Homemade: Irresistible Recipes for Every Occasion
By Clodagh McKenna

If Darina Allen is Ireland’s answer to Julia Childs, then is Clodagh McKenna our Jamie Oliver?

Certainly her recipes are as fun and accessible as the famous Brit’s, but she understands the Irish appetite better.

Homemade, her latest book, improves vastly on Irish breakfast and dinner staples, but it also wisely makes time for the dishes that the globetrotting Irish have come to love.

The interest in sourcing your food so that it’s minimally processed is rapidly growing to a near obsession for the serious cook, and McKenna has this factor covered.  Full of tips and tricks for the novice and the advanced cook, the book is marvelously illustrated and easy to follow.

There are some downright weird detours -- how many people will really want to make their own homemade ketchup or baked beans in tomato sauce, for example?

But there’s no doubt that McKenna includes some of the most appetizing and accessible recipes we’ve seen collected in any new cook book this year (and a bargain at the price).  

Kyle Books, $24.95.

The Boy in the Gap
By Paul Soye

Casual unthinking cruelty is as common in the pages of Irish novels as the next downpour. But what’s distinct is the effect they have on individuals.

In Paul Soye’s debut novel there are strong echoes of John McGahern and Patrick McCabe, but the new writer also has a lovely lyrical and evocative style all his own.

Centering on Jack Sammon, a young man waiting in jail on remand for a horrific crime that has set his local community reeling, we learn about him and his journey from the details he writes into his copy books.

What follows is an unsettling coming of age tale that life the curtain on the reality of rural Irish life -- good and bad -- and the portrait is as intimate and knowledgeable one by this award winning new Irish writer.

Dufour, $23.95.

By Jennifer Haigh

How is Irish America dealing with the fallout of the international sexual abuse scandals within the Catholic Church? It’s a fascinating question, and in Faith, novelist Jennifer Haigh takes us to Boston in 2002 where one Irish American family, the McGanns, is forced to deal with it.

Faith introduces us to Sheila McGann, a woman long estranged from her difficult parents and now reeling from the news that her brother Art, a popular priest, has been accused of abuse.

What Sheila finds is much more than she bargained for. First her mother is living in a state of angry denial; her other brother Mike has already convicted Art in his heart; and Art himself is doing his own case no favors by persistently dodging Sheila’s questions and for some reason refusing to defend himself.

Although Haigh’s plot could have been ripped from the headlines, she’s after deeper insights than the tag them and bag them media and the public.

Haigh wants to explore the effect of secrecy and dogma on good people who find themselves hamstrung by religious devotion. In that way a grander portrait of Irish American Catholicism emerges, one that contemplates our deepest beliefs and the revelations that can shatter them.

Harper, $25.99.

Plot 34
By Mark Keenan

Now that the U.S. credit rating has been downgraded thanks to the ongoing stalemates in Washington, it’s the prefect time to learn how to grow your own vegetables in your very own allotment.

There’s nothing quite like a terrifying recession for stimulating your appetite, and in this wise and witty new book Mark Keenan (who writes a popular weekly column for the Irish edition of The Sunday Times in London) shows us how to grow your own better quality organic produce and save a bundle at the supermarket.

If you’re a city dweller living in cramped quarters you will be particularly drawn to Keenan’s book because he’s targeted you as the ideal reader.

Whether you’re working with an allotment or a window box you’ll be amazed at how productive you can become with a tomato vine or a head of lettuce (and have some seriously good laughs along the way).

Plot 34 will tell you what you need and where to find it; it’ll help you decide what to grow -- and crucially it will tell you how much of it -- and it’ll remind you of how resourceful your ancestors were in the good old days (now that the good old days appear to have returned).

Brandon Books, $23.95.

Homemade: Irresistible Recipes for Every Occasion