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Read 'em and keep

Decluttering guru Marie Kondo recommends making a bonfire of your bookshelves. Stephanie Bell asked NI personalities which five titles they wouldn't be able to live without... and why

New chapter: Marie Kondo suggests pruning back your bookshelves
New chapter: Marie Kondo suggests pruning back your bookshelves

Decluttering guru Marie Kondo has come under fire for suggesting that we should have no more than 30 volumes on our bookshelves. The Japanese "organising consultant", whose KonMari method of decluttering our homes has become a worldwide phenonomen, was forced to defend herself after a backlash from book-lovers.

Known as "The Queen of Clean", Kondo has been spreading her message of minimalism in the home through her Netflix series Tidying Up With Marie Kondo. But her belief in keeping only 30 titles wasn't exactly embraced by some - prompting Kondo to clarify her position.

She insisted that she doesn't actually want readers to purge their entire book collections, pointing out that her method of decluttering is meant to help individuals discover what's important to them.

Challenged to whittle their bookshelves down, we asked a number of NI personalities to name the top five books they would refuse to part with.

Jim Dornan

obstetrician and gynaecologist

A Spaniard in the Works by John Lennon

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As a teenager growing up in Bangor, rules, rules, rules dominated our lives. So, when we found a role-model who supported us in trying to hold back - and even turn - the tide, we were going to embrace him. And that was John Lennon. I so much admired him. His music, of course, but his rebellious streak more than anything. He was empowered before I knew what the word meant. Maybe not a literary masterpiece, but he was my literary master. John Lennon told it like it was. He took no prisoners. He wasn't impressionable, weak or hypocritical. A good man.

The Da Vinci Code by Dan Brown

Symbolism, ceremony, secret societies and rituals are the backdrop to Brown's wonderfully crafted works, but buried within is his role as a truly contemporary feminist. It's not so much the story itself that I learnt from, but Brown's wonderful and insightful views, which revealed the view of a woman's place over the ages taken by all - and I mean all - the main religions. A life-changing read - if you ignore the story.

Four Iron in the Soul by Lawrence Donegan

I have footered at golf for many decades. I just don't know how some of my colleagues became so good at the game, because I have truly struggled. Laurence Donegan in Four Iron in the Soul provided me with huge insight into what is required to be a successful golfer. His fascinating insight into the personalities involved reveals that the best golfers are those with absolutely nothing in their heads - especially at the top of their back swing. Donegan noted that the best golfers are focused almost to the point of despair.

British History for Dummies by Sean Lang

My father was so keen to have a son who would study medicine that there was constant pressure to read anything scientific between the ages of 12 and 18. History - now one of my favourite subjects - was relegated to the bottom of the list and, while I did enough to get through, it was never presented to me in a fascinating manner to grab my interest. That all changed later in life, when I bought myself British History for Dummies. Wonderful.

George Best: A Life in the News by Richard Williams

There were times in my life when I thought of George Best on a daily basis. I so admired his skills and cherished the fact that he played for my teams (Manchester United and Northern Ireland). He could do no wrong in my eyes.

This book truly brings to life all his great times. The reader is transported as if by magic to Old Trafford, Maine Road, Anfield, Wembley and Windsor Park. George's finely honed skills are imprinted into my psyche as though I was there myself.

Kerry McLean

BBC Radio Ulster presenter

Collected Works of PG Wodehouse

I have the entire collection - everything he has ever written. It started when I was at university and hadn't 2d to rub together. I picked up a copy of PG Wodehouse in a secondhand bookshop and have loved him ever since. I find his books an easy way to chill out - they are very funny and make me laugh every time.

Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte

This is the first book that I remember reading as a child and I remember being carried away with the romanticism of it all. I was about 13 when I read it and it blew my head off.

I would still lift it up and read it and it takes me right back to that age and the first stirrings of romantic love.

Every Dead Thing by John Connolly

He has a series of books with a main character Charlie Parker, who is a kind of mad police officer in America. I love crime books and horror and this sort of combines the two. It also delves into Jewish folklore and is a wonderful mix of everything.

The House Where It Happened by Martina Devlin

I adore this book - it is a super read. It still pops into my head when I am round that area of Islandmagee where it is set. I can't believe it is based on real facts about the last conviction for witchcraft here. It is a book I have recommended more than any other. It is fantastic.

Once Upon a River by Diane Setterfield

I had never come upon this author before and now I can't wait to get my hands on her two previous books. Her style of writing is superb. I love books that mix things up.

It starts with a man carrying what you think is the body of a child into a room and then the child comes back to life. It had me hooked from the start.

Peter Corry

singer and director

Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafon

I loved this book. It had mystery, dark magic, old Barcelona and whodunnit all thrown in.

To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee

I remember reading this as a child and found the story one that I kept coming back to in my adult years.

The Moon's a Balloon by David Niven

I like my old black-and-white movies and David Niven's recounting of his time in Holywood was brilliantly told.

The Thirty-Nine Steps by John Buchan

This one is special, because it is the first book I ever read. John Buchan's adventure is about a man on the run, Richard Hannay, wrongly accused of murder, although I prefer the end of the Hitchcock film version, which concluded in an old music hall in the West End.

Empire of the Sun by J G Ballard

I am currently reading this. It was given to me by my daughter - she studied it for A-l

evels and it has all her notes in it.

Wendy Austin

BBC Radio Ulster presenter

Becoming by Michelle Obama

My husband bought me this book for Christmas. She has a really interesting story to tell about her life growing up in a not very well-off family and then meeting Barack. I heard some of it on the radio and I am really looking forward to reading the rest of it.

