The most recommended books about the Republic of Ireland

Who picked these books? Meet our 30 experts.

30 authors created a book list connected to the Republic of Ireland, and here are their favorite Republic of Ireland books.
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Book cover of Two Lives: Reading Turgenev & My House in Umbria

Why am I passionate about this?

I have lived primarily in Vermont, but my relationship to a remote portion of Maine wilderness is the one geographical consistency in my 81 years. Trained as an academic, I did have literary influences, but my chief influences derived from my early decades among men and women whose arduous existences in the great North Woods preceded electricity, power tools, and modern household conveniences. These men and women had to make their own entertainment, and they did so by way of storytelling, and their stories became a kind of community property. Whatever the genres of my 24 books, I have sought to emulate the timing and precision that these masters commanded. 

Sydney's book list on exemplifying my two crucial virtues in "realist" fiction: understatement and attention to detail

Sydney Lea Why did Sydney love this book?

This book contains a pair of novellas, Reading Turgenev and My House in Umbria. While William Trevor has never to my mind written so much as a clause that’s not worth reading, Reading Turgenev is my preferred fiction here. It is a triumph of Irish realism, lyrical without any straining for effect, a heartbreaking reflection on frustrated love, and a sort of elegy for people who suffer because of that frustration. I read it for the first time in one sitting, so gripped was I by the various, quiet but soul-wrenching emotional dramas occurring, especially between the main character and her male cousin. I have gone back to it twice since and will again, I’m sure.

The novella is rife with social observation, and Trevor’s ear for telling dialect, the depiction of which never makes him sound the least condescending on the one hand or sentimental on the other,…

By William Trevor,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Two Lives: Reading Turgenev & My House in Umbria - two novels by William Trevor

'Evocative and haunting. Trevor writes like an angel, but is determined to wring your heart' Daily Mail

'Marvellous, superb. As rich and moving as anything I have read in years. When I reach the end . . . I wanted to start right again at the beginning' Guardian

In Reading Turgenev an Irish country girl is trapped in a loveless marriage with an older man, but finds release through secret meetings with a man who shares her passion for Russian novels.

My House in Umbria…


Book cover of Lion of Ireland

Dana Chamblee Carpenter Author Of Bohemian Gospel

From my list on historical fiction with touches of love and magic.

Why am I passionate about this?

Even as an overachieving student, I struggled with true/false tests, always writing short essays explaining why the answer wasn’t quite clear cut. Some teachers loved my need to blur the lines. Others not so much. But this aversion to boundaries—the idea that something (or someone) must be this or that—it’s part of my blood. I read everything in the library, nonfiction, fiction, all genres. I like books that cross from real to fantasy, history to fiction. I love characters who refuse to be told who and what they can (or can’t) be. I want love to break boundaries, too. That’s what this list is all about.

Dana's book list on historical fiction with touches of love and magic

Dana Chamblee Carpenter Why did Dana love 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 tale.

By Morgan Llywelyn,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Brian Boru was stronger, braver and wiser than all other men - the greatest king Ireland has ever known. And his women were as remarkable as his adventures. Set against the barbaric splendours of the 10th century, this is a story rich in truth and legend and dreams of glory.


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

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.

Why am I passionate about this?

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?

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 years following the introduction of the police in October 1786, indicating a degree of effectiveness of the new police despite the lack of its popularity.

By Brian Henry,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

222 pages.


Book cover of Country Girl: A Memoir

Patrick Doherty Author Of I Am Patrick: A Donegal Childhood Remembered

From my list on Irish childhood.

Why am I passionate about this?

As an experienced teacher I was fascinated by how writing personal stories helped to develop confidence as well as oral and written self-expression at different levels of complexity in children across the primary school age range. This encouraged me to embark on a MA in creative writing where I wrote an extended autobiographical piece that focused on how the relationship between my father and myself affected my childhood.  I continued this research into my doctoral studies in Irish autobiography. I explored the history of Irish autobiography, memory, and identity formation. This research provided the context to write my own childhood memoir I Am Patrick

Patrick's book list on Irish childhood

Patrick Doherty Why did Patrick love this book?

Edna O’Brien’s 2012 autobiography Country Girl is a blunt, gripping, lyrical and non-self-pitying depiction of her early life in the west of Ireland. It exposes the stultifying conformity imposed by the Catholic Church, family and community which I experienced myself. She rebelled as she sought freedom and self-expression from a domineering mother and drunken father. Edna’s escape to Dublin, London and New York as well as her exile from Ireland reflects an individual addicted to drugs and alcohol who seeks acknowledgement, liberty and success through many failed relationships. Edna’s autobiography resonates with many of my own experiences of the 1960’s. Country Girl demonstrates how one Irish female writer broke the cultural silence so that others would not feel alone. Her writing was an inspiration to me for my own memoir.

By Edna O'Brien,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

The BBC Radio 4 dramatisation of Edna O'Brien's The Country Girls trilogy begins in August 2019.

I thought of life's many bounties, to have known the extremities of joy and sorrow, love, crossed love and unrequited love, success and failure, fame and slaughter ...

