Start reading these 12 Irish novelists
Happy St. Patrick’s Day! Several Irish writers stand among the greatest to have ever lived: James Joyce, Oscar Wilde, W. B. Yeats, and Samuel Beckett, to name just a few. But there’s a whole new generation of talent whose work demands to be read. Here are 12 of our favorite Irish novelists who have published work in the past few years. Check them out while wearing your boldest shade of green.
Donoghue probably has the best-known book of anyone on this list: Room, the best-selling phenomenon which was adapted into the 2015 movie (Brie Larson won the Best Actress Oscar, Donoghue was nominated for her screenplay). But the author has been writing novels for 25 years, including the lauded queer novels Hood and Slammerkin.
Enright is perhaps best known for her award-winning and Booker Prize-shortlisted The Gathering, a novel about the fallout of an alcoholic patriarch’s suicide. But her most recent book, 2015’s The Green Road, also generated considerable acclaim, cementing Enright as one of the best Irish writers of her generation.
One of the best-known writers on this list, Colum McCann’s work has been translated into more than 30 languages. His magnum opus is Let the Great World Spin, which won the National Book Award and fictionalizes the Twin Towers high-wire walk of Philippe Petit, before moving in a surprising and moving direction.
Keegan is among the best short-story writers around right now, period. She’s been published in The New Yorker, Best American Short Stories, Granta, The Paris Review, and she’s won several prestigious prizes for her work. Her 2010 novella, Foster, about a girl sent to live with foster parents on a farm, is considered a contemporary landmark of the form.
Tóibín wears many hats: novelist, short story writer, essayist, playwright, journalist, critic, poet. That he’s so brilliant when wearing each speaks volumes about his talent and his versatility. His queer novel The Master, about Henry James, is perhaps his best-known work, having won a slew of literary awards; he recently scored raves for the 2012 novella The Testament of Mary.
The revered Banville came out with another modern classic just last year with Mrs. Osmond, a striking imagined follow-up to Portrait of a Lady. He won the Booker Prize for his novel The Sea and is the only Irish writer to have been awarded the Frank Kafka Prize. The Daily Beast once called him “the heir to Proust.”
Caldwell is a name not many Americans know yet, but likely soon will. Her ferocious debut, the story collection Room Little Darker, paints a gorgeous portrait of Dublin that’s near-impossible to leave. It was considered one of the very best debuts of the year in Ireland, and is now available for purchase stateside.
Binchy died in 2012, but as one of the most broadly popular Irish writers of the last few decades still deserves to be sought out by those who have yet to encounter her work. Several of her books were translated into successful movies, including her Oprah’s Book Club-selected Tara Road (1998), and she appeared prominently on the New York Times best-seller list during her career.
If there’s one poet to put on your radar here, let it be Conor O’Callaghan: His successful career reached a new peak last year with the collection Live Streaming, a hauntingly strange book in which a late patriarch hovers over each poem.
Over the past 20 years, Keyes has emerged as one of Ireland’s most well-known novelists, with more than 35 million copies of her books having been sold in more than 30 languages. She writes sharp, engaging romantic stories, drawing heroines with smarts and grit and still pushing new boundaries. Her novel Watermelon was adapted into a film of the same name starring Anna Friel.