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Burning Books…on Paper—Helena Close

Helena Close, author of Things I Know (Little Island), answers our bookish questions.

Things I Know—“An accurate portrayal of a young person’s challenges, this book is also full of hope, love and laughter.”

 The Sunday Independent

Turn down the page, or book mark?

Turn down the page. Books should be like comfortable shoes. Well worn. 

Writing in the margins, or sacred pages?

Writing in the margins. I make notes to myself that I can never make sense of afterwards. 

A book that makes you laugh

Limerick writer Michael Curtin’s The League Against ChristmasComic writing at its best but also dark and poignant. Curtin is so underrated. Wonderful, gifted writer. 

Do you lend without expecting a book returned?

Only books that I don’t particularly care about. There are a small number of books that I would wage war to protect. 

Do you keep all of your books, or do you have a regular cull?

I keep the ones I love. I often read a good book twice, even three times. The others I pass on to charity shops or people I don’t like. 

A book you associate with a particular life event

Raymond Carver’s What We Talk About When We Talk About Love/Beginners. My daughter was diagnosed with cancer as a teen and had to have treatment etc. I spent my days in the hospital doing a line-by-line comparison of the two books. Pure distraction but enjoyable in a nerdy way also. 

Digital or physical copy?

Physical copy. I order in my local bookshop, O Mahony’s in Limerick, and stroll in to collect it. There’s a kind of ritual to it really. Digital, however, is great for travel. 

Do you finish every book you start?

Yes – even the ones I hate. 

One of your own books that you’d choose to save over others

My latest novel Things I Know. I’d save it because it was a mammoth task to write. I’m deeply proud of it. We need to talk about mental health/illness/suicide in a real and honest way. 

Are you one book at a time, or a polyamorous reader?

One book at a time. Occasionally, I might have a short story collection on the go too for snatched bite-sized reading. 

A book you are reading now

I’m reading How I Live Now by Meg Rosoff. You can’t beat quality YA. 

A book you’d leave in there to burn

Easy one. Maria Edgeworth’s Castle Rackrent. Did it for Leaving Cert alongside the brilliant Wuthering Heights. I hated Rackrent with a passion. I understand its historical significance but it bored me stupid. Wuthering Heights, on the other hand, is still in my heart and in my book collection, (with handwritten notes in the margins from 18 year old me.)

Something you would save that isn’t a book?

Another easy one! My 13-year-old Labrador, Bonnie. She’s my best friend, a lumbering mass of love and loyalty. My family could flake away themselves in the flames. They’d manage. They always do. 


Burning Books…on Paper is the sister series to our popular podcast, when editor Ruth McKee asks each guest which books they would save if their house was on fire. The latest episode is with author Olivia Fitzsimons.