TPQ: What are you currently reading?
JD: Currently reading Dee Brown’s Hear that Lonesome Whistle Blow. It’s a book that I wanted to read for some time, which I finally got a copy of. It’s the story of the construction of the first American rail roads. Enjoying it so far. I just got a copy of the Secret Barrister’s, Stories of the Law and How it’s Broken. Enjoyed reading their blog articles so looking forward to reading it.
TPQ: Best book you have ever read?
JD: Well one of the reasons for wanting to read the above book was having read Dee Brown’s other classic, Bury my Heart at Wounded Knee about the history of the Native American Indians. I read that after backpacking around the west of America just after I graduated from UCD. Probably the most powerful book I ever read. Best fiction book, I would probably say was Alexander Dumas’s Count of Monte Cristo. A great story of revenge and intrigue that I couldn’t put down.
TPQ: A must-read before you die?
JD: I tried reading Orientalism by Edward Said some years ago but didn’t get very far. I found it very heavy going. It’s regarded as his magnum opus so maybe I should give it another go. The location of my work over the past number of years would possibly make it more interesting for me to read now.
TPQ: A preference for fact or fiction?
JD: Definitely fact. Though I do enjoy the escapism of fiction from time to time and should probably make an effort to read more of it.
TPQ: Favourite female author?
JD: Sorry to say there aren’t many female authors that I have read more than one book of. Something I need to rectify perhaps. One that I have is Dambisa Moyo. She is a very clever economist from Lusaka, Zambia. Her first book had a big influence on me as I elaborate on below.
TPQ: Favourite male author?
JD: I have read a number of Richard Dawkins’s books, which I greatly enjoyed. My favourite was probably The Greatest Show on Earth about the evidence for evolution. Being a rock music fan, who dabbles with actually playing as well, I really enjoy Mick Wall’s books about the famous rock and metal bands.
|A Berlin Book Tower in memory of the Nazi book burning.|
TPQ: First book you ever read?
JD: Hard to remember my first as a child, but my first Roald Dahl book was The Witches. Became a bit hooked on his books after that.
TPQ: Favourite childhood author?
JD: Definitely Roald Dahl. Read a good chunk of his books. Also read CS Lewis’s entire Chronicles of Narnia.
TPQ: Any book you point blank refuse to read?
JD: I generally avoid biographies unless the person is especially interesting. I am particularly bemused by celebrity culture and people who publish biographies when it seems to me that they haven’t accomplished anything of value. I have no interest in reading about their lives.
TPQ: Any author you point blank refuse to read?
JD: Gerry Adams. For all his talents as a political leader, I find his writing style somewhat mawkish and self-serving. This is from reading his articles. As a result, I’ve never been drawn to his books despite being very interested in Irish history and politics generally. If I was to get any of his books, it would probably be the cook book.
TPQ: Pick a book to give to somebody so that they would more fully understand you.
JD: I’ve worked a lot in Africa over the years, mainly related to capacity building of local water utilities. The work is interesting and rewarding but can be frustrating. If anyone has ambition to work in international development, particularly in Africa, I would recommend Dambisa Moyo’s Dead Aid: How Aid Is Not Working And How There Is A Better Way For Africa to be top of your reading list. It has been a huge influence on me and reflects my own thinking and experience. The subject matter sounds heavy, but it is actually really easy to read. I’ve already read it twice and suspect I’ll be revisiting it again.
The essence of her argument is that aid dependency has kept African countries in a childlike state. Some countries have over half their revenues coming from hand-outs. This had bred corruption and lethargy. She outlines a way that African countries can grow organically with their leaders being held to account by their own taxpayers. Ultimately, while people in the West can help, Africa will only succeed through their own initiative. Dambisa is herself African and makes a powerful argument.
TPQ: Last book you gave as a present?
JD: That was actually a children’s book A Children’s ABC of the Gulf. It was written by an Irish woman, Orla Taylor, who was inspired by her time living in Bahrain, where I have been based for the past few years. She wanted to give her children something to remember of their time there by writing an ABC guide based on their everyday observations.
TPQ: Book you would most like to see turned into a movie?
JD: Having worked in the Arab and Muslim world for a long time, I would love to see After the Prophet: The Epic Story Of The Shia-Sunni Split In Islam by Lesley Hamilton made into a film, though the Islamic blasphemy laws would probably prevent it. It is an incredible drama with extraordinary characters. Shame it will never happen as it would have the potential to match the great epics like Ben Hur, Spartacus and the Passion of the Christ. If done well, it could educate a lot of people about this part of the World.