Goodreads helps you keep track of books you want to read.
Start by marking “Belfast Diary: War as a Way of Life” as Want to Read:
Belfast Diary: War as a Way of Life
Enlarge cover
Rate this book
Clear rating
Open Preview

Belfast Diary: War as a Way of Life

4.02  ·  Rating details ·  484 Ratings  ·  43 Reviews
Resolution of intractable problems around the world requires understanding ordinary people as well as leaders. This street-level view of Northern Ireland provides the best explanation of the twenty-five-year conflict.
Paperback, 240 pages
Published June 30th 1995 by Beacon Press (first published November 1987)
More Details... edit details

Friend Reviews

To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up.

Reader Q&A

To ask other readers questions about Belfast Diary, please sign up.

Be the first to ask a question about Belfast Diary

Community Reviews

(showing 1-30)
Rating details
Sort: Default
Sep 13, 2017 rated it really liked it
A finely observed and well written journalistic/anthropological/historical account of the troubles in Northern Ireland, particularly in Belfast and even more particularly in the Catholic ghetto of Clonard where the author lived in a boarding house on and off for a number of years while reporting his story.
John Dizon
Feb 11, 2014 rated it it was amazing
It may be a blast from the past but it hurts just the same. John Conroy's Belfast Diaries takes us back to the Troubles in Northern Ireland in the 70's, reminding us of how it all went ballistic in 1972 on Bloody Sunday, and hit its peak during the hunger strike of 1981. Most of the struggle has been romanticized in countless books and movies (including my own Tiara), but Conroy's account details the needless suffering of the lower-class Irishmen caught in the crossfire with no place or means of ...more
Apr 11, 2015 rated it really liked it
John Conroy lived in Belfast during the troubles. He was there as a journalist since he was going to write a story about it. He rented a room from a Catholic woman in the Catholic area of Belfast. He spoke to many different people about the situation in Northern Ireland. Towards the end of his stay the IRA took over the house he was living in several times. They were attempting to blow up a store near the house and were using the kitchen to set up the bomb. He goes into great detail about the me ...more
Peter Colclasure
Oct 29, 2017 rated it really liked it
The book has a unique slant compared to other books I've read about the Troubles. It was written by an American journalist from Chicago who moved to Belfast for a few years in the early '80s. So it has an outsider's perspective, and takes time to explain elements of the conflict that would be obvious to someone from Northern Ireland but hazy to Americans.

The book touched on some interesting elements of the conflict that I hadn't read before, such as the spate of insurance fraud that accompanied
Feb 25, 2008 rated it it was amazing
One of the points made early in this book is that the Ireland-Northern Ireland Protestant-Catholic thing is not really understood by most people. It's understanding of the conflict (even after reading McCourt, mwah) was that Ireland was Catholic, Northern Ireland was Protestant, and the two didn't like each other. Not even close. Written by a sociologist / historian / journalist who spent several years living in a Belfast Catholic ghetto, War as A Way of Life explains how the conflict ...more
Owen Scott Verde
Jul 21, 2011 rated it liked it
Going into this I was aware of my ignorance about "The Troubles" in northern Ireland. After reading it I now know exactly what I don't know. It was a brave, 'Gonzo' like type journalistic venture. The author lived in Belfast for the good part of two years. He lived this book.
Mar 18, 2017 rated it really liked it
In Belfast Diary: War as a Way of Life, American journalist John Conroy has written a short yet compelling narrative of the "troubles" in Northern Ireland in the 70's and 80's. It's made even better by the fact that he tells it from the viewpoint of a man on the spot, in the middle of the neighborhoods most involved and affected. When he went to Belfast, Conroy didn't intend to wind up in the middle of anarchy but he decided to rent a room in a boardinghouse run by Bridgit Barbour in the working ...more
Katie Potasky
Nov 20, 2017 rated it liked it
I read this book for a course I’m taking focused on Modern Irish History. I was happily surprised to find that Conroy was providing relatively equal amounts of information regarding the IRA, RUC, UDA, etc for most of the book. However, when I finally got to chapter five, I felt that there was no longer a balance of information provided. The entirety of chapter five was focused on the hunger strikes, how the IRA was improving its image globally, and how Conroy was scared to be in Clonard as each ...more
Jun 12, 2017 rated it really liked it
Conroy's book looks at the Troubles of Northern Ireland during the 70s and 80s. Conroy was an American journalist who went to Belfast to cover the conflict. He sprinkles the book with important political history, so that the reader can better understand the conflict, but also includes his own personal experiences of living life in a Belfast ghetto as a foreign journalist.

