What books define Ireland for you?

A new book lists 31 definitive texts. Are the authors right? And what should be the 32nd?


If you were asked to name the book or books that defined Ireland for you, which would you choose? That’s the challenge UCD academics and bestselling authors Bryan Fanning and Tom Garvin set themselves and the fascinating result is The Books That Define Ireland (Irish Academic Press, €19.95).

The format is a debate between the two on the key books that have effected social change in Ireland from the 17th century to the present. The work discusses more than 50 crucial books that have been instrumental in the development of Irish social and political thought, including works by Jonathan Swift, Wolfe Tone, John Mitchel, James Connolly, Frank O’Connor, Edna O’Brien, John McGahern, Noel Browne, Nell McCafferty, Fintan O’Toole of this parish, Mary Raftery and many others.

Here is the list of 31 books which the authors have selected. We’d like to hear your opinion of their selection and also invite you to nominate the works not listed which define Ireland for you.

1. Geoffrey Keating, Foras Feasa ar Eirinn/The History of Ireland (1634)

2. William Molyneux, The case of Ireland being bound by Acts of Parliament in England (1698)

3. Jonathan Swift, A Modest Proposal (1729)

4. Andrew Dunleavy, The Catechism on Christian Doctrine (1742)

5. William Theobald Wolfe Tone (ed.), The Autobiography of Wolfe Tone (1826)

6. John Mitchel, The Jail Journal (1861)

7. Horace Plunkett, Ireland in the New Century (1904)

8. Michael O’Riordan, Catholicity and Progress in Ireland (1905)

9. James Connolly, Labour in Irish History (1910)

10. Patrick A Sheehan, The Graves at Kilmorna (1913)

11. Desmond Ryan, Collected Works of Padraic A Pearse (1917)

12. Daniel Corkery, The Hidden Ireland (1924)

13. PS O’Hegarty, The Victory of Sinn Fein: How it Won It and How It Used It (1924)

14. Tomás O Criomhthain, An tOileánach/The Islandman (1929)

15. Frank O’Connor, Guests of the Nation (1931)

16. Sean O’Faolain, King of the Beggars (1938)

17. Flann O’Brien, At Swim-Two-Birds (1939)

18. James Kavanagh, Manual of Social Ethics (1954)

19. Paul Blanshard, The Irish and Catholic Power (1954)

20. Michael Sheehy, Divided We Stand (1955)

21. Edna O’Brien, The Country Girls (1960)

22. John McGahern, The Dark (1965)

23. Cecil Woodham-Smith, The Great Hunger (1962)

24. Conor Cruise O’Brien, States of Ireland (1972)

25. ATQ Stewart, The Narrow Ground (1977)

26. CS Andrews, Dublin Made Me (1979)

27. Nell McCafferty, A Woman to Blame: The Kerry Babies Case (1985)

28. Noel Browne, Against the Tide (1985)

29. Fintan O’Toole, Meanwhile Back at the Ranch: The Politics of Irish Beef (1995)

30. Mary Raftery and Eoin O’Sullivan, Suffer the Little Children: The Inside Story of Ireland’s Industrial Schools (1999)

31. Elaine A Byrne, Political Corruption in Ireland: A Crooked Harp? (2012)

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