97 books directly related to Ireland 📚

All 97 Ireland books as recommended by authors and experts. Updated weekly.

Book cover of Vikings of the Irish Sea

Vikings of the Irish Sea

By David Griffiths

Why this book?

This may not look, at first sight, like a book for the general reader. But in my research into the period I have found no more useful, better written, or more thought-provoking work. David Griffiths is, like me, an archaeologist; and he knows his material. How the Vikings explored, conquered, and settled the lands in and around the Irish Sea is a story of marvellous sculpture and enigmatic burial mound; of silver, towns and landscape. A very fine book.

From the list:

The best books about the Viking period

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Book cover of Age of Atrocity: Violence and Political Conflict in Early Modern Ireland

Age of Atrocity: Violence and Political Conflict in Early Modern Ireland

By Padraig Lenihan, Clodagh Tait, David Edwards

Why this book?

Notorious for its violence, the 17th century is also a time of sweeping change. Change ignites resistance. When I first started researching Irish history, I was well aware of Cromwell’s march, and soon discovered much more and perhaps worse. How could people survive under constant threat and fear? How could humans justify such cruelty? This book examines several horrific events, the people and the policies that allowed them to happen—in the interest of learning from history that which we should never repeat.

From the list:

The best books about Ireland in the 17th century

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Book cover of Angela's Ashes: A Memoir

Angela's Ashes: A Memoir

By Frank McCourt

Why this book?

Like Fuller’s book, Angela’s Ashes describes a harsh childhood in a lost world, in this case the slums of Limerick in Ireland in the 1930s and 40s. It is altogether a grimmer book, although leavened with wry Irish wit and vivid descriptions of the people and places. The book is beautifully written, but McCourt has been criticized for overdoing the misery and fictionalizing incidents, which raises the question of where to draw the line between fact and fiction in memoirs when you often only have imperfect memories to draw on. I was occasionally shocked when I managed to research an…

From the list:

The best memoirs of lost childhood

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Book cover of The Irish: A Character Study

The Irish: A Character Study

By Sean O'Faolain

Why this book?

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,…

From the list:

The best history books to help you understand Irish history

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Book cover of Early Irish Myths and Sagas

Early Irish Myths and Sagas

By Jeffrey Gantz

Why this book?

For a quick dive into the most prominent Irish myths, this is an easy translation to get your feet wet. I drew heavily upon the “Wasting Sickness of Cuchulainn” as inspiration for my resurrected king in Three Wells of the Sea.

From the list:

The best books on Celts and Druids

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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.…

From the list:

The best books about animal history

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Book cover of The Civil Wars in Britain and Ireland: 1638-1651

The Civil Wars in Britain and Ireland: 1638-1651

By Martyn Bennett

Why this book?

Still the best introductory text for students covering all major events in the Wars of the Three Kingdoms in a concise and accessible manner.  This book steps away from the more Anglo-centric analyses of the conflict, looking at events in Ireland, Scotland and Wales in some detail.  In contrast with the books above, Bennett also steps away from the experience of political elites and examines the experiences of ordinary soldiers and civilians during the conflict.  

From the list:

The best books on the Wars of the Three Kingdoms c.1637-1653 (England, Scotland, and Ireland)

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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…

From the list:

The best books on the history of policing, crime, and society in Ireland

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Book cover of Policing Twentieth Century Ireland: A History of An Garda Síochána

Policing Twentieth Century Ireland: A History of An Garda Síochána

By Vicky Conway

Why this book?

In contrast to earlier works on the Garda history, Conway frames policing experience in Ireland by examining its history and development in the context of post-colonialism, its impact, and lived experiences. As Ireland achieved independence, she shows, ‘time constraints and lack of alternative experience led to the retention of many core features of colonial policing’, resulting in an organisation ideologically different but practically similar to the Irish forces of the preceding century. In 1925, the new police of the Irish Free State absorbed the Dublin Metropolitan Police, the Civic Guards, who filled the niche left vacant by the disbanded Constabulary,…
From the list:

The best books on the history of policing, crime, and society in Ireland

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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…

From the list:

The best books with realistic teen characters

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Book cover of Transforming Post-Catholic Ireland: Religious Practice in Late Modernity

Transforming Post-Catholic Ireland: Religious Practice in Late Modernity

By Gladys Ganiel

Why this book?

Why, from the 1990s, did the Irish Catholic consensus so suddenly disappear? And what might be the effect of this sudden-onset secularisation? This brilliant account of the recent revolution in Irish religion describes the effects of the clerical scandals that brought down a government, demoralised a denomination, and drove social change on a massive and structural scale. Ganiel shows how the older religious monopolies that did so much to shape the institutions and culture of Ireland, north and south, have given way to a much more fluid religious market, in which individuals can believe without belonging just as much as…

From the list:

The best books on the history of Christianity in Ireland

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Book cover of Shadow Warriors

Shadow Warriors

By Paul O’Brien, Wayne Fitzgerald

Why this book?

Ireland is known as the land of a thousand welcomes, but most people aren’t aware of its sixty unbroken years of Peacekeeping duty with the UN and even less know of its elite special forces unit known as the Army Ranger Wing (ARW).

The ARW is seen by many as one of the most effective special forces in operation. Shadow Warriors gives an in depth look into the history of the ARW, set up against the backdrop of rising instances of international terrorism and its deployment in a variety of roles across dozens of countries. This is an easy and…

From the list:

The best military books written by veterans

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Book cover of Astronomy in Prehistoric Britain and Ireland

Astronomy in Prehistoric Britain and Ireland

By Clive Ruggles

Why this book?

Modern Archaeoastronomy was born with the pioneering (and controversial) studies of Gerald Hawkins at Stonehenge and Alexander Thom on the megalithic monuments in Britain and Brittany. This book – although a bit dated with respect to recent research on some sites – remains a milestone to settle the point on debated issues. The technical points are treated in boxes so that the book is readable by the general public. 

From the list:

The best books on archaeoastronomy

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Book cover of Over Nine Waves: A Book of Irish Legends

Over Nine Waves: A Book of Irish Legends

By Marie Heaney

Why this book?

This is possibly the best collection of Irish myths and legends that I’ve read. It’s as comprehensive as Lady Gregory’s book but much more palatable. It charts the mythology of Ireland from the arrival of the Tuatha Dé Danann, right up to the arrival of Christianity. Written in clear, no-nonsense prose, this was one of my prime reference texts when writing my own book.

From the list:

The best books of Irish fairytales, myths, and legends

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Book cover of Tales from Old Ireland

Tales from Old Ireland

By Malachy Doyle, Niamh Sharkey

Why this book?

