It's good to know that Ireland's mystique still captivates. When Bill Baric, a Guggenheim fellow and literary laureate of the San Francisco Public Library meets an Irishwoman in London he has the good sense to follow her home. This leads him to the most consequential decision a blow-in can make - which pub to make his local. Barich admits that he's probably watched "The Quiet Man" one too many times, but he still craves a pub like the one in the film, where a solitary drink and complete silence is often preferable to chattering crowds. His search leads him toward more serious conclusions. He notices a change in the very nature of what it means to be Irish. When neighborly chat is swapped for karaoke and blaring sports coverage, connections to the past are eroded. Barich writes about the good and the bad with the detachment of an outsider and the ear for nuance of a local. Walker, $25.

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