Born in Ireland in 1930 and driven into exile after publication of her controversial first novel, The Country Girls, Edna O'Brien is now hailed as one of the most majestic writers of her era - and Country Girl is her fabulous memoir.

Born in rural Ireland, O'Brien weaves the tale of her life from convent school…


Book cover of The Empty Room

Tracey Lee Author Of Wither

From my list on the truth and lies of ordinary lives.

Why am I passionate about this?

Everybody lies. Good people, evil-doers, and the well-intentioned. My fascination began when I discovered through genealogy the mistruths, obfuscations, and lies by omission that peppered my own family tree. In my case the forebears believed there were good reasons to lie and no reason to think that the truth would ever be uncovered. But DNA profiling has shone a big light on the dark corners. Also being a teacher for a few decades means I’ve heard just about every permutation of alleged truth there is! These books focus on the character’s journey through deception and fabrications to arrive at a version of truth that is less unbearable than the lies.

Tracey's book list on the truth and lies of ordinary lives

Tracey Lee Why did Tracey love this book?

Brian McGilloway’s novel is told in the first person from the perspective of a grieving mother who tries to pick through the lies and secrets to uncover what happened to her only child. On her journey she uncovers the brutal truth; everybody lies. The book takes a realistic look at Dora Condron’s emotional descent into a bleak world where she comes to believe that no one will tell the truth. I like most of all that it is crime novel, a mystery, and a family drama that is told from the single perspective. The mother’s introspection about her failings as a parent really hits home when we consider what our own last words might have been to a loved one who walks out the door and never walks back in. 

By Brian McGilloway,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

What do you do when your child disappears?

'A hugely compelling story of loss, grief and vengeance, The Empty Room is probably the best novel yet by one of our finest mystery writers. Unmissable.' John Connolly

'The tension and heartbreak kept me turning the pages' Patricia Gibney

'A searing, thrilling and heartbreaking look at life, loss and revenge, expertly handled by a hugely talented storyteller' Chris Whitaker

Pandora - Dora - Condron wakes one morning to discover her 17-year old daughter Ellie, has not come home after a party.

The day Ellie disappears, Dora is alone as her husband Eamon…


Book cover of Making Ireland British, 1580-1650

Matteo Binasco Author Of Making, Breaking and Remaking the Irish Missionary Network: Ireland, Rome and the West Indies in the Seventeenth Century

From my list on to understand early-modern period Atlantic world.

Why am I passionate about this?

This is and will remain the example of historical research made by one of the leading authorities in the field of Atlantic history. Elliott’s book set the agenda by investigating and assessing the complex array of causes and consequences which brought England and Spain to have an ever-lasting cultural, economic, political, and religious influence on the history of North America and Latin America.  

Matteo's book list on to understand early-modern period Atlantic world

Matteo Binasco Why did Matteo love 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. 

By Nicholas Canny,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Making Ireland British, 1580-1650 as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

This is the first comprehensive study of all the plantations that were attempted in Ireland during the years 1580-1650. It examines the arguments advanced by successive political figures for a plantation policy, and the responses which this policy elicited from different segments of the population in Ireland.

The book opens with an analysis of the complete works of Edmund Spenser who was the most articulate ideologue for plantation. The author argues that all subsequent advocates of plantation, ranging from King James VI and I, to Strafford, to Oliver Cromwell, were guided by Spenser's opinions, and that discrepancies between plantation in…


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

Jane Adams Author Of Nature's Wonders: Moments That Mark the Seasons

From my list on entertaining and fascinating UK nature books.

Why am I passionate about this?

As a UK nature writer and amateur naturalist, I have a fascination with the natural world. If it squeaks, buzzes, croaks, hisses, or tweets, I want to know more about it. I enjoy books that are both captivating and easy to understand, and I’m at my happiest when uncovering unusual facts and exploring the rich folklore surrounding our wildlife. As a writer, I contribute to magazines focusing on nature and wildlife-friendly gardening. I also teach creative writing and have authored a book celebrating the wonders of our UK wildlife. I live in Dorset and find endless joy in observing and nurturing whatever wanders or flies into my overgrown garden.

Jane's book list on entertaining and fascinating UK nature books

Jane Adams Why did Jane love this book?

I’m onto my second copy of this little book, as the first copy fell to bits from so much use. Though it’s a field guide, it’s not only easy to read and understand (even with my unscientific mind) but also full of useful little titbits of information.

Every spring, I can’t wait to take it off the bookshelf and use it to identify the enormous queen bumblebees emerging from hibernation in the garden. 

Book cover of The Bones of It

Jason Johnson Author Of Did She See You?

From my list on Northern Ireland since the end of the Troubles.

Why am I passionate about this?

I grew up in this place, born here when the Troubles began. In one form or another, the conflict was everywhere. It was built into the infrastructure, into attitudes. It infested conversations, hurt friendships, killed old folks, children, friends, and family. Fiction from and about Northern Ireland was inevitably hamstrung by that dominant, terrible story. Since the 1994 ceasefires, our fiction has come charging forward. It’s analytical, bullish, enlightening, funny as hell, and it moves us forward by taking honest stock of what came before. I love this emerging place and its new voices. And I love to read and write stories about it. It’s a stubborn home, often maddening, truly kind, forever breath-taking.

