Paul Lynch’s Booker Prize winner is Ireland’s bestselling book of 2023

Prophet Song pips Liz Nugent’s Strange Sally Diamond and Paul Murray’s The Bee Sting

Prophet Song, Paul Lynch’s Booker Prize winning novel about a family’s struggle to survive in a totalitarian Ireland, was the best-selling book in Ireland last year, according to data just released by Nielsen, which covers 70 per cent of all retail sales in Ireland and 90 per cent in the UK.

Lynch’s novel sold 45,501 copies, pipping Liz Nugent’s Strange Sally Diamond, winner of Crime Novel of the Year at the Irish Book Awards, which sold 42,510. The Bee Sting by Paul Murray, the family saga which won Irish Book of the Year as well as being shortlisted for the Booker Prize, sold 42,072 copies, just ahead of Colleen Hoover’s It Ends With Us (39,938) and Prince Harry’s memoir Spare (38,404).

The Irish fiction top 10 also featured Aisling Ever After (35,293), the last of the popular series by Sarah Breen and Emer McLysaght; My Father’s House (29,905) by Joseph O’Connor, the first of his trilogy about Vatican priest and war hero Hugh O’Flaherty; Small Things Like These (28,299) by Claire Keegan, shortlisted for the 2022 Booker Prize; No One Saw a Thing (27,236) by crime writer Andrea Mara; So Late in the Day (25,419) by Claire Keegan; The Body of Truth (23,912), the fiction debut by former State pathologist Marie Cassidy; and Old God’s Time (20,551), the Booker-longlisted novel by Sebastian Barry.

Bored of Lunch: The Healthy Slow Cooker Book (38,034) and Bored of Lunch: The Healthy Air Fryer Book (37,290) by Nathan Anthony were the best-selling Irish nonfiction titles, followed by The Hike Life: My 50 Favourite Hikes in Ireland (30,285) by Rozanna Purcell. Poor (27,620) by Katriona O’Sullivan was the best-selling Irish memoir, followed by Born to Be a Footballer (17,572) by Liam Brady and In the Blood (12,406) by Pat Spillane and Michael Moynihan. The Irish nonfiction top 10 also featured We Need to Talk by Dr Tony Holohan (11,947); Remembering by Sinéad O’Connor (11,701); Home Kitchen (9,531) by Donal Skehan; and Flavour (8,699) by Mark Moriarty. Just outside the top 10 was In My Own Words (8,354) by controversial businessman Seán Quinn.


Spare by Prince Harry was the best-selling book in Britain, shifting more than 700,000 copies, followed by The Last Devil to Die by Richard Osman, who was also fourth with The Bullet That Missed, both part of his The Thursday Murder Club series, selling almost 1 million copies in total. Lessons in Chemistry by Bonnie Garmus was third. Nathan Anthony had two books in the top 10. Bored of Lunch: The Healthy Air Fryer Book was fifth, while Bored of Lunch: The Healthy Slow Cooker Book was eighth, selling more than 750,000 copies between them.

Maggie O’Farrell was the best-selling Irish fiction author, selling 145,553 copies of The Marriage Portrait (and 39,157 copies of Hamnet), followed by Marian Keyes with Rachel, Again (122,274) and Claire Keegan with Small Things Like These (110,529), So Late in the Day (43,522) and Foster (41,876). Lynch’s Prophet Song sold 54,632 copies.

Perhaps the most remarkable success was that of Galway author Evie Gaughan, writing as Evie Woods, whose novel The Lost Bookshop, sold 86,619 copies in the UK and more than 500,000 worldwide.

“The last few months since publication have been so exciting and the reaction has been fantastic,” Gaughan says. “I think readers have really connected with the sense of nostalgia in this book as well as the theme – the healing power of books. I turned my imagination up to 11 while writing The Lost Bookshop and I’m so happy that readers have embraced it in the way that they have.

“I’ve never reached a readership like this and I’m thrilled to have readers contacting me daily, telling me what the book has meant to them. The Portuguese edition is out next week and around 20 languages to follow. I’ve been trying to take it all in bit by bit – number one on the Wall Street Journal, number one on Amazon US/UK and just last week hitting number nine on the Sunday Times best-seller list – it’s just been so gratifying and fun.”

Explaining the decision to use a pen name after publishing three books under her own name, Gaughan says: “I, or rather we [my editor and I], decided to use a pseudonym that was a little catchier than Gaughan. Of course I tell people I’ve married my writing. But I think it’s really worked creatively – Evie Woods really represents the kind of stories I want to tell, tales that begin when you step ‘into the woods’.”

Charlotte Ledger, Gaughan’s editor at HarperCollins, says: “Evie is one of the most talented authors I have had the pleasure to work with. She is a true story teller and I knew immediately The Lost Bookshop would capture readers’ imaginations. Coming out of the global pandemic, books and reading offered us a means of escape. So it’s no surprise a book about the magic of books would prove so popular. Everyone at HarperCollins is delighted to see such a special book feature on the best-seller chart and sell over half a million copies worldwide so far.”

Other big Irish sellers in Britain included Sam McBratney’s children’s classic Guess How Much I Love You (81,306); Trespasses by Louise Kennedy (80,450); Normal People by Sally Rooney (74,110); and Keira and Me by Prof Noel Fitzpatrick (57,071).

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Martin Doyle

Martin Doyle

Martin Doyle is Books Editor of The Irish Times