Here at EPIC, we all meet once a week over Zoom to chat about what’s happening in the museum and to keep each other up to speed on various museum projects. Last week, however, we decided to change things up a bit and asked everyone to share what book they’re reading during lockdown. The result? A great variety of books, ranging from magical realism, dramas and even original short stories. We’ve even got some recommendations for books on happiness and being fully present in your life. Who knows, you might emerge from this lockdown healthier and happier than you’ve ever been. Check out the staff reviews below and find a new book to get lost in during this strange time.
Title: Voices of Evil
Author: G.M Hague
Review: A deranged Gallipoli veteran locked in a padded cell. The grisly deaths of two young women. An ancient charm in a metal tin. Brendan comes across this mysterious charm and terrifying events ensue. On his journey to discover more about the charm and its history Brendan becomes embroiled in a battle for his sanity and safety. This is a great ghost mystery story and I loved it.
CEO & Museum Director
Title: The Mirror and the Light
Author: Hilary Mantel
Review: This is the third book in a trilogy- it follows Wolf Hall and Bring up the Bodies, both of which were winners of the Booker Prize. Hilary Mantel brings a novelist’s insights, blended with research of extraordinary depth and quality, to get inside the mind of Thomas Cromwell, as he rises from poor beginnings through Tudor society at a time of transition for the Crown, the court and the church. He gains the enmity of members of the long-established aristocratic families who resent his influence and wealth and who plot against him. It will not end well!
Catherine Smith McKiernan
Title: Constellations – Reflections from Life
Author: Sinéad Gleeson
Review: A lovely collection of essays that tells the story of not just a woman, but a woman in Ireland. The author delves into the journey of life – art, illness, ageing, grief, and reflects on how we look at life. The book both challenged and supported my thinking – it’s a beautiful read and I would recommend.
Education & Outreach Manager
Title: The Book of Lost Things
Author: John Connolly
Review: Set in WWII England, this book is a bittersweet, dark, magical and inventive meditation on growing up that uses the vehicle of Brothers Grimm-esque fables to explore the relationships between fantasy and reality; the history and power of storytelling and imagination; and family, love, loss and jealousy. Disclaimer: not for kids!
Visitor Experience Team
Title: La Ciudad de las bestias
Author: Isabel Allende
Review: The story of 15-year-old Alexander Cold, who joins his adventurous grandmother in an expedition to South America, trying to document the “Yeti of the Amazon” known as the Beast. With his new friend Nadia and the rest of the expedition group, they find a tribe that hasn’t been contacted yet, and soon they’ll have to test themselves to try and save the tribe, the forest and the expedition team
Head of Digital Marketing
Title: The 100-Year-Old Man Who Climbed Out the Window and Disappeared
Author: Jonas Jonasson
Review: Allan Karlson has just turned 100 and the old folks’ home is about to give him a party he doesn’t want. He decides to escape in his slippers, heads for the local train station and steals a suitcase, which ends up being full of cash belonging to a Russian criminal gang. This is the basis for a story that is loaded with absurdities from beginning to end. As we join him on his adventure, we meet a motley crew of interesting but flawed characters. A light and easy read, it’s quirky, imaginative and fun.
Digital Marketing Assistant
Title: Don’t Make Me Think
Author: Steve Krug
Review: Don’t Make Me Think by Steve Krug is a great entry-level book into the world of UX/UI design, Krug gives a practical overview of the patterns of consumer behaviour and how to improve the usability of a digital product.
Sales & Marketing Assistant
Title: Fire and Blood
Author: George RR Martin
Review: GRRM is great at creating and growing his characters, even in a book like this. Even though there are literally hundreds of characters mentioned throughout, he takes the time to develop each character with unique traits and personalities that really make you feel like the book is actual history. Another aspect I like is that the book is supposed to be an “account” amalgamated from three different sources. Each source feels a completely different person, right down to the language they use and even which side they take on certain issues. It is a unique and innovative way to write a fantasy book..
