The Greatest Irish "Fiction, Contemporary" Books Since 1900

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This list represents a comprehensive and trusted collection of the greatest books. Developed through a specialized algorithm, it brings together 280 '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

Contemporary

Contemporary books are a genre that focuses on stories set in the present day, often exploring current social, cultural, and political issues. These books are typically written in a modern style and often feature relatable characters dealing with real-life situations. Contemporary books can cover a wide range of topics, from romance and family drama to coming-of-age stories and thrillers. The genre is constantly evolving to reflect the changing world we live in, making it a popular choice for readers who want to stay up-to-date with the latest trends and issues.

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  1. 1. Girl With Green Eyes by Edna O'Brien

    "Girl With Green Eyes" is a novel about a young, naive country girl who moves to Dublin and falls in love with a sophisticated older man who is married and a writer. The book explores themes of love, passion, innocence, and societal expectations. The protagonist's journey is marked by her struggle to reconcile her feelings for the man she loves with the moral and social implications of their relationship.

  2. 2. The Master by Colm Tóibín

    "The Master" is a fictionalized biography of the renowned author Henry James, chronicling his life from 1895 to 1899. The narrative delves into James' personal life, his relationships, and his struggles with his craft. The book reveals his inner thoughts and feelings, his unfulfilled desires, and his deep-seated fears. It also explores his relationships with his family, friends, and some of the most prominent figures of his time. The narrative is a deep, introspective exploration of a complex, introverted character, and the world in which he lived.

  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.

  4. 4. Eva Trout by Elizabeth Bowen

    "Eva Trout" is a novel about a young, wealthy woman who struggles to find her place in society and understand her own identity. She leaves England to live in France, where she adopts a deaf-mute child in an attempt to avoid loneliness. The book explores themes of isolation, communication, and the effects of wealth on personal relationships. The protagonist's eccentric and often impulsive behavior leads to a tragic climax, shedding light on the consequences of her actions and decisions.

  5. 5. The Van by Roddy Doyle

    The Van is a humorous and touching tale of two friends in Dublin, Ireland, who decide to start a fish and chips van business during the 1990 World Cup. The book explores their trials and tribulations as they navigate the unpredictable world of small business, all against the backdrop of Ireland's football frenzy. Their friendship is tested as they experience the highs and lows of their venture, providing an insightful and entertaining look at the human condition.

  6. 6. 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.

  7. 7. Room by Emma Donoghue

    "Room" by Emma Donoghue is a novel about a young woman named Ma who has been held captive in a small room for seven years with her five-year-old son Jack. The story is told from Jack's point of view as he struggles to understand the world outside of Room and adjust to life after their escape. The novel explores themes of resilience, trauma, and the power of love and imagination.

  8. 8. The Sea by John Banville

    "The Sea" is a profound exploration of memory, grief, and loss. The novel follows the story of a widower who returns to a seaside town where he spent his childhood summers. His present-day experiences are interwoven with memories of a transformative event from his youth involving a wealthy family he befriended. As he grapples with the loss of his wife to cancer, he also deals with the haunting memories of the past. The narrative is a deep dive into the human psyche, exploring themes of love, loss, and the fluidity of time.

  9. 9. The Gathering by Anne Enright

    "The Gathering" is a powerful and evocative family saga set in Ireland, exploring the complex dynamics of a large Irish family following the suicide of one of the siblings. The story is narrated by Veronica, the sister of the deceased, who delves into her family's past, uncovering a traumatic event that has shaped their lives. The narrative is a mix of present events, childhood memories, and imagined scenarios, all of which contribute to a profound exploration of memory, truth, and the bonds of family.

  10. 10. 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.

  11. 11. Lantern Slides by Edna O'Brien

    "Lantern Slides" is a collection of short stories that delve into the complexities of human relationships and the intricacies of life in Ireland. The narratives, rich with the author's lyrical prose, explore themes of love, loss, and the struggles of the human condition. Through a tapestry of vivid characters, from young girls to old men, the stories capture the nuances of Irish society, its traditions, and the transformative power of storytelling itself. The book serves as a poignant reflection on the bittersweet nature of existence, where moments of joy and sorrow are intertwined, much like the ephemeral images of a lantern slide show.

  12. 12. The Barracks by John McGahern

    "The Barracks" is a poignant and introspective novel that delves into the lives of a family living in a rural Irish barracks. Set in the 1950s, the story follows Elizabeth Reegan, a widow struggling to find her place in a changing society, and her three children as they navigate the complexities of love, loss, and the search for personal identity. McGahern's lyrical prose beautifully captures the emotional nuances of the characters, painting a vivid portrait of a family grappling with their own desires and societal expectations.

