The Greatest Irish "Fiction" 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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  1. 26. 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.

  2. 27. Krapp's Last Tape by Samuel Beckett

    "Krapp's Last Tape" is a one-act play about an aging man who annually records a review of the past year of his life. On his 69th birthday, he listens to a tape from 30 years earlier, where he reflects on his life at 39, his lost love, and his isolation. The play explores themes of memory, regret, and the passing of time, with the protagonist's relationship with his younger self revealing a portrait of a man in decline.

  3. 28. Strumpet City by James Plunkett

    "Strumpet City" is a historical novel set in Dublin, Ireland, during the 1913 Dublin Lockout. The narrative follows a diverse group of characters from different social classes as they navigate the struggles and hardships of life during this tumultuous time. The book vividly depicts the poverty, exploitation, and political unrest of the era, offering a rich and detailed portrait of Dublin and its people in the early 20th century.

  4. 29. 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. 30. 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. 31. The Collected Plays of W.B. Yeats by William Butler Yeats

    This book is a comprehensive collection of plays by a renowned Irish poet and playwright. The works encompass a wide range of themes and styles, from the mythological and the symbolic to the realistic and contemporary. The plays are known for their lyrical language, complex characters, and exploration of Irish identity and mythology. They offer a profound and nuanced understanding of human nature, society, and the spiritual world.

  7. 32. 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.

  8. 33. The Bitter Glass by Eilís Dillon

    "The Bitter Glass" is a historical novel set in Ireland during the 1920s, a time of political upheaval and civil war. The story follows the life of a young man who becomes embroiled in the conflict, despite his initial reluctance. As he navigates through the complexities of love, loyalty, and patriotism, he is forced to confront the harsh realities of war and the profound impact it has on individuals and communities. The book offers a poignant exploration of human nature, the struggle for freedom, and the cost of political strife.

  9. 34. 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.

  10. 35. 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.

  11. 36. 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.

  12. 37. 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.

  13. 38. Langrishe, Go Down by Aidan Higgins

    "Langrishe, Go Down" by Aidan Higgins is a poignant and introspective novel that delves into the lives of the Langrishe sisters, Imogen and Helen, as they navigate their way through the complexities of love, loss, and longing in rural Ireland. Set in the 1930s, this beautifully written narrative explores the sisters' turbulent relationships with the men in their lives and their struggle to find their own identities amidst societal expectations. With vivid descriptions and emotional depth, the novel captures the essence of a bygone era and offers a profound exploration of the human experience.

  14. 39. The Gods Of Pegana by Lord Dunsany

    This book is a seminal work in the fantasy genre, presenting a series of connected fables that weave together the mythology of a fictional pantheon. The narrative introduces readers to the creation and cosmology of a universe governed by a collection of deities, each with their own distinct personalities, powers, and domains. Through a tapestry of short stories and poetic prose, the book explores themes of creation, destruction, fate, and the nature of divinity, all set within the enchanting and timeless realm of Pegana, where gods shape the destinies of men and the world itself.

  15. 40. Mary O'grady by Mary Lavin

    "Mary O'Grady" is a poignant tale that chronicles the life of an Irish woman named Mary, who, with resilience and strength, navigates the trials and tribulations of her life. As a devoted wife and mother, she faces the challenges of raising a family in mid-20th century Ireland, dealing with the complexities of love, loss, and the relentless passage of time. The novel paints a rich portrait of a character whose ordinary existence is imbued with extraordinary dignity, capturing the essence of human endurance and the spirit of the Irish community. Through Mary's experiences, the story explores the universal themes of family, hardship, and the unyielding hope that propels one forward.

  16. 41. 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.

  17. 42. 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.

  18. 43. A Belfast Woman by Mary Beckett

    The book is a poignant collection of short stories that delve into the lives of women from Belfast, Northern Ireland, during the tumultuous times of the Troubles. Through a series of intimate narratives, the author explores the complex emotions, daily struggles, and the resilience of women as they navigate a society riven by political conflict. The stories offer a nuanced portrayal of the female experience, highlighting themes of family, love, loss, and the quest for personal identity against a backdrop of violence and social upheaval.

  19. 44. The Plough And The Stars by Sean O'Casey

    Set against the backdrop of the 1916 Easter Rising in Dublin, the play explores the impact of political upheaval on ordinary lives. It centers on the residents of a tenement building, particularly a young married couple whose relationship is strained by the husband's commitment to the nationalist cause. As the rebellion unfolds, the characters' personal dramas intersect with historical events, leading to tragedy and a poignant examination of the human cost of political conflict. The work critiques romanticized notions of nationalism and heroism, revealing the harsh realities of war and the resilience of the human spirit amidst chaos and loss.

  20. 45. Puckoon by Spike Milligan

    This comedic novel is set in 1924, revolving around the fictional Irish village of Puckoon. The story unfolds in a chaotic and humorous manner when the Boundary Commission, tasked with dividing Ireland, carelessly draws the new border straight through the village, splitting it between Northern Ireland and the Republic. The absurdity of the situation is amplified by the eccentric characters, including the protagonist Dan Milligan, who find themselves grappling with the ludicrous consequences of this division. The narrative is filled with witty dialogue, slapstick humor, and satirical takes on politics and nationalism, showcasing the author's unique comedic style and critique of bureaucracy and the absurdities of geopolitical divisions.

  21. 46. The Last September by Elizabeth Bowen

    This novel is set in Ireland during the 1920s, against the backdrop of the Irish War of Independence. It centers around the lives of the Anglo-Irish aristocracy, focusing on the Naylor family who reside in a big country house in County Cork. The story captures the end of an era, as the political upheaval outside threatens the insulated, decaying world of the Anglo-Irish gentry. Through the eyes of Lois Farquar, a young woman staying with her relatives, the Naylors, the narrative explores themes of identity, love, and the painful transition from the security of adolescence to the uncertainties of adulthood, all while the established social order around them is crumbling.

  22. 47. The House Of Splendid Isolation by Edna O'Brien

    The book tells the story of an old woman living in isolation in a grand but dilapidated house in rural Ireland. Her quiet life is disrupted when a fugitive on the run from the law invades her home. As she's forced to coexist with him, she begins to reflect on her own past and the history of the Irish people, leading to a complex exploration of themes such as loneliness, regret, and the struggle for national identity.

  23. 48. How It Is by Samuel Beckett

    The book is a challenging and experimental novel that delves into the fragmented and often bleak inner monologue of its protagonist, who finds himself lying in the mud, in a dark and indeterminate space. The narrative is characterized by its repetitive and disjointed style, reflecting the protagonist's sense of dislocation and his struggle to make sense of his existence. Through sparse and poetic language, the novel explores themes of solitude, identity, and the human condition, as the protagonist interacts with other vague figures in this desolate landscape, questioning the nature of reality and his own consciousness.

  24. 49. The Ginger Man by J. P. Donleavy

    "The Ginger Man" is a novel that follows the exploits of Sebastian Dangerfield, a young American studying law in post-World War II Dublin. Dangerfield is a heavy-drinking, womanizing, and irresponsible character who constantly finds himself in trouble due to his reckless behavior. Despite his flaws, he is a charismatic and compelling character who navigates life with a unique blend of humor and cynicism. The book provides a vivid depiction of bohemian life in mid-20th century Dublin, with its struggles and joys.

  25. 50. 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.

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.