Director of Technology of EPIC & CHQ
Title: A Gentleman in Moscow
Author: Amor Towles
Review: Count Alexander Rostov, a Russian aristocrat, is arrested in 1922 during Russia’s revolutionary period. He is placed under house arrest in Moscow’s grand Metropol hotel. The book follows his life through a series of richly painted, charming episodes over the next 30 years. You’ll meet talented children, American spies, revolutionary poets, a glamorous film star, high ranking communist party officials and an escaped flock of geese! This is a beautifully written book with a gentle message about how to make the most out of what life throws at you. Ideal lockdown reading.
Head of Sales
Title: The Miracle of Castel di Sangro
Author: Joe McGinnis
Review: A non-fiction book that follows a renowned American writer who falls in love with football/soccer after the World Cup in USA in 1994. He decides to take a trip to Italy and ends up following a small football team in their quest to reach the glamour of the top leagues. Whilst initially there to observe the team, he ends up detailing an extraordinary season of survival, drug busts, politics, corruption and most of all the culture of Italy through the people within the team and town.
Digital Marketing Assistant
Title: Normal People
Author: Sally Rooney
Review: Now a big TV series hit, I decided to pick up the book. A teenage love story set in Ireland between 2011 – 2015, the novel captures what it’s like to be young in post-recession West of Ireland. The protagonists make the difficult and sometimes awkward transition from school to college, trying to plan their futures and figure out who they are. Circumstances and friendships change, however, the two protagonists keep finding a way back to each other. It’s a great social and emotional analysis of a generation and the modern-day struggles people face.
Retail Team Member
Title: The Robber Bride
Author: Margaret Atwood
Review: Three friends, Roz, Tony and Charis, who have a ritual of lunching together once a month for a long time, one day see Zenia, a woman who was part of their past (not in a pleasant way) and they thought was dead, in the same restaurant. The unexpected discover brings back painful memories that each of them will have to deal with to finally be able to move forward with their lives.
Title: The North Water
Author: Ian McGuire
Review: The North Water is a novel, full of twists and turns with well-researched details and persuasive descriptions of the violence and cruelty of the bloody business of whale killing.
Title: Love in the Time of Cholera
Author: Gabriel García Márquez
Review: Colombian novelist and one of the greatest writers of the 20th century, García Márquez was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1982. The novel is set in the turn of the 20th century in a South American colonial city on the Caribbean coast, which goes through wars and the outbreak of cholera. It is a tale about two lovers, Florentino Ariza and Fermina Daza, who weren’t allowed to be together while young, and end up reuniting in old age after a lifetime apart. The story treats the themes of love, ageing, and death and also comments on class issues and on the ways in which society develops over time.
The novel’s flow and style are very accessible to any reader, while still impressing the critics with its unique and powerful voice.
Event Sales Executive
Title: 12 Rules for Life: An Antidote to Chaos
Author: Jordan Peterson
Review: The overall message is that we need to man-up and stop complaining about society’s faults. I would say that it is about personal development mixed with religious, psychology and a bit of momma’s advice. It is good in a sense that speaks about things you didn’t know you knew or that usually don’t stop to think about.
Managing Director of CHQ / Financial Director of EPIC
Title: JFK in Ireland – 4 days that changed a President
Author: Ryan Tubridy
Review:The book is a very good read and essentially the title says it all – JFK spent four days in Ireland in 1963, a few months before his assassination. Particularly interesting are the accounts of the rise of the Kennedy and Fitzgerald families from famine escapees and the evolution of their collective relationship with Ireland in the fifty years before the momentous visit which also changed Ireland and its ongoing relationship with the USA forever.
