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Ruairí’s Hitching For Hope book given a lift


Lahinch-based author Ruairí McKiernan has landed a major US prize for his book Hitching for Hope – a Journey into the Heart and Soul of Ireland.

The annual Best Book Awards by the American Book Fest have been in existence for almost 20 years. They celebrate some of the finest writing from the United States and around the world. McKiernan scooped the top award in the travel category, which also included finalists from Spain, Mexico and the United States.

Hitching for Hope is part memoir and part hitchhiking travel adventure. An Irish number 1 bestseller, it has also proved particularly popular with US readers. Both Ruairí and his book benefit from strong US associations. He has spent considerable time in the US over the years, including as a Fulbright scholar in Berkeley, California.

Hitching for Hope is published by renowned US publisher Chelsea Green Publishing. It has received praise from readers throughout the US, including from well-known Americans such as musician Peggy Seeger, philosopher Joanna Macy, and authors Chuck Collins and Andrew Forsthoefel.

Musician Amanda Palmer described it as “funny, philosophical, and moving” and leading environmentalist Bill McKibben said it is “a tale that will resonate all over the world”.

President Michael D Higgins is also a fan and said the book is “in the fine tradition of a search for what is most valuable in the different spaces of Ireland and how they might help us craft a new way forward together.”

Unable to do his planned US book tour due to Covid restrictions, Ruairí was one of the early adapters to virtual events, which allowed him to reach the world from his fireside in Lahinch.

With the support of Culture Ireland, he did over thirty online book events in collaboration with Irish consulates and cultural and community organisations throughout the world, including in the United States, Sweden, Hungary, South Africa, and Australia.

Ruairí is well known as a leading social innovator, charity founder, and host of the Love and Courage podcast. He also served for seven years on the Council of State as one of President Higgins’ appointees.

Speaking about the award, he says it came as a very welcome surprise, just as Covid restrictions eased and the world of travel opened again.

“Needless to say, it’s been a challenging few years for everyone and my heart goes out to people who have been adversely affected. For me, the book was always about hope, community, kindness, about empowering ourselves and each other. So, while it was a difficult time to release a book, the timing was perhaps perfect when you consider the themes and messages.”

Brianne Goodspeed, Editorial Director at Chelsea Green Publishing says the response to the book has been fantastic and that the award comes as no surprise.

“We knew early on this was a special book. We were happy to be able to release it in the US, Ireland, Europe, Australia and throughout the world. It was great to see it get to number 1 in Ireland and now to receive even greater recognition here in the US.

“The book has resonated with readers, including the huge Irish diaspora around the world. But more than that, it’s a universal book. It’s unusual in some ways while yes, it’s a travel book, it’s also a memoir, a love letter to Ireland, and a real tribute to the uplifting power of people to create change.”

It seems the American Book Fest award is creating a new momentum behind Hitching for Hope with invitations coming for Ruairí to speak at book events throughout North America, Europe and Australia. The author says he’s not sure what’s next but that he’s excited about the possibilities.

“I’ve been doing more writing and I’m always keen to travel, so we’ll see what happens. It’s always great to get out and about and meet people and share stories. I’m very grateful for this award and for all the support from readers and everyone involved”.

To find out more about Hitching for Hope visit www.hitchingforhope.com

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