Some people like to celebrate St. Patrick’s Day by dying everything green and getting hideously drunk, and while one of those things is definitely an Irish tradition, I say you’re missing a lot in a celebration of Irish culture if you’re just using it as an excuse to get blackout wasted.
Maybe it’s just me in my little book nerd camp, but there are so many brilliant Irish authors that taking a look at some of their work on St. Patrick’s Day is the best way I can see to celebrate the holiday. There’s plenty of of obvious classics to go on about, and newer names as well. Here, I’ve collected just a few names to start out with if you want to celebrate some quality Irish authors.
Emma Donoghue: Yes, this is a newer name, and she’s one of my favorites. Born in Dublin, Ireland but now living in London, Ontario (yes, there are two Londons,) she’s Irish-Canadian, but I won’t disqualify her on that account. Her most famous book is probably Room, which was turned into an award winning film starring Brie Larson, which Donoghue also wrote the script for. It’s an emotionally brutal experience on and off screen, but one written well enough to make the pain more than simply brutal or exploitative.
She’s written plenty of other books well worth a read, and several of those have won awards as well, mostly for LGBT representation. One book in particular, though, should get you in the St. Paddy’s Day mood. Her newest book is Wonder, about a young girl fasting for months and becoming a “miracle girl,” with a nurse coming in and trying to see if she can keep this girl alive, or perhaps even prove this miracle a hoax. This one takes place in 19th century Ireland, so it’s a nice book to keep you feeling very Irish.
Seamus Heaney: I can never resist encouraging people to read more poetry. Of course, W.B. Yeats is usually considered the quintessential Irish poet, but you’ve probably already read him in school, however long ago or not that was. I’m trying to introduce you to some figures you probably haven’t tried before.
Okay, technically you probably actually read Seamus Heaney in school, but not his original work. Heaney wrote what’s currently one of the definitive translations of Beowulf. His work made this millennia old poem an action-packed engaging read when I had to read it for school. I mean, sure, the monsters and dragons were already in the poem, but Heaney made these warriors and their battles into something readable and enjoyable to a modern audience, something I definitely missed when I had to take up a bunch of dry and archaically written medieval epics and romances later in the poetry timeline. His own poetry isn’t typically about slaying dragons and warriors parting in mead halls, but don’t hold that against him. He wrote some truly vivid, picturesque work. Some of his collections include North and Field Work.
Tana French: Now here’s for you mystery lovers. Tana French is a popular mystery writer. She was born in Ireland, has lived in a couple different countries since then but now resides Dublin. Before she started writing, French was actually convinced she should be an actor, and spent years in that field. Lucky for us, she took to writing in her 30’s, crime and mystery books specifically, a genre she’d always liked.
She has six books out as of now, all a part of her Dublin Murder Squad series, starting with In the Woods in 2007 and ending, though hopefully not ending ending, with the most recent The Trespasser. They all center around a group of homicide detectives in Dublin, the titular “Murder Squad.” A quality series with a solid reoccurring cast of characters is always a nice, comfy book-home to come back too, even if that comfy home is full of grisly crime and murder.
There, that’s three Irish writers to enjoy this St. Patrick’s day, if you’re looking for something to do between getting drunk at the St. Patrick’s Parade and getting drunk over corned beef and mash potatoes that have been died green. Maybe you’ll find something you want to pick up and stay with after the holiday too.