Book news

  • Book clinic: which books best explain why life is worth living?
    Julian Baggini

    From Aristotle to the existentialists, the greatest minds have focused on what it means to live well

    Which books can tell me, from a philosophical standpoint, what makes life worthwhile or worth living?
    Shamsheer Bakaf, 27, doctor and global health scientist, Pakistan

    Philosopher and author Julian Baggini writes:
    Surprisingly, few of the world’s great philosophers have directly addressed this question. Instead, they have focused on a subtly different question: what does it mean to live well? In his Nicomachean Ethics, Aristotle emphasised the need to cultivate good character, finding the sweet spot between harmful extremes. For example, generosity lies between the extremes of meanness and profligacy, courage between cowardice and rashness. A remarkably similar vision is presented in the Chinese classics The Analects of Confucius and Mencius.

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  • The Snapper review – Roddy Doyle's baby banter brought to vivid life
    Helen Meany

    Gate, Dublin
    The author’s adaptation of his comic novel about an unplanned pregnancy is filled with nostalgic touches and noisy energy

    Roddy Doyle’s recent books have delved into such difficult emotional terrain that adapting his comic novel The Snapper (1990) for the stage may have been a welcome respite. Returning to the Rabbitte family, held in affection from film versions of his Barrytown trilogy, he brings their expletive-riddled Dublin banter faithfully to life.

    Commissioned by the Gate’s artistic director Selina Cartmell, this production is staged by Róisín McBrinn with a noisy energy to match its boppy soundtrack. Designer Paul Willis has an eye for 80s memorabilia, and the set is crammed with mismatched wallpaper, television screens and pop posters. Settings are demarcated by moving frames, drawing attention to the fact that we are looking back at this story through multiple lenses, one of which is certainly nostalgia.

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  • Children’s and teens roundup: the best new picture books and novels
    Imogen Russell Williams

    A mermaid parade, a naughty gran, the coming of war and a reworked Eugene Onegin

    The stand-out title this month is a picture book, Julian Is a Mermaid by Jessica Love (Walker). When Julian sees three women dressed as mermaids, he wants to be one too; but how will his Nana react? In this bravura feat of understated storytelling, the richness of Julian’s day-to-day reality and free-floating imagination is caught in images layered with colour, movement, muscle and life, celebrating black and Latin experience. Julian invents a tail and flowing hair, and Nana’s acceptance, as she accompanies him on a wild parade of mermaids, will leave the reader filled with joy.

    Nadia Shireen’s Billy and the Beast (Penguin) also celebrates the experience of those often left out of picture books, with its brave brown heroine and the outrageous array of props she stores in her huge cloud of hair. Lively, energetic, full of well-timed humour (and a sidekick called Fatcat), it’s a great story for everyone, especially those not used to seeing themselves centre stage.

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