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5 Essential Books to Read Before You Go to Ireland

By Maggie Fuller

02.06.17

From the March/April 2017 issue

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From a collection of Yeats poems to a once-banned novel, these books are must-reads if you’re planning an Ireland adventure.

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In a country where pubs are named after playwrights and festivals celebrate poets, the literary tradition is gloriously unavoidable. These reads make good travel companions. 

The Wanderings of Oisin and Other Poems 

by William Butler Yeats

The first collection of Yeats’s poetry exemplifies his interest in mythology and romanticism. The title epic helped establish his reputation. 

The Country Girls 

by Edna O’Brien

Banned upon publication, the controversial coming-of-age novel follows two childhood friends from bleak, rural Ireland as they navigate the repressive society of 1950s Dublin.

The Countess Kathleen and Various Legends and Lyrics

by William Butler Yeats

Yeats’s love for Sligo influenced his second poetry collection. “The Lake Isle of Innisfree” is a classic example of the Celtic Revival style, which strove to be uniquely Irish in both structure and subject.

At Swim-Two-Birds

by Flann O’Brien

Narrated by a fictional student, the trippy, bawdy novel weaves a web of invented writers, their characters, and legendary figures and explores Ireland’s deep ties to its literary legacy.

Collected Poems

by Patrick Kavanagh

In down-to-earth, striking landscape poetry, Kavanagh maneuvers through the often harsh daily realities of life in rural Ireland in the mid 20th century. 

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