Whether you plan to visit Ireland or want to dive into the Irish culture & history – in this of books about Ireland you will find lots of awe-inspiring reads.
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Traveling & books
Reading is my second favorite way to explore the world virtually. Sometimes books inspire me to visit new destinations, and sometimes destinations inspire me to dive into local culture and history via new reads. So, one way or another, books always go along with my trips, giving me this additional feel of traveling through time and space.
A few years ago I searched through my bookshelves to wrap up for you the ultimate recap of Wanderlust Books and Classical Romance Novels. Throughout my pregnancy I did not work, so had lots of free time to explore the magical world of Books about India and was obsessed with Turkish Reads & Movies. This year, I was focused on local travels and exploring Spain – it all resulted into the list of Top Contemporary Spanish Novels.
Our recent trip to Ireland
The highlight of 2023 for my family was our magical trip to Ireland. I started reading books about Ireland with my kids (to fuel their wanderlust), but ended up obsessed with the ancient Irish culture&history myself (especially with everything related to the Irish Celtic heritage, myths, and legends). This is how I ended up searching for inspiring books about Ireland everywhere – from Amazon to the bookshops of Dublin and Kilkenny on the road.
In this list of books about Ireland, you will find all the Irish authors and illustrators who have inspired me – everything from classy novels to children’s books. Hope you will be able to pick your own favorites too.
Cozy Irish Bookshops
If you plan a trip to Ireland, don’t miss these cute local bookshops: Hodges Figgis, Books Upstairs, and Ulysses Rare Books in Dublin; Charlie Byrnes Bookshop in Galway; Vibes&Scribes in Cork.
In Khans Books of Kilkenny I got lots of budget-friendly reads for the kids, as well as a Coloring Book of Kells.
I also loved Waterstones in Belfast, Northern Ireland. Got there The Tall Tale of The Giant´s Causeway. Still regret not buying another book I saw – Glorious Goddesses of Ancient Ireland by Dr Karen Ward.
Since I traveled to Ireland with small kids, I couldn’t take any of these epic tours: 3-Hour Irish Literature Walking Tour, Dublin Literary Pub Crawl, and Museum of Literature of Ireland. But, I secretly dream of returning to Dublin solo and getting more bookish inspiration for myself.
Books about Ireland
Irish Books in the World Literature
There are a few iconic Irish books that all the fans of World Literature might already know. So, I will not go into details but at the same time, simply can’t go on without mentioning any of them.
James Joyce & Oscar Wilde
First of all, Ulysses and Dubliners by James Joyce and The Picture of Dorian Grey by Oscar Wilde are considered the biggest Irish creations ever. Ulysses is still in the plans for me: it´s a slow read which takes time. Additionally, many assure it’s not the easiest book for non-native English speakers. So, I am trying to find the right enough quiet moment for it.
Famous Irish Writers
World s most famous Irish writers beyond Joyce and Wilde, are Jonathan Swift ( his top book – Gulliver’s Travels), Brendan Behan (his top book – Borstal Boy), George Bernard Shaw (his top book – Plays Unpleasant), Lady Augusta Gregory (her top book: Gods and Fighting Men), Oliver Goldsmith (his top book: The Vicar of Wakefield), Samuel Becket (his top books: Waiting for Godot and Selected Works), Sean O’Casey (his top book: Three Dublin Plays), and William Butler Yeats (his top books: Irish Folk and Fairy Tales and The Collected Poetry).
Modern Irish Classics
There are a few iconic Irish books that are enough unique to stand out from the other national bestsellers: some call them modern classics.
Angela’s Ashes by Frank McCourt
Angela’s Ashes by Frank McCourt is one of the top-rated Irish memoirs that has won the Pulitzer Prize. Written with astonishing humor and compassion, the book follows the life of the author, Frank McCourt, born in Depression-era Brooklyn to recent Irish immigrants and raised in the slums of Limerick, Ireland.
Strumpet City by James Plunkett
Strumpet City by James Plunkett is often called one of the best Irish novels of the XXth century. Set in Dublin during the Lockout of 1913, it shows authentic city life through the plot of the main characters. The novel’s popularity derives from its realism and its naturalistic presentation of traumatic historical events in Ireland.
The Country Girls by Edna O’Brien
The Country Girls by Edna O’Brien is one of the most popular books about Ireland. The full story is composed of the novels The Country Girls, The Lonely Girl, and Girls in Their Married Bliss. The plot rolls around two country girls from a village in the west of Ireland in the years following World War II. Both set out to conquer the bright lights of Dublin.
Modern Irish Bestsellers
While book-shopping in Ireland, I was mostly looking for cozy local holiday reads with a touch of mystery, romance, and beautiful landscapes. Especially, since through the sightseeing tours, I got so much historical data on the difficult Irish past, that I started craving a few simple and enjoyable reads.
