Irish Book Recs to Read this St. Patrick's Day

I'm part Irish. 

I've never been kissed for it, but then again, I've never sported the shirt (or anything green, for that matter) on St. Patrick's Day requesting a kiss for being Irish so the onus is on me. 100%.

Even though I'm part Irish, I can't say I'm well-read when it comes to Irish authors, Irish settings, or Irish books. I don't know why, but there it is. Again, the onus is on me. 100%.

That's why this year I decided to rectify my reading faux pas and this blog is the result of my research.

If you're looking to add a little Irish to your TBR, here are a few of my own Irish Book Recs to Read this St. Patrick's Day

 

Books Set in Ireland

If you love the Emerald Isle (or just the idea of it), here is a list of books set in Ireland that might scratch an itch.

1. Dubliners by James Joyce, a collection of short stories capturing the everyday life of Dubliners in the early 20th century. (One of the few I have read, you can learn more about my thoughts here.)

2. Angela's Ashes by Frank McCourt is a Pulitzer Prize winning memoir depicting the author's impoverished childhood in Limerick during the 1930s and 1940s. (Another one I've read and recommend. I shared my thoughts in detail here.)

3. Trinity by Leon Uris is a sweeping historical novel set against the backdrop of Ireland's tumultuous history, particularly focusing on the Irish struggle for independence. This subject interests me greatly, so it is toward the top of my TBR.

4. Circle of Friends by Maeve Binchy is set in a small Irish town and the novel follows the lives and friendships of a group of young women coming of age in the 1950s.

5. Brooklyn by Colm Tóibín, set in the 1950s, is a post-WW2 novel that tells the story of a young Irish woman who emigrates to Brooklyn, New York, and must navigate the challenges of a new country while grappling with her ties to her homeland.

6. The Secret Scripture by Sebastian Barry is a novel exploring the life of an elderly woman living in a mental hospital in Ireland and the secrets of her past, intertwined with the country's history. Since I loved A Man Called Ove (among others) so much, I wonder if this one has the same vibe. Fingers crossed.

7. The Troubles Trilogy by Adrian McKinty is an Irish trilogy offers a gripping portrayal of Northern Ireland during the Troubles through the eyes of a Catholic detective navigating sectarian tensions.

These seven books should provide a diverse range of perspectives on Irish history, culture, and society, from different time periods and settings, which is why they top my Irish TBR pile.

Award-Winning Irish Novels

If you prefer to stick to tried-and-true, award-winning Irish novels, I've collected seven across various genres that I think might be worth checking out:

1. The Gathering by Anne Enright

Winner of the Man Booker Prize in 2007, this novel explores themes of family, grief, and memory as it follows the Hegarty family who are gathering for their brother's funeral.

2. The Spinning Heart by Donal Ryan

Winner of the Guardian First Book Award in 2013, this novel offers a multi-narrative portrait of a community in rural Ireland grappling with the aftermath of the financial crisis.

3. Solar Bones by Mike McCormack

Winner of the Goldsmiths Prize in 2016, this experimental novel is written in a single sentence (egads!) and follows the internal monologue of a deceased engineer reflecting on his life and the state of modern Ireland. Sounds deep - a kind of reminiscent of To the Lighthouse in writing style.

4. A Girl is a Half-formed Thing by Eimear McBride

Winner of the Goldsmiths Prize in 2013 and the Baileys Women's Prize for Fiction in 2014, this experimental novel offers a raw and intense portrayal of a young woman's coming of age in Ireland.

5. The Green Road by Anne Enright

Winner of the Irish Novel of the Year at the Irish Book Awards in 2015, this novel follows the lives of the Madigan family over several decades, exploring themes of family dynamics, identity, and belonging. This one is tugging at my heartstrings.

6. Strange Flowers by Donal Ryan

Winner of the Irish Novel of the Year at the Irish Book Awards in 2020, this novel explores the impact of a young woman's disappearance on her family and community in rural Ireland during the 1970s.

7. Prophet Song by Paul Lynch

Another Booker Prize Winner (2023), this dystopian novel revolves around an Ireland slipping into authoritarianism and is experienced through a mother's lens, a mother whose love forces her to test the lengths she would go to in saving her family. (Oh so relatable!)

These award-winning novels show the talent and diversity of Irish literature, spanning various themes, styles, and time periods, which is why I think they merit a closer look.

Your Turn

Which Irish authors and titles would you recommend? I hope you'll share your favorite must-read Irish Book Recs in the comments.

2 comments

  • I’d greatly recommend Marita Conlon-Mckenna. “Rebel Sisters” is what got me into Marita. It’s about the Gifford sisters and their roles in the 1916 Rising. The famine/great hunger trilogy is about one family’s survival during an górta mór and subsequent fight for survival. Brings that era to life, makes it more real.

    Mary
  • I have read both ‘Tis and Angela’s Ashes by Frank McCourt and I highly recommend them. I have read several by Maeve Binchy and my favorite is The Shell Seekers. Laura Kinsale is an author that I have enjoyed in the past and one of her novels, Uncertain Magic, is a historical romance that takes place in Ireland. Her stories are unlike most of the genre; definitely not a light and fluffy easy read. Thank you for your recs above- there are at least two I am very interested in reading.

    Lynda A.

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