Category Archives: books

Charlie Byrne’s Bookshop

Charlie Byrne's Bookshop

I had heard about Charlie Byrne’s for a long time but just never bothered to look for it. Until today.

I decided to go and check it out because my newly discovered book club is reading Atonement and I didn’t want to buy a new copy. I was hoping I would find a second hand one at Charlie Byrne’s.

I found a little more than I bargained for. It is a beautiful place. It is a difficult place to describe. There are times and places in which Galway seems like a throwback to the nineteenth century. Charlie Byrne’s epitomises that side of the city. It is really very quaint. A book lover’s paradise. A place that I am sure is going to drain me of the little money I have.

When you walk in, you are stunned by the old school decor and the books that are literally falling off shelves. Ireland as a whole feels cramped for space, but this little bookshop takes it to another level. There are rows and rows, tables, stacks on the floor, stacks on shelves, and even books that almost appear as though they are suspended from the ceiling.

It is very definitely what a book shop should be. Don’t get me wrong, I like the well ordered, neat, sterile, more commercial places. I spend a lot of time in Easons and Dubrays. They are great, but they don’t have the magic of an independent, small time outfit.

I can see why it is such a popular place. If you are ever in Galway city, you need to check out Charlie Byrne’s. The only issue I have with them is that the section on African books (history, literature, biographies and current affairs) is dismal and extremely disappointing. That is a real shame considering Galway’s growing African community. Hopefully they will improve in that department.

Other than that, it’s a fantastic place. And no, I’m not being paid to endorse them – but that might not be such a bad idea…

Samantha Power

I really like Samantha Power. Why? Well, we have some things in common. She was born and spent her early childhood in Ireland. I guess that makes me feel like I can sort of relate to her.

More importantly though, she’s really, really smart, and she is an incredibly impressive person. She’s one of those people whose sheer intellect hits you the moment she says just about anything. There is a sense gravity about her I respect. She is one of those people you want to listen to because you know they are going to say something important.

What draws me most to this lady though is that she is obviously dedicated to bringing about social change and making the world a better place. She has chosen academia and her writing (Pulitzer Prize winner) as her platforms, and from what I can tell, has used them to great effect.

There’s something special about people who decide that they are going to live for something more than just their own material comfort. There is something even more special about those who through hard work make the most of their talents and gifts. This lady seems to do both.

Although I don’t agree with all of her views, she is very definitely someone I look up to. As soon as I am done with my Mbeki book, I am going to start reading her latest book, Chasing the Flame.

Thabo Mbeki

Thabo Mbeki 

I’m about a third of the way through Thabo Mbeki’s biography, The Dream Deferred, and I’m riveted!

I’m in awe of Mbeki. It’s more than how much he gave up that strikes me. He was so totally committed to his cause and worked tirelessly towards his role. He is obviously brilliant in so many ways. Everyone who knew him well, friend or foe, acknowledge his charm and intelligence. In his early twenties he was leading anti-aparteid initiatives and meeting world leaders.

There’s a sense of gravity and purpose to him that I envy. He seems to have known his destiny from early childhood, and more impressive, how to attain it. Granted, his heritage was such that he always had incredible mentors around him, but they wouldn’t have taken him on were it not for the potential they saw in him. Neither Mandela nor Tambo’s children got the kind of attention that Mbeki received because they didn’t have the qualities he had.

Why has Thabo Mbeki struck such a chord in me? I want my life to have the kind of meaning his has had. I want to help build my country and continent as he has tried to do. I want to spend time with leaders and future leaders and discuss ideas on governance, society, justice and how to make the world a better place. And I want to have a mentor.

Thabo had Oliver Tambo. What I would give for a little time and some direction from Thabo Mbeki…

The Dream Deferred

The Dream Deferred by Mark Gevisser 

I’ve found lately that my opinion of people changes drastically when I find out a little more about them. It happened with Nelson Mandela, Barack Obama and now, Thabo Mbeki.

 

Mark Gevisser’s The Dream Deferred is a fantastic book. It’s a pretty in depth look into Thabo Mbeki’s soul. More than just following the life of South Africa’s president, Gevisser tries to see and understand who he is as a person. Although I’ve only read a small part of the book, I am engrossed.

 

There is something about being a black man. It is as though at birth your identity is stolen and you have one of two choices, spend your life seeking it, or claim another. There is such an assault on us by the media and public perception. There’s an incredible pressure to conform to an identity created by mass media. So much so, that trying to figure out and then just being who you are will at the very least get you marked out as a non-conformist at best.

 

In reading Mandela and Obama’s autobiographies, I was stuck by the recurring theme of the search for identity. Mark Gevisser’s perception of the same struggle in Mbeki really has really impressed me. I am a little jealous of him. I would have loved to have spent that much time researching, distilling and then putting one of my fathers’ lives onto paper. It might have helped me on my pilgrimage. Maybe one day.

 

Already, I have a new found respect, as well as compassion and maybe even a little affection for President Mbeki.