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Voracious for variety

Staying In


Diverse range of books top Westport bookshop Tertulia’s 2020 bestsellers list

Bríd Conroy

The psychology of choice has long fascinated me. How do we know what best suits our needs when faced with more than one option? Of course, at the bookshop, I leave customers in peace, to choose their own books, but when the books arrive on my desk for checking out, I am constantly left in wonder, why that one?
I am delighted to say in 2020, our customers choose to read a mixture of books across the board. Of all our books sold, 34 percent were non-fiction, mainly in the humanities, nature, environment and history categories. It seems at Tertulia, we are curious about the world and our place in it.
Another 37 percent of the books we sold were general fiction, with just under half of that number being Irish fiction. Reading fiction makes us more empathic, so more great book choices here. A further 25 percent of our books sold are children’s books, as we see the importance of passing on our love of literature. And last but not least, classics, poetry and science fiction make up the remainder.
Here are some of our top sellers this last year from those categories.
‘American Dirt’, by Jeanine Cummins (whose husband is from Mayo), published by Headline Publishing Group, is a must read for fiction lovers. It tracks the life of a bookseller in Acalpulco who one day has a normal life and the next day is heading for the United States with her young son. She must board the train called ‘The Beast’ while it is moving and ride the roof illegally to the border. It is a fiction, but is based on the many true stories of emigrants who make that journey. It is a heartbreaking and humbling read.
‘The Boy, the Fox, the Mole and the Horse’, by Charlie Mackesy, published by Ebury Publishing, is just the most gorgeous graphic novel. Charlie is an artist and his story is about kindness, love and beauty. “What do you think success is?” asked the Boy to the Mole. “To love,” said the Mole. This is a book for all ages.
‘The Tainted’, by Cauvery Madhavan, published by Hope Road Publishing, is based on a true story about the Connaught Rangers and their rebellion 100 years ago in India while on duty for the British Army. It explores issues of race and belonging. It is a wonderful piece of Irish historical fiction.
‘Ireland’s Wild Plants, Myths, Legends and Folklore’, by Niall MacCoitir, published by Collins Press has also been extremely popular this year. The Covid crisis has turned us back towards nature it seems. This book is a comprehensive compilation of wild plants in seasonal order and the roles they have played in our folklore, natural history and culture.
‘A Terrible Beauty is Born’, by WB Yeats, part of the Penguin Little Black Classics, is about the poem Yeats compiled whilst staying with an artist friend in England in April, 1916. When he learned that insurgents in Dublin had staged an uprising against British rule, the news ‘broke on his head like a thunderstorm’, writes his biographer, Roy Foster. This is a perfect little keepsake, and customers loved it.
‘Women Don’t Owe You Pretty’, by Florence Given, published by Octopus Publishing Group, has been described as a ‘modern book about feminism’. It challenges the narratives supplied to us by a patriarchal society and how these narratives have shaped us, our thinking and our behaviour. The author invites every woman to be their ‘own woman’. The book is wonderfully refreshing, easy to read and perfect for all ages and genders.
And lastly, ‘The World’s Worst Parents’, by David Walliams, published by Harper Collins Publishers, is the latest book in the author’s ‘World’s Worst’ series. It tells the story of ten ‘spectacularly silly mums’ and ‘deliriously daft dads’. Kids just love all of David Walliams’s laugh-out-loud books.
Happy Christmas and all the best for 2021.

Bríd Conroy and her husband Neil Paul run Tertulia – A Bookshop Like No Other at The Quay, Westport.