Ancestral Links

On the heels of “A Course Called Ireland” comes another book about Ireland, Irish-Americans and golf: “Ancestral Links: A Golf Obsession Spanning Generations” by John Garrity.

Garrity, who writes for Sports Illustrated, travels to Ireland to see where his great-grandfather came from.  The ancestral home site is now, it turns out, home to a new golf course.

Garrity also goes to Scotland, where some of his mother’s ancestors came from.

In the end, Garrity explores how his family – as well as Ireland – was literally and metaphorically shaped by the game of golf.

($24.95 / 292 pages / New American Library)

Angels in My Hair

For those who loved “Touched by an Angel” (or even the current CBS show “The Ghost Whisperer”), “Angels in My Hair” by Lorna Byrne will probably be a fascinating read.

The author says she has seen angels since she was a young child growing up poor in Ireland. Not surprisingly, many people believed young Lorna had mental problems. 

These days, however, people seek her out for guidance or comfort, or to even see if they can contact a deceased loved one.

Along the way we also learn that Lorna, despite being poor and ostracized, found the love of her life, a blessing which was ultimately ended by tragedy.

Suffice to say, “Angels in my Hair” is not for everyone. Some may find the mystical qualities of the book hard to take. But if you miss Roma Downey as an angel, Lorna Byrne might just make a fine substitute. 

($24.95 / 303 pages / Doubleday)

Bond of Union

The Irish role in one of early America’s most important and ambitious construction projects is explored in “Bond of Union: Building the Erie Canal and The American Empire” by Gerard Koeppel. 

There was once a saying – you need four things to build a canal: a pick, a shovel, a wheelbarrow and an Irishman.

All in all, it is believed that as many as 5,000 Irish immigrants helped build the Erie Canal, which linked New York City and the Atlantic Ocean with the interior United States. 

The leading champion of the canal was New York governor DeWitt Clinton, the product of a famous Scotch Irish political dynasty.  For a while, as the canal project dragged on, it was called “Clinton’s folly.” But once completed, commercial activity exploded, helping make young America a powerful nation. 

($28 / 480 pages / DaCapo)


Chicago Tribune Magazine writer Mike Houlihan has released a collection of his work from the magazine, as well as work which has appeared in The Irish American News and on Chicago Public Radio. 

The product of a large Irish Catholic family from Chicago’s south side, Houlihan is perhaps best known for the “Hooliganism” column he wrote for The Irish American News.  These yarns, all gathered in this collection (fittingly titled “Hooliganism”), venture from Houlihan’s days as an actor and bar owner in Rockaway Beach, New York, to his experiences as a father and husband.

Filled with his trademark wit, “Hooliganism” is a fine collection from a classic Irish-American raconteur.

($25 / 216 pages / Dog Ear Publishing)

Closing Time

Joe Queenan’s at times hilarious, at times wrenching memoir
“Closing Time” explores his painful Irish Catholic upbringing in Philadelphia, during which his father often abused young Joe and his siblings so severely they eventually wanted him to die. 

Queenan also explores how he gravitated to the writer’s life, in this memoir, which deftly balances life’s beauty and horror. 

($26.95 / 352 pages / Viking)