From historic Waterford to the capital city of Dublin, Ireland is a lush, vibrant land with an equally captivating history. And the Emerald Isle has been home to many great storytellers and the setting for many unforgettable tales. Why not pour yourself a green beer (or some green tea) and crack open a novel, memoir, poetry collection, or nonfiction book that will transport you to the Irish countryside? Writer’s Relief has some great recommendations for books set in Ireland.
Our Favorite Books Set In Ireland
Ulysses by James Joyce. No list of Irish books would be complete without James Joyce! A loose retelling of the Odyssey (and nearly as much of an epic read), Ulysses focuses on one day in a Dublin city. This novel has captivated experimental modernism fans all over the world.
Hani and Ishu’s Guide to Fake Dating by Adiba Jaigirdar. In the mood for a lighthearted read? Hani Khan finds herself in a tough spot when she claims to be dating a girl she despises, Ishu Dey, after her friends challenge her bisexuality. Ishu agrees to go along with the lie if Hani will help her become more popular and get elected head girl. This sweet story highlights Ireland’s multicultural population.
Angela’s Ashes by Frank McCourt. For fans of nonfiction, this memoir explores the reality of one boy’s life in County Limerick during the Depression era. This tale of the author’s desperate survival is filled with humor, compassion, and casual indifference as he deals with poverty and his father’s own alcoholism.
In the Woods by Tana French. Three boys disappear into the woods of a Dublin suburb; only one makes his way out. The boy is terrified, amnesiac, and his shoes are filled with blood. Twenty years later, the boy is a detective placed on a case that almost mirrors his past trauma. Perhaps it’s time to uncover those hidden memories.
Death of a Naturalist by Seamus Heaney. What better way to experience the wonders of Ireland than through poetry? And when it comes to Irish poets, consider Nobel Prize winner Seamus Heaney. Heaney writes of his childhood and his country with evocative language and an unflinching look at the harsh truths of life on a farm.
Ireland and the Magdalene Laundries: A Campaign for Justice by Katherine O’Donnell, Claire McGettrick, James M. Smith, Maeve O’Rourke, and Mari Steed. The Magdalene Laundries, where thousands of young women were imprisoned for being “burdens” or “promiscuous,” is a dark stain on Ireland’s history—and its victims deserve to have their stories told. A series of reports and testimonies, this novel strives to give a voice to many who were silenced.
Normal People by Sally Rooney. Sally Rooney is one of the most famous Irish writers of this generation. Starting from the moment when they first meet, this novel tells the story of two friends who find themselves deeply entangled in each other’s lives. A simple yet captivating story. You won’t be able to put it down.
W.B. Yeats by W.B. Yeats, edited by Seamus Heaney. This collection of Yeats’s best poems is introduced by Seamus Heaney, who provides insights into the work and readers’ reactions. For anyone interested in diving into Yeats’s work, no better introduction can be found.
Question: Which book on this list would you read first?
A good list, and of course my total approval for having Ulysses at the top. But you must find a way to include Milkman by Anna Burns who won the Booker for it in 2018.