The best books about Dublin

15 authors have picked their favorite books about Dublin and why they recommend each book.

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Book cover of Dubliners

Dubliners

By James Joyce,

Why this book?

Gretta Conroy is Gabriel’s wife in the final short story The Dead by Joyce published in 1914. Although Gabriel Conroy is the main character and the most talkative in this novella, Gretta is probably well-known as the female character that ends finally a long silence. After a Christmas dinner, when they both are leaving the party, Gretta is standing at the top of the stairs and she appears lost while hearing a song. The song reminds her of a young man she was in love with. Then, she reveals her husband for the first time about Michael, he was seventeen…

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Book cover of Civilised by Beasts: Animals and Urban Change in Nineteenth-Century Dublin

Civilised by Beasts: Animals and Urban Change in Nineteenth-Century Dublin

By Juliana Adelman,

Why this book?

This is one of several excellent books that explores how nonhuman animals shaped cities (see also Andrew Robichaud’s Animal City, Frederick L. Brown’s The City is More Than Human, Dawn Day Biehler’s Pests in the City, and Hannah Velten’s Beastly London, for example). Cities are multispecies spaces and they have always been so, even as the history of a given city shifts and changes. When we walk through a city like Dublin today we may not immediately think about the many, many nonhuman animals who used to roam the same streets and pathways we walk on today.…

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Book cover of Dublin Hanged: Crime, Law Enforcement and Punishment in Late Eighteenth-Century Dublin

Dublin Hanged: Crime, Law Enforcement and Punishment in Late Eighteenth-Century Dublin

By Brian Henry,

Why this book?

In Dublin Hanged, Henry paints an evocative picture of the turn-of-the-eighteenth-century Irish capital collapsing under rising property crime, food shortages due to series of particularly inclement winters, and political unrest. He also vividly captures the events that led to the organisation of the first metropolitan uniformed police in the British Isles, which came to be widely unpopular. Henry shows, the organisation of the force was costly and in order to fund the new police, the household tax ‘skyrocketed’ virtually overnight. Henry’s analysis reveals there was a marked decline in the frequency of rape and violent assaults in the…

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Book cover of Inspector Mallon: Buying Irish Patriotism for a Five-Pound Note

Inspector Mallon: Buying Irish Patriotism for a Five-Pound Note

By Donal P. McCracken,

Why this book?

Inspector Mallon covers the latter decades of the nineteenth century in Dublin history, which were characterised by unrest, extremist violence, and police strikes. The late 1800s were also the service years of the celebrated Dublin Police detective John Mallon, ‘the Great Irish Detective’. The book explores the behind-the-scenes relationships between official Dublin and the force, and between the police and the political activists. McCracken examines the impact the Dublin detectives, known as G-men due to their work in the G Division, had on undermining the political threats and bringing known Fenians and members of the Invincibles, responsible for the horrific…

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Book cover of The Carnival at Bray

The Carnival at Bray

By Jessie Ann Foley,

Why this book?

Foley depicts a struggle of finding oneself and learning where one belongs, and holding onto the everchanging definition especially when the geography surrounding us suddenly changes. Maggie and her family migrate from Chicago to Ireland, leaving behind her favorite uncle, and musical influence, the wayward Kevin. Add to this the backdrop of the anticipation of attending a Nirvana concert and you have all the fixings for a well-rounded tale of love, loss, and living. Having had the pleasure of meeting Foley a time or two, I can attest that her sense of setting is as apparent in her identity as…

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Book cover of Faithful Place

Faithful Place

By Tana French,

Why this book?

All of Tana French’s books are characterized by intensity. Her protagonists have powerful backstories that generate the emotional drive to solve the mystery they face. In Faithful Place, set close to the present day, the protagonist Frank Mackey grew up working class in Dublin. Now he’s a detective, called home to Faithful Place when his family discovers a suitcase in an abandoned building—a suitcase that belonged to Frank’s girlfriend Rosie, who vanished years ago, the night she and Frank were to run away together to London. Frank always believed that Rosie abandoned him; but what if she was…

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Book cover of Four Letters of Love

Four Letters of Love

By Niall Williams,

Why this book?

This beautiful book is possibly the most important book of my writing career. I found it in a second-hand bookstore in Dublin on a rainy afternoon and, like the plot, I felt that my finding it was a stroke of providence. I was so moved by the story that I immediately signed up for a writing workshop with the author. That workshop was a defining moment in my life – after it, I knew I wanted to be a writer. Although this story is not directly about art, it shows how a man’s calling, his compulsion to paint, plays a…

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Book cover of The Ginger Man

The Ginger Man

By J.P. Donleavy,

Why this book?

In 1955, the only publisher who would touch The Ginger Man was the Olympia Press in Paris. Its bawdy prose and its highly original style made it an immediate classic. Donleavy took one of the experimental styles that Joyce used in Ulysses and turned it into this black humor novel following Sebastian Dangerfield, an American in Ireland, maneuvering his way through college, marriage, fatherhood, and friendships in a roguish, outlandish manner. Time magazine considered him “One of the most outrageous scoundrels in contemporary fiction.” Rarely have I finished reading a book and then picked it up to read again. Donleavy’s…

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Book cover of St. Patrick's Gargoyle

St. Patrick's Gargoyle

By Katherine Kurtz,

Why this book?

Wonderful, fast-paced urban fantasy set in Dublin, Ireland. Gargoyles are former avenging angels who now watch over churches – that hook was simply irresistible to me. When some artifacts go missing from his cathedral, it’s up to the gargoyle Padraig and an elderly Knight of Malta (whose modern-day steed is a Rolls Royce) to find the sinister culprit and set things aright. The charming descriptions of Dublin, along with the witty banter of the heroes and the interesting nuggets of Celtic lore made me wish Kurtz had written a whole series of Gargoyle books. Sadly, she did not. Trigger assurance:…

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Book cover of Beautiful World, Where Are You

Beautiful World, Where Are You

By Sally Rooney,

Why this book?

This is the most recent novel to make my list. As much as I relished Rooney’s earlier work, her latest is heftier, for it grapples with the genuine planetary and personal crises faced by her generation. Her characters don’t shy away from speaking openly about love, sex, and relationships—or the perverse economic system that is rapidly bringing humanity to its knees with consumer-driven smiles painted on its faces. Neither do her characters hold back from earnest discussions of Marxism. The latter note is getting wide play culturally, particularly with millennials, but mainstream media has rarely picked up on the reverberations…

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