Before you go on your trip to Ireland, you want to get inspired about this raw and enchanting place and really make the most of your trip.
Luckily, Irish writing is among the very best in the world. So it’s time fill your backpack (or Kindle!) with some awesome books that will help you understand the true Ireland and its people, the struggles and triumphs we’ve faced throughout history and also what it means to be Irish today.
What follows is our personal recommendation of the ten best books that will help you take your visit to the next level.
We’ve included a mixture of fiction and non-fiction, adventure, travel logs, love stories, complex family histories, surfing, political commentaries and even Irish tradition and lore. There’s something for everyone on this list. Let’s take a look!
Start your travel adventures by following the footsteps of another. This excellent travel log follows Pete, an English guy born to an Irish mother and an English father. He adores Ireland and decides to travel around the country following the rule ‘never pass a pub with your name on it’. Meeting characters as varied as English hippies, German musician, married priests and everyone inbetween, he sees just how much the country is changing. This is a book not to be missed!
Shortlisted for the Baileys Women’s Prize for Fiction 2016 Paperback, ‘The Green Road’ is a novel written by the controversial Anne Enright. Through the lens of one single rural Irish family scattered across the globe, the novel skips across the New York gay scene, Mali and gritty battles with cancer. Gripping, bold and brilliant, it offers a great view of modern Irish family life.
If surfing is more your passion, you’ll love this account of a group of surfers in County Clare in search of the perfect wave. Exploring the treacherous coastline and cold waters of the Atlantic, these brave surfers face broken bones, freezing temperatures and almost drown as they battle the elements and enjoy the raw and rugged adventure that is surfing in Ireland.
Dubliners is a classic collection of short stories first published way back in 1914 that show what it was really like to live in Dublin at the turn of the last century. This was his first book, written when he was just 25 explores middle-class ordinary lives, struggles, desires, exploitation, and what it really means to be Irish. It’s written by a master who avoids moral judgement and allows us to draw our own conclusions. Highly recommended!
Want dark and gritty Irish drama? Then you absolutely have to read Angela’s Ashes. Set in Limerick and the US during the 1930s, this evocative memoir documents a family’s immense struggles during the Great Depression. Winning numerous awards including the 1997 Pulitzer Prize for Biography or Autobiography and the 1997 Boeke Prize this novel was made into a critically acclaimed movie in 1999.
Just a quick warning for you- once you pick this book up, you’ll never want to put it down! This highly-addictive read covers the author Nuala O’Faolain’s struggles through life as a native Dublin woman. Breaking with tradition and gender norms, she struggles with love, pain and loneliness on her journey of self-discovery as she attempts to find her place in the world. A modern classic you’ll love.
One of Binchy’s many soapy novels, Circle of Friends tells the story of childhood friends whose lives take shocking twists and turns as they attend college in Dublin. Exploring themes of friendship and family against the backdrop of 1950’s Ireland, this work of fiction offers a unique view of Irish life in an easy-to-read format.
Are you ready for a gripping love story with a difference? Ready to cry? Then you’ll adore ‘PS I Love You’. It’s a wonderful love story set in Ireland (see also the film for some fab locations) which tells the story of two soulmates- Holly and Gerry. Holly thinks life is over when Gerry dies, yet a series of notes from him that arrive after her 30th birthday soon teach her that life and love go on. Get the tissues ready!
Ireland is famous throughout the world for its rich storytelling tradition and ability to weave a story that enchants and bewitch. This book explores this tradition, telling the story of a boy, nine-year old Ronan who enjoys the company of an itinerant storyteller who arrives at his home in the winter of 1951. Telling elaborate tales of saints and kings, this storyteller changes the life of young Ronan forever.
The Pope’s Children is different to the previous books in this list, detailing the strange surge in birth rates following Pope John Paul II’s historic visit to Dublin in the 1970s. Exploring themes of Irish economic triumph, the growth of the suburbs and commuters and modern prosperity through a positive lens, this book offers hope and financial freedom for the future.
This list is just a tiny collection of the truly amazing works of fiction and non-fiction out there which explore Ireland and its people. Go out there and read! Explore the world of Irish fiction and take your trip to the next level!
Now the only question remains, which ones will you read before your trip to Ireland?
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