10 books like Early Irish Myths and Sagas

By Jeffrey Gantz (translator),

Here are 10 books that authors have personally recommended if you like Early Irish Myths and Sagas. Shepherd is a community of 7,000+ authors sharing their favorite books with the world.

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The Druids

By Peter Berresford Ellis,

Book cover of The Druids

My copy of this book is highlighted and dogeared to the max. When searching the word Druids, you usually come up with books on magic or books related to the neopagan movement which calls itself "druidism". This book, however, is a summary of what we really know about them and is based on solid research. Scholarly yet highly entertaining. Awesome book!

The Druids

By Peter Berresford Ellis,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked The Druids as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Readable and well-researched history and practices of the Druids. Illustrated.


The Celtic World

By Barry Cunliffe,

Book cover of The Celtic World

If you are looking for an overview of Celtic culture, this book is it. It is richly illustrated with artifacts, many obscure, which I appreciate. It is written by one of the foremost Celtic historians. Cunliffe continues to delve into the relationships between tribes of people who have been collectively called "Celts."

The Celtic World

By Barry Cunliffe,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Celtic World as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Numerous illustrations, photographs, and maps mark a large-format exploration of the history of the Celts, a civilization that once ranged from central Europe to northern Scotland, that studies the multifaceted character of a misunderstood people.


Celtic Heritage

By Alwyn Rees, Brinley Rees,

Book cover of Celtic Heritage: Ancient Tradition in Ireland and Wales

An amazing analysis of myth and folklore from Ireland and Wales linking culture and language back to our Indo-European roots and parallels with Hinduism. It is rather technical, but if you are researching the foundation of Celtic lore, this is a must. I got my title from a quote in this book.

Celtic Heritage

By Alwyn Rees, Brinley Rees,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Celtic Heritage as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.


The Mabinogion Tetralogy

By Evangeline Walton,

Book cover of The Mabinogion Tetralogy

Be sure it is Walton’s version of this very ancient Welsh mythological cycle. I have read other translations, but Walton turns the stories into more modern fiction and it rivals the best fantasy books out there, in my opinion. The Welsh pig-herd Pwyll and his bargain with the king of the dead is wonderfully told and highly readable.

The Mabinogion Tetralogy

By Evangeline Walton,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Mabinogion Tetralogy as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

An omnibus edition containing the four compelling novels of the Mabinogian, a quartet of fantasy novels based on epics and tales of medieval Welsh mythology, features The Prince of Annwn, The Children of Llyr, The Song of Rhiannon, and The Island of the Mighty. 10,000 first printing.


Stone Heart

By Peter J. Merrigan,

Book cover of Stone Heart

I loved this book. If I had to describe this novel in one word it would be intelligent. Set in Celtic Ireland in the Iron Age, the language is rich and expressive and Merrigan takes you into his world until you feel you belong there. You are drawn into a time where everything is governed by the gods. The story takes you through the training of the young warriors and druids. With the ongoing conflict over land, and with the people’s lives steeped in superstitious beliefs, we come to care that the outcome falls well with our tribe.

Fionn is born into a simple rural tribe. His life is sweet as he grows to double figures playing with his sisters in the fields. At the age of ten, he is called to serve, and the boys of fighting age are gathered from across the land, taken from their families, and…

Stone Heart

By Peter J. Merrigan,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Stone Heart as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Ireland, 279 BC. A nation at war. For two boys, it will be gruelling. For Ireland . . . it will be bloody.

When the first raiding skirmishes of a foreign army are crushed and Ireland mourns her dead, one king knows their newfound peace is destined to fail. As Overking of Ailigh, Keeper of the North, he calls for the boys of his Celtic tribes to train as formidable warriors under his command.

For Aed, it begins as a fantastical quest. For Ronan, it helps him escape a cruel chieftain. Together, they must train and grow in strength and…


Savage Her Reply

By Deirdre Sullivan,

Book cover of Savage Her Reply

The Children of Lir is one of Ireland’s best-known myths. Over the years it has been more than a little sanitized, and as a consequence almost entirely relegated to a children’s beloved fairytale. With her rich, poetic prose and unflinching honesty, Deirdre Sullivan brings the story right back into the adult sphere. Her characters emerge, flawed and seething, from the magical fog of myth to hurt and help each other, and to drag the enthralled reader with them through aeons of vengeance, loyalty, and, eventually, peace.

I can’t stress how beautiful this novel is. An epic poem almost, it satisfies my hunger for beautiful prose, and for thematic depth and emotional resonance. If you love gorgeous writing as much as I do, you will love this one.

