Reading Ireland Month TBR & Recommendations

Reading Ireland Month 2019 is being hosted by the lovely Cathy over at 746 Books, along with Raging Fluff.  It’s a month-long readathon where you’re encouraged to read Irish lit during the month of March, but I’d highly recommend you check out Cathy’s post for more information.  Cathy’s breaking her reading down into a schedule which you’ll see below, which I’m also roughly going to attempt to follow, but if you read even one Irish book in March you can participate.

March is going to be a busy reading month for me, because I’m also eagerly awaiting the Women’s Prize longlist announcement and knowing how obsessed I can get by literary prizes, I’m sure I’m going to want to dive straight into that.  But, given my love of Irish lit this is a readathon that I’m very excited to participate in.  So without further ado:


25th February – 3rd March: Contemporary Irish Novels


When All Is Said by Anne Griffin.  I have an ARC of this and it’s being published on March 5 in the US, so that’s perfect timing.

4th – 10th March: Classic Irish Novels

A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man by James Joyce, audiobook narrated by Colin Farrell.  People are often surprised to learn that despite my love of Irish lit I’ve never actually read any James Joyce, and I wasn’t even in a huge rush to change that.  …but then this happened and if you follow me on Twitter you will know that I am a pretty big Colin Farrell fan, to say the least, and having watched 40+ of his films I figured an 8 hour audiobook should be nothing.

Alternately: Troubles by JG Farrell.  This is the only book off my 2019 backlist TBR that fits this category and I’m trying to read one of those per month.  (Technically this Farrell is Anglo-Irish but I’m counting it.)  (Technically it’s a very modern classic but I’m counting it.)

11th – 17th March: Irish Short Story Collections

Young Skins by Colin Barrett OR The Long Gaze Back: An Anthology of Irish Women Writers by Sinead Gleeson.  I got both of these for Christmas and they’re both high up on my TBR, so I’m very very torn.  Which should I read in March?!

18th – 24th March: Irish Non-Fiction

Say Nothing: A True Story of Murder and Memory in Northern Ireland by Patrick Radden Keefe.  I may cheat and read this one before March, because I have an ARC and it comes out in late February.  Then again, I’m so far behind on my reading that I may miss the publication date altogether… we’ll see!  At any rate, this is my nonfiction pick.

25th – 31st March: Irish Miscellany (Poetry, Plays, Film Reviews)

It’s gotta be plays, for me.  I have three main options that I’m considering: Waiting for Godot by Samuel Beckett OR Faith Healer by Brian Friel OR The Mai by Marina Carr.  I’ve never read Beckett (I know, that’s embarrassing), but I’ve really enjoyed Friel and Carr in the past.  Which shall I choose?!


So, I read more than a fair share of contemporary Irish lit, so rather than going through these titles one by one and giving a summary, I’m going to just list a bunch that jump out at me.

Contemporary novels:

John Boyne: The Heart’s Invisible Furies, The Absolutist, A Ladder to the Sky, This House is HauntedLisa McInerney: The Glorious Heresies, The Blood MiraclesLouise O’Neill: Asking For It, Almost LoveSally Rooney: Conversations With Friends, Normal PeopleDonal Ryan: All We Shall Know, From a Low and Quiet SeaColm Toibin: House of Names, BrooklynOther: Milkman by Anna Burns, Himself by Jess Kidd, The Lesser Bohemians by Eimear McBride, Too Close to Breathe by Olivia Kiernan, The Wonder by Emma Donoghue, Tender by Belinda McKeon.


Angela’s Ashes by Frank McCourt.  Possibly the only Irish nonfiction I’ve read, but well worth the mention and it’s one of my all-time favorite memoirs.


Martin McDonagh (also Anglo-Irish): The Pillowman, The Lieutenant of Inishmore, The Lonesome West, The Beauty Queen of Leenane, The Cripple of Inishmaan, A Skull in ConnemaraOther: Translations by Brian Friel, The Importance of Being Earnest by Oscar Wilde, By the Bog of Cats by Marina Carr.

Are you planning on participating in Reading Ireland Month, and if so, which books are you planning on reading?  Let me know!


42 thoughts on “Reading Ireland Month TBR & Recommendations

  1. Translations and The Importance of Being Earnest are really good! I an tempted to join in but, like you mentioned, the Women’s Prize is the same month and I can get quite obsessed with it!

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    • I’ve already reconciled myself to a lack of sleep in March 😂😂 Too many books to read! Also in a perfect world I’ll already have read a chunk of the Women’s Prize longlist… but we shall see!!

