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Irish Reading and Viewing

Original: 28-July 2013

Update: 17-August 2013

Over the years I have been asked about books to read before visiting a country, and I have been particularly asked this question about Ireland over the last 18 months.

From my conversations, it appears there are 2 or 3 categories of people who ask this question. Those who want to:

  • understand and pick the sights to see for their trip

  • get clues about the culture so they can explore more during their visit

  • “study up” on the local history before visiting the sights

I’m sure you can identify yourself as one or more of these or maybe another (let me know if I’ve missed one).

For this blog I’ll attempt to give you a list of books and some movies to help you prepare (or reminisce).

For the book list, I’ve consulted, the Rick Steve's website and my own reading experiences. I’ve read most (OK, some) of the books and noted when I have not. I’ve got five lists of books:

  1. Historical Fiction (my favorite)

  2. Other Fiction

  3. Non-Fiction - History

  4. Non-Fiction - Travel

  5. Irish Literary Books


Trinity - Leon Uris, Time Period - Late 19th Century to early 20th Century (pre-WWI). Very readable and a very good story teller, gives one man's sense of the undercurrents behind the history of Ireland during this period. Not available as an e-book but easily available in 2nd hand book stores.

Redemption - Leon Uris, Time Period: Events leading to the Easter Uprising (1916) through WWI. Also very readable, but strays a little from telling the history of Ireland and it feels a lot more like a romance novel.

Ireland: Foundation (The Princes of Ireland:The Dublin Saga, in N.A.) - Edward Rutherfurd, Time Period: 430-1530 AD. This is very good historical fiction in the Michener style, but takes stamina since it is 804 pages. Despite the weight, this is one of my favorites.

Ireland: Awakening (The Rebels of Ireland: The Dublin Saga, in N.A.) - Edward Rutherfurd, Time Period: Cromwell through the Famine. Again, this is very good historical fiction in the Michener style. This one is even larger, 896 pages. This is also one of my favorites.

Ireland - Frank Delaney, Time Period: Unknown. Have not read this but it is "next"(#1) on my list.

The Wild Irish: Elizabeth I and the Pirate O’Malley - Robin Maxwell, Time Period: about the 16th century. I have not read this, but it is close to being "next" on my list (#2). Pirate O'Malley is Gráinne O'Malley, a woman pirate and Irish Chieftain in the 16th Century. She lived in Westport (the house near the town) that is a little over an hour drive from Galway.

The Irish Princess - Karen Harper, Time Period: 16th Century (think Henry VIII)

I haven’t read this one either. It looks like an interesting female view of the time period.


To Ride a Púca - Heather McCorkle. I haven’t read this, not sure about it, but it is highly rated on Heather McCorkle is generally described as “an author of young adult fantasy”. This is about a Druid girl in Ireland … not sure of the time period or anything after that. Doesn’t appear to be my style. Let me know if you read it and I’ll add your comments. Heather McCorkle has several other YA fantasy novels that appear to be based in Ireland.


How the Irish Saved Civilization – Thomas Cahill, Time Period: Fall of the Roman Empire. A tough but interesting read. Tells the role of Ireland in the evolution of Europe from the Roman age to the medieval era.

A Short History of Ireland - Richard Killeen. This is the book for the "casual historians" … those who become interested in history during their holiday or vacation. This is a 2 or 3 hour read … about the length of a transatlantic flight. The book is small enough to easily fit in a purse or backpack and have easily accessible while seeing the sights in Ireland.

Concise History of Ireland – Maire and Conor Cruise O’Brien. I have not read this. It is written by a well liked Irish politician. The main complaint on-line is that it has not been updated with any history since the 70’s. This one is out of print. I'm looking for a used copy as it has received very good reviews.

Ireland: A Short History – Joseph Coohill. This is for the "real historians", but it is not too voluminous. It is about 200 pages and at the end of each chapter/historical period gives an overview of the "schools of thought". I haven't finished reading it, but I'm looking forward to seeing how it deals with the time after the Easter Up Rising (early 1900's).