  13. 13. Death In Summer by William Trevor

    This novel delves into the life of a widower grappling with the sudden loss of his wife in an accident, leaving him to care for their infant daughter alone. Amidst his grief, he encounters a series of potential nannies, each bringing their own complexities and the past into his meticulously ordered world. The narrative weaves through themes of loneliness, the search for connection, and the shadows cast by past actions, as the protagonist navigates the challenges of new fatherhood and the intrusion of an obsessed stranger. Set against a backdrop of everyday English life, the story unfolds with subtlety and depth, exploring the nuances of human relationships and the quiet moments that define and disrupt our lives.

  14. 14. The Heather Blazing by Colm Tóibín

    The protagonist, a respected Irish judge, reflects on his life as he spends his summer vacation in a seaside town in Ireland. As he navigates through the complexities of his professional life, he also grapples with his past, including the loss of his parents and his brother, his wife's infertility, and the changing political landscape of Ireland. The novel explores themes of memory, loss, and the tension between personal desires and societal expectations.

  15. 15. The Blackwater Lightship by Colm Toibin

    This novel delves into the complexities of family dynamics, reconciliation, and the AIDS crisis in 1990s Ireland. It tells the story of a young man who, after being diagnosed with AIDS, retreats to his grandmother's house in a small Irish village to spend his final days. His estrangement from his family is challenged when his sister and mother come to care for him, leading to a poignant exploration of unresolved tensions, the power of forgiveness, and the strength of familial bonds in the face of adversity and societal prejudice. Through its intimate portrayal of a family's struggle, the narrative weaves a compelling tale of love, loss, and the search for understanding.

  16. 16. Eureka Street by Robert McLiam Wilson

    Set in Belfast during the tumultuous end of the Troubles, the novel is a tale of friendship, love, and the complexities of life in a city riven by political and sectarian strife. It follows the lives of two friends from different backgrounds—one Catholic, one Protestant—as they navigate the challenges of daily life amidst the violence and social upheaval of their environment. Their personal stories of romance, loss, and the search for meaning are interwoven with dark humor and a deep sense of humanity, offering a poignant reflection on the resilience of the human spirit in the face of adversity.

  17. 17. 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.

  18. 18. P.S. I Love You by Cecelia Ahern

    The book revolves around a young widow whose life is shattered when her husband dies from a brain tumor. As she struggles with grief and the prospect of moving on, she discovers a series of letters her husband left behind, each ending with "P.S. I Love You." These letters, designed to help her cope with her loss and gradually guide her through her pain, lead her on a journey of rediscovery. Through the tasks and reflections prompted by the letters, she navigates the complexities of love, friendship, and healing, ultimately finding a path toward a new beginning.

  19. 19. 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.

  20. 20. Solar Bones by Mike McCormack

    The novel is a stream-of-consciousness narrative that unfolds from the perspective of a deceased middle-aged engineer as he reminisces about his life on All Souls' Day in County Mayo, Ireland. Through a single unbroken sentence, the protagonist reflects on his past experiences, including his family life, work, the complexities of modernity, and the political issues of contemporary Ireland. The narrative weaves together the personal and the political, exploring themes of time, memory, and the interconnectedness of individual lives with the broader societal and environmental forces at play.

  21. 21. 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.

  22. 22. 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.

  23. 23. Night Boat To Tangier by Kevin Barry

    "Night Boat To Tangier" by Kevin Barry is a darkly comedic novel that follows two aging Irish gangsters, Charlie Redmond and Maurice Hearne, as they wait in a Spanish port for a ferry that may bring Maurice's estranged daughter back into his life. As they reminisce about their past and contemplate their future, the two men confront their regrets, failures, and the toll that a life of crime has taken on them. With poetic language and a keen eye for detail, Barry explores themes of love, loss, and the human condition in a story that is both haunting and humorous.

  24. 24. The Forgotten Waltz by Anne Enright

    The novel is a poignant exploration of an adulterous affair set against the backdrop of the economic downturn in Ireland. It follows the story of Gina Moynihan as she reflects on her passionate, yet complicated relationship with Sean Vallely, a man she meets at a party and with whom she embarks on an affair, despite both being married to other people. The narrative delves into themes of love, desire, and the consequences of their illicit relationship, particularly in the context of Sean's ailing daughter, Evie, who becomes a symbol of the affair's impact on the families involved. The story is a candid and lyrical examination of the intricacies of marriage, memory, and the choices that shape our lives.

  25. 25. This Is Happiness by Niall Williams

    Set in a remote Irish village, the novel unfolds through the eyes of a young man who, during a transformative summer, witnesses the arrival of electricity and the changes it brings to the community. As the village buzzes with anticipation and skepticism, the protagonist also encounters personal growth and the complexities of love, as he is drawn into the lives and stories of the local inhabitants. The narrative is a poignant exploration of progress and tradition, the power of memory, and the bittersweet nature of coming-of-age, all set against a backdrop of lyrical landscapes and the whimsical charm of rural Ireland.

Reading Statistics

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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