7 Best Reads by Irish Authors to Celebrate St. Patrick’s Day

Today, we are honoring seven of our favorite Irish authors and their works to celebrate this St. Patrick’s Day and Irish authors.

Book Culture Classics Historical Fiction Recommendations

While there are many ways to honor Irish culture on St. Patrick’s Day, reading a book by your favorite Irish author might be one of the best. Today, we are taking a closer look at the Irish authors that have influenced literature by their dazzling novels, plays, and memoirs. So grab some Irish coffee and indulge in these stories.

1. Elizabeth Bowen, The Last September


Irish-British novelist and short story writer, Elizabeth Bowen, is best known for her fiction work that emphasizes life in wartime London. While moving away from her father and losing her mom young, she began writing to cope. Subsequently, she lived with her aunts and started to write short stories at 20. In her lifetime she wrote ten novels, over one hundred short stories, one children’s book, and many magazine articles and reviews. Undoubtedly, her life experiences and the unfulfilling nature of her relationships influenced her work. However, Bowen’s precise prose style in fiction has made her the “grande dame” of the modern novel.


One of her most prestigious works, The Last September, displays Bowen’s ability to combine tragedy with comic relief. She does it all while using spring-loaded prose. To illustrate, the novel depicts a young woman’s coming of age story, in a brutalized time and place, where the ordinariness of life floats like music over the impending doom of history. In addition, there is a longing for freedom and love, but tradition keeps the fear of political and spiritual independence at bay.

2. Frank McCourt, Angela’s Ashes


This memoir is one of my favorite memoirs of all time. Frank McCourt latches you with every emotion in his memoir, Angela’s Ashes. I laughed, cried, and most importantly, I could not stop reading. The amazing, Irish writer and teacher was born on August 19th, 1930. He worked devotedly as an English high school teacher for 30 years. Often, he would share stories from his childhood in Limerick with his students. They loved them so much that they encouraged him to write a book. However, he’d make excuses to why he couldn’t until he met his third wife, Ellen Frey. From then, he had the confidence to muse about his miserable childhood, but not without his classic Irish accent and humor.


Angela’s Ashes: A Memoir by Frank McCourt is a 1996 memoir with various anecdotes from his early childhood in Brooklyn, New York. However, the autobiography primarily focuses on his upbringing in Limerick, Ireland. The story follows the brutal and harsh life McCourt’s family faced. They dealt with diseases, death, and poverty. Although there are a lot of depressing moments, McCourt knows how to make light out of any bad situation. Even more impressive, he does this while using a child’s perspective. There is an innocence in his voice that keeps us hopeful. His story is heartbreaking, but there is a message of resilience. No matter how hard life gets, there will always be compassion.

3. James Joyce, Dubliners


If you’re looking for an avant-garde novelist, you’ve found him. James Joyce is considered one of the most influential writers of the 20th century. Besides being a novelist, he was also a short story writer, poet, and literary critic. Why was he so important? Joyce defied the norms of traditional writing and stepped into something more complex and explicit.

One example is his well-known novel Ulysses, which got banned on its publication in 1922. In addition, the United States and Britain banned it because of its “obscene content.” The obscenity consisted of sex-related themes and other natural experiences like menstruation. Further, Joyce faced many censorships or re-publications because he was ahead of his time. His work was deemed “dirty” for its time. Whereas now, we see the likes of Fifty Shades of Grey as just another book and a best-selling series.


While Joyce secured his spot as an avant-garde modernist, he also introduced the stream-of-consciousness writing style. He knew how to spark a conversation and keep the reader’s attention. Although Ulysses is a classic, Dubliners may be one of my favorite of his works.

Dubliners is a collection of short stories originally published in 1914. It shows a realistic depiction of the Irish middle-class life around Dublin in the early 20th century. However, it depicts life in a way that emphasizes community with observational stories that mention real people. The collection is a moral portrait of Irish life. Major themes consist of paralysis, corruption, and death. If you need to read any in particular, it’s the memorable final story, “The Dead.”

4. Oscar Wilde, The Picture of Dorian Gray


Oscar Wilde may not need an introduction at this point, but some seem to forget his Irish roots. The Irish poet and playwright wrote one book in his lifetime, the infamous The Picture of Dorian Gray. Although well-known for his later novel, Wilde was the most-popular playwright of his time in the early 1890s. While being born to a surgeon and revolutionary poet, his success almost seems calculated. Apart from his wit and writing in plays, he’s also idolized as a political symbol.

