As many of you know, my Irish/Celtic heritage is something that I often talk about, and happens to be pretty important to the way that I think about myself and the world around me. As many of you ALSO know, I’m not always a huge fan of the way St. Patrick’s day is traditionally celebrated in the United States. You know–green beer, rowdy parades, drinking in the streets, etc. Don’t get me wrong–I love Saint Pat, and the way his story has spread. But I think this holiday should be a celebration of the way Ireland and the Irish have influenced our culture, our literature, our movies, and ultimately, the very country that we all love.
That’s why I’m coming to you today with my favorite books written about Ireland, by Irish authors, or inspired by Irish mythology!
How the Irish Saved Civilization, Thomas Cahill
Not only did Saint Patrick bring Christianity to Ireland, but he instilled a tradition of literacy and scholarship that would make Ireland a place of learning even while the rest of Europe was literally burning. A fascinating look at medieval Ireland.
The Hounds of the Morrigan, Pat O’Shea
Centered on the adventures of a young Pidge and Bridget, this novel is firmly rooted in Irish mythology. Demon hounds, evil serpents, wicked goddesses, and helpful foxes!
Brooklyn, by Colm Toibin
Eilis is a young woman struggling to find work in 1950’s Ireland. But when she emigrates to the United States, she is torn between a new life (and love) and her homeland. Now a major motion picture, in case you’re feeling lazy.
The Scorpio Races, Maggie Stiefvater
A gorgeous, imaginative, and slightly creepy tale set on a fictional Irish island, where the locals participate in a yearly horse race. The creepy part? The horses they race are carnivorous fantasy beasts they capture from the sea.
Dark Mirror, Juliet Marillier
The first of Marillier’s Bridei Chronicles, this novel follows a young nobleman fostered by a powerful druid. But when the Fair Folk abandon a strange young child with the druid, the child could be Bridei’s destiny…or his doom.
Wizard Children of Finn, Mary Tannen
When Fiona and Bran follow a whistling young man into the woods, they are sucked into an ancient Ireland where magic abounds. As they journey to the mystical festival of Samhain, they grow close to a young warrior named Finn McCool who may hold the answers to their mysterious heritage.
The Secret of Kells
Okay, this one’s kind of a cheat, because it’s not a book–it’s a beautiful, intricately imagined animated film. Follow Brendan, an apprentice in an Irish monastery, as he seeks to finish the historical Book of Kells, with the help of a Aisling, a strange forest spirit. Steeped in Irish mythology, this animated film isn’t just for kids!
However you choose to celebrate Saint Patrick’s Day, be safe and full of joy! Lá fhéile Pádraig sona dhaoibh! Happy St. Patrick’s day to you all!