Books by Irish Authors to Read this St. Patrick’s Day

While The Emerald Isle has long been the homeland of some pretty fantastic authors (think: Oscar Wilde, James Joyce) there’s something really exciting going on in contemporary Irish literature right now. From the edgy, totally experimental writing of Irish authors like Eimear McBride to the heartstrings-pulling emotional resonance of Irish writers like Frank McCourt, the luck of the Irish has definitely extended to the country’s literature (plus, these writers are so talented they probably don’t even need luck.)

E. CE. Miller

Here are some recommended books in the Southfield Public Library catalog with commentary by the article’s writer. If you don’t see a copy available, contact a librarian to place an item on hold for you!

Let the Great World Spin
McCann, Colum
In the summer of 1974, performance artist Philippe Petit risked his life walking a tightrope strung between the World Trade Center towers, and it is this history-making event that sets the stage for Colum McCann’s novel Let the Great World Spin. This novel is filled with determined, big-hearted characters, from a family of prostitutes and an Irish monk, to a professional computer hacker and a Guatemalan nurse; and their stories are unexpectedly intertwined in a way that perhaps only exists in a city like New York.
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A Girl is a Half-Formed Thing
McBride, Eimear
In edgy, hazy, stream-of-consciousness prose, Eimear McBride transports you directly into her narrator’s mind and heart, making this experimental, award-winning novel totally unforgettable. A Girl Is a Half-Formed Thing tells a sensitive and brutal story about the relationship between a young girl and her brother, as they navigate experiences of sexual violence, family crisis, and mental and physical illness.
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Nora Webster
Tóibín, Colm
Nora Webster is a recently-widowed young mother of four sons, who doesn’t seem to have enough of anything — time, money, affection, freedom, hope. Her suffocating, gossip-filled small Irish town does little to help her situation, and without the partnership that enabled Nora’s true self to flourish, she worries she’s going to drown in her stifling environment. Nora Webster is a novel about what it takes to build, and rebuild, a life in the wake of tragedy.
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The Green Road
Enright, Anne
Rosaleen Madigan is some kind of woman — mother of four and leader of her family, she watches and worries as each of her children take intensely different paths in their own lives. One to the United States, another to Africa, and two others to cities across Ireland, all reunite in their childhood hometown one Christmas, where their unbreakable loyalties to their family surface. The Green Road is a story about finding your individual identity, enduring family drama, and the gravity of love.
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Gulliver's Travels
Swift, Jonathan
Sure, Jonathan Swift is not exactly a contemporary Irish writer (OK, not at all) but what is a list of must-read Irish lit without a few classics thrown in for good measure? If you didn’t quite manage to finish Gulliver’s Travels when it was assigned to you in high school, pick it up again in celebration of St. Patrick’s Day. Fantasy meets satire in this tale of a shipwrecked traveler who encounters a bit more than he bargained for on the island where he's landed.
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Tristram Shandy
Sterne, Laurence
Another classic of Irish literature, The Life and Opinions of Tristram Shandy, Gentleman is a meandering satire of the life of antihero Tristram Shandy — a Don Quixote-type character who finds himself in one amusingly dire straight after another, and who somehow cannot seem to finish a story once he’s started telling it. The result is a kaleidoscope of storytelling, digressions, and characters as vividly imagined as those in any great fairy tale.
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Teacher Man: A Memoir
McCourt, Frank
You’ve probably already read at least one book by Pulitzer Prize-winner Frank McCourt (Angela’s Ashes sound familiar?) but if you haven’t yet devoured all his memoirs, you’ll definitely want to check them out. Beginning years after Angela’s Ashes ended, Teacher Man tells the story of McCourt’s decades-long career as a teacher, and how those years have informed his subsequent writing. A definite must-read for teachers and writer alike; and anyone who just loves great storytelling.
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