50 Works of Irish Art You Need to Know

By Sighle Bhreathnach-Lynch

SIGHLE Bhreathnach-Lynch is the former curator of Irish art at the National Gallery of Ireland, and in this beautifully illustrated book she has carefully selected key works of Irish art, giving us lively insights into the individual artists world's along the way.

Breathnach-Lynch has set herself the rather monumental task of telling Ireland's story through 50 carefully chosen art works that illustrate the sheer range and beauty of our centuries long artistic past. From the entrance stone at Newgrange in Co. Meath (circa 2500 BC) through the Ardagh Chalice (circa 750 AD) to Joseph P. Harvey's “The Meeting at Clifden” (circa 1844, a narrative picture that shows Daniel O'Connell addressing a “monster meeting” to have the Act of Union repealed) she reminds us how rich and diverse our artistic history has been.

Many of the paintings that make up the latter part of this collection have histories as storied as the moments they depict, Breathnach-Lynch notes. For example Harvey's O'Connell painting was thought lost for many years until 1950, when the then Taoiseach Eamon De Valera presented it to the National Gallery after it had been presented to him by a Mother Mary Alice, superior of St. Clare's Hospital in New York, located in Hell's Kitchen.

Concluding with Francis Bacon's studio, reconstructed and transferred to Dublin, the author shows us how much of his creative vision was shaped by a childhood and adolescence in Ireland. She also reminds us of the remarkable artistic diversity the island still produces.

Dufour, $32.

Goodbye Sugar, Hello Weight Loss, Great Skin And Improved Mood

By Elsa Jones

IN January gymnasiums are usually full of punters clinging desperately to their New Year's resolutions. That's because it's hard to resist the temptation to indulge in every sugary treat, and weight gain usually follows like spring follows winter.

Elsa Jones is a nutritionist working in Dublin who specializes in motivational weight management. A familiar spokesperson in the Irish media, she knows the struggles people go through and the cravings they have to beat.

In her new book, Jones breaks it down. Sugar is a white powdery substance that gives you guaranteed pleasure. The more you have, the more you want, she writes. Even when you try to stay away from it, it finds a way to sneak back into your life, often leaving you feeling powerless to combat its presence in your life.

Food manufacturers know our weakness for the stuff and push it like dealers. It has crept into pretty much every area of our daily lives and our daily diet. It's in soup, cereal, even yogurt. The average person consumes 20 spoonfuls of the stuff a day.

Why should you care? Because most health authorities increasingly agree its like a poison. “The sad truth is that many of us are digging our own graves with every spoonful,” Jones writes.

What can you do? Well, knowing that the Irish eat more of the stuff than is good for them, Jones has crafted a course that will help you plan your sweet escape.

Targeting emotional eating, helping you to set realistic targets, and offering a 10 day sugar challenge, Jones has crafted a course that will help you balance your meals and even offer recipes to help you over the hump. This inspiring book is written by an expert in the field and it shows.

Dufour, $22.

The Great Betrayal: How the Government With the Largest Majority in the History of the State Lost the People

By John Drennan

Think back to 2011, when Fine Gael and Labour were voted in on a wave of change and wide support that now seems hard to believe. No Irish government has ever enjoyed a larger majority and none has abandoned its mandate faster either.

John Drennan, a longtime Dublin political writer, is the author of this book but he has a dog in the race too, it should be noted. Drennan left The Sunday Independent to join the right of center Renua party, but he insists his impartial perceptive has not abandoned him (well, he would wouldn't he?).

One thing he can do, remarkably well, is write insightfully and with a vicious wit about the recent paroxysms in Fine Gael and Labour. Fianna Fail he calls embalmed radicals, independents he calls the Frappucino kids, and he clearly wants to offset the feared rise of Sinn Fein with the shadows of the past. Impartial this book is not.

It is however a sobering meditation on the current state of the Irish establishment. The judgment pronounced is withering.

Dufour, $26.

Irish books to escape the January blues: 50 Works of Irish Art You Need to Know, Goodbye Sugar, and The Great Betrayal.iStock