The Priest by Beatrice Beck.
Published about 1952 this is Constantine Fitzgibbon’s translation of the Prix Goncourt winning novel, Léon Morin, Prêtre, about the experiences of a young woman in France during World War 2 and of her relationship – ultimately spiritual – with a young priest.
The Power and the Glory
Published in 1940 this study of a ’bad’ priest in Mexico who drank, fathered a child and feared for his own salvation is one of the most profoundly Christian and at the same time one of the most thoroughly human novels in English. Incredibly, this most Catholic of novels – one that strenthened my own faith –, was banned by the Vatican for many years.
The Lilies of the Field by
William E. Barrett.
Published in 1962 this American novella tells how a lone drifter gave a helping hand to a convent of German nuns, refugees from WW2 Europe.
Storm Warning by Jack Higgins.
This is a poignant and thrilling novel by the author of the world famous thriller, The Eagle has landed. Set in the last months of World War 2 it tells of the struggle of a German sea captain to sail his merchant ship from Latin America to his homeland. His ship is crowded with German civilians (including nuns) who want to be with their families as their country faces collapse.
The Mission by Marcos Spinelli.
This is not the book of the recent blockbusting film but an American novel about a lone missionary travelling on his mule through the Brazilian jungle. It was first published in 1965.
The Professor’s House by Willa Cather.
This is a characteristically stylish and heartwarming story by one of America's most significant writers. The professor, admired and loved by his wife and family, regularly disappears to a kind of tree house retreat where he pursues an almost monastic life of study, reflection and writing. Middle America at its best.
Rip Van Winkle and The Legend of Sleepy Hollow by Washington Irving.
So universal has the story of Rip Van Winkle become that people are often surprised to find that the story was set, written and published in the USA by one of that country’s earliest writersá ‘The Legend of Sleepy Hollow’ for its part remains one of the most comical stories imaginable.
Film versions: Rip Van Winkle..
Film versions: The Legend of Sleepy Hollow..
The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck.
Who can add anything new to the praises of this gutsy and stirring account of an American family fleeing along Route 66 from their drought‒stricken farm to the imagined paradise of 1930s California.
The O‘Briens and the O’Flahertys by Lady Morgan.
First published in 1827 this long historical novel gives a vivid portrayal of late eighteenth century Ireland.
The short stories of Liam O'Flaherty, especially Spring Sowing.
The short stories of Frank O’Connor, especially First Confession.
The short stories of Daniel Corkery, especially The Ploughing of Leac na Naomh.
The short stories of Dylan Thomas, especially The Outing.
The Secret Room by Marion Eames.
About the Quakers in 17th cent. Wales, this novel was originally published in Welsh about 25 years ago.
Three Men in a Boat and Three Men on the Bummel by Jerome K. Jerome.
These two books are wonderfully comic accounts of (a) a holiday on a river in Edwardian England which is still in print and (b) a cycling holiday in Germany before the First World War, now out of print
Read Three men in a Boat and other books by this author online.
Film version: Three men in a boat.
The Owl Service by Alan Garner.
A novel for teenagers which eerily links 1960s Wales with the Wales of the legendary Mabinogion.
Smith by Leon Garfield.
First published in the 1970s this novel is about a 12 year‒old in eighteenth century London. Leon Garfield has been compared with Charles Dickens
To the Wild Sky by Ivan Southall.
This Australian novel tells of what happens when the pilot of a plane carrying a group of young teenagers dies of a heart attack.
I Heard the Owl Call my Name by Margaret Craven.
This modern classic, an American novella published in 1967, tells of what happens when an Anglican priest with terminal cancer is sent by his bishop to work among the Indians in British Columbia.
In addition to Turgenev I would like to read again all of those wonderful short stories of Leo Tolstoy together with all of his novels other than ‘Anna Karenina’ and ‘War and Peace’. I have not yet summoned up the courage to tackle Tolstoy’s epic masterpiece but have read the early parts of ‘Anna Karenina’ in which he describes a country childhood and youth. Some critics claim that Tolstoy, who wanted to be remembered as a social reformer rather than as the creative genius we now know him to have been, may have been the greatest prose writer in any language ever.
The White Lanes of Summer by Tom MacDonald.
This is a poignant and memorable autobiography. The author was born in 1900 to English–speaking Irish Catholic parents in a Nonconformist, Welsh–speaking village Cardiganshire in the early years of the twentieth century. He died in 1980.
Read an excerpt: The Christmas Eisteddfod.
Gyda’r Hwyr (‘At Dusk’), published in Liverpool in 1957, is a collection of thoughtful and
inspirational essays in Welsh by the Wesleyan minister and famous writer of stirring tales for young and
old, E.Tegla. Davies (1880 – 1967). It is one of my favourite bedside books.
Read an excerpt: Cardinal Newman’s Grave in Birmingham.
The same item in Welsh / Yn y Gymraeg
The Reason Why by Cecil Woodham‑Smith.
This history of the Crimean War by the author of the later and better known The Great Hunger, is as readable as a novel. It was published in 1950.
Saunders Lewis: Selected Poems. This is a collection of translations by Irish–American Joseph P. Clancy of some of the most significant poems by possibly the leading writer in Welsh of the twentieth century.
Praise Above All: Discovering the Welsh Tradition by Canon A. M. Allchin.
Intended for the general reader, this is a very accessible study of the Welsh poetic tradition by an Anglican clergyman from England who has learnt Welsh.
The Peter Principle by Dr. Laurence J. Peter
and Raymond Hull.
Published in the 1960s this is a humorous attempt to help us all avoid climbing the promotion ladder to our “Level of Incompetence”!
The Bread of Those Early Years by Heinrich Böll.
This short novel by a winner of the Nobel prize for literature tells a deceptively simple story. “Young fitter falls in love. They get married. The End”.
It is in fact a truly great love story
Another of my treasured books is the same author’s Irish Diary..
This account of a journey with his family to Ireland in the early 1950s is a travelogue which describes a land of heart’s desire which had already become hard to find almost as soon as the book was published. “This Ireland exists: however, whoever travels there and fails to find it has no claim on the author”, he warns succinctly.
Read an excerpt: The Skeleton of an Irish Settlement..
Some of my favourite books in the Irish language are in stock in Cardiff
Central Library in the
John Breese Collection.
Included is Jimín Mháire Thadhg, the classic story for children by Pádraig Ó Siochfradha, better known as An Seabhac (‘The Hawk’), who grew up in County Kerry, Ireland.
The story was first published in Irish in the 1920s and is in stock at Cardiff Central Library as part of the collection of books in Irish.
Read an excerpt in English.
Compiled by Barry Tobin..
The Green Dragon No 12
Compiled by Barry Tobin..