Favourite Irish Novels for World Book Day!

We’re kicking off Reading Ireland Month on World Book Day so to celebrate I’d love to know what your favourite Irish books are!

I’ve whittled my favourite Irish novels down to a Top Five, which hasn’t been easy and could change by the weekend, but here they are:



Reading in the Dark by Seamus Deane

This lyrical semi-autobiographical novel set during the Troubles is a beautiful meditation on the damage family secrets can do and the joy and pain of growing up.

Good Behaviour by Molly Keane

I only read Good Behaviour last year, but Molly Keane’s hilarious, painful and dark tale of the unforgettable Aroon St Charles became an instant favourite.

Emily’s Shoes by Dermot Bolger

Dermot Bolger’s thoughtful tale of a lost boy who grows up to be a man with a shoe fetish is a lot more moving than the subject matter would suggest.

Tender by Belinda McKeon

Tender is one of the best books I have read about relationships and love, charting the tumultuous friendship and romance between two students at Trinity College in the 1990s.

The Butcher Boy by Patrick McCabe

Grim and darkly hilarious, The Butcher Boy charts Francie Brady and his ill-fated feud with Mrs Nugent through to an unforgettable conclusion in this shockingly intimate portrait of a disturbed mind.

Interestingly, two of my Top Five have only been read in the last two years, which should give you some idea of how much I liked them.

Have you read any of my favourites? What are yours?

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I am a 40 something book buying addict trying to reduce the backlog one book at a time!

41 Comments Leave a comment

  1. I haven’t read any of these yet, though I do have a copy of Reading in the Dark set aside to read this month if I have time. I hadn’t actually been sure if it was a novel or a memoir. It’s good to see it has your stamp of approval!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I definitely think adults should get to be part of World book day and not just children! I’m hosting a blog party for World book day if you want to drop in. Have you got snow in Ireland? I can not think what Irish writers I have read ….

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Samuel Beckett has been a favourite of mine for years, especially Watt and the trilogy Molloy, Malone Dies and The Unnamable—I prefer his novels over his plays. More recently Brian Moore and William Trevor have become favourite authors of mine; I’m reading a Trevor novel at the moment. If we’re counting Jonathan Swift as an Irish author then, of course, I’d also include Gulliver’s Travels. I must admit though to being a bit blind to the nationality of the author when I read books.


  4. I read Reading in the Dark by Seamus Deane at University, and it remember loving it. I thought I was going to hate all the novels I had to read on my uni course, but that really wasn’t the case. It’s been years since Uni, I wish i still had the book so I could re-read it.

    Tender is one of the best books I’ve read and I completely agree its one of the best books on relationships.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. I remember The Butcher Boy freaking me out when I read it in college. I don’t think I fully understood it, even, because I’d never read a book in which a child did things like that. I love The Snapper by Roddy Doyle, with The Van as a close second. I didn’t love The Commitments, though. Although I haven’t READ any of his work, I do know that Neil Jordan writes screenplays, novels, and short stories. I thought his film Interview with the Vampire was brilliant (no writer contributions, though).


  6. The Butcher Boy is one of my all time faves! It was the first proper literary novel I’d ever read and it stunned me with its power. It made me realise there was more to reading than my usual staple of “supermarket fiction” and it gave me the courage to explore a dark but wonderful world of fiction from Ireland. This was in the early 1990s and I’ve not looked back.


  7. The Butcher Boy is one of the most startling books I’ve ever read! I read Tender recently after remembering your review, I’ll post about it this week for Reading Ireland 2018. I’m hoping to read some Molly Keane before the month is out too!


  8. Nice roundup! Wow, it’s hard to choose just a few Irish novels—there have been so many wonderful ones. A couple I’d recommend are The Spinning Heart by Donal Ryan and Birchwood by John Banville.


  9. I haven’t read many Irish novels ( mea culpa, mea culpa, mea maxima culpa)
    I’ve read more French than Irish. This year I’m concentrating on the sons and daughers of Hibernia!
    Enjoyed Brian MacLaverty and am now starting Sebastian Barry.
    Erin Go Bragh #ReadIreland18

    Liked by 1 person

  10. I read REading in the dark many years ago and really loved it. It was such a great book and I loved the ‘historical’ setting.
    I also loved “Four Love Letters” by Niall Williams, quite surpisingly, since that’s not really my usual kind of read. But The atmosphere, so gentle and almost dreamy really hooked me.
    I need to read “Good Behaviour”. It sounds awesome.


  11. It must have been almost impossible to come up with the top 5! Well done! I think I already have all of these on my list due to your praise of them over the last few years. 🙂
    I was trying to come up with a favourite Irish novel to tell you about, but I always feel like the most recent one I’ve read is my favourite. I know… a total cop-out!


  12. I read “The Butcher Boy” as a teenager and I have never forgotten it, it’s one of my favorite books of all time. If you haven’t read any of his stuff I highly recommend Roddy Doyle- I’ve read “The Woman Who Walked Into Doors,” “Smile,” and “Paddy Clarke Ha Ha Ha” (“The Woman Who Walked Into Doors” is the best one, IMO) and he’s quickly becoming one of my favorite authors. I haven’t read any of the others on your list but “Emily’s Shoes” sounds really weird and like it might be just up my alley! 😀


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