The Greatest Irish "Fiction" 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 313 '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. 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 1202nd Greatest Book of All Time
  2. 2. William Trevor: The Collected Stories by William Trevor

    This collection brings together numerous short stories from a renowned author, demonstrating his masterful storytelling ability. The stories span a variety of themes and settings, often focusing on the complexities of human relationships and the subtle nuances of everyday life. The author's keen eye for detail and ability to capture the human condition in his works have earned him a place among the greatest short story writers.

    The 1467th Greatest Book of All Time
  3. 3. 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 1546th Greatest Book of All Time
  4. 4. 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.

    The 1627th Greatest Book of All Time
  5. 5. Artemis Fowl by Eoin Colfer

    A 12-year-old genius and criminal mastermind, Artemis Fowl, kidnaps a fairy, Captain Holly Short, for a large ransom of gold with the help of his bodyguard, Butler, to restore his family's fortune. In the process, he discovers an underground world of armed and dangerous fairies. The fairies fight back with magic, cunning, and technological weapons leading to a high-stakes battle of wits.

    The 2196th Greatest Book of All Time
  6. 6. 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 2549th Greatest Book of All Time
  7. 7. 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 2656th Greatest Book of All Time
  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.

    The 2834th Greatest Book of All Time
  9. 9. 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 2948th Greatest Book of All Time
  10. 10. 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.

    The 3401st Greatest Book of All Time
  11. 11. 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 3665th Greatest Book of All Time
  12. 12. Days Without End by Sebastian Barry

    "Days Without End" is a historical fiction novel that follows the life of an Irish immigrant who enlists in the U.S. Army in the 1850s. The protagonist's experiences include fighting in the Indian Wars and the Civil War, as well as falling in love with a fellow soldier. The novel explores themes of identity, love, and survival in a brutal and unforgiving era of American history.

    The 4458th Greatest Book of All Time
  13. 13. 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 4805th Greatest Book of All Time
  14. 14. 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.

    The 5023rd Greatest Book of All Time
  15. 15. The Book Of Evidence by John Banville

    The novel is a dark and introspective tale of guilt and psychological turmoil, narrated by a convicted murderer reflecting on the events leading up to his crime. The protagonist, a dispassionate and unreliable narrator, recounts his life of privilege, his descent into a disaffected existence, and the impulsive theft and subsequent murder that land him in prison. As he attempts to construct a logical narrative of his actions, the reader is drawn into a world where the boundaries between truth and fabrication are blurred, revealing the complex layers of the human psyche and the elusive nature of reality.

    The 5151st Greatest Book of All Time
  16. 16. 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.

    The 5468th Greatest Book of All Time
  17. 17. Death And Nightingales by Eugene McCabe

    "Death and Nightingales" is a gripping and atmospheric novel set in 19th-century Ireland. The story follows Beth, a young woman trapped in a loveless marriage, who plans to escape with her lover, Liam. As the narrative unfolds over the course of a single day, tensions rise, secrets are revealed, and the characters' lives become entangled in a web of desire, betrayal, and violence. With its richly drawn characters and evocative prose, the book explores themes of love, power, and the consequences of one's choices in a society marked by oppression and turmoil.

    The 5572nd Greatest Book of All Time
  18. 18. City of Bohane by Kevin Barry

    Set in the year 2053, the book is a dystopian tale about the city of Bohane, a place filled with vice, violence, and tribal warfare. The city is controlled by a gangster named Logan Hartnett, who is challenged by his estranged wife Macu and her lover, a rival gang leader. The narrative is filled with colorful characters, rich language, and a unique blend of futuristic and archaic elements, creating a vivid, darkly comic vision of a future Ireland.

    The 5599th Greatest Book of All Time
  19. 19. 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 5793rd Greatest Book of All Time
  20. 20. 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.

    The 5794th Greatest Book of All Time
  21. 21. 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.

    The 5921st Greatest Book of All Time
  22. 22. 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 6129th Greatest Book of All Time
  23. 23. 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.

    The 6138th Greatest Book of All Time
  24. 24. Collected Stories by Frank O'Connor

    "Collected Stories" is an anthology that brings together a wide range of short stories exploring the intricacies of life in Ireland. The tales delve into the human condition, often focusing on themes of childhood, family dynamics, personal freedom, and the social fabric of Irish communities. The author's keen observations and deft storytelling bring to life a cast of characters that are both unique and universal, capturing the humor, tragedy, and paradoxes inherent in everyday experiences. Through these narratives, the collection paints a rich and varied portrait of Irish society, its people, and the transformative power of storytelling itself.

    The 6644th Greatest Book of All Time
  25. 25. Faithful Place by Tana French

    "Faithful Place" is a gripping psychological thriller that follows the story of Frank Mackey, a detective in the Dublin Undercover squad. When a suitcase belonging to his long-lost girlfriend from twenty years ago is discovered in an abandoned house, Frank is forced to confront his painful past and the secrets that tore him apart from his family and the love of his life. As he delves deeper into the mystery, Frank becomes entangled in a web of lies, betrayal, and murder, ultimately leading him to question his own identity and the choices he has made.

    The 6664th Greatest Book of All Time

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