St. Patrick’s Day is just around the corner, which means this is the perfect time to read some Irish books. Here is a list of a variety of Irish-themed titles. Some are about Ireland while others are by Irish authors, and include fiction, travel, horror, non-fiction and young adult. Happy reading!
Toby is out celebrating with friends after dodging a scrape at work. But on his way home, he surprises two burglars who beat him up and leave him for dead. He survives and returns to his family home to both recover from his injuries and to help care for his dying Uncle Hugo. After a skull is found in the trunk of an elm tree in the garden and detectives start looking into his family’s past, Toby is forced to face the possibility that his family history might not be the same story that he was told.
Fun Fact: Tana French was an actor and worked for a theatre before pursuing writing at the age of 34.
“The Picture of Dorian Gray” by Oscar Wilde
“The Picture of Dorian Gray” is a story about a young man who sells his soul for eternal youth and beauty but slowly goes insane. The book begins with the artist Basil Hallward painting a portrait of Dorian Gray. Terrified of aging, Dorian makes a wish that he would stay young forever while the picture in question would age for him. His wish is granted, and the picture takes on a life-like appearance.
Fun Fact: This was the only novel that Oscar Wilde published.
“Ulysses” by James Joyce
Loosely based on the Odyssey, “Ulysses” is set in Dublin on June 16, 1904, and is about a day in the life of Leopold Bloom, his wife Molly and friends Buck and Stephen with other supporting characters. The book is broken up into 18 “episodes” and with different point of views from different characters.
Fun Fact: Ulysses is the Latinized name of Odysseus, the hero of Homer’s poem.
“Dracula” by Bram Stoker
A Halloween staple, “Dracula” was published in 1897 and features a young English lawyer Jonathan Harker who travels to Castle Dracula in the country of Transylvania to finish a real estate transaction with a man called Count Dracula. Before Harker reaches Castle Dracula, he encounters many locals who warn him about his destination and call the Count strange words that Harker soon translates to ‘vampire.’
Fun Fact: Coca-cola was invented in 1892, so theoretically, Dracula could have tried this fizzy drink.
“The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe” by C.S. Lewis
Four siblings are sent to the country to escape the air raids of WWII and are taken into the estate of an eccentric professor. While playing hide-and-seek, the youngest sister steps through a wardrobe into another world: Narnia. Narnia is a land stuck in an eternal winter and its people are enslaved by the White Witch. It has since been made into a popular movie series starring Georgie Henley, James McAvoy and Liam Neeson.
Fun Fact: C.S. Lewis’s full name was Clive Staples Lewis. He was good friends with J.R.R.. Tolkien, writer of “The Lord of the Rings.” At the same time, the two had a well known rivalry regarding their works.
“When All is Said” by Anne Griffin
This is a story about Maurice Hannigan, who, over the course of a Saturday night, orders five different drinks for five people who are important to him: his older brother, his sister-in-law, his daughter, his son and his late wife. Through these people, he tells his own story of heartaches, triumphs, feuds and regrets.
Fun Fact: Anne Griffin was listed as the Irish newcomer of the year in 2019.
“All We Shall Know” by Donal Ryan
This is a modern novel about Melody Shee, a teacher who finds herself pregnant—with the child of one of her students. While enduring a separation from her husband, a strained relationship with her devout Catholic father and the shame of a long-ago betrayal, Melody meets Mary Crothery. Mary, a young Traveller woman, shows Melody that one sometimes finds the road to redemption in the most unexpected places.
Fun Fact: Donal Ryan is a creative arts teacher at the University of Limerick.
“Normal People” by Sally Rooney
While Connell and Marianne grow up in the same town, they couldn’t be any more different from each other. Connell is popular and well liked, while Marianne is a loner. However, after an awkward but electrifying conversation, they become close friends and their lives are changed forever. The book skips forward a year, and the pair are studying at Trinity College in Dublin and their roles are reversed; Marianne has become the popular one with a wide social circle, while Connell has become shy and uncertain. While they have grown apart, they still always circle back to each other. This book has recently been made into a Hulu TV series staring Daisy Edgar-Jones and Paul Mescal.
