Become a Writer Today

13 Best Irish Authors You Must Read

December 18, 2023 Bryan Collins
Become a Writer Today
13 Best Irish Authors You Must Read
Show Notes Transcript

In today's episode, we delve into the world of Irish literature and explore the works of some of the best Irish authors you must read. 

From the celebrated CS Lewis, who straddled the line between British and Irish, to the incomparable James Joyce and his masterpiece "Ulysses," we'll take you through a journey of influential writers who have shaped modern literature. 

Join us as we uncover the rich literary heritage of Ireland and provide insights into these renowned authors. 

So, whether you're searching for your next book club read or simply looking to expand your literary horizons, this episode is for you. 

Stay tuned as we explore the works of Oscar Wilde, Maeve Binchy, Bram Stoker, Roddy Doyle, John Banville, Brendan Behan, and Samuel Beckett. Let's dive into the fascinating world of Irish literature.

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Thanks for listening!

Bryan:

CS Lewis, 1898 to 1963. CS Lewis is regularly claimed as a British writer. Perhaps in a way he is, but he was born in Ireland in 1898, and he spent a good bit of his career here. As a result, he's arguably both British and Irish. He's had a huge or tremendous influence on Irish culture and is one of the top fiction writers of all time. He spent much of his career teaching English literature at Oxford and Cambridge University. And even though he's mainly known for writing fiction, he also wrote a lot of non-fiction books for students, and his novels have been translated into numerous languages. His most famous work is, of course, Chronicles of Narnia. That's a fantasy classic that's been turned into radio and plays and films multiple times. 

(Intro:)

Welcome to the Become A Writer Today podcast with Bryan Collins. Here, you'll find practical advice and interviews for all kinds of writers. 

Bryan:

Who are the best Irish authors you should check out today? Hi there. My name is Bryan Collins, and I'm a writer from Ireland. I'm gonna give you the insight scoop on some of the best Irish authors that you may or may not have heard of. And I'll also explain what we really think of them in Ireland.

Now Ireland has a fantastic literary heritage. Some of the authors that I'm gonna profile are writers, poets, and playwrights, and they've dramatically changed the face of modern literature. Some of these writers and artists are easy to read, and others take a bit more time and patience to wade through. I picked just a selection to help you get started with your reading list or for your next book club. 

Number 1, James Joyce, 1882 to 1941. So James Joyce is one of the greatest authors of modern literature. His works include The Dubliners and Finnegan's Wake, and he was also a well-known Irish poet and literary critic. But perhaps his most famous book is Ulysses.

Joyce spent years writing this masterpiece. It basically recounts, through stream-of-consciousness prose, a day in the life of 1 man, Leopold Bloom. And although this book is a masterpiece, it's an exceptionally difficult read. That's down to the stream-of-consciousness prose that takes a lot of interpretation and, to be honest, patience to get through. I spent months trying to read and finish this book, and he was only able to figure out what it was all about when I read other books about Ulysses. That said, the book is widely celebrated in Dublin. We even have a James Joyce day. And if you visit Dublin, you can go on guided tours and walk in the steps of Leopold Bloom.

Number 2, Oscar Wilde, 1854 to 1900. So Oscar Wilde was a flamboyant, fashionable, and popular 19th century writer. His colorful writing style, his fashion sense and wit are still legendary today. He's quoted a lot online. I think he do quite well on Twitter. He's known for 1 liners like, I can resist everything except temptation, and one of my favorites, everything in moderation except moderation. Now Oscar Wilde published a wide variety of influential works during his career. Some of his most important or famous books to check out include A Woman of No Importance, An Ideal Husband and, of course, The Importance of Being Earnest.

I've also gone to see a couple of works by Oscar Wilde which have been turned into plays, and they're still enjoyable today as they were back in the 19th century. 