This book, for younger readers, is a collection of retellings of some of Ireland’s most well-known stories like Oisín in Tír na nÓg, as well as less famous ones like Son of an Otter, Son of a Wolf. Doyle writes terrifically well, perfectly pitching his tales at a young audience. Illustrated by Niamh Sharkey in her distinctive style, this is a collection to be treasured. I loved the pronunciation guide for the Irish names, as well as the introduction and the page about Doyle’s sources.

From the list:

The best books of Irish fairytales, myths, and legends

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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…

From the list:

The best books of mystery/suspense by women authors

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Book cover of From Barley to Blarney: A Whiskey Lover's Guide to Ireland

From Barley to Blarney: A Whiskey Lover's Guide to Ireland

By Sean Muldoon, Jack McGarry, Tim Herlihy, Conor Kelly

Why this book?

At the end of the 19th century, Ireland made more whiskey than any other nation. Then came an economic downturn, political trouble, and Prohibition, which devastated the country’s storied whiskey industry. Until recently, only a handful of Irish distilleries remained. Not any more—Irish whiskey is roaring, with new, small producers (like Teeling) joining the likes of the hulking, ancient producers (like Midleton). Muldoon and his colleagues share with readers a bit of the old and new on Irish whiskey. From Barley to Blarney is structured like a travelogue, with chapters devoted to the provinces where Irish whiskey is made,…

From the list:

The best books on whiskey and whisky

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Book cover of The Pirate Queen: In Search of Grace O'Malley and Other Legendary Women of the Sea

The Pirate Queen: In Search of Grace O'Malley and Other Legendary Women of the Sea

By Barbara Sjoholm

Why this book?

Sjoholm goes far back in history to document tales of women who went to sea, and commanded ships, in Phoenicia, Scandinavia, the British Isles, and Ireland. There was no holding back strong seafaring women and I love seeing their stories brought to life. Grace O’Malley in particular won the respect of her English foes, including their strong ruler, Elizabeth I.

From the list:

The best books about women at sea through history (including some pirates)

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Book cover of Granuaile: Sea Queen of Ireland

Granuaile: Sea Queen of Ireland

By Anne Chambers, Deirdre O'Neill

Why this book?

Grace O’Malley was my first pirate love and will forever hold a special place in my heart. This is the seminal biography of her by the woman who basically singlehandedly brought her whole story to the world. Anne Chambers is one of my women pirate researcher heroines and her depth of knowledge on Grace is unmatched. This book reads like a novel and is packed with amazing tales. I have read this one many times!

From the list:

The best books to discover the truth about women pirates

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Book cover of Occasions of Sin: Sex and Society in Modern Ireland

Occasions of Sin: Sex and Society in Modern Ireland

By Diarmaid Ferriter

Why this book?

The author is one of Ireland’s most respected historians. In this superb analysis, he explores the public and private worlds of Irish sex. 

Over the decades, Irish society, hand-in-hand with a dominant Catholic Church, succeeded in silencing generations of women.

We are still trying to come to terms with the iniquitous system of Magdalen Laundries and mother and baby homes, where pregnant young girls and women were hidden from sight so that the public would not be shamed by their sexual transgressions.

The text is accessible and illuminating. It explores hidden areas of modern Irish society and is a must-read,…

From the list:

The best books of ‘herstory’: breaking the silence

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Book cover of Precarious Childhood in Post-Independence Ireland

Precarious Childhood in Post-Independence Ireland

By Moira J. Maguire

Why this book?

Moira J. Maguire has written a book that could be used by academics yet still fascinates a curious reader. Precarious Childhood in Post-Independence Ireland gives a full view of the system implemented to care for needy children. The study examines the roles of religion and state involved in providing services. Maguire references documents and quotes from reports to give the reader an authentic view of how destitute, abused, and illegitimate children were cared for. 

From the list:

The best books about Irish Industrial Schools and Mother Baby Homes

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Book cover of Field Guide to the Bees of Great Britain and Ireland

Field Guide to the Bees of Great Britain and Ireland

By Steven J Falk

Why this book?

This ground-breaking book was the first illustrated field guide to cover all of the more than 270 species of bees that occur in Great Britain and Ireland. It provides a detailed account of the natural history of these fascinating insects, plus photographs and taxonomic keys to help you to determine what they are. Be warned, however, as the author acknowledges, many bees are challenging to identify! Nonetheless, Falk and Lewington’s book is invaluable for anyone interested in the natural history of bees.

From the list:

The best books about bees and other pollinators

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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…

From the list:

The best books to tickle your fancy

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Book cover of Strange Flowers

Strange Flowers

By Donal Ryan

Why this book?

I love Donal Ryan’s work and thankfully he is a prolific writer. Really, I could have chosen any of his books, but this one is his most recent and had me rereading sentence after sentence because his prose is so full of beauty. Paddy and Kit Gladney’s daughter disappears in 1973. They know nothing of where she has gone and if she is alive at all. Five years later she returns, with a son, changing the course of her family’s life forever. This a beautiful and devastating exploration of loss, alienation, and the redemptive power of love and affirms Ryan…

From the list:

The best Irish books by Irish authors I like to rave about

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Book cover of The Lady

The Lady

By Anne McCaffrey

Why this book?

Written by the same author who wrote the amazing Dragonriders of Pern books, The Lady is set in 1970s Ireland and follows the horse-loving Carradyne family. There is plenty of drama and tears but it has a happy ending and the horses are very well written. Life wasn’t easy for women in Ireland at the time and McCaffery didn't shirk away from all the unfairness that she saw in the world around her. There are a few pretty shocking moments but it all works out in the end.

From the list:

The best horse books actually written by horse people

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Book cover of The Collected Stories

The Collected Stories

By William Trevor

Why this book?

Lots of men write women in middle and older age well – Jim Harrison’s short story called "The Woman Lit by Fireflies" is incredible, and of course, there’s Shakespeare. I’d like to point you to the Irish writer William Trevor, though. His collected stories begin with one called "A Meeting in Middle Age" in which the character of Mrs. da Tanka (who is seeking grounds for her second husband to divorce her by paying a man to spend a sexless night with her in a hotel bed) crackles with dissatisfaction. Trevor writes aging people with a tenderness that isn’t always…

From the list:

The best books keeping it real about older women

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Book cover of What the Wind Knows

What the Wind Knows

By Amy Harmon

Why this book?

This is a great book that you cannot put down. It reminds me of my favorite series, Outlander. Going back through time is something that a lot of us dream about, but never experience. I love a good love story, but this book also has mystery, intrigue, and pulls at your heartstrings. I consider it Historical Fiction because even though we cannot travel through time, there were a lot of women that had the same feelings and trauma in the 1920s that the main character went through. 

