Irish classics everyone should read

Classic novels written by Irish writers.

It's difficult to narrow the literary works of any nation down to a handful of favourites, and Ireland certainly makes this task particularly difficult. With an abundance of talented classic writers from James Joyce to W. B. Yeats, here are just a few classic books written by Irish writers.


by James Joyce

James Joyce is arguably Ireland’s most revered and influential writer and Dubliners is one of his best-loved works. A cornerstone of literary modernism, it’s a series of fifteen short stories which offer meaningful and unflinching glimpses into the atmosphere of early twentieth-century Dublin. In 'Eveline' a young woman struggles to leave her abusive husband. A disgruntled office worker frequents Dublin’s pubs in 'Counterparts' and in 'The Boarding House' a mother wants to marry her daughter off to one of the lodgers. And then there’s 'The Dead', probably the best known from the collection, a story centred around a family party with profound moments of love, grief and reflection.


by Bram Stoker

“It is strange that as yet I have not seen the count eat or drink. He must be a very peculiar man!”

If you haven’t read this hugely entertaining and terrifying book, a high-stakes adventure awaits. Follow brave Jonathan and Mina Harker across Transylvania and deep into Count Dracula’s castle. Through letters, journals and vampire-hunting expeditions, Bram Stoker’s story reveals the beating heart of humanity pitted against the very worst of devils. Count Dracula is one of the most iconic fictional characters ever created. The book has been reinterpreted countless times in film, TV and on stage and the book has influenced countless horror writers since it was first published in 1897.

The Picture of Dorian Gray

by Oscar Wilde

Whilst you might associate Oscar Wilde with sparkling wit and entertaining plays this novel offers something much darker. A painted portrait fading and ageing instead of its mortal subject. A soul gradually becoming more and more tarnished. These are the compelling elements which drive Wilde’s novel exploring a young man’s fall from grace. The path Dorian takes means innocence turns into corruption and art is contrasted with real life, and it all culminates in a grisly and dramatic ending. This book meditates on the ghastly price someone is prepared to pay for eternal beauty. 

Irish Ghost Stories

by David Stuart Davies

David Stuart Davies has selected Ireland’s very best ghostly tales for this classic anthology. Bram Stoker and Oscar Wilde are back to recount haunting (and sometimes funny) supernatural occurrences. The equally chilling nineteenth-century writers Rosa Mulholland and Charlotte Riddell are brought to light. And also included is Jeremiah Curtain, American author and Irish folklore expert, chipping in to tell the story of an ill-fated farmer. Perfect for fans of the macabre and unexplainable – but with a distinctly Irish touch – “[t]his volume” says Stuart Davies, “is like a treatise in the art of raising goose pimples.” Read if you dare. 

Collected Poems

by W B Yeats

Undoubtedly one of Ireland’s best-loved poets, William Butler Yeats’ poems were first published in the Dublin University Review and he went on to win the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1923. He took inspiration from Irish myths and landscapes, as well as from mysticism. This anthology presents his published poetry collections, charting the development of Yeats’ style and showcasing an unparalleled range of poetic subjects. You’ll find ballads, marching songs and elegies alongside oft-quoted works like ‘The Wild Swans at Coole’ and ‘The Second Coming.’

Castle Rackrent

by Maria Edgeworth

Book cover for Castle Rackrent

Castle Rackrent tells the tale of four generations of heirs to the Rackrent estate from the perspective of their steward, Thady Quirk. In her satirising of Anglo-Irish landlords and the way in which they perilously mismanaged the estates they presided over, and her use of an Irish Catholic narrator, Maria Edgeworth's writing, in the 1790s, was a rebellious act.

Gulliver's Travels

by Jonathan Swift

Gulliver’s Travels is the creation of Dublin born Jonathan Swift, writer, campaigner and Dean of Dublin cathedral. With Lemuel Gulliver, he created a protagonist like no other. Absolutely everything happens in this remarkable book. First Gulliver is shipwrecked, falling prisoner to the Lilliputians and only just escaping before moving on to ever more outlandish adventures, which include having to battle gigantic wasps fighting off pirates. Eventually he passes through the interestingly-named island ‘Glubbdubdrib’ and meets a magician. In the unlikely event these teasers weren’t enough, the last part of the story features talking horses. . .

A Golden Treasury of Irish Verse

by Lennox Robinson

Have you read Jonathan Swift’s or James Joyce’s poetry? Did you know Emily Brontë’s father was Irish? From Katharine Tynan to W.B. Yeats, there’s an Irish poem for everyone in this wide-ranging collection. Originally compiled by playwright Lennox Robinson in 1925, these poems span the centuries from Irish folklore to the early twentieth century and what a treat it is. You’ll find evocations of County Clare’s Atlantic coast, laments commemorating fallen soldiers, awed descriptions of Celtic life, and chilling retellings of faerie legends. True to its name, this beautifully bound anthology is a golden treasury full of poems which can be read and enjoyed time and time again.