On Saint Patrick’s Day, we tend to focus on the fun. Colorful rainbows ending in pots of gold, mischievous leprechauns dressed in jaunty Kelly green, and supposedly rare lucky shamrocks pop up in our typical lives for one cheerful day in mid-March. Goodness knows I have no problem with this whatsoever, because goodness knows we could all use a little extra levity these days.

Something we at BookTrib always take seriously, though, is books; so if you need to take a quiet moment in the midst of your day of fun and frolic, try keeping the spirit going strong by choosing to open up one of these fantastic novels by great contemporary Irish authors.

Happy Saint Patrick’s Day!

Normal People by Sally Rooney

Sally Rooney, a resident of Castlebar, Ireland, has skyrocketed to fame with her grippingly poignant novels. She’s practically a household name, and I’d be shocked if you’ve never heard of this book. Two teenagers, Marianne and Connell, are markedly similar in some important internal ways but outwardly living contradictory lives and exhibiting contrasting personalities. Set in her native country, Normal People is a page-turner that depicts the way these two navigate a complicated and capricious relationship not only with each other but with themselves. Read our review here.

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | IndieBound | Bookshop

The Spinning Heart by Donal Ryan

The first novel by this powerful author from Limerick, The Spinning Heart is decidedly less flippant than the name of the author’s hometown. It details the lives of 21 different beleaguered villagers who have suffered crisis after crisis thanks to Ireland’s financial crumbling. Ryan slowly and viscerally peels back their every comfort and shield, leaving them economically, emotionally, and entirely vulnerable. The plot throughline is straight and narrow but without any frills, allowing the focus to be on the damaged individuals and thereby causing the reader to reflect on the social strictures that infected and affected their lives.

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | IndieBound | Bookshop

The Black Snow by Paul Lynch

Farm Owner Barnabas Kane witnesses not only his livelihood but his closest friend die in a horrific fire, and the only way for his family to survive is through the help of his town. This concession deeply wounds his pride, while the event itself simultaneously wounds his social standing. The consequent pressures weigh heavily upon his wife and son, who battle personal demons of their own, and with trauma infiltrating their world from all sides the family slowly deteriorates into destitution. Meanwhile, Lynch’s prose certainly hasn’t deteriorated; since this novel’s publication in 2014, the author’s star has continued to rise. His latest book, Beyond the Sea, has been called “mesmerizing” by The Wall Street Journal.

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | IndieBound | Bookshop

The Secret Place by Tana French

Tana French is, like Sally Rooney, a major player in the contemporary fiction game. The way her books look beyond immediate crimes and into the social stew that gives rise to them is second to none. In this novel, an unsolved murder may be just what Detective Stephen Moran needs to work his way to Dublin’s Murder Squad now that sixteen-year-old Holly Mackey has walked into his office with a photo of the victim captioned: “I KNOW WHO KILLED HIM.” He teams up with Detective Antoinette Conway to attempt to solve the complex case which starkly reveals the myopic intensity of adolescent friendship, the toxicity of an enclosed elite, and the particular hell of being a teenage girl in the modern age. Read our review here.

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | IndieBound | Bookshop

Himself by Jess Kidd

The central character of this nuanced and dark novel, Mahony, is an orphan with a chip on his shoulder who’s journeying back to his little hometown village of Mulderrig, Ireland. His return causes quite a stir; he captures the hearts of the women, antagonizes the men, and even causes odd supernatural occurrences to arise from the ashes. Himself “is a darkly comic tale of murder, intrigue, haunting and illegitimacy … wickedly funny” that you won’t be able to put down (Daily Express).

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | IndieBound | Bookshop

Room by Emma Donoghue

This important and impactful novel tells the story of a five-year-old boy named Jack and his “Ma,” who live hidden away in a single room that holds basic necessities. Ma is kind, and Jack is content, seeing as this is all he knows to be real; Ma shelters him by withholding the truth. She has been kidnapped by a perverted man named “Old Nick” who slips in only at night to rape her, and he is the reason for Jack’s existence. Ma, meanwhile, formulates a plan that just might allow Jack to escape. I won’t spoil the rest, but it’s an incredibly powerful experience. Read our review of her previous novel, The Wonder, here.

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | IndieBound | Bookshop

Lyrebird by Cecilia Ahern

Perhaps best known for her touching P.S. I Love You, adapted as a film starring Hilary Swank and Gerard Butler, or even Love, Rosie, also adapted for the big screen and starring Lily Collins and Sam Claflin, the author attests that “the thread that links my work is in capturing that transitional period in people’s lives.” While more obscure than those two aforementioned titles, Lyrebird was inspired by the real avian species it’s named after. When Solomon Fallon stumbles upon a singularly gifted but naive orphan girl in bucolic West Cork, he feels bound to her and bound to protect her from the outside world which may use her gifts for its own gain. This stunning book deftly captivates the reader with its sensitivity and profound themes.

Amazon | IndieBound

The Heart’s Invisible Furies by John Boyne

The author of the deeply affecting The Boy In The Striped Pajamas switches things up with his less somber but no less worthwhile The Heart’s Invisible Furies. Readers move through life with Cyril, a gay man in Ireland whose deeply-engrained Catholicism tends to peg him as a criminal. Cyril thinks he just wants to be normal like everyone else, but as the years go by he explores his individual identity in humorous and heartfelt ways that lead to true growth. Read our review here.

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | IndieBound | Bookshop

Brooklyn by Colm Tóibín

Another successful book-to-movie adaptation of an Irish novel, Brooklyn is a gorgeous and genuine look at the life of Eilis Lacey, a young woman who emigrates from her small Irish village to the big city of New York in the early 1950s.  There, she struggles to acclimate herself to the new world but manages to make a living and eventually even a potential marriage. She then receives news that pulls her back to her native country and becomes torn between vastly different lives on either side of the ocean. On a side note, if you are a fan of Wilde, Yeats or Joyce, check out his nonfiction book, Mad, Bad, Dangerous To Know, reviewed here.

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | IndieBound | Bookshop

The Chain by Adrian McKinty

Your child’s been kidnapped. The only way to get your kid back is to kidnap another. If you don’t, or the next parents in line fail in their task, your child will be murdered. Welcome to The Chain. This sounds like quite a thriller doesn’t it? We can assure you, it does not disappoint. There is no love as strong as a parent’s love for a child, and thereby there are no lengths to which that parent will not go to if their child is endangered; or are there some places where the bounds of morality are stretched too far even for this highest cause and high-stakes mission? Read our review here.

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | IndieBound | Bookshop