From the list:

The best historical fiction books written about lesser-known characters

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Book cover of Viking Kings of Britain and Ireland: The Dynasty of Ivarr to A.D. 1014

Viking Kings of Britain and Ireland: The Dynasty of Ivarr to A.D. 1014

By Clare Downham

Why this book?

This book traces, first, the career of Ívarr the Boneless as recorded in Irish and English sources, and second, the long struggle between his descendants and those of King Alfred, which dominated British and Irish history for 150 years. Dr Downham shows that, without Ívarr, neither England, Scotland, Wales nor Ireland would be the way they are. A challenge to nationalist histories, through the life of an anti-hero.

From the list:

The best books on Vikings through archaeology and research

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Book cover of The Stolen Village: Baltimore and the Barbary Pirates

The Stolen Village: Baltimore and the Barbary Pirates

By Des Ekin

Why this book?

In 1631, the small fishing village of Baltimore in West Cork, Ireland, was attacked by Algerian pirates. About 100 villagers were carried away to a life of slavery. Known as “the Sack of Baltimore,” it was considered the most devastating Islamic invasion in Ireland or England. Yet, greed, politics and intrigue played major roles in the event that had little to do with pirates. Written by a journalist, this book reveals the struggles and dangers faced in by ordinary people in Early Modern times.

From the list:

The best books about Ireland in the 17th century

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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…

From the list:

The best books on the history of policing, crime, and society in Ireland

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Book cover of The Irish Policeman, 1822-1922: A Life

The Irish Policeman, 1822-1922: A Life

By Elizabeth Malcolm

Why this book?

The Irish Policeman, 18221922: A Life (2006), shines a spotlight on the men who made up the controversial Irish Constabulary, while providing an exhaustive historical narrative of the force from its inception in 1822 to disbandment in 1922, as mandated by the Anglo-Irish Treaty, article X. The book shows that a career with the Irish Constabulary, or Royal Irish Constabulary (RIC) post-Fenian Rising in 1867, was often the only viable alternative to migration as well as an accessible avenue for upward social mobility. The force offered stable pensionable employment and accommodation, and most of the duties were of…

From the list:

The best books on the history of policing, crime, and society in Ireland

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Book cover of Good Behaviour

Good Behaviour

By Molly Keane

Why this book?

Set among the dilapidated Anglo-Irish gentry in rural Ireland as they sink slowly into decline, what makes this book strange and unique among country house novels is the way it deals with its narrator. The daughter of a landowner in a big run-down house, in a social world dominated by horses and hunting, she sees what’s going on around her but fails to understand it, hemmed in by rules of behaviour that make many things simply impossible to name. We see that her brother is gay, for instance, but she never spots it, even when she walks in on her…

From the list:

The best hard-to-categorize novels

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Book cover of In the Woods

In the Woods

By Tana French

Why this book?

Many thrillers go down like fast food – enjoyable in the moment, but instantly forgettable. Tana French’s novels are more like rich feasts, none more so than her debut, a novel that starts out with a compelling mystery and slowly descends into the psychological hell of a particularly clever horror movie. Uncompromising in its bold choices but always tender in how it treats its wounded, fractured but all-too-human characters. There are many reasons Tana French has gained such a fervent cult following, and all of them can be found in this book.

From the list:

The best thought-provoking thrillers

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Book cover of Ireland's Immortals: A History of the Gods of Irish Myth

Ireland's Immortals: A History of the Gods of Irish Myth

By Mark Williams

Why this book?

This is a fascinating look at the perceptions of Irish mythology at different points throughout our history. There’s always a lot of fuss on the internet about fantasy writers who get our mythology “wrong”, but Mark Williams shows that the legends themselves and their themes have evolved constantly to reflect the concerns and mores of the times and of the storytellers themselves. Ireland’s Immortals is almost an academic proof of the thesis laid out in Robert Holdstock’s brilliant novel, Mythago Wood, which -- it goes without saying -- I also highly recommend.

From the list:

The best books for exploring Irish mythology

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Book cover of The Pursuit of Diarmuid and Grainne / The Exile of the Sons of Uisliu

The Pursuit of Diarmuid and Grainne / The Exile of the Sons of Uisliu

By Standish O'Grady, A.H. Leahy

Why this book?

Irish mythological tales are usually divided into various cycles. I’ve already included the heart of the aristocratic Ulster Cycle with The Táin above. Here, with The Pursuit, A.K.A., the Tóraíocht, we have my favourite part of the Fenian Cycle, with a Dark Ages hallucinatory road trip across the island as runaway lovers try to evade capture by a jilted king. Did I mention it was funny? I should have. It’s great.

From the list:

The best books for exploring Irish mythology

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Book cover of The Butcher Boy

The Butcher Boy

By Patrick McCabe

Why this book?

Never has a terribly sad book been so much fun to read. Patrick McCabe is the master at creating chillingly unreliable characters, and schoolboy Francis "Francie" Brady is his greatest creation. The narrative is a blend of dirty realism and violent fantasy, and the farther along you get in the novel, the more difficult it is to tell them apart. There are still a handful of scenes that have stuck with me more than a decade after I read it. They made a good movie based on the novel, but the book is what you need. 

From the list:

The best novels that are relentlessly twisted

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Book cover of The High Deeds of Finn MacCool

The High Deeds of Finn MacCool

By Rosemary Sutcliff

Why this book?

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.

From the list:

The best books of Irish fairytales, myths, and legends

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Book cover of Savage Her Reply

Savage Her Reply

By Deirdre Sullivan

Why this book?

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…

From the list:

The best supernatural books written by Irish women

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Book cover of Brooklyn

Brooklyn

By Colm Toίbίn

Why this book?

The story of Eilis, a young woman who immigrates from her small town in Ireland to Brooklyn, is deceptively simple. And you, possibly new to the waiting room, sitting outside the chamber in which your beloved parent is undergoing a CT scan or MRI, feel a perhaps unwelcome kinship with Eilis: You are in a scary new country of your own. In New York, Eilis falls in love though she is forced to return home following a family tragedy. Of course, there’s no place like home to bring out the worst in people. Toibin writes with restraint and grace about…

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The best books to read in the waiting room

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Book cover of The Search for God and Guinness: A Biography of the Beer That Changed the World

The Search for God and Guinness: A Biography of the Beer That Changed the World

By Stephen Mansfield

Why this book?

One thing I love about this book is that Mansfield fleshes out a beautiful history of a business whose founder genuinely cared for his workers and the community, which is both a refreshing change, as well as a beacon of hope that we can build a more compassionate model. If you’ve ever wondered why people are so loyal to this particular brand of stout and why Guinness is such an important part of Dublin’s history, this will help you understand why. When I read it, I’d never been to Ireland, despite its being high on my bucket list. I finally…

From the list:

The best books that will make you rethink the way we drink and why

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Book cover of Ellis Island

Ellis Island

By Kate Kerrigan

Why this book?