Maeve Binchy, 1939 to 2012. So Maeve Binchy was born in Dublin, and she's famous for writing short stories and novels that drew on her life experiences and which are set in small towns and rural locations around Ireland. Her works are famous for unexpected endings, vivid imagery, and impressive character development. And Maeve Binchy even said that she spent a lot of time listening in to what people were saying in coffee shops and restaurants and so on to get anecdotes and stories for her books. She was so good at it, and she's so popular in Ireland and abroad that she sold more than 40,000,000 copies. Perhaps one of her most famous works is Tara Road. That book earned her a place on Oprah's Book of the Month club and was even turned into a hit film starring Irish actress, Brenda Fricker. And it's fair to say that Maeve Binchy has spawned an entire genre of Irish authors who are attempting to do what she did first.

Bram Stoker, 1847 to 1912. So Dublin man Bram Stoker was a prominent gothic novelist and a short story writer. He wrote dozens of novels and short stories. But you know him best as the author of Dracula. That famous character has spawned more than a 1000 different books about vampires and similar types of horror books that try to emulate what Stoker did. Again, if you visit Dublin, you can even take guided tours of the city and visit some of his old haunts. But the best horror writers can even win an award named after Bram Stoker. Suffice to say, he's still incredibly popular in Dublin.

(Midroll:)

You're listening to to Become a Writer Today podcast with Bryan Collins. And if you enjoy this week's episode, please consider leaving a short review on iTunes. You can also share the show with another writer or a friend who you think will enjoy this week's podcast episode. When you leave a review or when you share the show, it'll help more people find a podcast. We also have a companion YouTube channel which is packed full of writing advice. Simply visit becomeawriter.tv to catch the latest videos. That's becomeawriter.tv. Number 5, Roddy Doyle who was born in 1958.

Bryan:

So Roddy is one of Ireland's most famous contemporary Irish authors. That's because he excels at capturing the weight of Dubliners and the working class. One of his most famous works is the Barrytown trilogy, now pentology, and these comprise 3 or now 4 books, I should say, The Van, The Commitments, and The Snapper, which have all been turned into films, and the follow on, Guts, which he wrote a couple of years ago. He also won the Booker Prize in 1993 for his novel, Paddy Clarke Ha Ha Ha. 

Couple years ago, I actually went to hear Roddy at a reading, and he was working at a writer's center in Dublin. And, basically, he was reading from his short stories and his books and giving people advice or writer's advice about how they could get started too. He's a pretty engaging person to meet and to listen to. 

And that brings me to number 6, John Manville who was born in 1945. He's a bit different to Roddy Doyle, but he's also an award winning author. So he was born in Wexford, and that's in the Midlands in Ireland, and he's considered one of our best modern literary Irish authors. He's published short story collections, nonfiction books, plays, and over 18 novels during his prolific career. And he even writes under the pseudonym, Benjamin Black. Now perhaps one of his most famous novels is called The Sea. This was published in 2005, and it won the Booker Prize that same year. It's a powerful novel that I read a few years ago that talks about memory, love, and loss. The narrator is a fisherman from Ireland who returns to his childhood home, a seaside town following the death of his wife. 

Now some of John Manville's works can be a little bit inaccessible and difficult to read. So if you want to read some of his works or at least get started reading some of his works, check out what he writes under his pen name Benjamin Black. I actually met Manville a few years ago at the Irish Writers Festival in County Kerry, and he autographed a copy of his book for me. 

Next up is a slightly older author who passed away in 1964. I'm talking about Brendan Behan. He was born in 1923, so he lived a kind of a short life. He's one of our top authors from the 20th century. Now before he started his literary career, he was a member of the Irish Republican Army or IRA, and he spent a significant amount of his life in prison. And he used his experiences in prison as part of his anecdotes for stories and to influence his writing style.

He was quite a controversial figure in the day, and he was a hard drinker which may explain why he lived quite a short life, but he's had a huge influence on modern contemporary Irish authors. If you're looking to get started with Brendon Behan's works, check out Confessions of an Irish Rebel. 