Normal People by Sally Rooney
Normal People by Sally Rooney is one of the biggest Irish bestsellers of recent years. It was even turned into a successful TV Series, which I loved so much. But, unfortunately, I saw the TV show before finding out about the book. So, now I plan to read the author´s other novel – Beautiful World, Where Are You.
In The Woods by Tana French
In The Woods is a mysterious Irish read by Tana French. It is an engaging crime novel set in Dublin, a perfect match for anyone who appreciates tough, unflinching intelligence and ingenious plotting.
The Spinning Heart by Donal Ryan
The Spinning Heart by Donal Ryan is one of the local’s favorite books about Ireland. This novel won the Irish Book Award and was the Finalist for the Booker Prize. The Spinning Heart speaks for contemporary Ireland like no other novel. Wry, vulnerable, and all too-human, it captures the language and spirit of rural Ireland, and shares with the world the words and thoughts of a whole generation.
The Woman on the Bridge by Sheila O’Flanagan
The Woman on the Bridge by Sheila O’Flanagan is one of the recent Irish books that I bought in Ireland. Easy to read, this novel is set in Dublin in the 1920s. As war tears Ireland apart, two young people and their families get caught up in events. The book was inspired by the personal story of Sheila O’Flanagan’s grandmother.
Initially, I picked The Woman on the Bridge in the bookshop because it was the fresh novel of the bestselling author. However, O’Flanagan´s most popular books are What Happened That Night, What Eden Did Next, and Yours, Faithfully.
The Year of Lost and Found by Felicity Hayes-McCoy
Felicity Hayes-McCoy is a modern Irish writer, known for warm stories and feel-good novels. Back in Ireland, I bought her book The Year of Lost and Found. It belongs to ‘Finfarran‘ novel series, set in a fictional county on Ireland’s West Coast. The author´s most popular reads are The House On An Irish Hillside and The Library at the Edge of the World (which I also wanted to buy in one of the Irish book shops, but unfortunately, they did not have it).
Irish Historical Fiction
For the fans of historical fiction, there are also a few cool Irish books to explore.
Ireland by Frank Delaney
Ireland by Frank Delaney takes a reader on a journey through the history of Ireland, stopping along the way to evoke the dramatic events and personalities, critical to shaping Irish history. It is considered one of the best historical fiction books about Ireland.
The Princes of Ireland: The Dublin Saga by Edward Rutherfurd
The Princes of Ireland: The Dublin Saga by Edward Rutherfurd is one of the most engaging books about Ireland. The saga begins in tribal, pre-Christian Ireland during the reign of the fierce and mighty High Kings at Tara. The Princes of Ireland combines impeccable historical research and mesmerizing Irish storytelling.
Galway Bay by Mary Pat Kelly
Galway Bay by Mary Pat Kelly is another unique book about Ireland and its complicated history. This unique read is a historical family saga set against the Famine, filled with joy, sadness, and heroism. When The Great Starvation kills one million Irish, the protagonists Honora and Michael vow their children will live and join two million Irish refugees in the emigration. The book sheds brilliant light on the ancestors of today’s forty-four million Irish Americans.
History Books about Ireland
Travel books about Ireland
On the road in Ireland, I had two handy guidebooks with me – Cadogan Take the Kids: Ireland and Simplisimo Irlanda (in Spanish). The most popular travel books about Ireland are Rick Steves Ireland, Frommer’s Ireland, Ireland: Mythical, Magical, Mystical: A Guide to Hidden Ireland, DK Eyewitness Road Trips Ireland, Always Ireland: An Insider’s Tour of the Emerald Isle, and The Everything Travel Guide to Ireland.
Ireland with kids
Since early childhood, I have always enjoyed reading about different cultures and mythology. These days, together with my kids, we often flip a few pages of This Myth Atlas before sleep (it also has a section dedicated to the Gods and Myths of Ireland). So far, it was one of our best bookish investments for the whole family.
Irish folklore is so rich in fairytales and legends – I genuinely loved all the children’s books about Ireland myself.
Ireland: The People, The Places, The Stories, The Craic by Rachel Pierce
Before planning a trip to Ireland, I purchased Ireland: The People, The Places, The Stories, The Craic to explain to the little ones more about the Irish culture and the places we were about to see in person. This book is so unique: it features Ireland’s famous people, landmarks, myths & legends, battles, music, and everything in between. Additionally, it showcases the talent of ten of Ireland’s top illustrators.
The Great Irish History Book by Myles Dungan
The Great Irish History Book by Myles Dungan is another great pick from the Irish books for older kids (8-12 y.o.). This read is such an immersive historical trip. The reader will travel back in time to visit the ancient Celts, sail away on a famine ship, join the 1916 rebels in the GPO, and discover all the great leaders, thinkers, and fighters of Ireland.