The main character Ellie is strong and resilient. I loved that she went to America to make money for her injured husband’s sake, was flung into a world in New York City that was so unlike rural Ireland, met with temptations, and found her way out. Ultimately, it’s a love story (not romance per se) and I found myself rooting for Ellie throughout the whole book.

From the list:

The best Irish immigrant historical fiction

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Book cover of Song of Erin: Cloth of Heaven/Ashes and Lace (Song of Erin Series 1-2)

Song of Erin: Cloth of Heaven/Ashes and Lace (Song of Erin Series 1-2)

By B.J. Hoff

Why this book?

This is a gritty story of the peril young Irish immigrants faced when coming to America, along with the hardships they were escaping back in Ireland. The fact that others were waiting to abuse and exploit the immigrants is certainly historically accurate. However, B.J. Hoff’s stories are always filled with hope and shine a light on hope in God. It’s Christian fiction, so readers should be aware of that. Also, this new edition includes two stories, a great deal. B.J. Hoff passed away in 2021 but left a long legacy of inspirational historical fiction.

From the list:

The best Irish immigrant historical fiction

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Book cover of Titanic: The Long Night: A Novel

Titanic: The Long Night: A Novel

By Diane Hoh

Why this book?

The Titanic novel my mum bought me for my eighth birthday, it was this one, which is why it can’t not be included (though mine is tattered and the back cover long lost. I can’t yet bring myself to buy a new one). Titanic: The Long Night is like a hot cup of chocolate on a cold winter’s night. It’s sinking into a bath and thinking, This is exactly what I need. It tells two stories: That of first-class passenger, Elizabeth Farr, who falls in love with handsome first-class passenger and artist, Max Whittaker, and third-class passenger Kathleen Hanrahan, who…

From the list:

The best Titanic books you need to read

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Book cover of The Heart's Invisible Furies

The Heart's Invisible Furies

By John Boyne

Why this book?

This is set in Dublin from the 1940s to the present day. It’s the story of an orphan who struggles with his homosexuality and finding his place in the world. The characters are so beautifully drawn. They are eccentric, colourful, and unforgettable - and it is incredibly moving. I cried in the end, but in a good way. I was just so happy and moved. Do read it – you won’t regret it. It’s one of the most beautiful stories I’ve ever read.

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The best beautifully written books with love at their core

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Book cover of Lion of Ireland

Lion of Ireland

By Morgan Llywelyn

Why this book?

This was one of my earliest experiences with historical fantasy and started my love affair with the genre—both as a reader and a writer. Its rich storytelling plays in the gaps of what we know about Brian Boru, the most renowned king of medieval Ireland. I love how the story is grounded in historical setting and context (without overwhelming us with detail) and woven with the legendary magic of the place and time. What especially draws me in is the depiction of strong, complicated, female characters so often overshadowed in history but brought to life, front and center, in Llwelyn’s…

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The best historical fiction with touches of love and magic

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Book cover of The Secret Place

The Secret Place

By Tana French

Why this book?

Honestly, any Tana French book could go here—she’s such a master of mood and atmosphere. But I particularly love the world she creates in The Secret Place. When a boy is found murdered on the grounds of an all-girls boarding school, Detective Stephen Moran is called in to investigate. It just gets more and more eerie as we are drawn into the world and rules of this school and the teenagers who inhabit it. Nothing is creepier than the power and cruelty of teen girls. Nothing. 

From the list:

The best thrillers with incredibly spooky atmosphere and mood

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Book cover of Fear of the Collar: The True Story of the Boy They Couldn't Break

Fear of the Collar: The True Story of the Boy They Couldn't Break

By Patrick Touher

Why this book?

Fear of the Collar is Patrick Touher’s personal account of his experience in the Artane Industrial School. Artane was the largest Industrial School in Ireland and operated from 1870 – 1969.

At times Artane housed nearly 1,000 boys and was known to be self-sufficient – with the “inmates” making their own clothes, shoes, and the boys produced and grew their own food.

Touher takes the reader through the daily military-like regiment and discipline imposed upon young boys being cared for by the Christian Brothers. His story will evoke an array of feelings. It is important to read the epilogue as…

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The best books about Irish Industrial Schools and Mother Baby Homes

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Book cover of Belonging: A Memoir

Belonging: A Memoir

By Catherine Corless

Why this book?

In her book Belonging: A Memoir of Place, along with her personal journey, Corless shares her research and activism work towards justice for the lost babies of the Tuam Mother Baby Home. Her book is an excellent resource to learn about the institutions where unmarried mothers paid their penance and gave birth to their “illegitimate” children. Her book includes heart-wrenching accounts from former residents. 

I’ve had several exchanges with Catherine since 2010 when she responded to a query I had posted regarding the Tuam Mother Baby Home. Catherine Corless has brought worldwide attention to a scandal she uncovered: 796…

From the list:

The best books about Irish Industrial Schools and Mother Baby Homes

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Book cover of Grania: She-King of the Irish Seas

Grania: She-King of the Irish Seas

By Morgan Llywelyn

Why this book?

This fictionalized account of the infamous Grace O’Malley’s life heavily impacted the creation of the main character of Windfall, Captain Liana Foley. I loved how Llywelyn wrote Grace/Grania as a leader, thief, lover, and mother, giving depth to the legendary pirate. She portrays her as equally powerful as she is human.

From the list:

The best adventure books with women at sea

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Book cover of A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man

A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man

By James Joyce

Why this book?

It gives me goosebumps to remember reading this book, caressing each wondrous page before turning to the next. The innocent anguish and confusion of Joyce’s language captured Stephan Dedalus's tormented yet profoundly beautiful childhood so perfectly that it made me feel like the book had been written especially for me! Many passages were pure poetry, yet so earthy I could smell the streets and playgrounds of Dublin. This was unlike any of the novels we were reading in school and I made sure to lend it to as many friends as I could – I was that sure they’d love…

From the list:

The best coming of age novels with a cutting edge

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Book cover of Making Ireland British, 1580-1650

Making Ireland British, 1580-1650

By Nicholas Canny

Why this book?

This book is the best analysis written by the forerunner of Atlantic history in Ireland. Based on an astonishing amount of literary and historical sources, it is an outstanding insight into the complex and lengthy process of English colonization of Ireland set within the broader Atlantic and European context. 

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The best books to understand the Atlantic world in the early-modern period

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A Slip of a Girl

By Patricia Reilly Giff

Why this book?

