcanic ash that blew over from Iceland. The couple swore they would never tell anyone and would carry their secret to the grave. Fast forward 10 years, they’re no longer an item; Faye is married, has a successful career in Dublin and her husband Ed has published his first novel. There’s a baby on the way, too. And now Michael shows up, threatening to reveal his and Faye’s secret if Faye doesn’t play ball. Unpredictable and dark, a real page-turner.

The Berry Pickers, Amanda Peters, Penguin Fig Tree, €16

In 1962, young Joe’s Mi’kmaq family travel from Nova Scotia to Maine to berry-pick for the summer. Seven of them arrive, only six return home. The youngest child, Ruthie, just four years old, goes missing and is never found. Joe, who was six at the time and the last person to see his sister, never recovers. Back in Maine, young Norma’s overbearing mother and emotionally crippled father have no answers to her questions like, for instance, why she’s so brown and they’re so white. The dots are joined early on – this novel isn’t a thriller. Rather, it’s the story of two lives destroyed, of Joe, who drifts into addiction and has a horrendous accident, scarred for life on all kinds of levels, and Norma, rootless and unable to find her feet. A sobering tale about the ‘whitening’ of American (and Canadian) indigenous peoples, a project doomed to fail as recent Canadian newsreels have shown. It’s a quiet, understated exploration of the destruction of two young lives.

Mind Magic, Keith Barry, Gill, €16.99

Keith Barry, probably our best known ‘brain hacker’, has produced this book for a younger audience, explaining the secrets behind lots of his tricks but also informing kids of how they can ‘train their brain’ to be more resilient, happier and more confident in their day-to-day lives. Aimed at the seven-12-year-old market, it’s a bit of magic with a bit of positive psychology thrown in.

The I’m Grand Mamual, PJ Kirby & Kevin Twomey, Gill €14.99

Two best friends from Cork, both gay men, one a dancer and the other in musical theatre, meet up in London, where they’re trying to make it in their respective professions, though they end up mostly in dead-end service jobs. They decide to try a podcast series to show their mammies back in Cork they’re doing OK. The podcast is a massive hit. So they write a book about their story, and this is it. By turns funny and heart-wringing, they talk about their highs and lows, about discrimination, about finding and losing work and anything else that comes into their heads. Entertaining, yet sobering stuff.

Modern Family, Brian Dowling and Arthur Gourounlian, Gill, €19.99

If you’ve seen the documentary about broadcaster Dowling and Dancing With the Stars judge Gourounlian, then you’ll know their story of wanting a baby, finding a surrogate mother (Brian’s sister), and the eventual birth of their little girl. Their memoir goes further and deeper, telling the story of the couple’s early lives, their meeting and marrying and how they’ve both become household names as broadcasters. It’s also a heartwarming tale about an unusual family unit, illustrating that family has less to do with the old familiar nuclear model and far more to do with love. A charming book.

Comfort Eating, Grace Dent, Faber, €14.99

One of Britain’s most feted food writers and podcasters takes an amusing and nostalgic look at what we eat when there’s nobody around. And even though the book looks at the comfort foods of Dent’s childhood, it rings many familiar bells for anyone over 40. Remember Angel Delight? Tinned pasta? Sunday (marrowfat) peas? Chips for tea? Fried (god help us) bread? Dent also hooks up with well-known media personalities, encouraging them to divulge their most guilty comfort food pleasures, and the result is a walk down memory lane, and some hilarious anecdotes too. Not a book for the health food police, nor the ‘my body is a temple’ gym bunnies, but pure entertainment for the rest of us.

Glutton, Ed Gamble, Bantam Press, €16.99

Comedian and podcaster Gamble is well used to asking other people about what food means to them in his popular podcast series Off Menu. In this memoir, he writes about what food has meant to him at various stages of his life. From being an obese little boy to ending up as a diabetic with an unfortunate sweet tooth, it’s not all laugh-a-minute stuff. Although it is full of laughter and self-deprecation, as you’d expect, given that his ‘fat brain will not allow sharing’. He shares plenty by way of anecdotes and his thoughts on our relationship with food, making for an interesting as well as a funny read.

The Freedom Within, Gerry Hussey, Hachette, €16.99

Self-care isn’t selfish, insists performance psychologist Hussey and while I think most reasonable people would agree with this basic tenet, so many of us are held back by poor emotional health or shaky self-esteem. He also insists that a sound emotional state of being is within all our grasps and in this book provides the tools for unlocking – and unblocking – that core within ourselves which can free us from the crippling condition of self-doubt, anxiety and a host of other negative issues. He’s also candid about his own struggles in this book, making it as authentic as it gets, his attitude being if he can overcome his difficulties, so can you. A little powerhouse of a book.


Well worth a trip to the capital, Dublin Zoo’s Wild Lights is an after-dark trip to fantasy land for all the family that you really can’t miss. It ends on this coming Sunday 14th. See for details and tickets.

If you fancy a break in Donegal, check out the Atlantic Irish Fest, taking place from January 22 to 26 in Bundoran, five days of cultural talks and tours, outdoor activities and a full programme of live music with Donegal’s best musicians. See for details.