Bloody Brilliant Women by Cathy Newman

This is all about fabulous women your history teacher forgot to mention - there are some wonderful women in it

The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams

I have had the Douglas Adams's compilation for some time. I met Douglas at an event in the Dunadry Hotel a few years ago and he worked for the BBC, although I never worked with him. He was fascinating - a really interesting guy and a bit odd, as you would expect. He signed my book for me. It has to be one of my all-time favourite books.

Our Hearts were Young and Gay by Emily Kimbrough and Cornelia Otis Skinner

This book was written in the 1920s by two women from the States, who set off on a grand adventure around Europe. I actually lost my copy during a house move and hope, by mentioning it now, it might turn up. It is one of those books I would reach for if I am feeling down, it is very funny and silly.

Acqua Alta by Donna Leon

Donna Leon has a whole series of books about Venice, where she lives, and I love Venice and I also love detective novels. They are about a Venetian detective called Commissario Guido Brunetti, who gets various aquatic transport round the city. It always makes me think what a gorgeous place Venice is. These might be the only books I keep, but I will have all of the rest on my Kindle.

Shirley McCay

Ireland World Cup hockey silver medallist

Under an Orange Sky: The Story of the Women’s World Cup 2018

What it says on the cover. A keepsake for the rest of my life.

A Boy Made of Blocks by Keith Stuart

A fiction book based on a true story. Easy to read, an emotional, heartwarming story about the struggles and pressures a family with an autistic child can face.

Bounce: The Myth of Talent and the Power of Practice by Matthew Syed

An interesting insight into what factors contribute to success.

A Thousand Splendid Suns by Khaled Hosseini

Beautifully written and heartfelt story of the harsh reality of the life of Afghan people, particularly women. A page-turner that will make you cry.

Taking on the World by Ellen MacArthur

One of the first autobiographies I read, about the 24-year-old MacArthur, who completed the Vendee Globe, the world’s toughest sailing race. She went on to become the fastest person (male or female) to race solo around the world.

Tommy Cassidy

Northern Ireland 1982 World Cup hero

George Best: Blessed — The Autobiography

Like many people, I loved George Best and couldn’t get enough of him. I roomed with him on Northern Ireland trips and he was lovely. There were lots of books about Bestie and I was even in one of them. Of them all, I think the Blessed book told you as much about the man as the magical footballer, making it all the more interesting.

The Sash He Never Wore by Derek Dougan

Derek was another Northern Ireland hero. He was never shy in coming forward about his views and this book was certainly considered controversial at the time. That’s one of the reasons why I liked it.

Kevin Keegan: My Autobiography

Kevin has a new book out, but this is one I’ve read and enjoyed, because it gave a great insight into his time as Newcastle boss. Newcastle are my club and Kevin’s my friend and it was fascinating to read about his time there.

Supermac: My Autobiography by Malcolm McDonald (with Colin Malam)

I played with Malcolm and like to tell him that I made him, not that he would ever listen. He was such a hero to the Newcastle fans and he really was a superb player, though don’t tell him I said that. His book wasn’t bad, either.

100 Irish Rugby Greats by John Scally

Not many people will know this, but I grew up playing rugby, not football, when I was at school. I was a scrum-half and played for Ulster Schoolboys. I loved the sport and still do and loved watching the great rugby players, especially Mike Gibson, who was the best of them all. That’s why I like books like 100 Irish Rugby Greats, which celebrate players like that.

Ann McGregor

chief executive of the NI Chamber of Commerce and Industry

The Reader by Bernard Schlink

Bernard Schlink, a German judge, deals with the difficulties post-war German generations have had comprehending the Holocaust. I loved the idea behind the book; of someone who’s done a really good thing in helping a sick child, who had previously worked with the Nazis to torture people.

A Prayer for Owen Meany by John Irving

This tells the story of John Wheelwright and his best friend, Owen Meany, growing up together in a small New Hampshire town during the 1950s and 1960s. Owen believes himself to be God’s instrument and sets out to fulfil the fate he has prophesied for himself — triumph over adversity.

The Ragged-Trousered Philanthropists by Robert Tressell

Irish writer Robert Tressell’s novel is about a house painter’s efforts to find work to stave off the workhouse. It’s the first novel which recognised the flaws of the class system. And it’s a really good read.

When They Go Low We Go High: Speeches That Shaped the World and Why We Need Them by Philip Collins

This book analyses 25 great speeches, from Cicero and Winston Churchill to Barack Obama. It’s a reminder to me of the importance of speeches and communication to leadership. And it makes the point that the US presidents who tend to be good orators, like Reagan and Obama, are the presidents who go on to secure a second term.

The Outsider by Albert Camus

A classic existentialist novel, The Outsider explores the alienation of an individual who refuses to conform to social norms. Meursault, Camus’ anti-hero, will not lie. When his mother dies, he refuses to show his emotions simply to satisfy the expectations of others.

Carol Fitzsimons

chief executive of Young Enterprise

The Silver Spoon by Clelia D’Onofrio

This is traditionally given to all Italian newly-weds. It’s a fantastic cookbook and a journey through Italian culture.

Lichfield on Photography by Sir Patrick Lichfield

A coffee table book. As a child, I enjoyed browsing through the glamorous fashion and skilful photography.

The World According to Garp by John Irving

I really enjoy all his novels and will need a good read — as well as pretty books.

Steve Jobs: The Exclusive Biography by Walter Isaacson

The biography of the late Apple visionary, it’s a fascinating journey, with many ups and downs, to build the products and business that he believed in.

Collins World Atlas

I really love maps, geography and planning my travels.

Additional reporting by Margaret Canning and Jim Gracey

Belfast Telegraph


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