The most recommended books about Belfast

Who picked these books? Meet our 15 experts.

15 authors created a book list connected to Belfast, and here are their favorite Belfast books.
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Book cover of Titanic: Triumph and Tragedy

Christopher Ward Author Of And the Band Played On...: The Enthralling Account of What Happened After the Titanic Sank

From my list on the Titanic from a variety of angles.

Who am I?

I’m a former national newspaper editor and magazine publisher – and the grandson of Jock Hume, a violinist in the Titanic’s band. Jock, who was just 21 years old, had been playing on passenger ships since he was sixteen. His body was recovered ten days after the sinking, 40 miles from the scene the wreck. His family couldn’t afford to bring him home to Dumfries in Scotland, so he was buried alongside 121 other unclaimed Titanic bodies at Fairview Lawn Cemetery, in Halifax, Nova Scotia. My book is the story of Jock’s life, his death…and the previously untold scandal of the aftermath of the sinking.

Christopher's book list on the Titanic from a variety of angles

Christopher Ward Why did Christopher love this book?

If Walter Lord’s book is the definitive account of the sinking, this large-format encyclopaedic volume, almost large enough to sink a ship, is the definitive story of the Titanic, from the drawing board to the bottom of the ocean, with nothing omitted between the two events. It is an epic work of research so comprehensive that it deserves a wholly new category of publishing: more than a book, Titanic – Triumph and Tragedy, is a museum.

First published in 1986, it was updated in the 1990s to include new information and photographs following the discovery of the wreck, which Eaton and Haas, both acknowledged Titanic experts, had seen for themselves from a submersible. 

The book’s structure is that of a sequential archive illustrated by more than a thousand contemporary photographs, including Harland & Wolff’s original architectural plans and engineering drawings. It moves from the launch in Belfast to life…

By John P. Eaton, Charles A. Haas,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Continuing interest in the ill-fated vessel has been heightened in recent years by the dramatic events including the discovery of the wreck, new speculation on the Californian's failure to rescue the Titanic, and the recovery of artifacts from the disaster site. All are chronicled in a new chapter which, with a section of completely up-to-date color photographs, makes this edition a must.


Book cover of A Breed of Heroes

Simon Akam Author Of The Changing of the Guard: the British army since 9/11

From my list on the British Army.

Who am I?

In 2003-4 I spent a year in the British Army between school and university. Ten years later, having become a journalist, I returned to investigate what a decade of war had done to the institution I knew as an adolescent. In the years I spent researching and writing The Changing of the Guard I read reams of non-fiction. However, novels retain an ability to hit wider – or harder truths – and some of our greatest writers have fictionalised British Army life. Here is a selection of British Army novels, well-known and less so. They take in conflicts ranging from the First and Second World Wars through to Northern Ireland and Afghanistan. 

Simon's book list on the British Army

Simon Akam Why did Simon love this book?

I found this novel on a secondhand stall in Kenya when I was 18 or 19 and devoured it. Little known today, it was shortlisted for the Booker Prize and later adapted by the BBC.

Judd relates a tour by a fictional British Army unit in Northern Ireland in some of the most violent days of the Troubles in the 1970s. The protagonist, Charles Thoroughgood, is an Oxford graduate at a time when most army officers were school leavers, and the book chants his increasing disillusionment.

My early edition featured on the cover – next to a crouching individual in combats toting a pistol on a lanyard an endorsement from Jack Higgins: “Quite simply one of the best novels of army life I’ve read in years.” Higgins was right. 

By Alan Judd,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked A Breed of Heroes as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

FROM THE HIGHLY ACCLAIMED AUTHOR OF LEGACY AND ACCIDENTAL AGENT

After university and Sandhurst, Charles Thoroughgood has now joined the Assault Commandos and is on a four-month tour of duty in Armagh and Belfast. The thankless task facing him and his men -- to patrol the tension-filled streets through weeks of boredom punctuated by bursts of horror -- takes them through times of tragedy, madness, laughter and terror.

Alan Judd tells Thoroughgood's tale with verve, compassion and humour. The result is an exceptionally fine novel which blends bitter human incident with army farce.

'Quite simply one of the best novels…


Book cover of Trespasses

Daisy Alpert Florin Author Of My Last Innocent Year

From Daisy's 3 favorite reads in 2023.

