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Meet our Book Doctors... Emer McLysaght and Sarah Breen, authors of Once, Twice, Three Times an Aisling

In our Book Doctor feature, we welcome a guest to prescribe just the right read for any mood or occasion.

Emer McLysaght and Sarah Breen, winners of the National Book Tokens Popular Fiction Book of the Year in the An Post Irish Book Awards for Once, Twice, Three Times an Aisling, have joined us to prescribe some fantastic books.

I've been feeling a bit low and would love to read some funny books to help pick me up! Can you recommend any? – Gaby, 20

Hi Gaby, you're in luck as we're big fans of a funny book. We always, always recommend Rachel's Holiday by Marian Keyes whenever anyone says they want to laugh. It has the added bonus of being an absolutely fantastic piece of work all round with the most unreliable of narrators and a huge amount of heart. Sue Townsend’s Adrian Mole series and her standalone novel The Queen and I are some more titles you can't go wrong with. We have re-read these books again and again and find something new to laugh at every time. Hope you feel better soon.

Rachel's Holiday by Marian Keyes

How do you read when you can't seem to concentrate? – Tasmin

Oh, this is a problem we really relate to, Tasmin. Everything moves so fast these days and it can feel impossible to ignore the lure of your phone and just focus on the words on the page. We'd recommend a few things. Firstly, move your phone or any other distraction to another room. Set yourself up in as much silence as you can – maybe some earplugs or noise cancelling headphones might help. Choose something that's not going to be too taxing or require too much concentration to get you back in your stride – maybe a book you've read and enjoyed in the past, or a non-fiction title about a subject you're interested in or a place you’d like to travel to. Good luck!

Book Doctor

I've been told I'm a 'chick lit snob', refusing to read any 'popular' stuff, and that I’m missing out. There's truth in this, but the few books I've tried haven't inspired me to look further. What do you recommend? – Cathy

Hi Cathy, as writers of what would probably have been termed "chick lit" back in the day but we prefer to refer to as "popular fiction", we've been approached again and again by readers who’ve confessed that they thought our Complete Aisling series of books wouldn't be for them as they don't usually read "that sort of thing". At the risk of blowing our own trumpets, maybe Oh My God, What a Complete Aisling would be a good place to start? Just because something is enjoyed by a lot of people, it doesn’t mean it doesn’t have merit. Unfortunately it is almost always women who fall into the "popular" category and may be overlooked by those who pride themselves on their literary prowess. Have you read any Maeve Binchy (Circle of Friends or Evening Class) or Marian Keyes (The Break, Last Chance Saloon, Rachel's Holiday)? Irish writer Eithne Shorthall’s new one Three Little Truths is gripping from the first page. Go forth and enjoy!

Oh My God, What a complete Aisling by Emer McLysaght & Sarah Breen

I'm trying to set up a book club for my friends but we all have very different tastes in books (and varying capacities to actually finish a book during busy everyday life!) so I thought I'd keep it to short stories. I've no idea where to start though - I'm the typical book worm and happily read a very eclectic range of genres but my friends are mostly into chick lit or crime. Help! – Heather, 40

Heather, it seems like you’ve already identified the two main problems facing so many people trying to set up book clubs – time and interest. Where many clubs fall down is deciding to tackle a literary tome because they think if they have to read Moby Dick, they will. Your approach is much more sensible and you’re on the right track with short stories. You could try Raymond Carver’s collection What We Talk About When We Talk About Love and choose one story. Or how about Sinead Gleeson’s autobiographical collection Constellations? Both are beautiful books you could dig into again and again. Alternatively, you could go for titles which are more episodic and rely less on an overarching plot. Non-fiction titles like Adam Kay's This Is Going to Hurt or Lisa Taddeo’s Three Women would be perfect here. Even if the readers only get a third of the way through, they will still feel like they have a sense of the writing style and there is more scope to discuss the books as a whole without 'spoiling' the story.


What We Talk About When We Talk About Love by Raymond Carver

I tend to read very long books/series such as the Outlander series, Poldark series, Game of Thrones, Bernard Cornwell, etc. I enjoy this and I'm a fast reader, but I want to surpass my reading target for the year. Can you recommend some shorter fiction books (e.g. the length of The Great Gatsby)? – Ruby

Hi Ruby, you’re in luck, because some of the greatest things come in small packages. The Summer Book by Tove Jansson, Coraline by Neil Gaiman, The Body by Stephen King, Shopgirl by Steve Martin and The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie by Muriel Spark are all excellent. Penguin has also released a collection of eighty individual works called Little Black Classics which you could probably work your way through at pace. Happy reading!

The Body by Stephen King
Once, Twice, Three Times an Aisling by Emer McLysaght & Sarah Breen

Once, Twice, Three Times an Aisling by Emer McLysaght and Sarah Breen

Aisling is thirty, flirty and frazzled.

But – just when she should finally be feeling all grown-up – she's floundering.

Because when you're recovering from a broken heart as well as struggling to keep your café as sizzling as your award-winning sausages, it's hard to feel you've really made it as an adult.

Which is just the moment for the unexpected to strike and complicate everything.

Now is not the time for a delicious new man to show up, her best friend to demand the hen do of the century and a surprise celebrity appearance.

But Aisling, never one to worry about having too much on her plate, rolls up her sleeves: she's got this.

Until she discovers that being a proper grown-up means you can't do everything.

Sometimes you will let someone down.

But will it be those she loves, or herself?

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