Fun Fact: Sally Rooney attended Trinity College and majored in English.
“Angela’s Ashes” by Frank McCourt
This is the memoir of Frank McCourt, a man born to Irish immigrants in Depression-era Brooklyn. After the death of his siblings, his family moves back to Limerick, Ireland. His mother has no money to feed him and his siblings because his father drinks away their savings. However, Frank’s father does give him one thing—stories. Whether it be of Cuchulain, who saved Ireland, or the Angel on the Seventh Step, who brings mothers babies, Frank lives for his father’s tales. Stories empower Frank as he endures poverty, near-starvation and the casual cruelty of relatives and neighbors. This memoir tells a tale full of both loss and love, sadness and joy, pain and redemption, as Frank looks back on his childhood with a sense of humor and resilience.
Fun Fact: Frank McCourt trained dogs in Bavaria for several years in the fifties.
“Artemis Fowl” by Eoin Colfer
This is the story of Artemis Fowl, a twelve-year-old criminal mastermind who has found a world of high-tech armed and dangerous fairies. In an attempt to find his father who disappeared two years before, he kidnaps a fairy (Holly Short) and holds her for ransom in an effort to restore his family’s fortune. The movie Artemis Fowl has recently been released on Disney+ after years in the making.
Fun Fact: Eoin Colfer (pronounced Owen) has won the Ireland’s Children’s Laureate award and wears the metal at all times, even in the bath.
“Round Ireland with a Fridge” by Tony Hawks
After making a drunken bet, Tony Hawks attempts to hitchhike around Ireland with a fridge and documents the full experience. He makes his way from Dublin to Donegal, from Sligo through Mayo, Galway, Clare, Kerry, Cork, Wexford, Wicklow—and back again to Dublin. Even though their adventures only last a month, Tony and his fridge meet a real prince, a bogus king and the fridge gets christened.
Fun Fact: Tony Hawks has won the British Actors Equity Tennis Tournament for three years running.
“Say Nothing” by Patrick Radden Keefe
This book tells the mesmerizing story about bitter conflict in Northern Ireland and its aftermath. It starts off in 1972, with the story of Jean McConville, a 38-year-old mother of 10 who was dragged out of her home by masked intruders with her children clinging to her legs. She was never seen again. It wasn’t until 2003 when bones were discovered on a beach did the children of Jean find out what happened to her. This book goes over the vicious conflict between the I.R.A. and Britain and the time period known as The Troubles.
Fun Fact: Patrick Keefe is a staff writer at “The New Yorker.”
“The War Horse” by Eavan Boland
“The War Horse” was published in 1975 and was written by the poet after several experiences with a horse on her own street. It is a thirty-line poem that starts with the author stating that nothing “unusual” ever happens to her town when the horse shows up walking down the street. This poem is multilayered and uses irony to speak about conflict, the past and the future.
Fun Fact: Eavan Boland’s father was an Irish diplomat who served as an ambassador to England.
“North” by Seamus Heaney
“North” is Seamus Heaney’s first work that deals directly with The Troubles in Northern Ireland (the same one that the book “Say Nothing” deals with). It looks frequently to the past for images and symbols relevant to the violence and political unrest of that time.
Fun Fact: Seamus Heaney had six brothers and two sisters.
“The Penguin Book of Irish Poetry” edited by Patrick Crotty
“The Penguin Book of Irish Poetry” features many works by Irish poets such as W.B. Yeats, Jonathan Swift, Oliver Goldsmith, Eiléan Ní Chuilleanáin and Nuala Ní Dhomhnaill. It contains lyrics, love poems, satires, ballads and songs. This extensive collection of poetry will give anyone a good look into the best works of Irish poetry.
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