I’m a bit of a Celtophile but hadn’t heard of the Irish Land Wars of the early 1800s before encountering this book. In short: after The Great Famine, poor crop yields forced tenant farmers into a desperate fight to stay on farmland owned by absentee owners. Anna, the book’s protagonist, isn’t a typical mighty-girl heroine, but has a fierce love for her family, and the farm that was theirs long before their landlord claimed it. The author offers her story in perfect verse, weaving in bits of her family’s own history and historic photos as well. Anna’s a girl who…

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The best middle grade novels that make history leap off the page

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Book cover of Nothing But Blue Sky

Nothing But Blue Sky

By Kathleen MacMahon

Why this book?

David has lost his wife far too early. A man in mourning, he relives their twenty years together and sees that the ground beneath them had shifted and he had simply not noticed, or was it more that he had chosen not to. The writing here is spectacular and the theme of love and loss so very moving. Set between Ireland and Spain, McMahon captures the sublime and mundane nature of long-term love with exceptional skill. Another reason I like this book is that in my debut novel, my main character Maurice Hannigan, while very different from David, was also…

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The best Irish books by Irish authors I like to rave about

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Book cover of Life Sentences

Life Sentences

By Billy O'Callaghan

Why this book?

Set over three generations of the one family, this is the story of their fight for survival. What I love here is not just the prose, because there is no one finer than O’Callaghan, but also because it touches on the depopulation of Ireland’s small islands during the famine and the small island to which he refers has a very significant family connection for me. Partly based on O’Callaghan’s own family, Life Sentences tells an epic story of working-class life in Ireland from famine right through to modern-day. It is an unforgettable tale of love, abandonment, and reconciliation.

From the list:

The best Irish books by Irish authors I like to rave about

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Book cover of Nine Lives Of John Ogilby

Nine Lives Of John Ogilby

By Alan Ereira

Why this book?

While not specifically about Ireland, this is a most fascinating tale and true story about a man who started as a dancer, ran theater in Ireland, became a soldier, sea captain and so much more before he went on to publish the first road atlas in Britain. It’s the quirky details in this book that make it fun to read and quite informative about life in the 17th century.

From the list:

The best books about Ireland in the 17th century

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Book cover of The King's Peace, 1637-41

The King's Peace, 1637-41

By C.V. Wedgwood

Why this book?

This is another classic within the historiography of the period which along with S.R. Gardiner’s work is still considered one of the solid early professional histories of the period.  Although some historians may consider it a little dated, it is a concise and detailed analysis of the Wars of the Three Kingdoms.  Wedgewood’s style of writing is accessible and lively. This 3 book series is still considered as some of the best books ever written on the period (be sure to check out The King's War and Trial of Charles as well).  

From the list:

The best books on the Wars of the Three Kingdoms c.1637-1653 (England, Scotland, and Ireland)

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Book cover of The Great Hunger: Ireland: 1845-1849

The Great Hunger: Ireland: 1845-1849

By Cecil Woodham-Smith

Why this book?

When this book was released in 1962, it landed like a bomb, becoming an immediate, worldwide best seller. Woodham-Smith did not "invent" the famine as a topic -- every historian of the period was well aware of this tragedy, and its implications for the future of Ireland (mass emigration, smoldering indignation in the Irish diaspora, seeds for future rebellion) -- but many readers were unaware of the governmental machinations in London that so contributed to this humanitarian disaster. Some of Woodham-Smith's conclusions, and judgments, have been questioned by succeeding historians, but her narrative here is compelling, well researched, beautifully written,…

From the list:

The best history books to help you understand Irish history

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Book cover of In Search of the Irish Dreamtime: Archaeology and Early Irish Literature

In Search of the Irish Dreamtime: Archaeology and Early Irish Literature

By J.P. Mallory

Why this book?

I’m fascinated by the ways in which Christian communities remember pre-Christian cultures. In Beowulf, for example, historians in medieval England incorporated Christian themes into a story that had emerged in pagan times on the other side of the North Sea. In Ireland, Christian historians were much less interested in sanctifying their own island’s pre-Christian myth. Instead, they recorded all kinds of stories with little effort to make them fit within a Christian worldview as if they took delight in pagan culture for its own sake. But what is the historical value of these stories?

In this outstanding book, J.P.…

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The best books on the history of Christianity in Ireland

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Book cover of The Templars, the Witch, and the Wild Irish: Vengeance and Heresy in Medieval Ireland

The Templars, the Witch, and the Wild Irish: Vengeance and Heresy in Medieval Ireland

By Maeve Bridget Callan

Why this book?

This book is an eye-opener. Callan investigates a sudden unexpected sequence of heresy trials that shook the Irish church in the fourteenth century. She uncovers all manner of badly behaving churchmen – from the mendacious to the cavalier – and highlights the experience of the women who were so often their victims. Callan argues that the heresy trials often mark out differences other than theological within the Irish church – and shows that two centuries after the Norman invasion, ethnic and cultural differences continued to destabilise its always fragile communion.

From the list:

The best books on the history of Christianity in Ireland

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Book cover of The Irish Church and the Tudor Reformations

The Irish Church and the Tudor Reformations

By Henry A. Jefferies

Why this book?

Since the later sixteenth century, historians have been trying to explain why the Irish refused to follow their political leaders into the newly established protestant church. Jefferies’s book highlights the scale of the problem – showing that by the turn of the seventeenth century, seventy years after the beginnings of protestant reform, the number of native Irish converts amounted to little more than one hundred. Pushing against the triumphalism that marked an older way of writing the history of the reformation, Jefferies demonstrates the popularity of the late medieval church and argues that historians should reframe their research questions.

It…

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The best books on the history of Christianity in Ireland

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Book cover of Gods and Fighting Men: The Story of the Tuatha de Danaan and of the Fianna of Ireland

Gods and Fighting Men: The Story of the Tuatha de Danaan and of the Fianna of Ireland

By Lady Gregory

Why this book?

Although we’ve never stopped telling stories on this island, there is no doubt that a huge part of our heritage would have been lost if not for those who collected it, translated it for a non-Irish-speaking audience, and published it around the world. Lady Gregory’s brilliant collection, Gods and Fighting Men is the one on which so many others are based.

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The best books for exploring Irish mythology

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Book cover of Stone Heart

Stone Heart

By Peter J. Merrigan

Why this book?

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…

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The best dark and twisted psychological thriller books

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Book cover of Nora Webster

Nora Webster

By Colm Toίbίn

Why this book?

Colm Toibin is one of my favorite writers. The drama in his novels is found in quiet moments with portraits of ordinary characters that we get to know and love. Nora Webster is a 44-year-old woman living in a small town in Ireland. We meet her soon after her husband dies, as she grieves amid navigating her new life with four children and little income.  

