5 Books By Irish Authors To Add To Your Reading List

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Ireland has produced many world-renowned writers whose prose has become part of our homework assignments or remade into movies. And newer Irish voices are joining a literary roster of Irish authors and poets think James Joyce, Jonathan Swift, and William Butler Yeats and contemporary wordsmiths including Frank McCourt, Colm Tóibín, Cecelia Ahern, and Maeve Binchy. Within their storytelling, these writers offer new perspectives and different points of view through their distinct ties to the Emerald Isle.

Here are five books by Irish authors who deserve a place on your TBR list:

O’Neill’s first novel earned high marks for his tender and tragic LGBTQ+ love story as well as those who become caught up in historic change. Set during the year preceding the Easter Uprising of 1916, an Irish revolt against British rule, “At Swim, Two Boys” is a tale involving two boys named Jim Mack and Doyler Doyle. Doyler will teach Jim to swim so that in a year, on Easter of 1916, they pledge to swim to the distant beacon of Muglins Rock and claim that island for themselves. All the while, Jim’s shopkeeper father, Mr. Mack, has big plans for a corner shop empire, but he remains unaware two life-altering happenings: the depth of his son’s burgeoning friendship and of Ireland’s changing landscape. 

In “Don’t Touch My Hair,” Emma Dabiri, a woman of Irish and Nigerian descent, takes readers on a journey that is personal, historical and political. Along with sharing memories relating to her hair during her youth in Ireland, Dabiri focuses on changing misperceptions about Black hair as they correlate to colonialism. She also explains how the culture of Black hairstyling can be seen as an allegory for Black oppression and, ultimately, liberation.

Her book provides a chronology on Black hair, starting in pre-colonial Africa and continuing through the Harlem Renaissance, Black Power and into today’s Natural Hair Movement, the Cultural Appropriation Wars, and beyond.

What began as an inside joke on a Facebook page between friends turned into the main character of Emer McLysaght and Sarah Breen’s novel “Oh My God, What a Complete Aisling.” So who’s Aisling? She’s a quirky Irish country girl, the kind of person who walks to her job in her trainers but keeps her work shoes in her Brown Thomas bag — the reliable and practical type. But once she leaves her parents house for Dublin following a breakup with her longtime boyfriend and moves in with her mysterious friend Elaine, she gets exposed to all kinds of out-of-the-norm situations that begin to change her life — while still continuing to be a complete Aisling.

As part of a trilogy, her story continues with “The Importance of Being Aisling”  and “Once, Twice, Three Times an Aisling.”

This Nigerian-born Irish author tells a side of Ireland that she describes as hidden: the experience of those who came to the country seeking asylum. Based upon her eight and a half years living in Ireland’s direct provision system, Melatu Uche Okorie has written a collection of three short stories recounting what migrant women encounter not only within this system but also in terms of everyday racism.

One story involves women having to line up to get supplies in an Irish provision hostel, where asylum seekers live; another centers on a young black woman telling of the bigotry she constantly encounters. An accompanying essay by Liam Thornton, an associate professor in the UCD School of Law, further explains about the Irish legal position in relation to asylum seekers and direct provision. The novel is currently available for preorder.

Rooney’s debut novel follows two college students, Frances and Bobbi, and the strange and unexpected connection they find with a married older couple, Melissa and Nick. Frances is described as being cool-headed and observant, while Bobbi is beautiful and endlessly self-possessed. Yet Frances happens to become reluctantly attracted to Nick, and an ensuing flirtation gives way to a strange and unexpected intimacy between them.