The Greatest Irish "Fiction, Coming of age" Books Since 1980

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This list represents a comprehensive and trusted collection of the greatest books. Developed through a specialized algorithm, it brings together 305 'best of' book lists to form a definitive guide to the world's most acclaimed books. For those interested in how these books are chosen, additional details can be found on the rankings page.

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Fiction

Coming of age

The "Coming of age" category of books typically refers to stories that explore the transition from adolescence to adulthood. These books often focus on the challenges and experiences that young people face as they navigate the complexities of growing up, including issues such as identity, relationships, sexuality, and personal growth. Coming of age stories can be set in any time period or cultural context, and may feature protagonists of any gender, race, or background. Overall, the genre offers readers a glimpse into the universal struggles and triumphs of youth, and the process of becoming a fully realized adult.

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  1. 1. Amongst Women by John McGahern

    "Amongst Women" is a novel that tells the story of Michael Moran, a bitter, aging Irish Republican Army (IRA) veteran, and his relationships with his wife and five children. The narrative explores themes of family, power, love, and the struggle between freedom and control. Moran's domineering personality and the effects of his past experiences in the IRA have a profound impact on his family, shaping their lives and relationships in complex and often destructive ways.

    The 844th Greatest Book of All Time
  2. 2. The Butcher Boy by Patrick McCabe

    The Butcher Boy is a dark and disturbing tale set in small-town Ireland, following the life of a troubled young boy who descends into madness and violence. The protagonist's life is filled with neglect, abuse and mental health issues, and his increasingly erratic behavior and gruesome fantasies lead him down a path of horrific actions. The novel provides a stark exploration of the effects of societal neglect and the failure of mental health systems.

    The 1122nd Greatest Book of All Time
  3. 3. Paddy Clarke Ha Ha Ha by Roddy Doyle

    Set in 1960s Dublin, the novel follows the life of a ten-year-old boy as he navigates through the adventures and trials of childhood. The protagonist's world is one of mischief, discovery, and familial relationships, but as his parents' marriage crumbles, he is forced to deal with adult realities. The narrative is marked by the boy's growing understanding of the world around him, his loss of innocence, and his attempts to keep his family together.

    The 1780th Greatest Book of All Time
  4. 4. Good Behaviour by Molly Keane

    "Good Behaviour" is a darkly humorous and compelling novel that delves into the dysfunctional lives of the St. Charles family. Set in the early 20th century, the story is narrated by Aroon, the youngest daughter, who chronicles her family's eccentricities, secrets, and the complex dynamics that shape their relationships. As Aroon navigates her way through a world of privilege and societal expectations, she grapples with her own desires and the consequences of her actions. With sharp wit and keen observations, the novel explores themes of love, betrayal, and the lengths people will go to maintain appearances.

    The 2353rd Greatest Book of All Time
  5. 5. The Commitments by Roddy Doyle

    "The Commitments" is a humorous and uplifting tale set in the working-class Northside of Dublin, Ireland. The story follows a group of young, passionate individuals who form a soul band, despite their limited musical experience. The band, managed by two ambitious music enthusiasts, navigates the highs and lows of the music industry, dealing with personal conflicts, romantic entanglements, and the challenges of finding their sound. The book offers a raw and honest perspective on music, friendship, and the pursuit of dreams.

    The 2421st Greatest Book of All Time
  6. 6. Brooklyn by Colm Tóibín

    The novel tells the story of a young Irish woman, Eilis Lacey, in the 1950s who, unable to find work at home, is sent to Brooklyn by a helpful priest where she builds a new life. She finds work, studies to become a bookkeeper, and falls in love with an Italian plumber named Tony. However, a family tragedy forces her to return to Ireland, where she must choose between her new life in America and her old life at home.

    The 2640th Greatest Book of All Time
  7. 7. Netherland by Joseph O'Neill

    "Netherland" is a post-9/11 novel set in New York City, which explores the life of a Dutch banker named Hans. After his wife and son move back to London, Hans becomes immersed in the world of cricket, where he befriends a charismatic Trinidadian named Chuck Ramkissoon who dreams of building a cricket stadium in the city. The novel is a meditation on the American Dream, identity, and the immigrant experience, all set against the backdrop of a city and a country grappling with a new reality.

    The 3787th Greatest Book of All Time
  8. 8. The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas by John Boyne

    This novel follows the story of a young boy who moves from Berlin to a house near a concentration camp during World War II. Unaware of the grim reality of his surroundings, he befriends another boy on the other side of the camp fence. The two develop a deep friendship despite the horrific circumstances, leading to a devastating and unforgettable ending.

    The 4796th Greatest Book of All Time
  9. 9. Circle Of Friends by Maeve Binchy

    The novel centers around a group of friends from a small town in Ireland who embark on their university journey in Dublin in the 1950s. As they navigate the complexities of young adulthood, their relationships are tested by love, betrayal, and societal expectations. The story primarily follows the kind-hearted Benny and the beautiful and independent Eve as they form new friendships, confront personal challenges, and experience the pain and joy of first loves. The narrative explores themes of friendship, loyalty, and the transition from adolescence to adulthood, capturing the essence of Irish life and the universal intricacies of human connections.

    The 5133rd Greatest Book of All Time
  10. 10. Lamb by Bernard MacLaverty

    The novel explores the complex relationship between a young Irish boy, Owen Kane, and Brother Michael Lamb, a priest questioning his faith and vocation at a bleak reform school in Ireland. When Lamb inherits money from his father, he decides to escape the oppressive institution with Owen, whom he sees as a victim of its harshness. The two embark on a journey to find freedom and redemption, but as they navigate the outside world, they are confronted with the harsh realities and moral dilemmas that challenge Lamb's intentions and the possibility of a new life for both of them. The story delves into themes of love, guilt, and the search for meaning in a world that often seems devoid of it.

