Not only is March 17 St. Patrick’s Day, but the whole month of March is Irish-American Heritage Month in order to coincide with holiday. What better time than this to dive into some Irish fiction? For a relatively small country, Ireland is a hub of culture so these books are just a tiny sampling of the great literature about and coming out of the country. Literary fiction, comedy, cozy mysteries, grittier mysteries, historical- there’s something for everyone.
- Ulysses by James Joyce- Maybe *the* book to represent Dublin. It’s certainly a challenge, but Joyce’s experimental and beautiful language brings the city to life. Inspired by The Odyssey, the story follows Leopold Bloom as he makes his way through the city to get home to his wife, Molly.
- Normal People by Sally Rooney- One of the biggest books of 2019, Normal People follows a pair of teenagers from their school days in rural Ireland to their college days in Dublin and beyond as their social statuses shift and they fall in and out of each other’s lives.
- Circle of Friends by Maeve Binchy- Benny and Eve have been best friends since childhood and expand their circle when they get to university. Love and loss follow, and this book is often described by fans as the ultimate “comfort food”.
- Skippy Dies by Paul Murray- Teenage Skippy dies and the novel explores the mystery of what led to his death, linking the pupils of a school, teachers, and parents in unexpected ways. Which doesn’t sound like it would be funny, but it is.
- In the Woods by Tana French- Each book in French’s Dublin Murder Squad series is worthy of its own place on this list but if you want to dive in, In the Woods is the first book and a great place to start. A young girl is found murdered and there is suspicion that her death could be linked to the disappearance of 2 other children 20 years earlier.
- When All Is Said by Anne Griffin- 84 year old Maurice Hannigan sits in a hotel bar and drinks a toast to the 5 people who have been most important to him. Through the tales of how each of these people shaped him, Maurice tells the story of his life.
- This Is Happiness by Niall Williams- A coming of age tale in the small Irish parish of Faha, which hasn’t changed much in a thousand years until the events of this book. The traditions and relationships of this tightknit community anchor this story.
- Beyond the Pale by Clare O'Donohue- In this thriller, married college professors are asked by Interpol to help procure a priceless rare book in Ireland, but things take a wrong turn when the couple’s contact in Ireland doesn’t show and they are faced with a potential death threat.
- The Spinning Heart by Donal Ryan- The financial collapse in Ireland leads to rising tensions in an Irish town, leading to violent outbursts as people’s lives are affected by everything they’ve lost.
- An Irish Country Doctor by Patrick Taylor- In the first book of the Irish Country series, newly minted doctor Barry Laverty moves to the Northern Irish countryside and begins work assisting the old village doctor. Through the new man in the village, the series introduces the reader to the colorful inhabitants of Ballybucklebo.
- Murder in an Irish Village by Carlene O'Connor- The opener to this series of cozies set in County Cork focuses on the O’Sullivan siblings as they fun the family bistro inherited after their parents are killed in a car accident. When a man is found murdered in the bistro, their livelihood is on the line and oldest sister Siobhan is determined to solve the mystery and save her family.
- Actress by Anne Enright- Norah tells the intertwined story of herself and her mother, Irish theater legend Katherine O’Dell. Norah attempts to discover who her mother was apart from the public actress and learn what led to the bizarre crime for which Katherine is best remembered.
- The Secret Scripture by Sebastian Barry- Told through journal entries from Roseanne, a psychiatric patient nearing her hundredth birthday, and Dr. Grene, her psychiatrist. A tale of love, loss, religion, and memory, Roseanne’s story becomes a stand in for Ireland’s history.
- The Last Storyteller by Frank Delaney- Ben MacCarthy views storytelling as a means of existence, and he tells his story, weaving it in with Irish myth and legend, and the history of the country as well. The Irish tradition of oral storytelling is explored well here.
- The Princes of Ireland by Edward Rutherford- Part 1 of 2 in Rutherford’s Dublin Saga, this epic spans 11 centuries of Irish history, from its pagan roots to Vikings and St. Patrick to medieval culture. Part 2 brings the story up to the formation of the modern, free Ireland in the 1920s.
Bonus content: Irish movies in case you want to celebrate but don't have time to commit to a book