Welcome to the Book Marks Questionnaire, where we ask authors questions about the books that have shaped them.
This week, we spoke to the author of A Crooked Tree (out now in paperback), Una Mannion.
Book Marks: Last book you read?
Una Mannion: Claire Keegan’s Small Things Like These. She’s like an Irish Chekov.
BM: A book that made you cry?
UM: Memorial Drive, Natasha Trethewey’s memoir about her mother who was murdered by her stepfather in 1985.
BM: What book from the past year would you like to give a shout-out to?
UN: It might be from the past two years, but I would love to give a shout out to Elizabeth Wetmore’s debut novel Valentine. I read it in one gulp. At times I was holding my breath.
BM: A book that actually made you laugh out loud?
UM: Miriam Toews’ All My Puny Sorrows, a very very sad book that had me bursting into laughter in spite of myself. In the most brutal situations, her humor is human, hilarious, and dignified. Brilliant.
BM: Favorite book to give as a gift?
UM: Sinead Gleeson’s The Art of the Glimpse: 100 Irish Short Stories.
BM: Classic book you hate?
UM: I am reconsidering Emily Brontë’s Wuthering Heights (sacrilege to many, I know). My daughter studying it in secondary school is asking me what is up with how you love this book: he hangs a dog, abuses his wife, abuses his son, digs up a dead body to hold and … well? The thing is, I barely remembered those parts and I am wondering what kind of amnesia is that? I am about to revisit.
BM: Classic book on your To Be Read pile?
UM: All the Russians. This year.
BM: Favorite book of the 21st century?
UM: Drive Your Plow Over the Bones of the Dead by Polish writer Olga Tokarczuk (translated by Antonia Lloyd-Jones). It’s an ecological thriller with an inimitable attitude.
BM: Favorite book you were assigned in high school?
UM: Dee Brown’s Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee and Stephen Crane’s The Red Badge of Courage. Both books were on an older sibling’s assigned high school reading list. I read them when I was about 13. They were devastating and formative.
BM: Book(s) you’re reading right now?
UM: In Memory of Memory by Maria Stepanova (translated by Sasha Dugdale). I have been reading it for months because she sends me down sideroads reading other writers on memory that she is in conversation with, including Susan Sontag and W.G. Sebald. It also sent me to the supermarket late at night to buy notebooks I was inspired to fill. But haven’t.
BM: Favorite children’s book?
UM: All the Frog and Toad books by Arnold Lobel are beautifully sublime. “Toad sat and did nothing. Frog sat with him.”
Una Mannion was born in Philadelphia and has lived in Ireland since the 1990s. A Crooked Tree is her debut novel and was published in 2021. It spent several weeks on the top ten Irish bestsellers list and was nominated for the An Post Irish Book Awards. She is program chair of the Writing + Literature program at the Institute of Technology, Sligo and edits The Cormorant, a broadsheet of poetry and prose.
Una Mannion’s A Crooked Tree is out now in paperback from