Personal Assistant to Patrick Greene
Author: George Oswell
Review: 1984 is a dystopian novel by George Orwell published in 1949. Great Britain, known as Airstrip One, has become a province of a totalitarian superstate named Oceania that is ruled by the ruling party Ingsoc which wields total power over the inhabitants. Big Brother, the leader of the Party, enjoys intense mass surveillance over all citizens despite the fact that he may not exist. The protagonist, Winston Smith, is a diligent and skilful Employee who works for the Ministry of Truth and a Party member who secretly hates the Party and dreams of rebellion. This book explores the themes of mass media control, government surveillance, totalitarianism and how a dictator can manipulate and control history, thoughts, and lives in such a way that no one can escape it. Many believe Orwell’s novel is a warning for the human race. It highlights the importance of resisting mass control and oppression.
Visitor Experience Supervisor
Title: Mr Livingstone’s library
Author: Monica Gutierrez
Review: Livingstone’s library by Monica Gutierrez tells the story of a Spanish archaeologist that emigrates to London and all the emotional stages that people go through when they are away from home.
Senior Museum Curator
Author: Philippa Gregory
Review: An excellent piece of historical fiction that really captures the zeitgeist of a nation in transition and the turbulence of the English Civil War from the perspective of the ordinary person. Romance, intrigue, loyalty and dishonour – it has it all.
Title: Power Thoughts, 12 Strategies to Win the Battle of the Mind
Author: Joyce Meyer
Review: This book is a GAME CHANGER! A New York Times Bestseller! Meyer presents the battlefield of your mind, journeying through your past, present and future. There is an opportunity to journal and reflect throughout the book. It is a book that can be used over and over again as life circumstances change. I highly recommend it for people looking to get a break-through in any area of their lives.
Director of CHQ
Title: Comfort me with Apples
Author: Ruth Reichl
Review: The author’s transformation from chef to food writer, a process that leads her through restaurants from Bangkok to Paris to LA, bringing lessons in life, love, and food.
Visitor Experience Team
Title: Warriors of The Viking Age
Author: Ben Hubbard
Review: This is a brilliant book on the Viking Age. It tells us where they come from, where they went to and the people they have met. It also uses different Sagas such as the Icelandic that were written at the time and after the events that happened. It covers the whole of Europe and the Middle East. You find out what was important to them and how they lived up in modern-day Norway, Sweden and Denmark.
Title: The Irrational Ape
Author: David Richard Grimes
Review: The Irrational Ape is about how society is increasingly swayed by populism and fake news, more than science and evidence. The author has close ties to Ireland and is a vocal advocate for increased public understanding of science, including local Irish issues e.g. red meat causes cancer and other controversies. In some cases, he has been personally involved, at his own personal expense.
Visitor Experience Team
Title: How to Write Like Tolstoy
Author: Richard Cohen
Review: This book will not teach you how to write as Tolstoy did but it gives a fascinating insight into the minds of writers worldwide, including Tolstoy’s own. It is written with warmth, wit and intelligence. The range of authors and writing styles are explored bringing the reader into worlds and words and quotes of magic. A true gem.
Visitor Information Point
Title: The Irish are coming
Author: Ryan Tubridy
Review: The Irish are coming by Ryan Tubridy profiles about 50 prominent Irish people who moved to Britain and helped to make Britain Great by bringing Ireland with them in their luggage. It’s an amusing book rather than an in-depth analysis. However, there are many “Is in that amazing” moments. At times you feel you are having a chat with Ryan. However, I found it to be an affectionate and often hilarious look at the Irish who travelled a small distance to make a big impact.
Reservations & Sales Relationships Manager
Title: Crystal Muse
Author: Heather Askinosie & Timmi Jandro
Review: In a chaotic time, Crystal Muse shares how connecting to the calm, grounding energy of crystals can help us engage with each other and ourselves. It is written with grace, deep knowledge & powerful rituals that make it easy to tune in to the energy of the Universe on a daily basis.
