St. Patrick’s day is coming up, and we have a feeling a lot of people will stay in this year rather than brave the crowds for a parade or pint. There is more than one way to celebrate your Irish pride. Perhaps a night in with some really good ale and an equally good book?
Though Joyce and Yeats are classic go-to's, we thought we would make our list a wee bit more recent. We rounded up an eclectic list of five Irish titles, fiction and nonfiction, from the past 40 years that have made an impact on our bestseller list, our reviewers or both.
1. "Angela’s Ashes," by Frank McCourt
What it's about: This hugely popular memoir from the American-born, Irish-raised teacher chronicles the years he spent growing up in Limerick, Ireland, during the 1930s and '40s. It won the 1997 Pulitzer Prize for biography or autobiography. McCourt followed up with memoirs "'Tis" and "Teacher Man."
The buzz: The memoir rose as high as No. 2 on the USA TODAY’s Best-Selling Books List, where it spent 177 weeks. The book was made into a film starring Emily Watson. According to a starred review from Kirkus Reviews, the memoir is “a powerful, exquisitely written debut. ... An extraordinary work in every way.”
2. "Normal People,” by Sally Rooney
What it's about: Released last year, this novel by Irish author Rooney is a coming-of-age story set in Ireland about popular and poor jock Connell and loner rich girl Marianne, opposites drawn to each other in high school and in college.
The buzz: The book hit the USA TODAY Best-Sellers list and stayed there for 12 weeks. According to a ★★★½ (out of four) USA TODAY review, "(Rooney) has accomplished a literary magic trick, writing a novel of universal profundity that explores the way power dynamics in sex shape not just those relationships, but our sense of self."
3. “Maeve's Times: In Her Own Words,” by Maeve Binchy
What it's about: The late Irish author is best known for her classic novels "Circle of Friends" and "Tara Road." What many Americans don't know is that for more than 40 years, she was a journalist and columnist for the Irish Times. Her editors culled through her writing to compile an unforgettable collection.
The buzz: According to a 2014 review in USA TODAY, “Like the author, the collection is a mixture of both the sanguine and the serious." For fans, "this collection is yet one more chance to visit with an old friend. For newcomers, the columns represent a kind of social history of Ireland and of the late 20th century. Maeve and her times make for entertaining reading.”
4. "An Irish Country Doctor," by Patrick Taylor
What it's about: A young doctor, Barry Laverty, arrives in the village of Ballybucklebo in Northern Ireland to assist an older doctor, Fingal Flahertie O'Reilley. The first novel in the Irish Country series follows Laverty as he adapts to life in the village filled with eccentric characters.
The buzz: After debuting on the USA TODAY Best-Selling Books list in 2008, the author has gone on to write 14 books in the series; the most recent, "An Irish Country Family," published in 2019. According to Publisher's Weekly, "Taylor's novel makes for escapist, delightful fun."
5. "How the Irish Saved Civilization: The Untold Story of Ireland's Heroic Role from the Fall of Rome to the Rise of Medieval Europe," by Thomas Cahill
What it's about: This history book garnered good reviews and critiques alike and inspired many imitators. Cahill argues that thanks to St. Patrick, conditions in Ireland were created that allowed the country to become an "isle of saints and scholars" that would go on to preserve Western culture.
The buzz: The book also made an impact on the USA TODAY Best-Selling Books list, spending a total of 71 weeks there. According to Kirkus Reviews, the book is “a delightfully written account, full of bold insights into the Irish character and its continuity through the ages.”
This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Staying in? 5 books to read this St. Patrick's Day