Cleveland Comhrá: Top Ten of 2021

Cleveland Comhrá: Top Ten of 2021
by Bob Carney

Happy New Year everyone, it’s hard to believe that it’s been a year since I picked my favorite ten books of the past twelve months. If you’re a regular reader of this column, you’ll recognize some of them that I used for reference for some of my columns this past year. Once again, in no particular order, are my top ten of 2021.

by Dacre Stoker and J.D. Barker
This summer after a trip to the bookstore with my grand-daughter, where I picked up a copy of Bram Stoker’s  Dracula, I found myself immersed in  stories of vampires. I read a couple of other books by Stoker, as well as a couple of books that predated Dracula. But, it was this book by the great-grand nephew of Bram and his co-author that starts our list. Dracul, could almost be considered a prequel of sorts to the  original Dracula. It was inspired by the notes and texts passed down from his ancestor. It explains the background of a young Bram Stoker, his obsession with the undead and features a twist on the Irish legend of The Dearg Doe, a female vampire that preyed on the men around Waterford. If you’re a fan of horror tales, I think you’ll like this one.

The Last Pirate of New York
by Rich Cohen
Earlier in the year, I wrote about the young pirate Anne Bonney, when my father and I were talking about it, he handed me this book telling me it was very interesting. It is the story of Albert Hicks, to call him a criminal would be an understatement.

His twenty plus years in a life of crime and murder finally caught up to him the summer before the Civil War broke out. The book is non-fiction, but more frightening than any vampire story when you consider that people like Hicks walk among us.

A History of Ireland in 100 Words
by Sharon Arbuthnot, Máire Ní Mhaonaigh and Gregory Toner
I’ve spoken of this book to my fellow Irish language students in our Speak Irish Cleveland classes at P.J. McIntyre’s. It’s a great book for anyone who has an interest in Irish culture and history. Each chapter begins with an Irish word, it’s explained and is followed by a brief essay, before you know it, you’ve learned 100 Irish words and a great deal of knowledge about Ireland’s history and people.

The New Climate War by Michael E. Mann
One of the biggest challenges we face in addressing climate change is the dis-information being spread.  Time and resources are being wasted in refuting statements that are not based in fact but ideology. Definitely not light reading, but highly informative if you care about our future.

Washington’s Spies The Story of America’s First Spy Ring 
by Alexander Rose
Without the information this group of patriots supplied Washington with during America’s war for independence, there most likely would have been a different outcome. Rose details how Washington co-ordinated his agents and based his strategies accordingly, allowing our smaller, underfunded army and militia victory over a greater adversary.

In Harm’s Way
by Doug Stanton
Students of world War II are familiar with the sinking of the USS Indianapolis in the South Pacific by a Japanese torpedo in 1945. For everyone else, the character Quint in the movie  JAWS  said it best, “So, 1,100 men went into the water, three-hundred and sixteen men come out and the sharks took the rest, June the 29th, 1945.”

Although the numbers and the date were incorrect, it was almost nine hundred men and it happened July 30, 1945, the story is true. Stanton tells us why the ship was there, unescorted, and the delay in sending out searches when it did not arrive at it’s destination. With interviews with survivors, he conveys the terror and human tragedy that occured over four days and nights in the Pacific Ocean as the war was coming to a close.

by William Bryant Logan
In this modern world of steel and concrete, many lose the connection that humans have had with the environment since our beginnings. In many civilizations prior to a mechanized world, the oak tree was vital to their existence.

The acorn was a food source for many species, including man. Where the oak grew, nourishment could be had. It was so important, that celtic life was centered around the oak; a druid was said to have oak wisdom and was looked to for guidence. Logan covers a lot of ground in this great book of history, spirituality and of course nature.

Striking Thoughts
by Bruce Lee
In order to calm my inner dragon, I’ve read many books on philosophy, from the writings of Thoreau to John O’Donohue and others. There is a common thread found in the creeds of the Far East, Celtic and Native Americans; knowing that a balance and respect between all living things and our planet is essential to our existence.

In this collection, Bruce shares the beliefs that helped guide him through his life and to succeed in what he strived for. I like this book because you can flip it open to any page, read a paragraph and set it down, it does not lose anything by not starting on page one and reading it to the back cover.

Think Indigenous, Native American Spirituality for a Modern World by Doug Goodfeather
Hard to put a label on this book. Goodfeather shares the wisdom handed down by his ancestors, expanding on the “threefold path;” in modern vernacular, conscious living or living in harmony with nature. Mindful consumption, using and nurturing what our planet provides us, and collective impact, being a useful part of the community. I suppose it could be a “self-help” book for humanity.

The Tiger
by John Vaillant
It’s been ten years since I purchased and read The Tiger the first time. This summer marked my third reading and fourth purchase. I keep giving it away, thank goodness for my favorite second hand book shop.

This is the true story of an attempted poaching of an Amur Tiger, a protected and endangered species in the Russian Far East. “People don’t live in Sobolonye, they survive.” When the tiger was wounded it became a killer, first stalking and killing the poacher that shot it and then others.

It’s also the story of the people that make their home in one of the most brutal climates on earth. It’s a very harsh existence, where the trees in the forest can explode when the sap freezes in the sixty below temperatures. Sadly it chronicles the actions and thoughts of the men that protect the species that are sent to hunt the tiger and kill it for it’s crimes. Incredible story!

I hope that some of you will find something of interest. I’d love recommendations from you! Wishing you a happy and healthy New Year.

*Bob Carney is a student of Irish language and history and teaches the Speak Irish Cleveland class held every Tuesday at P.J. McIntyre’s. He is also active in the Irish Wolfhound and Irish dogs organizations in and around Cleveland. Wife Mary, hounds Morrighán and Rían and terrier Doolin keep the house jumping. He can be reached at [email protected].

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