Through Toibin’s exceptional character development, we become immersed in Nora’s journey: her realization of feeling confined by the well-meaning expectations of her neighbors; her relationship with her sons as she struggles to parent them through…

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The best novels that reveal the interior thoughts of its characters as they navigate the fragility of life and relationships

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Book cover of All the Bad Apples

All the Bad Apples

By Moïra Fowley-Doyle

Why this book?

More beautifully written magic realism, with compelling characters and a fascinating plot. Fowley-Doyle uses the obliqueness of the supernatural and the compelling tropes of a mystery story to explore Ireland's troubled history with women and children. There's something of the road trip to this one, with a warm, supportive, found-family providing kindness and companionship to the main character in a story that otherwise might be too bleak to bear. Release yourself to the prose and to the experience, let the book carry you. It’ll be worth the journey.

From the list:

The best supernatural books written by Irish women

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Book cover of Forsaking All Other

Forsaking All Other

By Catherine Meyrick

Why this book?

This well-researched story of duty, honour, and love is an exploration of Elizabethan marriage and religious and intolerance highlights how women were a way of advancing the land, wealth, and influence the status of their families. I liked the accomplished storytelling and the use of historical details of the clothing, food, and domestic routine of a Tudor household to bring the period to life.
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The best historical fiction books about the Elizabethans

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Book cover of A Distant Grave

A Distant Grave

By Sarah Stewart Taylor

Why this book?

This is an evocative mystery with not one but two atmospheric settings: Long Island’s Suffolk County, and Ireland’s County Clare. When an Irish national is found dead on a Long Island beach, Detective Maggie D’arcy’s planned vacation to Ireland becomes a tense investigation into the mysterious victim’s death, and a fight to keep her young daughter safe both abroad and back at home. I found A Distant Grave to be deeply chilling and impossible to put down. 

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The best atmospheric mystery books that transport you to a dark and dangerous place

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Book cover of Anybody Out There?

Anybody Out There?

By Marian Keyes

Why this book?

This is my favourite book from my all-time favourite author. I will never forget reading this for the first time, in my then-boyfriend’s flat at the start of our relationship. I ignored him all day (it’s ok, we ended up married) until I’d read it cover to cover. Marian Keyes knows how to pack a devastating emotional punch within her witty, entertaining novels and this is one of the most brutal. It’s a crystal-clear insight into grief, a book that made me sob uncontrollably, and there is no one better at presenting the frustrations and comforting joy of family dynamics…

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The best books about grief and complicated family dynamics

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Book cover of Star of the Sea

Star of the Sea

By Joseph O'Connor

Why this book?

Even professional historians need to slow down and read fiction sometimes! And Joseph O’Connor’s Star of the Sea his is one of my all-time favorites. Set on an emigrant sailing ship during Ireland’s Great Famine, this dark thriller skillfully interweaves the stories of a number of different passengers, one of whom happens to be a murderer. O’Connor, one of Ireland’s leading novelists, finds that perfect balance between “historical” and “fiction.”

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The best books on maritime social history

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Book cover of Full Tilt: Ireland to India with a Bicycle

Full Tilt: Ireland to India with a Bicycle

By Dervla Murphy

Why this book?

Utterly mad yet totally mesmerising, Murphy’s journey was an early inspiration to me in my bicycle-bound adventures. Packing a pistol and little else, she set off in 1963 and pedalled through a brutal European winter, over the Iron Curtain and across the Middle East and Afghanistan where she often disguised herself as a man to get by. In the mountains of northern Pakistan and India she traverses incredibly remote regions on broken trails and occasionally finds herself the guest of regal relics from bygone eras. Murphy’s no-nonsence prose and unembellished style should be a benchmark to all travel writers.

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The best solo adventure books

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Book cover of Third Policeman

Third Policeman

By Flann O'Brien

Why this book?

An incredible book, disturbing, harsh, and – of course – really, really funny, The Third Policeman is the great dark surreal novel. A simple story of a man who visits a police station, it soon roots itself in a Tristram Shandy-esque mire of absurdity and confusion with its own sense of seeping dread. All Flann O’Brien is superb, but this is the fiercest of all pancakes.

From the list:

The best books for expanding the mind through pleasure and strangeness

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Book cover of Arthur Young's Travels in France: During the Years 1787, 1788, 1789

Arthur Young's Travels in France: During the Years 1787, 1788, 1789

By Arthur Young

Why this book?

Young was an English agriculturalist who took time out from farming to analyse life and developments in the countryside. He toured Britain, then Ireland, and finally France. Here, he lucked in. He wandered the fields, lanes, and city streets of France as the Revolution was brewing and then erupting. Although not an aristo himself, he frequented nobility and royalty, and was amazed at the blissful indifference of the idle rich about what was going on around them. He saw the extreme poverty of the peasants, who were being worked and starved to death by their absentee landlords. He witnessed the…

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The best books on why the French seem to be in denial about their own history

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Book cover of The Norman Achievement

The Norman Achievement

By David C. Douglas

Why this book?

It may seem strange to include a selection here that does not mention Ireland once, but the Norman incursion that began in 1167 is fundamental to understanding the country's ensuing history. The first Normans in Ireland were vagabonds, for the most part, a restless, grasping underclass of the French-speaking wave of freebooters that subdued England beginning in 1066 with William the Conqueror. Denied an outlet for their limitless ambition, these often renegade adventurers, many of whom were younger sons or rebellious underlings of the ruling Norman caste, unleashed chaos in Celtic kingdoms they invaded, both militarily and socially, often in…

From the list:

The best history books to help you understand Irish history

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Book cover of Catholics

Catholics

By Brian Moore

Why this book?

Some might question my choice of a work of fiction here, but I have always been a great admirer of this fine writer's work. Catholics best displays the transitional period from the economically dreary 1930s-1950s, to the often-painful thrust of Ireland into the modernity of a European Union and growing national prosperity. The plot vehicle Moore uses is the story of a crisis of faith as monks living in virtual medieval isolation on an island off Co. Kerry (and indulging in the now forbidden Latin mass) are dragged into conformity by a Vatican plenipotentiary who is determined to break them.…

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The best history books to help you understand Irish history

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Book cover of Conquests, Catastrophe and Recovery: Britain and Ireland 1066–1485

Conquests, Catastrophe and Recovery: Britain and Ireland 1066–1485

By John Gillingham

Why this book?

This is a fantastic introduction to what was going on in the British Isles during the medieval period. The scholarship is up-to-the-minute, the writing is witty and engaging, and it is teeming with original ideas. It’s not a political history, plodding predictably from one reign to the next, but a sweeping overview, covering diverse topics such as the decline of slavery, the rise of parliament, kingship and queenship, religion, education, leisure, crime, and chivalry.

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The best books on medieval Britain

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Book cover of Civil War

Civil War

By Taylor Downing, Maggie Millman

Why this book?

