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A (subjective and incomplete) Irish Book List

September 7, 2015 | 2 Comments

While living in Ireland, I read as many contemporary Irish writers as I could, and returned to some classics I should have paid more attention to the first time around. I’ve had requests to share an Irish booklist, so here it is; my very subjective and incomplete three-year literary odyssey — plus those I read before spending time in the blessed emerald isle — and which barely scrapes the surface, I know, because I concentrated on striking off the biggies, and I’ve not included plays, though we saw some fabulous theatre (Wilde! Beckett! McGuinness! Shaw! Sheridan! McCafferty!). It’s in more or less alphabetical order, with poetry mixed with prose, and personal favorites marked with an asterisk. Feel free to comment on everything I’ve missed and absolutely must read.

  • John Banville: The Sea* / The Book of Evidence / The Infinities / Birchwood (+ his crime novels under Benjamin Black)
  • Colin Barrett:  Young Skins (stories)
  • Kevin Barry:  City of Bohane*
  • Sara Baume:  spill simmer falter wither
  • Samuel Beckett:  Malloy / Malone Dies / The Unnamable
  • Brendan Behan:  Borstal Boy
  • Maeve Binchy:  Tara Road / Circle of Friends / Heart and Soul
  • Dermot Bolger:  The Journey Home / Tanglewood
  • Elizabeth Bowen:  The Last September* / The Heat of the Day / Eva Trout
  • John Boyne: The History of Loneliness* / The Boy in the Striped Pajamas
  • Mary Costello:  Academy Street
  • Emma Donoghue: Room / Slammerkin* / Frog Music
  • Roddy Doyle:  The Barrytown Trilogy / Paddy Clark Ha Ha Ha* / The Woman Who Walked into Doors
  • Paul Durcan:  Praise in which I Live and Move and Have My Being* (Poetry)
  • Anne Enright:  The Forgotten Waltz / The Gathering* / The Green Road* / Making Babies* (essays)
  • J.G. Farrell:  Troubles* (Farrell is English, but I’m unapologetically co-opting this book as Irish…)
  • Michelle Forbes:  Ghost Moth
  • Tara French:  In the Woods* (first in a series of crime novels)
  • Oliver Goldsmith: The Vicar of Wakefield
  • Hugo Hamilton:  Every Single Minute* / The Speckled People (memoir)
  • Dermot Healy:  A Goat’s Song
  • Seamus Heaney:  Opened Ground: Selected Poems* / Beowulf (his translation)*
  • Jennifer Johnston:  How Many Miles Till Babylon?*
  • Neil Jordan:  Night in Tunisia
  • James Joyce:  Dubliners* / A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man / Ulysses*
  • Patrick Kavanaugh:  Selected Poetry
  • Molly Keane:  Good Behaviour*
  • Claire Keegan:  Foster*
  • Claire Kilroy:  All Names Have Been Changed / The Devil I Know
  • Mary Lavin:  Happiness and Other Stories* / Tales from Bective Bridge
  • C.S. Lewis:  The Chronicles of Narnia
  • Paul Lynch:  Red Sky in Morning
  • Audrey Magee:  The Undertaking
  • Kevin Maher:  The Fields
  • Eimear McBride:  A Girl is a Half Formed Thing*
  • Patrick McCabe:  The Butcher Boy* / The Stray Sod Country*
  • Colum McCann:  Let the Great World Spin / Transatlantic
  • Frank McCourt:  Angela’s Ashes / T’is
  • John McGahern:  The Leavetaking* / Amongst Women*
  • Brian Moore:  The Lonely Passion of Judith Hearne*
  • Iris Murdoch:  The Sea, the Sea* / A Severed Head / The Green Knight / Under the Net etc…
  • Paul Murray:  Skippy Dies
  • Nuala Ni Chonchuir:  Closet of Savage Mememtos / You
  • Flann O’Brien (Brian O’Nolan):  At-Swim-Two-Birds
  • Edna O’Brien:  Country Girl* / Night* / The Country Girl (memoir) / The Love Object (stories)
  • Joseph O’Connor:  Star of the Sea / The Thrill of it All / Ghost Light
  • Nuala O’Faolain:  Are You Somebody?* (memoir)
  • Sean O’Faolain: Collected Stories
  • Maggie O’Farrell:  The Vanishing Act of Esme Lennox* / The Hand that First Held Mine
  • James Plunkett:  Strumpet City
  • Donal Ryan:  The Spinning Heart* / The Thing About December
  • Lawrence Sterne:  The Life and Opinions of Tristram Shandy
  • Bram Stoker:  Dracula*
  • Jonathan Swift:  Gulliver’s Travels
  • Colm Toibin:  Brooklyn* / Nora Webster* / The Master* / The Empty Family (stories) / The Testament of Mary*
  • William Trevor:  Felicia’s Journey* / After Rain* / A Bit on the Side* etc etc… (Read everything!)
  • Oscar Wilde:  The Portrait of Dorian Gray
  • Niall Williams:  History of the Rain
  • W.B. Yeats:  Collected Poetry

(Photograph: the James Joyce Mortello Tower in Sandycove, the setting for the opening scene in Ulysses.)

 

2 Comments to 'A (subjective and incomplete) Irish Book List'

  • Rizal says:

    Sad, enthralled, ritveed and full of admiration for Nuala O’Faolan as I listened to the interview with Marian Finnucane on Saturday. Her sheer honesty and despair was palpable. Her genius, her storytelling ability and lovely way of communicating are some of the gifts she will leave behind. I discovered Nuals’s novels a few years ago and have read them over and over. I just wanted to put my arms around her a give her a big hug something that would have probably been more beneficial to me than Nuala such was my emotional state while listening to her speak. Well done to Marian too for such a professional approach to the interview. Nuala you make me feel the I am somebody’- thank you for that.

    • Susan says:

      You may enjoy Hugo Hamilton’s novel “Every Single Minute” which is a fictionalized account of a weekend he spent with Nuala toward the very end of her life. I had the good fortune of meeting her once, and she struck me as a wonderful yet deeply lonely woman, who seemed to lack confidence in her own tremendous talent.