We would like to give you some of our favorite recommendations for Irish books. Hopefully, you can take full advantage of some of these classics to help you look forward to your next trip to the Emerald Isle in the near future with the Irish Life Experience or Juniper Tours.
1. Ulysses-James Joyce
James Joyce first published this book in 1922. Many have regarded it as stylistically dense and exhilarating, which is generally regarded as a masterpiece and has been the subject of analysis for many years. This book chronicles the encounters of Leopold Bloom in Dublin on an ordinary day on June 16th, 1904. While it can be a complicated novel to read, because of its stream of consciousness technique-the allusions, parodies, and puns with broad humor have lead it to become one of the greatest works in literary history. If you would like to experience some of the greatest literary minds firsthand-including Joyce, be sure to ask your your teacher on the Irish Life Experience about a Literary Walking Tour in Dublin and celebrating Bloomsday on June 16th.
2. Angela’s Ashes-Frank McCourt
This memoir by Irish-American Frank McCourt was published in 1996-primarily focused in Limerick, Ireland. It revolves primarily on his families struggle with poverty and his father’s alcoholism. It is a sad read and some say that McCourt exaggerated his family’s impoverished upbringing, but there is no denying that McCourt has a beautiful way of stringing words together that leaves the reader wanting to turn the page. If you enjoy Angela’s Ashes, then put the sequel, “Tis” on your list as well. Limerick is also a great place to stop for a few hours and if you would like to splurge for a night with Juniper Tours, we recommend Dromoland Castle.
3. All Souls-Michael Patrick MacDonald
If you enjoyed Angela’s Ashes, by Frank McCourt, you will also be charmed by this bestseller. This was also written by an Irish-American who grew up in a sheltered neighborhood of Southie, in Boston, that many regarded as poverty stricken and violent. MacDonald’s story is compelling, heart-breaking, and poignant as he talks about crime schemes, family losses, and riots. It is amazing how such a sad testimony of so much pain associated with a certain place, could also still be the “best place in the world.”
4. The Irish General-Paul Wylie
This is a wonderful book chronicling the events of Thomas Francis Meagher, an Irish patriot, Civil War general, and frontier governor. While some might view him as a hero, others have condemned him as a drunkard. This is a story of his life from boyhood to leadership in 1848 to his exile in Tasmania and escape to New York. For those hailing from the Big Sky state, he was one of the first Governor’s of Montana and his statue is not only in front of the capital in Helena, but also a similar statue lies in Waterford near the Waterford Crystal Factory.
5. Dracula-Bram Stoker
I bet many of you did not know Bram Stoker was Irish. Written in 1897, this Gothic horror novel introduced Count Dracula and the vampire’s attempt to move from Transylvania to England so that he may find new blood. Ask Juniper Tours about Halloween celebrations and the Ghost Tour in Dublin for your next trip to Ireland. We just hope you will bite at this suggestion and not take it in vein if you want a scary and unique experience.
6. Making Sense of the Troubles: The Story of Conflict in Northern Ireland-David McKittrick
If you have any interest in learning more about the Troubles in Northern Ireland, this is a great start. David McKittrick delivers a very non-biased and balanced book-explaining both sides of this very complicated time in Ireland’s history. He gives you the background leading up to the conflict and shares the unbelievable sadness of the violence-only to give you the sense of hope and peace that Northern Ireland has rounded the corner and is not looking back on the dreadful past. We have some great tours that focus on learning more about these very powerful events in Northern Ireland and an amazing Troubles Workshop.
7. 1916-The Easter Rising-Tim Pat Coogan
The Easter Rising began at 12 PM on April 24th, 1916 and lasted for six short, but very tragic days. Published in 2001, Coogan talks about the destruction of many parts of Dublin that resulted in deaths of innocent civilians and which ultimately led to the true beginning of the Irish independence. If you have any desire to learn more about this very integral time in Ireland’s history while you travel to Ireland, we would recommend the GPO Museum and Kilmainham Gaol.
8. Oh My God, What a Complete Aisling-Emer McLysaght and Sarah Breen
This is a funny and lighthearted book for those (Mostly women) who would like an easy read. The first book of three follows the life of Aisling “finding” herself in Ireland. From the quintessential country of Kildare to the Big Smoke of Dublin, Aisling goes through relationship struggles, wanting more for her career and life, experiencing problems with friends, and losing a family member. It is about how a wonderful and strong girl handles each situation with grace and humor-all the while being a complete Ais-ling.
9. PS, I Love You-Cecelia Ahern
Another very easy read is this book, which was also made into a movie in 2007 featuring Hilary Swank and Gerard Butler. See the ILE’s Reel Review. Written in 2004 by Cecelia Ahern (The former Taoiseach of Ireland, Bertie Ahern’s daughter), this book talks about childhood sweethearts, Holly and Gerry, who end up wanting to spend the rest of their life together. They get married and live a wonderful life until tragedy strikes. This book gives you hope that guardian angels are real and someone is always watching over you. Have some Kleenex ready and if you like this book, then you will also enjoy “Postscript,” which is the sequel that recently came out in 2019.
10. McCarthy’s Bar-Pete McCarthy
This might be one of my favorite books! Pete McCarthy has traveled all over the world, but despite seeing so many exotic places, no where can match the beauty and the magic of Ireland for him. This is a journey of discovery from Cork to Donegal-along the Wild Atlantic Way. He always obeys one rule, “never pass a bar that has your name on it!” He meets many fascinating and special people along his adventure, so be prepared to laugh. One of the gems I always stop in during my Self-Drive Tours is Castletownbere at McCarthy’s Bar, where the picture on the book is taken. Be sure to have a pint of Guinness and a bowl of clam chowder. You will not be disappointed. Slainte.