The Greatest Irish "Fiction" Books Since 1980

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This list represents a comprehensive and trusted collection of the greatest books in literature. Developed through a specialized algorithm, it brings together 212 'best of' book lists to form a definitive guide to the world's most acclaimed literary works. For those interested in how these books are chosen, additional details about the selection process can be found on the rankings page.

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  1. 1. 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.

  2. 2. 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.

  3. 3. 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.

  4. 4. 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.

  5. 5. 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.

  6. 6. 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.

  7. 7. 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.

  8. 8. 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.

  9. 9. 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.

  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. 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.

  12. 12. 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.

  13. 13. 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.

  14. 14. Grown Ups by Marian Keyes

    The novel delves into the complexities of family dynamics, personal growth, and the challenges of adulthood through the lens of the Casey family, whose seemingly perfect lives begin to unravel during a family gathering. When one member of the family suffers a concussion and starts revealing all of their secrets, the facades carefully constructed by each family member start to crumble. The story explores themes of love, betrayal, and the facades people maintain, as the characters confront their personal demons and strive to find a sense of authenticity and happiness in their lives. Through humor and empathy, the narrative examines what it truly means to be a grown-up in a modern world filled with expectations and pressures.

  15. 15. 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.

  16. 16. 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.

  17. 17. 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.

  18. 18. 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.

  19. 19. 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.

  20. 20. Checkout 19 by Claire-Louise Bennett

    "Checkout 19" is a collection of short stories by Claire-Louise Bennett that explore the intricacies of human relationships, particularly those between women. The stories are set in various locations, from a remote Irish village to a bustling city, and feature characters who are grappling with loneliness, desire, and the complexities of communication. Bennett's prose is lyrical and introspective, inviting readers to delve into the inner lives of her characters and contemplate the nature of human connection.

  21. 21. 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.

  22. 22. Selected Stories by William Trevor

    "Selected Stories" is a collection of short stories by acclaimed author William Trevor. The book features some of Trevor's most memorable and haunting tales, exploring themes of love, loss, and the complexities of human relationships. With his signature style of understated elegance and quiet, observant prose, Trevor creates characters that are both ordinary and extraordinary, capturing the subtle nuances of their lives and the emotions that drive them. From the Irish countryside to London's bustling streets, these stories offer a glimpse into the human experience and the ways in which we navigate the world around us.

  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. 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.

  25. 25. 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.

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