Best Irish Authors

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An Irish Author for Everyone

I always feel a huge sense of pride when I pick up a book by an Irish author. Our island may be small, but there is an abundance of fantastic authors out there creating enthralling and compelling stories. Whether that be writers who have now since passed, or contemporary authors, this list will provide something for everyone. 

This list consists of the best Irish authors, or novelists – an article on Ireland’s greatest poets and playwrights will have to be saved for another article. 

Read more on Irish literature here.

Contemporary Irish literature – from 60s until today

James Joyce

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James Joyce

He may just be Ireland’s most famous author. Joyce studied at University College Dublin and went on to write famous novels such as Dubliners, The Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man and Ulysses. His interest was in Dublin as a city – Ulysses is about the going ons of one particular day in Dublin, and it is so famous that 16th of June is known as Bloomsday, in honour of the main character. 

Genre: Literary fiction

Elizabeth Bowen

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Elizabeth Bowen

Writer of The Last September and The Death of the Heart, Bowen was an Irish author who was passionate and cared deeply for the stories she told. She wrote about large houses in Ireland and how they were going out of fashion in the 20th Century, as well as many ghost stories. The Demon Lover, a short story, is one of her most notable ghost tales. 

Genre: Supernatural, Literary Fiction

Bram Stoker 

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Bram Stoker

This Irish author is the creator of one of the most famous literary figures – Dracula. Ireland has a rich history in myths and legends and though the book is set in Britain and Transylvannia, the idea was born on Irish soil. Vampires remain a huge cultural phenomenon even today, despite the fact that Stoker wrote the story over 100 years ago. Truly one of the best Irish authors there’s ever been.

Genre: Horror

Samuel Beckett

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Samuel Beckett

Best known for his plays such as “Waiting for Godot” and “Endgame,” Beckett was also the author of a few novels, such as Molloy, Malone Dies and The Unnamable. He was so prolific in his time that there is a bridge named after him in the Dublin City Centre. There is no doubt he is one of the best Irish authors in history. 

Genre: Literary Fiction 

Joseph O’Connor 

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Joseph O’Connor

Having published a plethora of work, it is no surprise O’Connor appears on this list of best Irish authors. He has been writing since 1991 and shows no signs of stopping. His latest novel Shadowplay was published only last year, for which he won the Easons’ Novel of the Year Prize in the Irish Book Awards. O’Connor also teaches Creative Writing at the University of Limerick.

Genre: Literary fiction

Colum McCann

best contemporary Irish author

Colum McCann

Specialising in literary fiction, Colum McCann is the author of seven novels. His most recent novel Apeirogon came out in 2020 to largely positive reviews. It focuses on the stories of two men in the Middle East, one from Palestine, the other from Israel. He has previously won the National Book Award for Fiction as well as the International Dublin Literary Award.

Genre: Literary fiction

Roddy Doyle

best contemporary Irish author

Roddy Doyle

Writer of the hilarious Rover Saves Christmas children’s series and adult books such as Smile, Charlie Savage and Love, it is no wonder that Roddy Doyle is considered one of the best contemporary Irish authors around. He is prolific, dabbling not only in novels but also screenplays and short fiction since 1987. In his adult fiction he primarily focuses on the stories of working-class characters and he has been hugely successful in this.

Genre: Literary fiction, comedy 

Anne Enright

Contemporary Irish Author

Anne Enright

She is the Professor of Fiction at University College Dublin. Her novels are heart-breaking and portray family life in a way no one else can. Her best and most well known novel is The Gathering, and it is as devastating as it is beautifully written. It won the Booker Prize in 2007 which hugely increased its sales. Enright has authored seven novels and three collections of short fiction, making her one of the leading contemporary Irish authors of the moment. 

Genre: Literary Fiction

Donal Ryan 

Contemporary Irish Author

Donal Ryan

Author Donal Ryan was put on the map when his novel The Spinning Heart was longlisted for the Booker prize in 2013. He won prestigious awards such as the Guardian First Book Award and the Irish Book of the Decade for the same novel, with his book From a Low and Quiet Sea making the Man Booker Prize longlist in 2018. One of the best Irish authors living today.

Genre: Literary Fiction

Sara Baume

best contemporary Irish author

Sara Baume

Author of Spill, Simmer, Falter, Wither and A Line Made by Walking, Sara Baume is one of the finest contemporary Irish authors. Her novels are thought-provoking and emotionally charged, and the writing style is nothing short of lyrical. She recently came out with her first work of nonfiction, called Handiwork.

Genre: Literary Fiction 

 

Deirdre Madden

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Deirdre Madden

Madden has a wealth of novels under her belt. Writing about everything from The Troubles to everyday life in Dublin, Madden has proved herself to take tremendous care with her characters and her narratives. One of her novels that is a must read is Molly Fox’s Birthday – it is a novel that won’t leave you for many years to come. 

