I am always pleasantly surprised when our visitors spend time before their trip on the “homework” that I recommend, and I’m further surprised how many spend time reading my recommendations after returning home.
During our travels, I'm always encountering additional materials. Since my original homework blog I’ve been able to read several books related to Ireland and have four that I would recommend. These are good reads, even if you haven’t been to Ireland or don’t plan to visit Ireland.
Transatlantic - Colum McCann
This book was given to me by a good friend and is written in a unique style … at least for me. It reads like a series of independent short stories that the author weaves together into an insightful look at the Irish culture and the cultural intermingling of the US and Ireland. I would classify this as a cross between a straight novel, and historical fiction. It's a very short and engaging read. So short, you could read it on the flight to Ireland.
The Islandman - Tomas O’Crohan
Twenty Years A-Growing - Maurice O’Sullivan
The Islandman and Twenty Years A-Growing are written by two of a group of authors called the Blasket Island Authors. The Blasket islands are a small group of islands just off the Dingle Peninsula. These remote islands were considered to be the last bastion of "true" Irish culture until they were depopulated in the 1950's. Both books are autobiographies and were originally written in Irish. The Irish sentence structure comes through even in the English version, but they are still relatively easy to read. According to my Irish educated friends, the most read of the Blasket Island authors is Peig Sayers, and her autobiography entitled Peig. These same friends warned me away from this book; probably because they had to read the Irish version in school and it's a long read. This is probably a good read if you have the stamina.
Both of these books give an excellent insight into the rural Irish culture that is fast being dragged into the modern world. Both books are a relatively quick read. Think Robinson Crusoe or Swiss Family Robinson, but with an Irish twist. Reading the text is not taxing, so you might get one read on a non-stop from the US West Coast to Ireland.
Ireland: An Illustrated History - Henry Weisser
This book was also given to me by a good friend, and it's a very readable non-fiction history book. (Yes, I know this is usually an oxymoron. 😉) Of all the Irish non-fiction history books I've read, this one has become my favorite. As the title suggests, it’s illustrated with mostly black and white pen drawings. It may be hard to find this book on the web as there are many books with a similar names. Use this link to make it easy.
I generally agree with the author's treatment of the historical periods (although IMHO he was a little easy on the English for their part in the Great Hunger or Potato Famine). Even his non-historical comments align almost perfectly with my observations. This would be a great prep for your visit to Ireland, or a book that would tie it all together when you return home.
Let me know what you think of these recommendations or the others in the homework. I'm always looking for new material, so let me know if you have a recommendation.
See You In The Pub!
Jet Lag Jack