    The 6414th Greatest Book of All Time
  11. 11. The South by Colm Tóibín

    "The South" by Colm Toibin is a compelling novel that follows the journey of a young Irish woman named Katherine as she leaves her troubled marriage behind and embarks on a new life in Spain. Set against the backdrop of political unrest and cultural differences, Katherine's experiences in the vibrant and mysterious south of Spain shape her identity and challenge her perceptions of love, art, and self-discovery. With rich prose and nuanced characters, Toibin explores themes of longing, transformation, and the complexities of human relationships in this captivating tale.

    The 6520th Greatest Book of All Time
  12. 12. Reading In The Dark by Seamus Deane

    "Reading In The Dark" is a captivating novel that delves into the complex history of Northern Ireland through the eyes of an unnamed protagonist. Set against the backdrop of political turmoil and sectarian violence, the story follows the protagonist's journey of self-discovery as he unravels family secrets and confronts the ghosts of the past. Seamlessly blending personal and political narratives, the book explores themes of memory, identity, and the power of storytelling, ultimately offering a poignant reflection on the lasting impact of history on individuals and communities.

    The 6862nd Greatest Book of All Time
  13. 13. A Long Long Way by Sebastian Barry

    This novel vividly captures the harrowing experiences of a young Irish soldier caught in the brutal trenches of World War I. As he navigates the horrors of war, he also grapples with the complex political tensions of his homeland, torn between loyalty to the British forces and the rising call for Irish independence. Through his journey, the protagonist confronts the brutal realities of conflict, the bonds of camaraderie, and the personal quest for identity amidst the chaos of war and the shifting landscapes of early 20th-century Ireland. The narrative combines historical detail with profound emotional depth, exploring themes of loyalty, identity, and the devastating impact of war on the human spirit.

    The 6950th Greatest Book of All Time
  14. 14. Reading Turgenev by William Trevor

    The novella presents the poignant tale of a young Irish woman trapped in a stifling marriage, who finds solace and escape in her imagination and the literature of Russian novelist Ivan Turgenev. Her life, constrained by the expectations of her small rural community and a loveless union with an older man, contrasts sharply with the passionate world she encounters in the novels she cherishes. As she retreats further into her fantasies and the comfort of her secret attic space, the lines between reality and fiction blur, offering both a refuge and a haunting reminder of the life she yearns for but cannot openly pursue.

    The 6987th Greatest Book of All Time
  15. 15. The Banyan Tree by Christopher Nolan

    "The Banyan Tree" is a captivating novel that follows the life of a young girl named Maya, who grows up in a small village in India. Set against the backdrop of the country's struggle for independence, the story explores Maya's journey of self-discovery, love, and resilience. Through her encounters with various characters and her deep connection with nature, Maya learns the power of hope and the importance of standing up for what she believes in. With vivid descriptions and rich cultural insights, this book offers a poignant and inspiring tale of one girl's determination to find her place in the world.

    The 7153rd Greatest Book of All Time
  16. 16. A Girl Is A Half Formed Thing by Eimear McBride

    "A Girl Is A Half Formed Thing" is a powerful and experimental novel that delves into the psyche of a young woman as she navigates through a tumultuous and abusive childhood, her complex relationship with her mentally and physically disabled brother, and her own journey towards self-discovery and identity. Written in a unique stream-of-consciousness style, the book explores themes of trauma, sexuality, religion, and resilience, offering a raw and unflinching portrayal of the human experience.

    The 8410th Greatest Book of All Time
  17. 17. The Lesser Bohemians by Eimear McBride

    This novel explores the passionate, tumultuous relationship between an 18-year-old Irish drama student and a successful actor twenty years her senior in 1990s London. Their intense connection is complicated by the actor's dark past, filled with addiction and abuse, which threatens to destroy the fragile love they share. As they navigate their relationship, they must confront their own insecurities, fears, and desires, ultimately leading to a profound transformation for both.

    The 9007th Greatest Book of All Time
  18. 18. The Henna Wars by Adiba Jaigirdar

    The book follows a Bangladeshi-Irish teenager as she navigates the complexities of her identity, culture, and sexuality in contemporary Dublin. When her school organizes a business competition, she decides to start a henna business, only to face rivalry from another student with a similar idea. As the competition intensifies, so do her feelings for her competitor, leading to a poignant exploration of love, family expectations, and the courage to be true to oneself amidst the challenges of racism and homophobia. The protagonist's journey is a heartfelt tale of self-discovery and the struggle to honor one's heritage while forging a unique path forward.

    The 9435th Greatest Book of All Time
  19. 19. The Glorious Heresies by Lisa McInerney

    "The Glorious Heresies" is a darkly comedic novel set in post-recession Ireland, chronicling the interconnected lives of a cast of colorful characters. When a accidental murder takes place, the lives of a gangster, a prostitute, a teenage drug dealer, and a mother struggling to survive become entangled in a web of secrets and lies. As their paths converge, they are forced to confront the consequences of their actions and grapple with the complexities of love, redemption, and forgiveness in a gritty and unforgiving world.

    The 10711th Greatest Book of All Time

Reading Statistics

Click the button below to see how many of these books you've read!

Download

If you're interested in downloading this list as a CSV file for use in a spreadsheet application, you can easily do so by clicking the button below. Please note that to ensure a manageable file size and faster download, the CSV will include details for only the first 500 books.

Download