In his personal experience, Conroy does an excellent job of portraying day-to-day life in the ghettos of West Belfast: living
Courtney Simpson
Jun 06, 2017 rated it it was ok
I found myself quickly losing interest in this book. Everything seemed so heavily weighed down with references and I would lose track of what the author had even been talking about in the first place. I was hoping to read more about his experiences.
Mar 20, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
An incredibly poignant and jarring account of life in Belfast during the Troubles. The discussions about different political groups and their views/sympathies could sometimes be quite dense, but overall the information was well-researched and presented without bias. I was completely unaware of many of the events that were witnessed by the author. Highly recommended for anyone interested in Irish history.
Jul 06, 2007 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: anyone who wants a deeper understanding of sectarian violence, particularly in Northern Ireland
Recommended to Elizabeth by: Greg Albert
This sympathetic account of the Troubles in Northern Ireland, written by an American journalist who lived in a Catholic ghetto in West Belfast for a number of years in the early 1980's, is both a deeply felt personal memoir and a well-researched and objective study of the different forces that contributed to that violence. Conroy relates with equal skill the various international responses to the 1981 H-Block hunger strike and the terror of having the house where he was lodging taken over by the ...more
Jun 28, 2009 rated it really liked it
Chicago journalist John Conroy moved to West Belfast in 1980 and reported on his experience of the Troubles. Living in the republican community of Clonard, he was really in the thick of things. He witnessed the aftermath of the deaths of Bobby Sands and several other hunger strikers. He was held at gunpoint and even held hostage when the IRA took over his home not once, but twice.

This book actually belongs in the history section now. Conroy was in Belfast in the early 80s and he does his follow
Dec 26, 2008 rated it liked it
It's hard not to wonder how biased the author was coming into his living in Belfast. He lives in a Catholic area, his book presents Unionists in a pretty poor light, and he never really gives any leading unionist politician a platform.

That said, things were very bad for his neighbors during those years, and the book expresses this. I wish that he would tell more backstory behind certain events, and I wish he knew more about the reasons behind the "knee cappings", how they worked, etc. Although I
Michael  Malone
Jun 26, 2014 rated it really liked it
Very intriguing account of what was legitimately a war between the Catholics and Protestants, and those who identify with the Irish and those with the British, in early '80s Belfast. The author spend close to a year living in a Catholic ghetto and details every riot, frightful interaction with tough guys on both sides, bombing and shooting. He notes how immune residents are to the violence, including the all too frequent "kneecappings" of Catholic thugs by their own side, and the bombs that blow ...more
Apr 11, 2014 rated it it was amazing
being an American I never really read or heard to much about Northern Ireland other than a brief item on an IRA bombing in London or parades by groups through different neighborhoods that sometimes resulted in violence. I was hoping the author would give an unbiased opinion in this area of the world during the late 70's and early 80's.
right from page one to the end this book had me riveted and the author left it up to the reader do base their own opinion on what happened and about half way throu
Jun 06, 2011 rated it really liked it
A clear, concise synopsis of the Troubles in Northern Ireland. The author, American journalist John Conroy, discusses the time he spent living in a boarding house in the Catholic ghetto of west Belfast during the early 80's and how he adjusted to a life in a divided city during an intense time of sectarian violence, killings, and general political unrest. He seemed to have quite the eye-opening experience in world that's difficult to imagine having grown up in. I read this after having briefly v ...more
Kaye Campbell
Jul 12, 2014 rated it really liked it
Shelves: irish-history
This book was written by an American who spent time in Belfast during "The Troubles" and it tells the story of his experience and his perceptions of the political climate there at the time. It was very informative and enjoyable to read. His knowledge of history of the time, mingled with his on the ground experiences, some of them harrowing, lend an authenticity to the book and gives one a good idea of what was really going on at the time, not just what Reagen and Thatcher fed the American people ...more
Jul 28, 2011 rated it really liked it
A really interesting memoir that sheds a good light on Northern Ireland during the 1970s and early 80s. It's not really a history book, though Conroy does provide background information. Really though, this book is more of an analysis of a neighborhood, and the larger political, social, economic, and historical elements that effect the people. Conroy's text reflects an ambivalence towards the various groups struggling over Northern Ireland--the British, Ulster Loyalists, and the IRA and INLA. He ...more
Jul 16, 2012 rated it really liked it
A really fascinating and informative first person account of West Belfast during the time of the hunger strikes in the 1980s. Conroy (a Chicago journalist) is really honest about his limitations as an observer/human in trying to present a balanced account of what just really did not seem to be a balanced struggle. I found myself getting really angry at Margaret Thatcher, which I guess isn't new, but the emotion elicited did surprise me. Also explains the political situation in a really clear way ...more
Helen Marie
Oct 28, 2010 rated it really liked it
Anyone who is interested in the struggles of Northern Ireland should read this book. While it was written in the 1980s, Conroy focuses primarily on the "non-combatants" in the struggles of the North.