Digital Marketing Executive
Title: Night Boat to Tangier
Author: Kevin Barry
Review: Barry’s third novel follows the lives and travails of two middle-aged gangsters Maurice Ahearne and Charlie Redmond as they search for Maurice’s daughter at the Spanish port of Algeciras. The story unfolds in flashback, showing us how these two humble Cork boys went on to scale the heights of the criminal underworld, and the damage it caused to themselves and those closest to them, told with Barry’s unique prose.
Education Sales Executive
Title: The Truth About the Harry Quebert Affair
Author: Joel Dicker
Review:The book looks at the story of author Harry Quebert, famous for his first novel ‘The Origin of Evil’. Written during a summer Harry spent in Somerset, New Hampshire, the novel follows the story of a teenage girl’s disappearance. 33 years after his famous novel is released the body of a missing 15-year-old girl Nola along with an original handwritten copy of the novel are found buried in Harry’s garden, leading to the famous author being arrest for murder.
Visitor Experience Team
Author: Min Jin Lee
Review: Pachinko by Min Jin Lee tells the story of a Korean family and their daily lives, successes, and struggles to live in a discriminated community within WWII era in Japan. It follows the family as generations grow, as the war ends and the separation of North and South Korea occur, and the daily discrimination and prejudices held against the Koreans and poverty among the Japanese.
Elidia Calvo Martin
Title: The Witches
Author: Roald Dahl
Review: The Witches is a dark but funny fantasy story about a boy that moves in with his granny after losing his parents in a car accident. His granny is the person that teaches him everything about witches. On their holidays they will be able to put all that knowledge into practise as the annual witch convention is happening in the same hotel as they are staying. Easy to read and very entertaining, perfect for ages 9-11 and more.
Director of Sales & Marketing
Title: Burial Rites
Author: Hannah Kent
Review: Based on actual events, Burial Rites is a moving novel about a woman condemned to death for her part in the brutal murder of her lover. Set in 1820’s Iceland, the beautiful prose captures Iceland’s formidable landscape and a battle for survival and endurance when your life depends entirely on others.
Retail Manager & Buyer
Title: Fantastically Great Women Who Changed the World
Author: Kate Pankhurst
Review: Fantastic book for children and adults – all ages! 13 short stories outlining lives of some of the Great Women throughout history – from Marie Curie to Jane Austin to Anne Frank. Highly recommended as a fun way to introduce important figures from history to young minds. Lovely illustrations and simple text.
Founder of EPIC
Title: The Bonobo and the Atheist – In Search of Humanism Among the Primates
Author: Frans De Waal
Review: Frans De Waal is a primatologist who traces through his research the evolution of human empathy as being biological and evolutionary. He demonstrates empathy in the mammals he studies and gives many examples of non-reward given actions Rejects the veneer theory and the work of Huxley. Darwinian in the background he traces our empathetic evolution, hedonic kindness, to who and what we are today. He sees human fairness as being part of the evolution of religion and a reinforcer of it. He, therefore, sees religion as growing out of these behaviours.
Atheism reflects the more brutish side of our nature but is not the dominant driver and is therefore rejected. Complex and very interesting.
Recently, I have taken a sabbatical from reading and invested my spare time in writing shorts stories for my kids, Jack and Rose. The short stories explore the different themes of mindfulness and trying to explain these values in a simplistic fashion, in the vain hope it maintains the attention of two, 2 years olds for longer than 30 seconds.
The stories are simple, such as, how Jack woke up by a sound one morning and he wanted to explore the source of this sound. Jack realised it would better to share in this new experience with someone else rather keep it to himself, so he called upon his sister Rose, to partake in this new adventure.
To have an adventure, you do not need to leave where you are and in the case of Jack & Rose, they spend this adventure entirely in their cots. They explore and listened to the sounds of the world around them, encountering new noises and learning together.
Other stories include Jack & Rose’s “First Visit to the Zoo”, where they make friends with a very well-dressed penguin and also when Jack & Rose explore “Imagination Land”.