Cleveland Comhrá: Top Ten of 2022

Cleveland Comhrá: Top Ten of 2022
By Bob Carney

It’s hard to believe it’s that time of year again. Once more it was difficult to narrow down my top ten books of the previous year. I stayed with my usual topics of interest, but also added many fictional titles due to a project I’m currently invoved in.

The first three books on my list deal with the Irish language, but will appeal to anyone interested in their Irish heritage. In the case of the first one, anyone with a dog. Even if you have zero interest in speaking Irish, you can still add a word or phrase to your vocabulary. I promise it will make you even more interesting!

Teach Your Dog Irish
By Anne Cakebread

Every year at our annual Irish Wolfhound picnic, I’ve been asked to present a toast in Irish, but this year, I thought instead to give a brief Irish language lesson. I printed up some handouts with Irish phrases with phonetic spelling and their meaning in English.

There were simple pleasantries (hello, please, thank you) and commands that we normally use throughout the day with our pets. Afterwards, I was telling one of my fellow language students about it and she recommended this book.

Tá sé go h-iontach! It’s wonderful! It’s pocket sized, with large print full of the words and phrases anyone with a canine companion uses a lot. The English phrase is at the top of the page followed by the Irish and than a simple phonetic pronunciation.

I’ve been carrying this book in my pocket and sharing it with other pet owners we encounter on our walks. A  great gift and an easy way to acquire a few words of Irish

Tree Dogs, Banshee Fingers and Other Irish Words for Nature
By Manchan Magan

I reviewed this book in the Speak Irish column from April of this year. It’s full of illustrations and is a great introduction to some of the origins of Irish names for animals and nature. It is a great coffee table book.

Bone and Marrow / Cnámh agus Smior, An Anthology of Irish Poetry from Medieval to Modern
Edited by Samuel K.Fisher and Brian Ó Conchbhair

This anthology of poetry was written in Irish. It opens with the most famous poem from Ireland, I and White Pangur, and was written in the margin of a ninth century manuscript that contains Latin texts. The writer compares his work of copying these texts with the “work” of his cat in his hunting.

From there, we are taken through the centuries, with commentary on each entry in both Irish and English. Nine hundred plus pages later, we end with a poem by modern poet Ailbhe Ní Ghearbhuigh, titled, Another Monk and His Cat. This is the best collection of Irish poetry I have come across.

The Life of Omar Ibn Said, A Muslim American Slave
By Omar Ibn Said

“Then there came to our country a big army. It killed many people. It took me and walked me to the big sea, and sold me into hands of a Christian man.”

This life story was originally written in Arabic. Omar was born into a wealthy family, educated and brought up in a religious household. He was sold into slavery around 1770 and ended up in the house of a prominent North Carolina family.

In 1831, he was asked to write his story. It is the only surviving narrative of an American slave written in Arabic. Along with the words of Omar, there are commentaries and essays on Islam and the African diaspora. It’s easy to forget that people of all walks of life fell victim to that horrible part of America’s past.

Frederick Douglass Selected Works
“Once you learn to read, you will be forever free.”  Frederick Douglass learned to read early in his life, he escaped from slavery and ran to the free state of New York. There he became involved in the anti-slavery movement that was gaining momentum.

With the publication of his autobiography, he was forced to flee to England, where he continued to lecture against slavery. British abolitionists raised the money needed to purchase his freedom from his former owner. His life was a series of firsts for a free man of color. His writings represented in this collection still ring true today.

By Alfred Lansing

The story of Irish born explorer Ernest Shackleton and his ill fated expedition to Antartica (see iIrish August and Sept. 2022 Cleveland Comhrá). I know this is a story I will reread a few times. No one I’ve recommended it to has been disappointed.

By Robert Macfarlane

Robert Macfarlane is one of my favorite nature writers. He is a modern day explorer who sees landscapes in a much deeper way than most of us. In this book he goes into the places beneath our feet, exploring caves and caverns, the networks below our cities and the life under our seas and forests.

He takes us to gaze upon prehistoric art in Norwegian sea caves and visit a place where man’s nuclear waste will be stored. Throughout, he reminds us of our ties with the underworld in myth and literature and of our relationship with darkness and burial. It will make you think differently about what lies beneath.

The Guns of August The Outbreak of World War I
By Barbara W. Tuchman

History has a way of becoming blurred over time, often reduced to a series of dates and events, with little regard to what led them to become memorable. There are many fine books about our first great war and Tuchman’s is near the top. In her Pulitzer Prize winning account, she tells the story of the first month of the war and what led up to it from all perspectives.

Notes From a Small Island
By Bill Bryson

Sometimes I like to sit down with something that makes me smile as I read it. Bill Bryson produces that effect with his writing. No subject is off limits to his wit and insight. He was born and raised in America’s Midwest, but now lives in Britain.

In this narrative he pokes fun at a land and culture you can tell he has come to love. For those of you who have been fortunate to travel to Ireland or England, I think you’ll be able to relate to many of the stories he shares with us.

Dracula Annotated for the 125th Anniversary by Bram Stoker Dacre Stoker & Robert Eighteen-Bisang

I read a lot of books on supernatural folklore. Dracula is the story that started me on that path. Here Dacre and Robert have included all that was originally there. Bram’s changes, edited excerpts from the publisher, Bram’s notes including the original title and a different ending. Sadly Robert Eighteen-Bisang passed away after finishing his edits for this. Dacre’s research into his great-grand uncle’s works is always fascinating. If your into Dracula this book is a must.

Separate Box:

Irish Book Club
The Craic (Cleveland Reads About Ireland Club) 

Please join us at the Craic, a new book group exploring the rich literary contributions made by Irish authors (born in Ireland or lived there) and Irish-American authors. We will discuss fiction and non-fiction works that focus on life and culture in Ireland (present day and historical) and the Irish American experience. Works will offer a variety of literary styles, topics and view points. Come and enjoy an informative and fun experience participating in our book discussion group!

Once a month meetings, the second Wednesday of the month @6:15p.m. and last about an hour. Panera Bread, 26086 Brookpark Rd. North Olmsted (small meeting room).

Jan 11 – “Snow” a novel by John Banville; Feb 8 – “My Father Left Me Ireland: An American Son’s Search For Home” by Michael Brendan Dougherty; Mar 8 – “When All is Said” by Anne Griffin.

Books are available to borrow at local public libraries. Facilitators: Kim Furlong [email protected]; Sheila Ives, [email protected]


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