Best of Irish Writers, Then and Now

shelved under Fiction

As America's favorite Irish holiday approaches, why not take a look at some of the best and brightest in the great tradition of Irish literature. With centuries of amazing legends, folklore, plays, poetry, stories, novels, and films, it was hard to even know where to begin with this list! As a result, all of the picks are drawn straight from the story-telling tradition in the forms of novels and short story collections. So sit back and enjoy. After all, you'll need something to do in between pints of dyed green Smithwick's/Murphy's/Guinness...

 

A Modest Proposal

by Jonathan Swift

The great great grandfather of satire offers a solution to the overcrowded and undernourished eighteenth century Irish population. After you read, maybe come up with your own humorous solutions to the current economic crisis. And then implement them, immediately.

 

Dracula

by Bram Stoker

Because this literary mash up of journal entries, newspaper clippings, letters and more has one foot firmly planted in the Literature Canon, and the other in the world of Pop Culture. And because at one point Stoker's wife was courted by Oscar Wilde.

 

Ulysses

by James Joyce

This title hardly merits an explanation, but it does require a bit of encouragement and dedication. So in addition to picking up the original, here are two handy guides that helped me through this bad boy: the Bloomsday Guide and Ulysses Annotated. And who knows...if you start on St. Patty's day maybe you'll be done by June 16th, otherwise known as Bloomsday — the day in which the entirety of "Ulysses" takes place.

This book also appears on Joyce Carol Oates' 10 Favorite Books

 

Cal

by Bernard MacLaverty

We all know it's hard enough to be a teenager, let alone an only child growing up without a mom. Now transport yourself to the early '80s in Northern Ireland, trapped in the midst of the troubles, with the IRA on one side and the Orangemen on the other. This is Cal's story, and it's definitely worth reading. Also? A cow explodes. Just saying.

 

The Snapper

by Roddy Doyle

If you like the idea of family drama, but need it in a lighter package, than try this selection from Doyle's Barry Town trilogy (which also includes the Committments and The Van, two other great books). Full of humorous insight into working class Dublin, The Snapper tells the story of teenager Sharon's unexpected pregnancy, and how her surprised family rallies around her.

 

The Woman Who Gave Birth to Rabbits

by Emma Donoghue

The reason this wonderful collection of short stories about women throughout history is on this list is certainly NOT because her father was a fabulous English professor of mine in college. Although I did want to drop that tidbit since both of them are incredibly intelligent, as evidenced by this stunning collection.

 

The Gathering

by Anne Enright

This 2007 Man Booker Prize winner is as intense as it is rewarding. Weaving back and forth through time, The Gathering tells the story of a family grieving over the loss of a brother and son, whose sister, Veronica — the novel's narrator — tries to use this time to come to grips with her brother's troubled past and the childhood incident that lead them all to this point.