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5 Essential Books to Read Before You Go to Ireland

By Maggie Fuller

Feb 6, 2017

From the March/April 2017 issue

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Photo by Jooney Woodward

From a collection of Yeats poems to a once-banned novel, these books by Irish authors and poets 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 books about Ireland by Irish authors and poets make good travel companions. 

1. The Wanderings of Oisin and Other Poems by William Butler Yeats

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

2. The Country Girls by Edna O’Brien

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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.

3. The Countess Kathleen and Various Legends and Lyrics by William Butler Yeats

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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.

4. At Swim-Two-Birds by Flann O’Brien

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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.

5. Collected Poems by Patrick Kavanagh

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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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