The Humours of Galway

National Geographic recently published its list of Top Ten Literary Cities in the world. I was quite pleased to see that the first three spots were taken by ones that I particularly like. They all happen to be capital cities and I try to visit each at least once a year. Edinburgh made it to number one, closely followed by Dublin, with London in third place. As well as visiting these cities, I’ve also read novels set there and have spent lots of happy hours browsing the shelves of the many fine bookshops located on their streets. The list got me thinking about my favourite Irish bookstores and the recent fine weather made me decide to go and visit one of these a couple of days ago

Charlie Byrne’s Bookshop in Galway has been going since 1989 and is home to over 50,000 books on every subject under the sun. I’ve been visiting the store every year for nearly two decades and I usually come away with a book or two. The majority of the books are either secondhand or remaindered titles on special offer and are nicely organised on shelves and huge tables throughout the store. Time tends to fly by when I’m browsing and I could easily spend an hour or two in there. I spend most of that time in only a few sections and my first port of call is usually the area that houses books about film and music. The space devoted to these topics is a lot smaller than it used to be and I got through it pretty quickly on Wednesday. In terms of film writing, my main interest is in scriptwriting. However, there were only one or two in stock and none of them leaped out at me. My interest in music books is more diverse, but I had a lot of the better ones already. I did come across an interesting-looking collection of essays called Dancing in Your Head by a music columnist for The Nation named Gene Santoro

Elsewhere in the store, I picked up what appears to be an amusing fictional autobiography entitled Deep Probings: The Autobiography of a Genius by Ian McPherson. I was also fortunate enough to find a couple of books in the comic book or graphic novel genre. One of them was part of an annual collection called The Best American Series that publishes a selection of the best writing in a number of genres every year. The Best American Comics is the most recent edition to a series that also includes compendiums of short stories, essays and sports writing. This 300-page tome, edited by Neil Gaiman, features 25 of 2010’s best comic book fiction, of which six pieces are excerpts from graphic novels. The other title resembles a magazine in book form and is called Comic Art Annual No. 9, published by Buenaventura Press and featuring lengthy articles and reproductions from comic books. They should keep me going for a while

I also came across an interesting little secondhand shop called the Bell, Book & Candle. I didn’t see any bells or candles, but it had loads of books as well as CDs and even an actual motor car. The owner told me he bought it in England nearly twenty years ago and now it’s just used for ornamental purposes. I spent some time chatting to him and left the shop a while later with books for my sister and nephew and one for myself called An Introduction to the Architectural Heritage of Limerick City. I look forward to learning a little more about the city in which I live. I spent the rest of my day checking out the record shops and charity stores before going for a walk along the pier. By that stage, I had worked up a bit of an appetite and went for some fish ‘n’ chips at McDonagh’s. Below, you can check out three songs in three different genres that all concern Galway

Galway Bay – Toasted Heretic

From Galway To Graceland – Richard Thompson

The Humours of Galway – De Dannan

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