5 Irish Authors You Should Know

While most of us in the U.S. will be celebrating St. Patrick’s Day this weekend with green beer, Guinness, and corned beef, I thought you may like a bookish way to acknowledge the holiday instead.

Here are a few Irish writers who have made significant contributions to the literary world, and who I happen to enjoy a great deal.

  1. Frank McCourt

Best known for Angela’s Ashes, the Pulitzer Prize Winning memoir of his childhood in poverty in Ireland, McCourt didn’t start writing seriously until after retirement. It took him years to find the proper tone for his story, finally choosing the present tense from a child’s perspective, writing without quotation marks. In his second memoir, ‘Tis, he describes his life as an adult in the United States after returning from Ireland. His third, Teacher Man, was called “the best self-portrait of a public-school teacher ever written” by Newsweek’s Malcolm Jones.


2. Maggie O’Farrell

Author of seven novels of contemporary fiction, her latest release is a memoir of near-death experiences that have punctuated and defined her life. O’Farrell is a gifted story-teller with a knack for visceral, emotional prose. Her stories often prompt the reader to consider what they would do in the given situation, which I always appreciate.


3. Maeve Binchy

I was 17 when I saw the movie adaptation of Circle of Friends in the theater in 1995 and was absolutely smitten. I was thrilled to learn this was based on a book so I could re-visit the charters over and over again. Then I discovered Binchy’s long list of other novels and spent a great deal of time in Ireland with her characters! I read her frequently through teens and twenties, and still enjoy her occasionally today. While her novels always have a lovely setting, the interpersonal relationships always take center stage and suck me in.


4. Marian Keyes

My first introduction to what I later learned to be “chick lit,” Keyes’ novels are thoughtful, funny, realistic portrayals of life as a modern woman. She tackles themes such as domestic violence and alcoholism, which maintaining a lightness and emphasis on female friendships, love, relationships and self-empowerment.


5. Oscar Wilde

One of my first ventures into classic literature was The Picture of Dorian Gray. I was surprised by the suspense and compelling narrative, and more than anything I loved the concept of perpetual youth through this hidden portrait.

Wilde’s writing definitely opened my mind to the possibility of classic literature being of interest. Plus, he has an incredibly interesting story!

From Goodreads:  Known for his biting wit, and a plentitude of aphorisms, he became one of the most successful playwrights of the late Victorian era in London, and one of the greatest celebrities of his day. Several of his plays continue to be widely performed, especially The Importance of Being Earnest. As the result of a widely covered series of trials, Wilde suffered a dramatic downfall and was imprisoned for two years hard labour after being convicted of “gross indecency” with other men. After Wilde was released from prison he set sail for Dieppe by the night ferry. He never returned to Ireland or Britain, and died in poverty.

Leave a Reply