Who am I?

Author Novelist Mother Reader Feminist

Daisy's 3 favorite reads in 2023

Daisy Alpert Florin Why did Daisy love this book?

Set in Northern Ireland during the Troubles, Trespasses tells the story of Cushla, a young schoolteacher living with and caring for her alcoholic mother.

At night, she works at her family’s pub, where she meets Michael, a barrister known for defending IRA members. He is also Protestant (Cushla is Catholic), married, and devastatingly handsome.

Trespasses has it all: gorgeous writing, humor, pathos, romance, and a rising sense of dread as you try to figure out which tragic turn the story will take.

By Louise Kennedy,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

NAMED A BEST BOOK OF THE YEAR BY THE WASHINGTON POST

SHORTLISTED FOR THE WOMEN'S PRIZE FOR FICTION

“Brilliant, beautiful, heartbreaking.”—J.Courtney Sullivan, New York Times Book Review
 
“TRESPASSES vaults Kennedy into the ranks of such contemporary masters as McCann, Claire Keegan, Colin Barrett, and fellow Sligo resident, Kevin Barry.” —Oprah Daily

Set in Northern Ireland during the Troubles, a shattering novel about a young woman caught between allegiance to community and a dangerous passion.

Amid daily reports of violence, Cushla lives a quiet life with her mother in a small town near Belfast, teaching at a parochial school and moonlighting…


Book cover of The Bulkies: Police and Crime in Belfast, 1800-1865

Anastasia Dukova Author Of A History of the Dublin Metropolitan Police and Its Colonial Legacy

From my list on policing, crime, and society in Ireland.

Who am I?

I am an historian of urban crime and policing. I specialise in metropolitan forces, for example the Dublin Metropolitan Police, London Police, and their colonial counterparts. I am particularly interested in the transnational exchange of concepts and personnel. The latter decades of the nineteenth century saw a lively and consistent movement of police across countries and continents, cross-pollinating ideas and experiences, shaping the future of organised policing. I have traced Australian policing roots to the streets of Dublin and London, which are explored in To Preserve and Protect: Policing Colonial Brisbane (2020) through personal life stories of policemen and criminals alike.

Anastasia's book list on policing, crime, and society in Ireland

Anastasia Dukova Why did Anastasia love this book?

It is not widely known that, like Dublin, Derry and Belfast were policed by their own municipal forces. The Belfast Police was responsible for preserving peace and order in the parts of the city which paid their rates. It looked after lighting, paving, and scavenging. Following sectarian violence and alleged police partisanship peaking in the riots of 1864 and 1869, Derry and Belfast forces were deemed inadequate in the face of rising public distrust.  In contrast to the Royal Irish Constabulary or the Dublin Metropolitan Police, which were headed by Commissioners, the Belfast police were under a single authority, the police board, until 1844, and a police committee thereafter – whose members, as Griffin aptly shows, gave ample reason for ongoing allegations of partisanship and corruption.

By Brian Griffin,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

In Ireland, the story of nineteenth-century policing has been dominated mainly by studies of the Royal Irish Constabulary and, to a lesser extent, of the Dublin Metropolitan Police. This book tells the story of the Ã?Â?Ã?«forgotten forceÃ?Â?Ã?Â- of Irish police history, the Belfast Borough Police or Ã?Â?Ã?«BulkiesÃ?Â?Ã?Â-.


Book cover of The City of Ember

Thomas B. Cavanagh Author Of Head Games

From my list on non-mystery youth that are really mysteries.

Who am I?

I am an award-winning mystery author of several private detective novels. All of my recommendations have an especially sentimental appeal since they were favorites of my son when he was younger. As we read them together, my mystery novelist sensibility couldn’t help but notice the classic crime story elements in all of these books. Dressed up as middle-grade fantasies, each of these novels uses the structures, tropes, and conventions of the mystery genre to propel its plot forward.

Thomas' book list on non-mystery youth that are really mysteries

Thomas B. Cavanagh Why did Thomas love this book?