Jason's book list on Northern Ireland since the end of the Troubles

Jason Johnson Why did Jason love this book?

How to address the bloody past is constantly debated in Northern Ireland. The lawyers can’t get it right, nor the politicians or police. Yet this writer does. The book strips everything away and leaves, well, the bones. It’s a father-and-son story. The former, an ex-paramilitary, takes in the troubled latter. The prison veteran father has been trying to be better. The lovesick son is trying to be normal. Both remain curiously opaque, their stories not quite gelling. These are precision-hewn Troubles characters, murderer and son, never as disappointed in each other as they are with themselves. Theirs is a small house filled with history and filling up with paranoia and mistrust. And we learn it all via a prison diary. A mighty debut novel.

By Kelly Creighton,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Thrown out of university, green-tea-drinking, meditation-loving Scott McAuley has no place to go but home: County Down, Northern Ireland. The only problem is, his father is there now too.

Duke wasn't around when Scott was growing up. He was in prison for stabbing two Catholic kids in an alley. But thanks to the Good Friday Agreement, big Duke is out now, reformed, a counselor.

Squeezed together into a small house, with too little work and too much time to think about what happened to Scott's dead mother, the tension grows between these two men, who seem to have so little…


Book cover of As You Were

Siobhán Parkinson Author Of All Shining in the Spring: The Story of a Baby Who Died

From my list on Irish women writers on what it is like to live.

Why am I passionate about this?

I’ve chosen to recommend fiction by Irish women, because I’m a female Irish writer myself. My own books are mostly for children, but, hey, I’m an adult. As well as a writer I am a retired publisher, a not-quite-retired editor, and an occasional translator, so I tend to engage very closely – OK, obsessively – with text. I have a pretty serious visual impairment, so most of my ‘reading’ is through the medium of audiobooks. I’m never sure if that influences my taste in reading. Anyway, these are the books I’ve liked recently, and hope you do too.

Siobhán's book list on Irish women writers on what it is like to live

Siobhán Parkinson Why did Siobhán love this book?

A few years ago, I spent a week in the hospital recovering from surgery. When my husband came to visit, I would fill his ears with tragic and/or hilarious tales of my ward-mates. He kept saying, “Write it down. This is novel material.” He was right. But I didn’t. 

Looks like Elaine Feeney did. Her novel, mostly set in a hospital ward, is uproariously funny as well as deeply sad and very wise. 

I grew up near Elaine’s home town in east Galway. So, though I don’t know her, I do know the society she is writing about. And she gets it spot on!

By Elaine Feeney,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

WINNER OF THE KATE O'BRIEN AWARD 2021
SHORTLISTED FOR THE RATHBONES FOLIO PRIZE 2021
SHORTLISTED FOR THE IRISH BOOK AWARDS NOVEL OF THE YEAR 2020
AN OBSERVER BEST DEBUT 2020

'Riveting... I was exhilarated reading this' Roddy Doyle

Sinead Hynes is a tough, driven, funny young property developer with a terrifying secret.

No-one knows it: not her fellow patients in a failing hospital, and certainly not her family. She has confided only in Google and a shiny magpie.

But she can't go on like this, tirelessly trying to outstrip her past and in mortal fear of her future. Across the…


Book cover of We Don't Know Ourselves: A Personal History of Modern Ireland

Sydney Calkin Author Of Abortion Pills Go Global: Reproductive Freedom across Borders

From Sydney's 3 favorite reads in 2023.

Why am I passionate about this?

Author Academic Abortion rights activist Feminist Mother

Sydney's 3 favorite reads in 2023

Sydney Calkin Why did Sydney love this book?

I loved this fast-paced, witty, moving account of Ireland’s recent history.

O’Toole is the kind of narrator you want to spend more time with. I admired the style of this fascinating memoir: O’Toole tracks the history of Ireland over the course of his lifetime, weaving together the personal with the political, economic, and cultural.

I’ve conducted research in Ireland since 2016. It’s a remarkable place, changing rapidly, full of contradictions and grappling with the darkness of its recent past. I loved O’Toole’s book because he made sense of these contradictions in lively and nuanced ways.

This book is the best of memoir, blending together a person’s experiences with their wider context to provide a rich narrative of a life.

By Fintan O'Toole,

Why should I read it?

4 authors picked We Don't Know Ourselves as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Fintan O'Toole was born in the year the revolution began. It was 1958, and the Irish government-in despair, because all the young people were leaving-opened the country to foreign investment and popular culture. So began a decades-long, ongoing experiment with Irish national identity. In We Don't Know Ourselves, O'Toole, one of the Anglophone world's most consummate stylists, weaves his own experiences into Irish social, cultural, and economic change, showing how Ireland, in just one lifetime, has gone from a reactionary "backwater" to an almost totally open society-perhaps the most astonishing national transformation in modern history.

Born to a working-class family…