Mythical Irish Beasts by Mark Joyce
Kids always get beyond excited to learn more about mysterious creatures and monsters. Mark Joyce created a whole series of books dedicated to Irish folklore – Mythical Irish Beasts, Mythical Irish Wonders, and Mythical Irish Places. With these Irish children’s books, you can undertake a magical journey around the country.
Irish Fairy Tales and Folklore by W. B. Yeats
Irish Fairy Tales and Folklore by W. B. Yeats is an absolute must-have for all the aficionados of Irish books worldwide. It is a classic collection of Irish fairytales, created by Nobel Peace Prize-winning author and poet W. B. Yeats. Originally published as two separate volumes in the 1800s, this premier collection of Irish stories was edited and compiled by W. B. Yeats. This book makes a perfect gift for any lover of Irish literature and folklore.
Dare to Dream: Irish People Who Took on the World by Sarah Webb
Dare to Dream: Irish People Who Took on the World is another inspiring Irish read for all ages. In this book, one will discover a world of courage, bravery, and adventure through the personal stories of explorers, inventors, and dreamers…. Irish people have had a huge impact internationally. The book celebrates the achievements of the Irish and sends a message that nothing is impossible.
Island of Adventures: Fun things to do all around Ireland by Jennifer Farley
Island of Adventures: Fun things to do all around Ireland by Jennifer Farley is a great book to sell Ireland as the top travel destination for the little ones. It focuses on all the adventures across the country: surfing an Atlantic wave, horse-trekking through the wilderness, dancing to Irish music, whale watching, seeing the Northern Lights… So, it’s one of the most inspirational books about Ireland for the whole family.
The Children of Lir by Laura Ruth Maher
The Children of Lir by Laura Ruth Maher is one of Ireland´s top legends told through magical illustrations. It shares the story of The Children of Lir, who were turned into swans by their wicked stepmother and forced to wander across Ireland for 900 years.
Bedtime Stories: Incredible Irish Tales from the Past by Rachel Pierce
Bedtime Stories: Incredible Irish Tales from the Past by Rachel Pierce is probably one of the most beautiful Irish souvenirs for the little ones. The uniqueness also derives from the fact that this book was written and illustrated by Irish creators only. Bedtime Stories showcases a curated collection of tales from Irish history, based on important figures and events. Plus, each story has the ideal length to read at bedtime, as well as any moment when young readers are looking for an inspirational read.
The Tall Tale of the Giant’s Causeway by Lari Don
The Tall Tale of the Giant’s Causeway – I bought this beautiful book for my kids in Belfast, Northern Ireland (right after visiting the Giant’s Causeway). The illustrations are charming and playful, and the legend describes how the rivalry between an Irish giant and a Scottish giant led to the creation of the world-famous Giant’s Causeway.
Coffee Table Books about Ireland
If you enjoy having some extra visual inspiration at home, these Coffee Table Books about Ireland might give you some serious wanderlust daily – The Rough Guide to the 100 Best Places in Ireland, Ireland: A Luminous Beauty: A Luminous Beauty, and The Book of Kells: An Illustrated Introduction to the Manuscript in Trinity College Dublin.
Funny books about Ireland
If you want to get a few funny Irish books check Irish Wit, Wisdom and Humor, Irish Culture and Customs Book of Jokes, The Cats of Ireland: An Irish Gift for Cat Lovers, The Little Book of Irishisms: Know the Irish through our Words, 101 Ways To Know If Your Cat Is Irish, and 101 So Bad, They’re Good Irish Dad Jokes.
Coloring books about Ireland
Before visiting Ireland I had no idea there were so many stunning Irish coloring books (especially those with the Celtic symbols). Most of the coloring books about Ireland are focused on adults, but my kids would enjoy painting with me (the best they can).
In Kilkenny, I bought Color Your Own Book of Kells and we all loved it.
But there are more awe-inspiring coloring books about Ireland – The Ireland Colouring Book: Past and Present, Colour my Ireland, Ancient Ireland Colouring Book, Celtic Adult Coloring Book, Celtic Myth & Symbol: A Coloring Book of Celtic Art and Mandalas, Creative Haven Celtic Fantasy Coloring Book, and My Colorful Travels – IRELAND: A Coloring Book Adventure.
More Irish Children’s Books
Since it´s almost impossible to feature all of the amazing Irish reads in one single post, I will leave here more bookish finds that grabbed my attention during the research: Celtic Tales: Fairy Tales and Stories of Enchantment, St Brigid & Other Amazing Irish Women, Good Night Ireland, How to Catch a Leprechaun, Fiona’s Luck, The Big Book of Favourite Irish Myths and Legends, Irish Legends for Children (Mini-edition), and Jamie O’Rourke and the Big Potato.
Also, there are a few unique Irish illustrators that I was not able to mention within this post – Linda Fahrlin (book: Murphy the Seal), Diarmuid Ó Catháin (book: Little Known Facts Animals, and Ashling Lindsay (book: Bright Winter Night).
Have you ever visited Ireland? Any Irish books you can recommend to me?
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