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Looking for a good book to read while you're traveling in Ireland? Check out my list of books about Ireland and by Irish authors.

Angela's Ashes

Frank McCourt
CATEGORIES: Classic/Culturally Significant | Person/Place/Event

Frank McCourt’s Pulitzer Prize–winning memoir of his tragic childhood in Limerick, Ireland, isn’t always the easiest read. However, it’s McCourt’s quintessential Irish dark humor that softens the heartbreaking descriptions of abject poverty with compassion and laughter. A snapshot of a time in Ireland that seems worlds away from the current post-Celtic Tiger present.

(Recommended by Shannon McClatchey, photographer, world-wandering art fiend)


James Joyce
CATEGORIES: Classic/Culturally Significant | Sense of Culture

As one of the most important writers of the last century, Joyce left an indelible mark on literature. Although Ulysses is widely considered one of the greatest works of English literature ever, Dubliners is far more accessible and a much lighter (in tone and actual weight) read for travelers, packing 15 stories of the early-20th-century middle-class Irish into half the pages of his magnum opus.

Project Gutenberg

Paddy Clarke Ha Ha Ha

Roddy Doyle
CATEGORIES: Sense of Culture

Many of Roddy Doyle’s books are better known for their film adaptations (The CommitmentsThe Snapper), and all are worthy of reading on their own account. But the 1993 Booker Prize winner is the choice for if you have time to read only one, thanks to its being “one of the truest and funniest presentations of juvenile experience in any recent literature” (per The Independent). Doyle is known for his dialogue, particularly his use of working-class slang, and this bildungsroman will have you believing it was written by the titular ten-year-old in 1960s Ireland.

The Picture of Dorian Gray

Oscar Wilde
CATEGORIES: Classic/Culturally Significant

In his only novel, the famed Irish playwright spins the tale of a man who sells his soul in exchange for eternal beauty, while his portrait ages in his stead. Parts of the book were considered obscene at the time of its publication in 1890, prompting the author to write a manifesto about an artist’s rights to free speech, which appeared in subsequent editions.

Project Gutenberg


Colum McCann
CATEGORIES: Person/Place/Event

Three seemingly unrelated events — the first non-stop transatlantic fliers, Frederick Douglass’s visit to Ireland, and the 1998 Irish peace process — are woven together by one of Ireland’s most acclaimed living authors. (Recommended by H.E. Anne Anderson, Irish ambassador to the U.S., in CN Traveler.)

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