A personal favorite as I bought this book as a teenager during the 350th-anniversary commemorations of the civil wars in the 1990s.  An underrated book and an excellent introduction to the conflict for anyone interested in the period. Covering major events in Scotland, England, and Ireland it has a multitude of beautiful colorful illustrations that bring the period to life.  The main narrative is interspersed with text boxes focusing on fascinating individuals, events, and cultural and social aspects conveying the richness and diversity of the conflict.   

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The best books on the Wars of the Three Kingdoms c.1637-1653 (England, Scotland, and Ireland)

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Book cover of The Call

The Call

By Peadar Ó Guilín

Why this book?

The Call picks up on the horror element I loved in Buffy. In this alternative world, the Irish have banished the Sidhe, but as revenge, the Sidhe call Irish teens to their land, where they are hunted for 24 hours. You don’t know who will be called, or when, but eventually, it will be your turn. School is all about helping teens learn to survive when they are taken. Three minutes pass in our world before you are returned. But in what state? I loved the concept of this novel, and the main character will hit you in all the…

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The best books for Buffy lovers

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Book cover of A Grand Old Time

A Grand Old Time

By Judy Leigh

Why this book?

Fantasy readers often enjoy a good quest. While this would be classed as a feel-good book that takes place in the real world, there are fantastical elements in the adventures of the protagonist, an elderly lady who decides care home life is too dull for her.

A rocky start followed by an interesting series of decisions and taking chances makes for an uplifting adventure story as fulfilling as a typical Fantasy quest.

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The best non-fantasy books for fantasy readers

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Book cover of Guilty Pleasures: An Anita Blake, Vampire Hunter Novel

Guilty Pleasures: An Anita Blake, Vampire Hunter Novel

By Laurell K. Hamilton

Why this book?

In my mind, Hamilton is the queen of Urban Fantasy. She wrote dark, gritty heroines who didn’t apologize for being sexually active—and she did it before it was cool. Anita Blake is like a more mature version of Buffy. Everyone should read that series at least once. 

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The best vampire books for adults

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Book cover of The Parasites

The Parasites

By Daphne du Maurier

Why this book?

This novel, published in 1949, is about three grown-up siblings who are still dominated by the memory of their famous parents, both accomplished performers, and their atypical early years, which they spent playing in theaters across Europe. Though the majority of the novel takes place after the parents have died, the ties of family remain paramount for the three protagonists. At times each one feels desperate to escape those ties, but their shared past exerts an irresistible pull on all three. Unusually, the novel is narrated in the first-person plural: the narrative often refers to “us,” but tells each sibling’s…

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The best novels about families from the mid-twentieth century

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Book cover of Climate Change Captives 2035 and Project SAVE: Students Help Save the Earth

Climate Change Captives 2035 and Project SAVE: Students Help Save the Earth

By Carolyn Wilhelm, Pieter Els

Why this book?

In a near future, the creeping changes we already see due to warming climate, produce a sudden dystopia. Young people with rationed food, clean water, and goods, still need to go to school, help their parents and make friends. And then they get asked to help save the world. 

I love the energy of this recent publication. The science has been well researched, such as poison ivy thriving in a warmer climate. Middle-grade readers will identify with the characters, and I was delighted by the inclusion of a family in Ireland, chatting over the interwebs with the American schoolkids. Society…

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The best books on people adapting to changing future worlds

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Book cover of Absolution by Murder

Absolution by Murder

By Peter Tremayne

Why this book?

I read this book many years ago - loved the strong female protagonist and was impressed by the writer’s detailed knowledge of the period, which must have come from vast research. The setting was familiar to me, as I had spent much of my childhood within view of Whitby Abbey. Though utterly fascinated by the story, I had a somewhat different take on what might have happened there in the year 664 and felt inspired to try my own hand at a historical murder mystery.

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The best books throwing light into the Dark Ages

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Book cover of The Light in the Window

The Light in the Window

By June Goulding

Why this book?

The Light in the Window was recommended to me by a woman born in a Mother Baby Home, and it is the book that ignited my curiosity about these institutions. The author, June Goulding a midwife, gives a firsthand account of what happened in the Mother Baby Home where she spent a year working as a midwife. Goulding shares her experience and the cruelty she witnessed. The Light in the Window is one of those books that is difficult to put down. When you’re done reading it, you can’t help but shake your head and wonder how this was allowed…

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The best books about Irish Industrial Schools and Mother Baby Homes

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Book cover of Through the Waters and the Wild

Through the Waters and the Wild

By Greg Fields

Why this book?

Through the Waters and the Wild really impacted me because it asks the timeless and relatable questions—“Where shall I go now?” and “What shall I do?” Focused on questions we all ask at some point in life, this wonderfully crafted novel answers that question in a unique way. Moving through the time period of the Irish Civil War, Fields is able to tell the story of a young boy finding his way all the while creating a setting in which is almost unbelievably described. I love this book because it seems as if Fields truly used a time machine, and…

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The best coming-of-age novels that capture the nature of growth

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Book cover of Good Old Coney Island: A Sentimental Journey Into the Past

Good Old Coney Island: A Sentimental Journey Into the Past

By Edo McCullough

Why this book?

First published in 1957 (and re-issued with a welcome epilogue by historian Michael P. Onorato), the book vividly portrays the storied seaside’s heyday. McCullough was Coney Island royalty: His grandfather was one of its earliest settlers, his uncle was among its greatest showmen, and his dad owned a dozen amusement-park shooting galleries. The family’s love of the place seeps through these pages (a sub-sub title reads “the most rambunctious, scandalous, rapscallion, splendiferous, pugnacious, spectacular, illustrious, prodigious, frolicsome island on earth”—which about sums it up).  Particularly moving is the heartbreaking fate of the show animals on the night of a tragic…

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The best books about historic Coney Island

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

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

By Brian Griffin

Why 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…

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The best books on the history of policing, crime, and society in Ireland

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Book cover of There's a Pig Up My Nose!

There's a Pig Up My Nose!

By John Dougherty, Laura Hughes

Why this book?

One morning Natalie wakes to find her nose goes oink whenever she speaks. Her doctor says she isn’t ill, a pig has simply trotted up it in the night. A riotous story with a novel idea played to the full. The matter-of-fact way Natalie’s parents handle the news contrasts perfectly with the chaos of Natalie’s classmates attempting to extract said pig. Its constant oinking ruins their game of hide and seek and completely puts them off their ham rolls. A pot of pepper finally does the trick, until Natalie wakes the next day with… but that would be telling.

Readers…

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The best and craziest picture books for children

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Book cover of A Tomb With a View: The Stories and Glories of Graveyards

A Tomb With a View: The Stories and Glories of Graveyards

By Peter Ross

Why this book?