Genre: Literary Fiction 

Liz Nugent 

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Liz Nugent

Nugent published her first novel Unravelling Oliver in 2013 and every novel since has been incredible. It is refreshing seeing a psychological thriller, which is her preferred genre, set in Dublin or somewhere else in Ireland. The most popular thrillers are typically set in America or the UK, and so Nugent puts our small country on the map for writing in this genre. 

Genre: Thriller

Graham Norton

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Graham Norton

Although based in London, Norton set his first two novels, Holding and A Keeper in rural Ireland. His novels are original and brittle, portraying the dark and dreary atmosphere of the Irish countryside, particularly in small towns. Norton proves himself to be a talented writer as well as a much-loved TV presenter. He has a new novel called Home Stretch coming out in October. 

Genre: Thriller

John Connolly

contemporary Irish author

John Connolly

Irish author John Connolly has written 20+ novels, his most famous being the Charlie Parker series. He specialises in crime fiction, having won many awards for his work in this genre. His latest novel The Dirty South is stated to be an origin story for Charlie Parker, despite the fact it is the 18th book in the series.

Genre: Thriller

Colm Toibin

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Colm Toibin

Many of you will have seen Brooklyn, starring Saoirse Ronan and Domhnall Gleason. It may not be as well known that Colm Toibin wrote this novel in 2009. He received a Man Booker Prize nomination for Brooklyn later that year. He has published nine novels including House of Names, Nora Webster and The South.

Genre: Literary fiction 

Louise O’Neill 

best contemporary irish author

Louise ONeill

Beginning with YA Fiction, O’Neill marks herself as a writer to watch with her newer novels Almost Love and After the Silence. Her novels are all based in Ireland and portray the Irish way of life brilliantly. They are compelling and accessible to anyone who picks up one of her stories.

Genre: YA, Dystopia, Drama

Sally Rooney

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Sally Rooney

Chances are you’ve heard of the show Normal People. This was based closely off a novel with the same name by Rooney, an Irish author in her late 20s. Normal People is about two young people going through school and college, split between Sligo and Dublin. The novel received a nomination for the Booker Prize in 2018. She wrote her first novel Conversations with Friends in 2017.

Genre: Drama, Literary Fiction

Emilie Pine 

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Emilie Pine

Professor at University College Dublin, Pine released a collection of creative essays called Notes to Self with Irish publishing house Tramp Press in 2018. It reached enormous success, detailing struggles such as addiction within the family home, menstruation, infertility and sexual assault. Her writing is sharp and never embellished. A must-read for anyone but in particular female identifying readers.

Genre: Creative Non-Fiction

Sinead Gleeson

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Sinead Gleeson

Constellations by Sinead Gleeson is a beautiful book about motherhood, living with health complications and being a woman. Like Notes to Self, it discusses the brutality of being female and the struggles that invade our daily life. Constellations won the Non-Fiction Book of the Year Prize at the 2019 An Post Irish Book Awards and Gleeson won the 2020 Dalkey Literary Award for Best Emerging Writer.

Genre: Creative Non-Fiction

Cecelia Ahern 

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Cecelia Ahern

The author of hugely successful P.S. I Love You, Ahern is a name that frequents the bestseller list in Ireland. Her stories contain the magic of romance at its finest, both heart-breaking and hilarious. These novels are perfect if you’re just getting back into reading – they are compelling but light-hearted. Where Rainbows End one of her best novels became a popular film starring Lily Collins and Sam Claflin under the name Love, Rosie in 2014.

Genre: Romance, Comedy

Marian Keyes

contemporary irish author

The writer of over 13 novels, Marian Keyes is known for her comedic tales of love and relationships. Anyone from Dublin will recognise the locations in which she sets her scenes. Though Keyes writes about serious issues that affect Irish women (abortion pre-Repeal the 8th in The Break-Up and drug addiction in Rachel’s Holiday) she does so in a way that is accessible to the modern reader. She is truly one of the best contemporary Irish writers around.

Genre: Romance, Comedy

Emer McLysaght and Sarah Breen 

best contemporary irish authors

Emer McLysaght and Sarah Breen

Authors of the hugely successful What a Complete Aisling series, Emer McLysaght and Sarah Breen have created bestseller after bestseller. Aisling is the Irish version of Bridget Jones; her bumblings navigating through life and love are equally as funny. These women really knew their audience when creating this world; Aisling’s antics provide much needed entertainment in a world where the news is often so doom and gloom.

Genre: Romance, Comedy

If you want some suggestions for where to shop for these novels, take a look at our article here

There are so many more wonderful Irish authors to be discussed, comment below if you want a part two!

 

About the author

Katy Thornton

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