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      • That’s what I’m hoping too! Might write down my hopes or predictions for the longlist nearer the time and see how many I get right (probably none 😜 )

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      • I’m planning on doing that as well! I already have a list of about 25 possibilities…. I may include all of them for a higher chance of being right, lol! I am so bad at predicting longlists.

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      • Lol that’s a good idea! I have about 15 so far on my longlist; hopefully I’ll get at least one or two! You can’t possibly be as bad as me, I’m hopeless at these sorts of things.

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      • Yeah I’m thinking nearer to the longlist announcement – hopefully just a couple of days beforehand so I don’t have long to wait! And thank yoy; can’t wait to see yours too. I wonder if we’ll pick the same books?

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      • I’m sure there’ll be some overlap! At least, I hope there will, but you’ll probably come up with 20 books I’ve never even heard of and I’ll get stressed about being even more ill-prepared for this prize than I thought 😂

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  2. Irish lit is great, I have a fair amount of Seamus Heaney on my shelves but I especially love ‘The Burial at Thebes’ which is a play. At uni we studied Synge’s ‘Playboy of the Western world’ and I adore it. However, my favourite novel is ‘A Swift Pure Cry’ by Siobhan Dowd which is YA/teenage (you could argue it’s not Irish but the author’s family is Irish and her books are set in Ireland).

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    • I have a copy of The Burial at Thebes that I haven’t read yet, but I’ve already read Antigone so many times in the past couple of years that I haven’t been reaching for it despite how much I’d like to read it! But yes, Heaney is brilliant. I’ve heard of The Playboy of the Western World but I’m adding it to my TBR now. I hadn’t heard of A Swift Pure Cry but that sounds great! The only Irish YA I’ve read (Asking For It by Louise O’Neill) quickly became my all-time favorite YA novel.

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      • I loved Heaney’s take on it but I also love his poetry. Playboy of the Western world is a nice look at how the Irish were being portrayed by Britain at the time, it’s a good read.
        A Swift Pure Cry is a very deep book but it has stayed with me for life. Most of Dowds books are like that, I also quite enjoyed Bog Child which delves into the idea of the bodies preserved in the peat bogs.

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      • Have you read Translations by Brian Friel? It’s about the Anglicization of Irish place names and it’s another brilliant look at the fraught history of English-Irish relations.

        Bog Child sounds great as well. By the Bog of Cats by Marina Carr is another one with a similar setting that I’d also highly recommend. I’ll definitely check out Dowd!

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  3. Ok, this readathon is clearly hosted especially for you! I’m too much of a mood reader for month long readathons, but I really want to read Normal People and maybe some Lisa McInerney if I get my hands on a copy, so I might as well do it in March! I really enjoyed Dubliners, but I’ve yet to read A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man. Now I’m glad I haven’t, cause a Colin Farrell narrated audiobook sounds wonderful. Watching 40+ of his movies is a very worthy accomplishment, you should be proud.

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    • Watching Colin Farrell’s entire filmography is absolutely my life’s biggest accomplishment thus far tbh. I SUFFERED through some of those trash films for my man. So compared to something like Miami Vice (2005) I cannot wait to listen to his audiobook, I’m sure it will be amazing. I’m really not a readathon person in general but I actually prefer the month-long ones to the shorter ones, it feels more relaxed. Unless you try to exclusively read books that fit the readathon but that is way too much pressure, especially with the Women’s Prize happening at the same time. But yes I am VERY EXCITED, and I hope you get around to the Rooney and McInerney in March!!


  4. [eyes emoji] should I do this…….
    Maybe I’ll do the Women’s Prize too, since you did the Man Booker I thought it would be fun to read an entire long(and/or short)list of a prize!

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    • Ahh yes Dermot Healy has been on the TBR, I really need to get around to him. Adding Long Time, No See on GR right now. I haven’t read any Anne Enright (shameful) but I own a copy of The Gathering so I should really get around to that… I had a mixed experience with The Lesser Bohemians but it’s one of those books that really grew on me once I put it down and I’m dying to read A Girl is a Half-formed Thing. So much Irish lit so little time…


  5. The Long Gaze Back has been in my radar for ages. You must read All We Shall Know, Donal Ryan, its gripping and so well written, it was one of my top reads in 2017. And John Boyne’s Heart’s invisible furies, a must read! So much great Irish literature out there, enjoy!

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    • Oh I LOVED All We Shall Know and The Heart’s Invisible Furies – both made my best of 2017 list too! And I also loved Ryan’s From a Low and Quiet Sea, but I haven’t yet read The Spinning Heart which has been sitting sadly on my shelf for years. I really want to read that one in March, but I also have the Anne Griffith ARC that I need to read for the contemporary… so much Irish lit to read, so little time.


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