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Our Favorite Reads by Irish Authors

Despite my first name, I do not have a lick of Irish in me. But I have always had a big, passionate, Irish kind of Brooklynlove for their literature, one of Ireland's most beloved exports, next to good whiskey, witty banter, and Bono. And so, in honor of St. Patrick's Day, here are some of our favorite yarns from authors who hail from the Emerald Isle.

Sara Nelson: While I don't know that his books qualify exactly as "yarns"--maybe because they're so on the soulful side--but I would read anything, anywhere written by Colm Tóibín, whose Brooklyn is one of my favorites (and became a wonderful movie). Also just the sense memory of his Nora Webster nearly makes me weep, and I read that well over a year ago. (Bonus for Boston-area readers: In celebration of St Patrick's Day, Tóibín is reading from Brooklyn at the Boston Public Library at noon today [St Patrick's Day]).

Jon Foro: In the months leading up to its 2014 publication, the buzz around We Are Not Ourselves by Matthew Thomas--an Irish-American family saga--built steadily, even drawing favorable comparisons to The Corrections and The Art of Fielding. And despite the pitfalls implied with that level expectation, the book--on the epic side in ambition, scope, and page-count--lived up to its acclaim, earning high marks on several best-of-the-year lists, including ours. Lucky for Thomas: it took him 10 years to write it.

Erin Kodicek: It may be cliché, but you can't have a list like this and not mention William Butler Yeats (and James Joyce, and Samuel Beckett, and Elizabeth Bowen, and, and...). "When You Are Old" is one of my all-time favorite poems (and it was long before I actually started getting old and yearned for someone to "love the sorrows of [my] changing face.") In the contemporary Irish lit category, I highly recommend John Boyne's terribly beautiful The Absolutist, a tale of love and betrayal set in the trenches of WWI.

Penny Mann: Confession time, I can't stand Shakespeare. I know, I know--but this is mostly because I am not a fan of reading plays. I could make the artistic argument that this is simply because I prefer to experience plays within the medium for which they were intended, but I won't. Nonetheless, despite my ban on the Bard, I have read a few plays in my day and continually (especially this time of year) find myself returning to Oscar Wilde's The Importance of Being Earnest. Said to be the Irishman's masterpiece and subtitled A Trivial Comedy for Serious People, this play is about the main character's attempt to escape his social responsibilities by living a double life, and has some of my favorite one-liners of all time--one-liners that are even more fun when recited over a couple pints of Guinness.

Adrian Liang: Seamus Heaney's translation of Beowulf does two things beautifully: delivers a dynamic and thrilling (and brutal) adventure, and makes me feel smart for reading Beowulf. Sure, it's poetry. But April is poetry month, so why not get started early on your poetry reading with these opening lines:

So. The Spear-Danes in days gone by

And the kings who ruled them had courage and greatness.

We have heard of those princes' heroic campaigns.


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