He provides just enough history for those unfamiliar with the problems plaguing this part of the world, but the history does not overwhelm the details he provides of those who live amongst the chaos of an area filled with political, cultural, religious, and sometimes violent turmoil.

Another "on the
Apr 18, 2011 rated it really liked it
rough city, crazy times. I would love to see a similar in depth 'update' to this book. Just having been to Belfast, I have my own ideas as to what story it would tell and I'd love to hear John Conroy tell it.
It gave good insight into the class-based nature of the conflict and really delivered blame and responsibility (and culpability) to the upper classes who continually turn a blind eye-as if it's not their problem.
Jan 25, 2011 rated it really liked it
A grim subject but well done. The first chapter of the book is a summary of history of "the troubles" in Northern Ireland. In the rest of the book he tells about the stresses of living in a war zone. You get to know the neighborhooda and neighbors on both sides of the conflict. It is hard to read because there is so much destruction of property and senseless killing of innocent people.
Let's hope peace is lasting.
Jan 27, 2008 rated it really liked it
This is a great intro to the Troubles. It really only covers the late 70s and 80s, but that will give you the Hunger Strikes and most of the major post-Bloody Sunday IRA violence in Belfast. The author lived in West Belfast for a year so he manages to give an interesting day-to-day account of life there. The book could go a little farther, however, to explore the feelings and personal experiences of the people he encounters. Also, this takes a mostly Republican view.
Sep 15, 2012 rated it it was amazing
This is a great way to learn more about the Northern Irish "troubles". (I don't know why they call it the "troubles" - - makes it sound too innocuous, when it is anything but that.)

I recommend this book to anyone who has been confused about the sordid and sporadic news-stories we've been subjected to in the US over the decades.
American journalist reports the day to day lives of Catholics in West Belfast. Violence institutionalized. Patterns of Catholic suspicion, Protestant siege mentality, and British ineptness in understanding the Catholic-Protestant conflict in North Ireland. Ian Paisley, Bobby Sands, Margaret Thatcher.
Sep 13, 2012 rated it liked it
Shelves: topical, 2012
While an interesting look at Northern Ireand, in particular the hunger strikes of the 1980s, I was looking for something more historical and less one sided. To me the issue was the author immersed himself in the Catholic areas and there was very little attention paid to the other side of the story. The further you got into the book the more obvious that this was the catholic story it became.
Elizabeth Brown
Aug 05, 2014 rated it really liked it
Shelves: haven-t-finished
Most depressing book I've read this year, and that's saying something. It's dated today, as this covers the late 1970's and early 1980's in Belfast. As others have mentioned, there are no stories of the Protestant side in this book so you get one perspective.