The central theme running through the book’s post-apocalyptic landscape is a series of clues that must be solved, in true mystery fashion. Lina Mayfleet and Doon Harrow follow the signs left behind by the original builders of the underground City of Ember to escape to the outside world. Along the way, the reader is pulled further and further into the story, trying to understand this strange world and decipher the meaning of the clues alongside our intrepid heroes. Also thrown in is some old-fashioned political corruption to add to the mystery feel.

By Jeanne DuPrau,

Why should I read it?

5 authors picked The City of Ember as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it. This book is for kids age 8, 9, 10, and 11.

What is this book about?

Ember is the only light in a dark world. But when its lamps begin to flicker, two friends must race to escape the dark. This highly acclaimed adventure series is a modern-day classic-with over 4 MILLION copies sold!

The city of Ember was built as a last refuge for the human race. Two hundred years later, the great lamps that light the city are beginning to dim. When Lina finds part of an ancient message, she's sure it holds a secret that will save the city. Now, she and her friend Doon must race to figure out the clues to…


Book cover of Intimacies

Carolyn Mathews Author Of Transforming Pandora

From Carolyn's 3 favorite reads in 2023.

Who am I?

Author Creator Meditator Messenger Shopaholic

Carolyn's 3 favorite reads in 2023

Carolyn Mathews Why did Carolyn love this book?

I chose this book of short stories because I loved Caldwell's winning entry for the 2021 British National Story Award: "All the People Were Mean and Bad" included in this book. 

This story focuses on an encounter between the mother and an attentive man in the next seat who fetches milk for the hungry child. We learn she's an architect, lonely and yearning to return to her profession, dreading becoming pregnant again, as her husband is often away.

As I read this book on a flight to Crete, I observed a baby being nursed by an extended family, each taking turns to amuse the little one. And I thought, if only all parents had such loving support to help them cope.

By Lucy Caldwell,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

*Includes the winner of the 2021 BBC National Short Story Award*

'Smart, nuanced and sometimes heart-stopping.' Anne Enright
'Outstanding.' Guardian
'Eleven perfect stories.' Irish Independent
'Glorious.' The Times
'My FAVE collection ever.' Pandora Sykes

In eleven stories, Intimacies exquisitely charts the steps and missteps of young women trying to find their place in the world. From a Belfast student ordering illegal drugs online to end an unwanted pregnancy to a young mother's brush with mortality, and from a Christmas Eve walking the city centre streets when everything seems possible, to a night flight from Canada which could change a life…


Book cover of The Turnglass

Eric Van Lustbader Author Of The Quantum Solution

From Eric's 3 favorite reads in 2023.

Who am I?

Author Sociologist Futurist Humanist

Eric's 3 favorite reads in 2023

Eric Van Lustbader Why did Eric love this book?

This is a unique novel, both in ideas and in concept.

It’s actually two novels in one, the first taking place in 1880s England, the second in1930s California. The two novels are apposite, meaning after you finish the first you’re obliged to flip the book over to read the second. This format is actually quite old. It’s called tête-bêche – a book split into two parts back-to-back, head-to-foot.

To be honest, I don’t know how this will work or if it will work in ebook form. But like all of my picks it should be read in hardcover. The two tales are steeped in the mores of their respective time periods. They read like a first-rate thriller, and of course both become revelatory at the end of the second novel when they intersect.

The author’s grasp of both time periods is absolute and his characters grip you from the first…

By Gareth Rubin,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

THE SUNDAY TIMES BESTSELLER

'Not just a book, but an experience - one in which twists and turns are both on the page and in the very act of reading itself. Two haunting narratives conspire to create a dark, menacing tale that spans half a century of secrets as they echo back and forth - all while the sand slowly drains away . . . This is a story about stories and their perspectives, the passage of time and the slow march of the inevitable. Vivid, resonant, melancholy and beautiful' Janice Hallett

'A stunning, ingenious, truly immersive mystery. The Turnglass…


Book cover of The Detective Up Late

Paul French Author Of City of Devils: A Shanghai Noir

From Paul's 3 favorite reads in 2023.

Who am I?

Author Compulsive reader

Paul's 3 favorite reads in 2023

Paul French Why did Paul love this book?

McKinty’s Sean Duffy series (The Detective Up Late is #7) has been a barnstormer of a series since the get-go.

Duffy, a Catholic Royal Ulster Constabulary officer in ‘Troubles’ torn Northern Ireland has a price on his head. So maybe as the 80s bleeds inexorably into the 90s and peace remains a long, long way off it’s time to retire. But before that one last case.

