Best Books to Read Before You Travel to Ireland
This week's reading list is dedicated to a place that's a literary wonderland and a bookworm's dream. Grab your passports, we're off to Ireland!
Almost a year ago to the day, I boarded a flight to Dublin all by myself for a two-week adventure hiking, reading and castle-hopping all over the country. I arrived at the crack of dawn to the Trinity College campus (where I stayed for a few days). As I waited for the hostel office to open, I sat on the stone steps of a building older than the country I came from, read a book set in the country I had just arrived in and pinched myself. I was really traveling on my own, and I hadn't believed I could travel that way until I had.
My first solo trip was never truly solo though. My kindle was positively loaded with books that were written by the Irish or set in Ireland. The book list below is a compilation of best of the many, many, many books that I've read that transport me to the lush green country that was such a great friend to me.
McCarthy's Bar by Pete McCarthy. In Ireland, it's a sin to pass a pub with with your name on it without stopping for a pint. Pete McCarthy takes this saying literally and takes us on a journey through Ireland pint by pint. I actually visited the pub that is on the cover of this book. It's McCarthy's in Castletownbere, County Cork and serves a great seafood chowder for a post-hike warm-up.
Dubliners by James Joyce. I read this collection of short stories while on a plane headed to Dublin. It felt romantic and gritty and brave. I was obsessively underlining quotes and it filled my wanderlust heart with courage. Not surprisingly, these stories have weaved themselves into the fabric of modern day Dublin. You can even follow a route to many of the sites that Joyce writes about.
Brooklyn by Colm Toibin. Okay, okay. I know this book is named for a borough in New York and only a very small portion of the book is set in Ireland. However, it paints a vivid picture of Ireland from a cultural point of view. The mass emigration to America does have a lasting impact on the Ireland of today and this book depicts it in a beautiful way.
Oscar Wilde's Complete Works by Oscar Wilde. In a park in Dublin, you'll find a flamboyant statue of Oscar Wilde lounging on a rock. Surrounding it, the fine people of Dublin (or perhaps the fine tourists that visited it) have written Oscar Wilde quotes on pillars. I'm typically not one to reach for poetry (working on it!). Even still, I picked up a collection of Oscar Wilde's work while in Dublin and have returned to them again and again.