IB4UD writers pick their favourite Irish books for World Book Night

Want some reading inspiration for World Book Night? Check out the Ireland Before You Die writers’ favourite Irish books.

IB4UD writers pick their favourite Irish books for World Book Night.

World Book Night (23 April) is organised by the Reading Agency Charity. Its goal is to inspire people across the world to read for at least an hour, with further prompts to make reading a habit for those who struggle to find the time.

We decided to get involved, asking some of our writers to recommend their favourite Irish books and tell us why they love them.

Lewis Sloan – Foster, by Claire Keegan

A photo of Claire Keegan, an acclaimed Irish author whose works have left a mark on the literary landscape of recent years, perfect for exploring Irish Books of Recent Years.
Credits: Flickr/ Ian Oliver; Wikipedia Commons

Claire Keegan’s first collection of short stories – Antarctica – was published in 1999. Since then, the County Wicklow native has established herself as one of the country’s best short-form writers.

Novella-length short story ‘Foster’ first appeared in The New Yorker in 2010 before Faber and Faber made it more widely available later that year. It was the inspiration for the 2022 Academy Award-winning film, An Cailín Ciúin (The Quiet Girl).

“I will read anything Claire Keegan writes, but this book is my favourite,” says our writer, Lewis Sloan.

“It follows the story of a young girl who is sent to spend the summer with an older couple in order to give her struggling family some respite. It’s a beautifully understated read, comforting but moving.

“To me, Keegan is a master of the short story form, managing to build a recognisable world with memorable characters in the span of 88 pages. I read this in one sitting, and it has stayed with me ever since!”.

Conor Wickham – Dracula, by Bram Stoker

Credits: Unsplash/ Tim Alex; Wikipedia Commons/ Public domain

Dublin-born Bram Stoker was a prolific Irish writer, but his most famous book is undoubtedly the 1897 gothic horror Dracula.

On the surface, Dracula may seem to many a simple ghost story, given its proliferation in Western popular culture. However, Stoker’s novel has much deeper meanings, both political and personal.

Conor Wickham writes, “Dracula by Bram Stoker easily stands as my favourite book by an Irish novelist for various reasons.

“Chief among these reasons is that he manages to tell a tale of gothic horror that is dripping with atmosphere and one which will remain fresh in your memory for a long time after you lay down the book.

“Stoker creates the character of Count Dracula, which can seem both scary and captivating in equal measure. The novel explores many interesting themes, such as sexuality, superstition, and colonialism, to name but a few.   

“Over a century later, the novel remains as popular as ever. Its enduring legacy is a testament to Stoker’s ability to tell a great story, something the Irish have always been famous for”.

Matthew Sloan – Dance Move, by Wendy Erskine

With her 2018 debut short story collection, Sweet Home, Belfast writer and schoolteacher Wendy Erskine demonstrated an unparalleled ability to identify the bittersweet beauty and horror in quotidian minutiae.

She honed this skill even further in the stories in 2022’s Dance Move – Matthew Sloan’s favourite Irish book.

“Wendy Erskine is my favourite short story writer from Ireland, or anywhere else, for that matter,” Matthew writes. “It was difficult to pick between Sweet Home and Dance Move, but in the end, I opted for her most recent collection.

“A particular highlight is the story ‘Gloria and Max’, which details two strangers’ trip to a Christian film festival. With the distinct Belfast voice of Erskine’s writing, the would-be boring affair is interrupted by an event that forever connects the two protagonists”.

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