Ending a series on a high note is a tough proposition for any writer – but McKinty nails it and maybe, just maybe, there might yet still be a resurrection for Duffy ahead.  

By Adrian McKinty,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

From New York Times bestselling author Adrian McKinty comes the next thrilling mystery in the Edgar Award-winning Sean Duffy detective series.

Slamming the door on the hellscape of 1980s Belfast, Detective Inspector Sean Duffy hopes that the 1990s are going to be better for him and the people of Northern Ireland. As a Catholic cop in the mainly Protestant RUC he still has a target on his back, and with a steady girlfriend and a child the stakes couldn't be higher. 

After handling a mercurial triple agent and surviving the riots and bombings and assassination attempts, all Duffy wants to…


Book cover of Police at the Station and They Don't Look Friendly

Natalie Conyer Author Of Present Tense: A Schalk Lourens Mystery

From my list on crime featuring flawed detectives.

Who am I?

I’ve always read and loved crime fiction – so much so I did a doctorate in it. I believe good crime fiction has the capacity to explore particular societies, places, and times in interesting and enjoyable ways. I also like crime fiction’s focus on character, and particularly in crime series which show a character evolving over time. That’s why I chose the theme of ‘flawed detective’ and that’s what I’m trying to do in my Schalk Lourens series, of which Present Tense is the first. I hope you enjoy it, and also the other books I’ve recommended here.

Natalie's book list on crime featuring flawed detectives

Natalie Conyer Why did Natalie love this book?

Ireland again, this time in the 80s, and right in the middle of the Troubles. Adrian McKinty’s cop, Sean Duffy, is an outsider, a Catholic in a Protestant police force. He’s irreverent, sarcastic, bitter, and a more than occasional drug user. In Police at the Station (6th in the series) Duffy investigates the murder of a small-time heroin dealer, who’s been shot by a crossbow. Meanwhile his posh girlfriend wants to move…the Sean Duffy novels are tough, funny, exciting, and extremely well done. Enjoy!

By Adrian McKinty,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Police at the Station and They Don't Look Friendly as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

New York Times Bestselling author

Another thrilling mystery featuring Detective Sean Duffy and his most dangerous investigation yet

Belfast, 1988. A man is found dead, killed with a bolt from a crossbow in front of his house. This is no hunting accident. But uncovering who is responsible for the murder will take Detective Sean Duffy down his most dangerous road yet, a road that leads to a lonely clearing on a high bog where three masked gunmen will force Duffy to dig his own grave.

Hunted by forces unknown, threatened by Internal Affairs, and with his relationship on the rocks,…


Book cover of The Tea House on Mulberry Street

Darien Gee Author Of The Avalon Ladies Scrapbooking Society

From my list on feel-good stories that take place in a tea salon.

Who am I?

As a well-traveled writer who has lived around the world, I’ve visited a tea salon in almost every city I visit. My favorite places are small communities filled with old-timers and well-wrought customs. Our lives are very fast-paced, and books that celebrate slowing down and a simpler life will always be a draw for me. Since I’m primarily a fiction writer, I also like a little mystery and tension in these otherwise idyllic little towns, not to mention the occasional scone and cup of tea.

Darien's book list on feel-good stories that take place in a tea salon

Darien Gee Why did Darien love this book?

The Belfast locale is utterly charming, and I loved these characters and how their lives intersected. There’s so much we share with the neighbors and people in our community, sometimes unbeknownst to us, and Old’s storytelling reminds us of these delicate threads. Her writing is a joy to read, and if you haven’t read her before, start here and keep reading.

By Sharon Owens,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Tea House on Mulberry Street as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

The old tea house on Mulberry Street in Belfast hasn't changed much over the years. But it's about to bear witness to some significant transformations ...

Daniel Stanley might make the most glorious deserts in the whole of Ireland, but he won't support his wife Penny's desire to have at least one bun in the oven. And the owners of Muldoon's Tea Rooms are just two of the people inside hoping for change.

Struggling artist Brenda sits penning letters to Nicholas Cage and dreaming of a better life. Sadie finds refuge from her diet and her husband's infidelity in Daniel's…