To celebrate Irish Book Week, I’ve written a bonus post about books by Irish authors. Readers from outside Ireland can be forgiven for gravitating towards the classics like WB Yeats’ poetry or James Joyce, Jonathan Swift, George Bernard Shaw, Edna O’Brien, etc. but Irish writing is so much broader than those writers. So varied, in fact, that I’ve no hope of including everybody. This is my personal selection from my own bookshelves.
For #IrishBookWeek, I dare you to dabble in the library, bookshop, or online and discover your own taste in Irish writing. It may surprise you.
The books are not ranked because asking me to say which is my favourite is simply cruel and impossible.
The Complete Plays – Oscar Wilde (Amazon.com)
I know I said I wouldn’t cover the classic Irish writers but Oscar is brilliant and my copy of this book is tattered with good reason. Witty, observant, and gets us to laugh at ourselves in the sharpest of ways. This includes “The Importance of Being Earnest”, “Lady’s Windermere’s Fan”, “Salomé”, and “An Ideal Husband”. If you can’t get to these in the theatre (and I strongly suggest you do) reading the plays is almost as much fun.
This is Happiness – Niall Williams (Amazon.com)
Niall Williams is a beautiful writer but not only is his prose elegant, his characters stay with you after you close the book, and his plots are compelling. I have an entire section of his books on my shelves (a rare honour). This one follows a small town when the team arrives to bring electricity. Part coming-of-age and part love song to the past, it will transport you to rural Ireland in the mid 1900s.
The Burning – Jane Casey (Amazon.com)
Did you know Ireland has been having a surge of great crime fiction in recent years? Yep, and most of it by female authors. My fav is Jane Casey and her London (from an Irish family) police detective Maeve Kerrigan has already featured in nine books. This is the first in the series. Trust me on this one. It’s a brilliant series beloved by my entire crime and thriller addicted family.
Firefly Summer – Maeve Binchy (Amazon.com)
Before we had Sheila Flanagan, Patricia Scanlan, Marian Keyes and a slew of great female Irish writers of contemporary women’s fiction we had Maeve. Much missed, I read all her books and Firefly Summer was my favourite, but you can safely choose any, and escape to tales of female friendship, women finding their feet in the world, and maybe a dash of romance. Notorious for listening, and even lip-reading, on public transport she was brilliant at describing the dramas of female life so well that you feel you know these women.
Redeemer – CE Murphy (Amazon.com)
A slight stretch here as CE is from Alaska but she lives and writes in Dublin so I’m claiming her! This time Rosie the Riveter meets Buffy the Vampire Slayer, as a factory worker at the end of WWII discovers she has a rare talent for fighting demons. It’s just that she wants to sort out her life before her boy comes home from the front line, so could the demons hang on a minute please?
No Stone Unturned – Pam Lecky (Amazon.com)
This is the first in the Lucy Lawrence Mysteries. If you ever wondered how Holmes would have coped if he were female this is the series for you. Lucy is trapped in a boring marriage until she finds her husband in the Victorian London morgue and a ruthless gang on her tail. Rejecting her smelling salts she turns detective.
The Snapper / A Star Called Henry – Roddy Doyle (Snapper / Henry)
Roddy Doyle is the best writer of dialogue I’ve ever read (except Shakespeare, possibly). If you want to know how Dublin sounds – his work is for you. Two books this time to show his range. “The Snapper” is the funny and touching tale of what happens when working class Sharon declares she is pregnant but won’t name the father (it’s related to “The Commitments” which Doyle also wrote). “A Star Called Henry” tells us about a young lad in Dublin in the run up to the Easter Rising in 1916. Henry Smart happens to be about for the major events. It’s the best book on the period I’ve ever read.
Turbulent Priests – Colin Bateman (Amazon.com)
Another witty Irish novel. If you enjoy the dark humour of the thrillers by Christopher Brookmyre then you’ll love Bateman’s books about Northern Ireland. Dan Starkey arrives on Wrathlin Island to investigate the residents’ belief that the Messiah is alive, female, and about to start school. Plot is best summed up as “chaos ensues”. Be prepared to laugh aloud in public places when reading this one.
Walk the Blue Fields – Claire Keegan (Amazon.com)
I wanted to include a short fiction collection and this is my favourite one by an Irish author. Beautifully written, evocative, Keegan puts you inside the heads and hearts of modern Irish people with stories that will stay with you after you close the slim volume.
Holding – Graham Norton (Amazon.com)
I am cynical about celebrities writing books, but Norton is a big reader, a keen student of human nature, and a skilled writer as is shown in his debut novel (to date he’s penned two more, so no fly-by-night here). Set in his native West Cork, the tale follows a slightly inept policeman seeking the truth of a body uncovered on farmland in a village. But the truth lies in the past and he will have to step up to solve the case. Note: my 14 year old daughter loved this one too.
Words The Sea Gave Us & How To Get Your Name In The Dictionary – Grace Tierney (Amazon.com)
My first two books inspired by this blog are out now in paperback and ebook (all the ways to get them are listed here along with reader reviews etc). “Words The Sea Gave Us” covers nautical words and phrases from ahoy to skyscraper. “How To Get Your Name In The Dictionary” explores the lives of the people whose names became part of the English language including Boycott, Sandwich, Guillotine, Casanova, and Fedora.
If you like to chat about books and authors, or watch big name authors chat about their own favourite books in “Shelf Analysis”, then check out the Rick O’Shea Book Club on facebook. I joined when they’d reached 7,000 members but we’re now on 34,000 readers so you are bound to find others will similar taste. Be warned, it may cause you to spend all your free cash on books, if you don’t already.
Until next time I hope you enjoy Irish Book Week. Happy reading, writing, and wordfooling,
p.s. this post contains affiliate links which make a small payment to the blog if you choose to purchase through them. #CommissionsEarned. Alternatively, you can use my digital tip jar.
p.p.s. I write an annual review of my favourite books at year end. You can find 2019 and 2018 here.