What are UCD’s English Professors Reading?

Image Credit: Alexander Grey via Unsplash

If you’re looking for book recommendations, who better to ask than the Professors of English themselves? Heather Slevin has compiled a list of some of UCD’s English and Creative Writing Professors’ current reads.

As we hit the end of Spring Semester, many of us will be compiling our lists of summer reads. Whether you plan on picking up the book you bought back in the October reading week, or you’re looking for something new, who better to ask for a recommended reading than UCD’s English and Creative Writing Professors?  

Dr Éireann Lorsung

Starting off strong with the Pathway Coordinator of English with Creative Writing, Dr Éireann Lorsung is reading the following: 

What Light Can Do: Essays on Art, Imagination, and the Natural World by Robert Haas

In Radical Pursuit: Critical Essays and Lectures by W.D. Snodgrass

My Private Property by Mary Ruefle 

From Unincorporated Territory [åmot] by Craig Santos Perez

A poetry anthology made by students in Dr Lorsungs Advanced Poetry Spring 2024 module

Included also in Dr Lorsung’s readings are: 

Reddit posts 

Local newspapers 


And many others on her phone - “more than I’d like”! 

Of all on this list, Dr Lorsung’s list was the longest - a good sign, given she is the coordinator of Creative Writing.

Dr Lorsung claims that the anthology she made with her students is a particular favourite of her current reads, and is “continually surprising me by how much I like poetry”. However, all of the books she is reading are restoring her love for poetry in each of their own, individual ways. Perhaps Dr Lorsung wouldn’t mind sharing the anthology when she’s finished! 

Dr Lorsung claims that the anthology she made with her students is a particular favourite of her current reads, and is “continually surprising me by how much I like poetry.

Dr Niamh Campbell 

Coming up next (in no particular order, we promise!) is Dr Niamh Campell, a Lecturer and Assistant Professor of Creative Writing, who was also UCD’s writer-in-residence in 2021. Dr Campbell is reading: 

The Future Future by Adam Thirlwell

The Variations by Patrick Langley

When asked about her preference over the two, Dr Campbell says that she is liking one novel more than the other. She describes The Future Future as “a darkly hilarious and very anachronistic 'historical' novel about a bored society girl”. But the main character, Celine, finds herself at the centre of a pornographic pamphlet smear campaign. In order to overcome this ordeal, Celine “enlists friends and lovers to help her out by putting together a team of hard-drinking, foppish, and sexually liberated political writers who will wage literary war on her mysterious enemies.”

It sounds like exactly the book some of us might need during term time, especially when our readings can feel like a bit of a struggle to get through. Dr Campbell claims that she is considering teaching The Future Future, “because it is original, well-written, and more snappily accessible than the weirder and labyrinthine Variations.” If you spot The Future Future on next year's reading lists, you can’t say you didn’t get the heads-up from us. 

Dr Jason O’Toole 

Dr Jason O’Toole, an English Literature Tutor and Lecturer at UCD, is currently reading: 

God's Children Are Little Broken Things by Arinze Ifeakandu

Orlando by Virginia Woolf

Arinze Ifeakandu’s work is a collection of short stories about queer love in contemporary Nigeria; the collection won the 2023 Dylan Thomas Prize. Named for Dylan Thomas, a Welsh poet and writer, the prize is open to published writers in the English language under the age of forty. Meanwhile, Orlando is a re-read for Dr O’Toole, who is teaching the novel in their Life Writing: Text and Self Spring 2024 module. 

Dr Danielle Clarke

Dr Clarke is a Full Professor in the School of English, Drama, and Film here at UCD. Her current reads are: 

The City of Strangers by Micheal Russell 

North Woods by Daniel Mason 

Next up on Dr Clarke’s to-be-read pile is: 

Close to Home by Micheal Magee

All That She Carried: The Journey of Ashley's Sack, a Black Family Keepsake by Tiya Miles 

The Children’s Bach by Helen Gardner

Dr Clarke describes The City of Strangers as a detective mystery set in 1930s Ireland, and says that the author, Micheal Russel, is “great at synthesising complex history, and his characters grapple with the contradictions and legacies of the war of independence and the civil war”. North Woods, however, is set in a specific part of Massachusetts, following the stories of various different inhabitants of the area. “Part eco-fiction, part literary mystery, it’s beautifully written,” Dr Clarke says. 

Dr Paula McGrath

I also spoke to Dr Paula McGrath, who is an Assistant Professor and Lecturer in the School of English, Drama and Film, and is the current Acting Head of Creative Writing. On her current list is: 

Ruderal City: Ecologies of Migration, Race, and Urban Nature in Berlin by Bettina Stoetzer

Egg/Shell by Victoria Kennefick

Wild Houses by Colin Barrett 

Two of Dr McGrath’s current reads were written by UCD Writer-in-Residents. Dr McGrath commented on Ruderal City, explaining that the ruderal means “‘growing on wasteland or among rubbish’”.

Dr McGrath also recommends: 

Florida by Lauren Groff, a collection of short stories

The Vaster Wilds by Lauren Groff

Of the short story collection, Dr McGrath says that she ‘doled it out for months to make it last as long as possible’. 

Of the short story collection [Florida by Lauren Groff], Dr McGrath says that she ‘doled it out for months to make it last as long as possible

Miss Síobhan Kane

Síobhan Kane is a Lecturer and Co-Lecturer at UCD, known to most UCD English Students as the Lecturer for Children’s Literature - a module that is held near and dear to many of us. On her list of current reads is:

The Culture of Narcissism: American Life in an Age of Diminishing Expectations by Christopher Lasch 

A Woman (Una Donna) by Sibilla Aleramo 

Go Ahead in the Rain by Hanif Abdurraqib review – a tribute to A Tribe Called Quest

Bartleby in Manhattan, and other essays by Elizabeth Hardwick 

Miss Kane offers some insight into The Culture of Narcissism. The novel was first published in 1979, and “yet has so much to say about the 21st century”. Kane finds it comforting (and discomfiting!) to “know that a lot of our problems remain the same, just presenting through different shapes”. 

Lastly, Miss Kane speaks very highly of American writer Elizabeth Hardwick, quoting that Hardwick once said writing an essay was like “‘trying to catch a fish in the open hand’”. According to Kane, “she isn’t as widely known as she should be. Her work is dazzling.”

Well, that’s as strong a recommendation as any. Let me just grab my Goodreads, which has been slowly filling up. I swear though, there’s no such thing as too many books ...