Although Ross’s book appears to be a guide to visiting graveyards, its focus often turns toward the people who work there: gravediggers, tour guides, historians, and even memorial artists. One of my favorite essays in the book introduces a modern maker of death masks, whose work appears on three headstones in Highgate Cemetery. The eulogy for “the best-known guide at the most famous cemetery in Ireland” nearly brought me to tears.

A Tomb With A View tells the stories of the graveyards and their dead, true, but most of all Ross conveys how the relationships between the dead and those…

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The best books about cemeteries

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Book cover of The Book of Conquests

The Book of Conquests

By Jim Fitzpatrick

Why this book?

Jim Fitzpatrick’s CV may include the world’s most famous portrait of Che Guevara, but in Ireland, he is better known for his glorious depictions of our native myths and legends. If anything can be said to be his masterpiece, it is his work in The Book of Conquests. The text is a translation of a medieval manuscript, Lebor Gabála Érenn. This account of the mythical origins of Ireland was my most important inspiration for writing The Call. But as a child, it was the pulse-pounding illustrations that really made my jaw drop.

From the list:

The best books for exploring Irish mythology

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Book cover of Fog Island

Fog Island

By Tomi Ungerer

Why this book?

I was a friend of Tomi Ungerer since he used to answer metaphysical or philosophical questions asked by children in Philosophie Magazine, each month, in a special chronicle. Fog Island is less famous than Otto or the Three Robbers, but it’s an ode to Ireland where he used to live. The magic island in his story actually exists: Tomi Ungerer has drawn the rocky “Evil’s Tooth” that was planted in the ocean, just in front of his house. A beautiful tale with a realistic background.

From the list:

The best bedtime stories books for kids

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Book cover of The Edge of Lost

The Edge of Lost

By Kristina McMorris

Why this book?

The story begins with a mystery and then we are taken back to Dublin, Ireland, to the character’s childhood. He comes to Ellis Island alone and is taken in by an Italian family. The immigrant experience is compelling in this novel and I love a story where you go back in time to try to figure out how the character got to the place he’s in and what happened on his journey. This is a page-turner for sure.

From the list:

The best Irish immigrant historical fiction

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Book cover of Titanic Love Stories: The True Stories of 13 Honeymoon Couples Who Sailed on the Titanic

Titanic Love Stories: The True Stories of 13 Honeymoon Couples Who Sailed on the Titanic

By Gill Paul

Why this book?

Gill Paul’s Titanic Love Stories tells the fate of the thirteen honeymoon couples that boarded the doomed ship. It tells stories from society’s elite to third-class passengers from a small country Irish town. Beginning with JJ Astor, Paul tells the story of a man who risked everything for a woman he loved more than anything, showering her with flowers and books to win her favour. In Madeleine, Astor found a future that promised happiness – something he had not had in his previous marriage. Madeleine would love him in a way Astor had never been loved before, who had suffered…

From the list:

The best Titanic books you need to read

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Book cover of A Long Long Way

A Long Long Way

By Sebastian Barry

Why this book?

I think Sebastian Barry is one of the greatest contemporary novelists whose prose unfailingly sings, pirouettes, and enriches. I would recommend all his novels, which take various members of the Dunne or McNulty families over time and place. This particular novel is set in the First World War and follows Willie Dunne as he leaves Dublin to fight for the British, only to find himself caught on the wrong side at the Easter uprising and having to face his own countrymen. It is a brilliant depiction of a young Irish tommy out of his depth in a brutal war, fighting…

From the list:

The best forgotten (or untold) histories of war

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Book cover of The Lonely Passion of Judith Hearne

The Lonely Passion of Judith Hearne

By Brian Moore

Why this book?

It is rare to find a male author who can write so well about a woman’s addiction to alcohol, and Brian Moore does this with such virtuosity. Judith Hearne, a middle-aged spinster, is a part-time piano teacher in Belfast. Her earnings are small and she moves from one boarding house to another.

Great is her elation when she meets James Madden, a charming businessman lately returned from New York. Judith falls for this rich man hook, line and sinker, not suspecting that her feelings aren’t being reciprocated, and that he merely wishes to involve her in a business deal. When…

From the list:

The best novels on overcoming fear and embracing change

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Book cover of Sunsets Never Wait

Sunsets Never Wait

By Jonathan Cullen

Why this book?

Tara Doherty has come to live in Connemara following the death of her husband. She’s distraught and lonely here in "the back of beyond." Until a mysterious stranger rents a little cottage close to Tara’s. James Dunford, she learns, is Irish-born but lived in the USA. He spends his days fixing up his cottage and walking the beach with a stray dog. As time goes by, Tara learns from a local villager that James is not what he seems and that his motive for renting the cottage is far from conventional. She confronts him, and their two lives intertwine in…

From the list:

The best novels on overcoming fear and embracing change

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Book cover of An Irish Hostage

An Irish Hostage

By Charles Todd

Why this book?

As a student of history I am impressed with the research that underpins this series, and especially the life of ordinary people in Ireland following the  Easter 1916 uprising. The whole Bess Crawford series tells the story of Bess, a strong-willed, independent woman who serves as a battlefield nurse in World War One. She needs all her courage and intelligence to survive then and in all of her ventures. Society’s expectations of women and how they should behave were dramatically changed during and following the Great War. How was it possible to expect a woman who had nursed on battlefields…

From the list:

The best historical novels about strong women surviving the restrictions society and men in their lives place upon them

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Book cover of The Christie Affair

The Christie Affair

By Nina de Gramont

Why this book?

As a mystery reader and writer, I idolize Agatha Christie, the bestselling fiction writer of all time. In her 60+ detective novels, the mystery is always solved, but she left behind an unsolved mystery about herself. In 1926, after Archie Christie asked for a divorce to marry his lover, Agatha vanished for eleven days. Found after a massive manhunt, she never revealed why or how she disappeared. The Christie Affair solves that mystery in an inventive way, narrated by Archie’s mistress, a character I didn’t expect to like but grew to understand. I love the novel’s intertwining of history and…

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The best books inspired by literary icons

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Book cover of Hideaway

Hideaway

By Nora Roberts

Why this book?

Nora Roberts is the absolute queen of romance. She is often the first author anyone recommends in the genre, and as such, I am a huge fan. Hideaway has a scrappy heroine, but the real reason I love this book is Dillon. He’s hard-working and protective and just right for Cate.

I also really enjoyed the other background characters and relationships. So many times romance novels focus only on the two leads (with good reason!) but it’s always nice when the characters have outside relationships, especially good ones. Dillon’s relationships made me smile and love him all the more as…

From the list:

The best books for a romantic beach read

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