Samuel Beckett, 1906 to 1989. Samuel Beckett was one of the most influential novelists, playwrights, and poets of the 20th century. He was born in Foxrock in County Dublin, and he wrote and published books in English and also in French. He actually passed away in Paris. Much of his works embrace themes related to human nature and societal issues of the day like the horrors of a postwar generation. Many of his books and plays have dark themes supplemented by slightly comedic undertones.

He's not quite as well known as James Joyce, but he's still pretty prolific, and his work is still regularly turned into plays today. Perhaps one of his most famous novels is called Molloy, which was published in 1951, and it follows a group of bizarre characters as they go through an anonymous town and countryside. 

If James Joyce's works are not currently being shown on stage in a town near you. I recommend going on to Audible because you can find many of his plays there in the form of an audiobook or an audio play that you can download and listen to. And that's how I managed to find my way into some of his works. 

Now let's zoom forward to a more contemporary Irish author, Emma Donoghue, born in 1969. Emma is a novelist, historian, and screenwriter, and she's of Irish and Canadian descent. Her most famous novel is Room which she published in 2010. And that book was a finalist for the Booker Prize, and it was an international bestseller. One of our earlier novels, Hood, was published in 1995, and that won the Stonewall Book Award. And in addition to her impressive work as a writer, she's been a prominent advocate for LGBTQ rights, and she's also written other popular books, including The Pull of The Stars, and Haven. 

Number 10, Frank McCourt, 1930 to 2009. Chances are you've heard of Frank McCourt. He was an author of Irish and American descent. He was born in Brooklyn in New York and was a prolific writer. He wrote several popular novels including Tis A Memoir, Teacher Man, Angela and The Baby Jesus.

Now perhaps his most famous book or his most famous work is the memoir, Angela's Ashes, which he published in 1996. It basically recounts his early life and difficult childhood while growing up in Limerick in Ireland. And the book was a huge success, but it generated a lot of controversy in Ireland after his mother claimed that a lot of the stories in the book were overstated. That said, a lot of memoirists do this with their work, and it's still incredibly popular today in Ireland. He's definitely somebody to check out if you want to learn about life in Ireland maybe 20 or 30 years ago or at least one part of Ireland. 

C. S. Lewis, 1898 to 1963. C. S. Lewis is regularly claimed as a British writer. Perhaps in a way he is, but he was born in Ireland in 1898, and he spent a good bit of his career here. As a result, he's arguably both British and Irish. He's had a huge or tremendous influence on Irish culture and is one of the top fiction writers of all time. He spent much of his career teaching English literature at Oxford and Cambridge University. And even though he's mainly known for writing fiction, he also wrote a lot of non-fiction books for his students, and his novels have been translated into numerous languages.

His most famous work is, of course, Chronicles of Narnia. That's a fantasy classic that's been turned into radio and plays and films multiple times. And the most popular book from that series is, of course, The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe. 

Next up is Sally Rooney who's perhaps the youngest author in this list. This novelist and screenwriter was born in 1991 in Castlebar County Mayo, and she's best known for novels like Conversations with Friends and Normal People, which received widespread critical acclaim and were turned into popular television shows. Of course, Normal People was a breakout success during the pandemic or lockdown of 2022. Her most recent book is Beautiful World, Where Are You? And she's considered the voice of millennials due to her frank depictions of modern relationships. 

Finally, Claire Kegan who was born in 1968. She's an award winning contemporary Irish short story writer. She was born in County Wicklow. She's published multiple collections of short stories including Antarctica, which I recommend you check out, and Walk the Blue Fields. She also wrote on An Cailín Ciúin. You may know that best as the Oscar nominated film, The Quiet Girl, and that's based on one of her short stories. Her writings often explore themes like childhood, life in rural Ireland some time ago, and the importance of family. I actually took a workshop or a writing workshop with Claire several years ago. She critiqued one of my stories, and we got to listen to her talk or describe her writing process.

She's a pretty engaging writing instructor, but she doesn't spend a lot of time teaching or working online. Basically, the best way to enjoy her work is to pick up one of her books. So that concludes my selection of some of the best Irish authors to check out. 

(Outro:) 

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