8 Irish Writers to Read Before You Die

March 13, 2024 | 3 min read

By Annie Cosby

The island of Ireland is small but mighty. With a population of just over 7 million — that's fewer people than New York City — the island has had an outsize effect on the world of literature.

From novelists to poets, Ireland has created many powerful writers with a unique perspective and style.

The Freewrite team gathered a list of some favorites so you can experience the magic of Irish literature for yourself...

 

Maggie O'Farrell

Lovers of historical fiction will be entranced by O’Farrell’s intriguing and oftentimes heartbreaking plots.

Her novel Hamnet,which centers on the death of Shakespeare’s son, won the Women’s Prize for Fiction 2020, while the more recent The Marriage Portrait takes readers to the beautiful — and brutal — Italian Renaissance.

 

Roddy Doyle

Known for his gritty realism and humor, Doyle's books often depict working-class Dublin life. We recommend The Commitments (which was made into a great movie, as well), Booker Prize winner Paddy Clarke Ha Ha Ha, and Doyle's latest, Love.

 

Maeve Binchy

A beloved author of heartwarming stories set in Ireland, Binchy's novels often explore themes of friendship, love, and community. Check out Freewrite favorites like A Week in WinterCircle of Friends,and Tara Road.

She also wrote a great book on writing called The Maeve Binchy Writers' Club!

 

Sally Rooney

Rooney's work has been making quite the splash lately, and you may even have seen the screen adaptation of her second novel, Normal People, on Netflix.

With sharp prose and engaging characters, Rooney's books explore love, complex relationships, and societal dynamics among young people in contemporary Ireland.

 

W.B. Yeats

You probably didn't get through school without being assigned at least one Yeats poem. And that's for good reason. A poet and playwright, Yeats was one of the foremost figures in 20th-century literature, his work often dealing with Irish mythology, history, and the occult.

Try "The Wild Swans at Coole" and "The Tower," his first collection after receiving the Nobel Prize in Literature for giving "expression to the spirit of a whole nation."

 

 

Oscar Wilde

Known for his wit and satire, Wilde was a playwright, novelist, and essayist who was pretty scandalous in his day (the late 19th century). He's even been called one of the first celebrities!

We recommend reading Wilde's only novel, The Picture of Dorian Gray, because who wouldn't want a portrait that ages so that you don't have to? (Spoiler alert: It doesn't go well.)

For a laugh, try Wilde's plays, like The Importance of Being Earnest and An Ideal Husband.

 

Cecelia Ahern

Ahern is perhaps best known for her debut novel, P.S. I Love You, which was published when she was just 21 years old and adapted into a successful film. Her books often blend romance, drama, and magical realism.

 

 

James Joyce

No list of Irish authors would be complete without James Joyce. If you were forced to read A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man in lit class and didn't fare well, we recommend trying again as an adult.

Known for groundbreaking modernist works like Ulysses and Dubliners, Joyce was a major pioneer in the use of stream of consciousness in literature.

 

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Irish authors offer a diverse range of perspectives and styles, making Irish literature rich and captivating. Do you have a favorite? Tweet @ us.

 

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Annie Cosby is the Marketing Manager at Freewrite, a former fiction editor, and the author of seven books — and counting. Her work deals with Celtic mythology and has twice won the YA Indie Author Project in Missouri.

Annie spent three years living in Ireland, where she discovered a passion for Irish legends and met her husband. She now lives in a little brick house in her hometown of St. Louis, Mo., with her Rottweiler mix, Lucy, and their favorite Irishman, Michael.

Learn more at anniecosby.com.

 

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