To demonstrate, his plays critiqued the social and political standards at the time, one being the unfair treatment of homosexuality. Additionally, soon after Wilde was tried and imprisoned for homosexual acts. Therefore, he may be one of the most famous victims of the criminalization of homosexuality.


The Picture of Dorian Gray, published in Lippincott’s Magazine in 1890, sparked great conversation. The plot depicts young Dorian, who meets a painter that captures his youthful beauty in a portrait. Then, Dorian makes a frivolous promise that he’d give his soul to stay how he is in the picture.

From there, the lessons unfold. Besides a moral fantasy, the novel also combines supernatural elements with the likes of a gothic tale. Since the story had explicit elements of homosexuality, publishers edited it constantly to what they considered a “moral” standard at the time. Therefore, this book gradually received great success over the years. Its distinct comments on how people judge others for how they look and hidden internal struggles make it a classic.

5. George Bernard Shaw, Pygmalion


The Irish playwright, critic, and political activist, Bernard Shaw made major contributions to Western culture. Besides being a playwright, he was also a socialist spokesman who influenced Western theater, culture, and politics for many years. Moreover, Shaw wrote plays that depicted the issues with capitalism and explored both moral and social problems.

While winning the Nobel Prize for literature in 1925, he voluntarily denied the reward money. He believed the money would be more beneficial elsewhere, towards translations of works. Not only is he respected for his adamant role in speaking up for equality, but he is also famous for his role in revolutionizing comedic drama.


Pygmalion, his most famous play, was adapted into the popular Broadway musical My Fair Lady. In addition, his socialism and free-thinking became a central part of the play’s theme. Shaw makes a great effort to explore the English class system in Pygmalion. The play belongs to the Romantic genre and is named after the Greek mythological figure. The original myth follows a Cretan king who fell in love with his own sculpture. Then the sculpture transforms into a woman Galatea, by Aphrodite, the Greek goddess of love.

However, Shaw puts his own spin on the love story. In Pygmalion, a woman is turned into a statue appearing as an upper-class woman who slowly transforms back to her original self. Through this story, the audience realizes the collective shallowness we perceive and the bigger role capitalism plays in our society than we think.

6. Emma Donoghue, The Wonder

Emma Donoghue, IMAGE VIA NPR

Emma Donoghue, born in Dublin in 1969, has made a name for herself through many of her works. She is an award-winning novelist, screenwriter, and playwright. One of her most notable works might be her 2010 novel, Room.
In 2015, Donoghue adapted the novel into a film starring Brie Larson. Larson then won the best actress at the Oscars for it. Donoghue’s inspiration came from the dark, true story of Elisabeth Fritzl, a woman who was held captive by her father. She has written 12 novels, five short story collections, and one children’s book. Her ninth novel, The Wonder, may be one of my favorites.


The Wonder is Donoghue’s first historical novel set in her homeland of Ireland. The story follows a nurse, Lib Wright, who observes a miracle, a girl in nineteenth-century Ireland who has survived without food for months. Although this miracle seems sensational, two strangers’ lives forever transform in this psychological thriller. Gratefully, this thrilling novel was adapted into a feature film starring Florence Pugh and produced by Element Pictures. We can expect to see it on Netflix sometime this year.

7. Naoise Dolan, Exciting Times

Naoise Dolan, IMAGE VIA AnOther Magazine

Naoise Dolan is next up on my reading list. I have passed her debut novel in many bookstores but only recently dared to pick it up. I just knew I wouldn’t be able to put it down. Dolan is an Irish writer born in Dublin. Also, she was diagnosed as autistic before the publication of her novel. As noted in an interview with Irish Times, Dolan is very open and vocal about being autistic. Before her novel, she studied English Literature at Trinity College Dublin.

In addition, she received a master’s in Victorian Literature at Oxford University. Along with fiction, she writes essays, criticism, and features for publications like The London Review of Books, The Guardian, and Vogue.


Her debut novel, Exciting Times, contains many relatable tropes that draw you. The story follows the 22-year-old protagonist, Ava, who moves from her native Dublin to Honk Kong to teach English with little to no qualifications. When she arrives in Honk Kong, she becomes entangled in a love triangle with a male banker and a female lawyer. There are layers of exploration in themes of jealousy, love, sex, and the internet. Therefore, the romance or “millennial” novel moves with Dolan’s intelligent and witty writing. This debut Irish novel is one you don’t want to miss.

Keep reading for more Irish Authors!