Savage Her Reply

By Deirdre Sullivan,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked Savage Her Reply as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

A dark, feminist retelling of The Children of Lir by the author of the multi-award-winning Tangleweed and Brine

'No-one else writes like Deirdre Sullivan. She is lyrical, poetic and thoroughly intoxicating.' Juno Dawson, author of Wonderland

'Unsettling, haunting, and darkly lyrical, Savage Her Reply is a beautiful thing.' Louise O'Neill, author of After The Silence

A retelling of the favourite Irish fairytale The Children of Lir. Aife marries Lir, a chieftain with four children by his previous wife. Jealous of his affection for his children, the witch Aife turns them into swans for 900 years.

Retold through the voice of…


The High Deeds of Finn MacCool

By Rosemary Sutcliff,

Book cover of The High Deeds of Finn MacCool

The renowned Rosemary Sutcliff examines the life and times of legendary hero, Finn MacCool in this modern and compelling book. Her descriptive writing and attention to detail makes the writing flow effortlessly across the page. The book doesn’t read like a collection of legends, but like a modern thriller. I highly recommend it, along with its companion book, The Hound of Ulster.

The High Deeds of Finn MacCool

By Rosemary Sutcliff,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The High Deeds of Finn MacCool as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Set more than a thousand years ago in the soft green hills of Ireland, in a shifting time when enchanted creatures and the Fairy Kind still flickered in and out of the lives of men, the ancient stories of Finn MacCool and the brotherhood of the Fianna shimmer with magic. Here Rosemary Sutcliff breathes new life into adventures of these Irish heroes and their battles with strange and supernatural beings.


At Swim-Two-Birds

By Flann O'Brien,

Book cover of At Swim-Two-Birds

O’Brien was a brilliant, groundbreaking writer who blended humor with literary experimentation to create stories that were both original and highly pleasurable to read. At Swim-Two-Birds is his most epic creation, published in 1939. I would credit O’Brien with being the inventor of what became post-modernism. At Swim-Two-Birds blends metafiction and literary fantasy with an onion layer of stories within stories in a way that no book ever had before. And yet O’Brien manages to exceed the common self-serious tone and disconnection from lived human emotion that can plague post-modernism. His writing balances experimentation with a sense of our shared humanity and thus avoids the cold abstraction so commonly found in post-modern literature.

At Swim-Two-Birds

By Flann O'Brien,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked At Swim-Two-Birds as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

A wildly comic send-up of Irish literature and culture, At Swim-Two-Birds is the story of a young, lazy, and frequently drunk Irish college student who lives with his curmudgeonly uncle in Dublin. When not in bed (where he seems to spend most of his time) or reading he is composing a mischief-filled novel about Dermot Trellis, a second-rate author whose characters ultimately rebel against him and seek vengeance. From drugging him as he sleeps to dropping the ceiling on his head, these figures of Irish myth make Trellis pay dearly for his bad writing. Hilariously funny and inventive, At Swim-Two-Birds…


The Irish

By Sean O'Faolain,

Book cover of The Irish: A Character Study

This fine introduction to both the Irish themselves, and their tortured history, was first published in 1947 by this respected commentator. The only way to really understand Ireland is to dissect the many distinctive population groups -- their peculiarities of religion, social outlook, political ambitions, and allegiances --  and then to see how the mixture of these complex streams determined the country's history, with positive but also calamitous results over many centuries. O'Faolain deals with the indigenous Celts, the interloping Normans, the increasingly acquisitive English, and how the tumultuous interactions between them produced the core of Irish society: its peasantry, the Anglo-Irish aristocracy, the clergy, politicians, rebels, writers, and dreamers. The only thing O'Faolain missed, because he didn't live to see it, was the emergent, and now dominant, middle class of the Celtic Tiger. A beautifully written book. 

The Irish

By Sean O'Faolain,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Irish as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Explores the formation of the Irish racial mind through important political and cultural events from 300 B.C. to the present


Anam Cara

By John O'Donohue,

Book cover of Anam Cara: A Book of Celtic Wisdom

It’s a special thing when a book comes into your life right when you need it, as this one did for me. I’d spent a year reading a lot of books about death and grief, trying to grapple intellectually with my own mortality, and this book by the Irish poet and philosopher John O’Donohue wove a gentle, soulful place for me to rest in. It’s a spiritual book, but I found it to be agnostic-friendly and very beautiful. He talks about memory as the place “where our vanished days secretly gather.” This, among many other gems, reminded me of the comfort and anchor of our inner world as everything else is beyond our control.

Anam Cara

By John O'Donohue,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Anam Cara as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

"Anam Cara is a rare synthesis of philosophy, poetry, and spirituality. This work will have a powerful and life-transforming experience for those who read it." —Deepak Chopra

John O'Donohue, poet, philosopher, and scholar, guides you through the spiritual landscape of the Irish imagination. In Anam Cara, Gaelic for "soul friend," the ancient teachings, stories, and blessings of Celtic wisdom provide such profound insights on the universal themes of friendship, solitude, love, and death as:

Light is generous The human heart is never completely born Love as ancient recognition The body is the angel of the soul Solitude is luminous Beauty…


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