Aug 29, 2007 rated it it was amazing
This book gives clear insight into the troubles of Northern Ireland from an outsider's perspective. Everyone I've recommended read this book has come away with an alternate impression of what was really going on at the time.
First hand account of street-level violence of the Irish Troubles. A bit sluggish at times, but revealing of the pandemonium in Northern Ireland. Full of social history, which some people like, but I don't...
« previous 1 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 next »
There are no discussion topics on this book yet. Be the first to start one »
  • Making Sense of the Troubles: The Story of the Conflict in Northern Ireland
  • Ten Men Dead: The Story of the 1981 Irish Hunger Strike
  • On the Blanket: The Inside Story of the IRA Prisoners' "Dirty" Protest
  • Rebel Hearts: Journeys Within the IRA's Soul
  • Killing Rage
  • Those Are Real Bullets: Bloody Sunday, Derry, 1972
  • The Price of my Soul
  • A Secret History of the IRA: Gerry Adams and the Thirty Year War
  • Bobby Sands: Writings from Prison
  • Rebels: The Irish Rising of 1916
  • Nothing But an Unfinished Song: Bobby Sands, the Irish Hunger Striker Who Ignited a Generation
  • Before the Dawn: An Autobiography
  • Bandit Country: The IRA & South Armagh
  • The Course of Irish History
  • Provos: The IRA & Sinn Fein
  • The Green Flag, Vols 1-3
  • The Impossible Country: A Journey Through the Last Days of Yugoslavia
  • Paddy's Lament, Ireland 1846-1847: Prelude to Hatred

Nonfiction Deals

  • Astoria: John Jacob Astor and Thomas Jefferson's Lost Pacific Empire: A Story of Wealth, Ambition, and Survival
    $8.24 $1.99
  • A Secret Sisterhood: The Literary Friendships of Jane Austen, Charlotte Brontë, George Eliot, and Virginia Woolf
    $27.00 $2.99
  • Grammar Girl's Quick and Dirty Tips for Better Writing
    $9.99 $2.99
  • The Paradox of Choice: Why More Is Less
    $10.74 $1.99
  • Anam Cara: A Book of Celtic Wisdom
    $8.99 $1.99
  • A Room of One's Own
    $9.99 $2.99
  • Ashley's War: The Untold Story of a Team of Women Soldiers on the Special Ops Battlefield
    $8.24 $1.99
  • Life in a Medieval City
    $8.24 $1.99
  • Surprised by Hope: Rethinking Heaven, the Resurrection, and the Mission of the Church
    $12.99 $1.99
  • The Only Thing Worth Dying For: How Eleven Green Berets Forged a New Afghanistan
    $8.99 $1.99
  • Too Close to Me: The Middle-Aged Consequences of Revealing A Child Called "It"
    $9.99 $1.99
  • The Creation of Anne Boleyn: A New Look at England's Most Notorious Queen
    $9.99 $2.99
  • Inside the Criminal Mind: Revised and Updated Edition
    $11.99 $1.99
  • Being Wrong: Adventures in the Margin of Error
    $9.24 $1.99
  • Orange Is the New Black: My Year in a Women's Prison
    $13.99 $2.99
  • How Dare the Sun Rise: Memoirs of a War Child
    $8.99 $1.99
  • Social: Why Our Brains Are Wired to Connect
    $11.99 $1.99
  • Love, Loss, and What We Ate: A Memoir
    $11.49 $1.99
  • Countdown to Zero Day: Stuxnet and the Launch of the World's First Digital Weapon
    $11.99 $1.99
  • Evangelii Gaudium: The Joy of the Gospel
    $9.99 $1.99
  • The Heart of Christianity
    $9.74 $1.99
  • Hidden Figures
    $4.09 $1.99
  • Clear Your Clutter with Feng Shui
    $9.99 $1.99
  • Act Like a Lady, Think Like a Man
    $7.24 $1.99
  • Happiness: The Crooked Little Road to Semi-Ever After
    $13.99 $2.99
  • Priceless: How I Went Undercover to Rescue the World's Stolen Treasures
    $11.99 $1.99
  • K2: Life and Death on the World's Most Dangerous Mountain
    $11.99 $1.99
  • Proud Highway: Saga of a Desperate Southern Gentleman, 1955-1967
    $12.99 $1.99
  • The Art of Living: The Classical Mannual on Virtue, Happiness, and Effectiveness
    $10.49 $1.99