Irish Book of the Decade

Alongside organising our festival we’ve been busy bees behind-the-scenes gathering in nominations from top publishers across Ireland for the Irish Book of the Decade. The top ten most nominated books are outlined below.

Have your say in picking your favourite book over on our Facebook poll. The winning book will be announced on Monday, November 14 2016.


1. Atlas of the Great Irish Famine (Cork University Press) Edited by John Crowley, William J. Smyth, Mike Murphy

The Atlas of the Great Irish Famine won the best published Irish book at the Irish Book Awards in 2012, the Joe Duffy’s Liveline’s Listener Award as well as the Geographical Society of Ireland book of the year award. One of the aims of the book was to act as a springboard to further Irish famine research and this has happened and is evidenced by the many books that are now published on the Irish Famine on an annual basis. The Atlas was sent to all Public Libraries in Ireland and UCC donated a copy to each second-level school in Munster. The Atlas of the Great Irish Famine went on to sell over 20 000 copies a remarkable achievement for a trade/academic book and it continues to sell strongly each year. The North American rights were sold to New York University Press, which is one of the world’s largest university presses.”


2. The Long Gaze Back: An Anthology of Irish Women Writers (New Island Books) Edited by Sinéad Gleeson

“New Island has a proud history of supporting women writers, from Cutting the Night in Two edited by Evelyn Conlon and Are You Somebody? by Nuala O’Faolain to this year’s stars Roisín O’Donnell’s Wild Quiet, Mia Gallagher’s Beautiful Pictures of the Lost Homeland and The Glass Shore edited by Sinéad Gleeson. I chose The Long Gaze Back from our list, because I feel that it’s a collection that not only fired our own imaginations, but sparked a national conversation about the erasure of Irish female voices from the literary canon and the dominance of ‘dead white men’ in the export package of ‘Irish culture’. The stories in the anthology often made me feel uncomfortable, perhaps because the portraits of Irish women they presented were not consistent with what we are acclimatised to think of as ‘normal’. But that in turn led me to reflect on my own prejudices and the straitjacket that Irish femininity is put in and how I colluded in this unthinkingly. That kind of self-reflection can only be a good thing, I think. Add to that the sheer literary accomplishment and range of voices included in the anthology and I think it earns its place among the top ten Irish books of the decade.”


3. Once upon a Place (Little Island) Edited by Eoin Colfer and illustrated by PJ Lynch

Once upon a Place is a collection of short stories and poetry compiled by former Laureate na nÓg Eoin Colfer, author of the bestselling Artemis Fowl series, focusing on the special link between story and place in Ireland. Lavish black-and-white charcoal illustrations by award-winning picturebook illustrator and current Laureate na nÓg P.J. Lynch make this unique anthology a very beautiful object that children and adults can treasure. Once upon A Place features six new poems by Irish poets alongside new stories from many of Ireland’s leading children’s writers including Roddy Doyle, Derek Landy and Siobhán Parkinson, as well as the first ever story for children by Academy Award nominee Jim Sheridan, director of My Left Foot, The Field and In America. It also features new work by Eoin Colfer himself, along with Pat Boran, Seamus Cashman, John Connolly, Marie-Louise Fitzpatrick, Mark Granier, Paula Leyden, Oisín McGann, Geraldine Mills, Jane Mitchell, Kate Newmann, Sarah Webb and Enda Wyley.”


4. Young Skins (Stinging Fly) by Colin Barrett

Young Skins a stunning collection of short stories from the new voice of Colin Barrett, a collection that reflects both the wave of new talent being released by Irish publishers and the lives of young people in post-boom Ireland. Barrett’s characters are viscerally real and of our soil, and are mostly young and lost and aimless. They are rarely likeable, but always full of character and inspiring of empathy and interest. A strong and important new voice in Irish fiction, representative of the stunning quality of Irish short fiction being published by Stinging Fly Press.”



5. Irelandopedia (Gill Books) by John & Fatti Burke

“Ireland is a country with such a rich, colourful history and it was fantastic to see a book which brought this to life so vividly, with children (of all ages) in mind.”







6. Strangest Genius: The Complete Stained Glass of Harry Clarke (History Press Ireland) by Lucy Costigan and Michael Cullen

“Over the last few years, Harry Clarke has loomed large in the public imagination. But in 2010 this was not the case, and nothing had been published on him in the mainstream book market since Nicola Gordon Bowe’s seminal work almost 20 years previously. Part of the reason for this was because stained glass doesn’t travel and stubbornly insists that those interested come to it. Strangest Genius changed all this, with the authors travelling the world to photograph the entire range of Harry Clarke’s stained glass for the first time, making it immediately accessible to every reader. Combining this remarkable achievement with production values that pushed the boundaries of what was technically possible at the time, this book was at the forefront of what became a popular revival of Harry Clarke, sparking a new wave of interest and returning one of Ireland’s most iconic artists to the public eye.”


7. Belfast Days: A 1972 Teenage Diary (Merrion Press) by Eimear O’Callaghan 

‘”A powerful and moving diary tracking a teenager’s experience of conflict. A book like this is rare.”









8. The Spinning Heart (Lilliput Press/ Doubleday Ireland) by Donal Ryan

“A virtuoso debut novel set in recession Ireland – one of the most startling pieces by a new author that I’ve ever read! It deservedly won Book of the Year at the Irish Book Awards in 2012.”







9. An Droch Shaol (Leabhair Gaeilge) by Johnathan Ó Néill

“Molaim an leabhar seo mar cheann de na leabhair is fearr a cuireadh i gcló le deich mbliain anuas. Leabhar Gaeilge atá feiliúnach d’fhoghlaimeoirí, páistí agus léitheoirí níos sine. Leagan Gaeilge den leabhar The Bad Times a scríobh Christine Kinealy agus John Walsh anuraidh. Johnathan Ó Néill a d’aistrigh go Gaeilge agus Coiscéim a d’fhoilsigh. Pictiúir-leabhar staire ag léiriú bochtannas agus brúdúlachas na linne. Tosaíonn an scéal i gCill Chaoi sa bhliain 1846 i n-am An Gorta Mór. Mharaigh an gorta chuile rud. Fuair an ceol, an fhilíocht agus an rince bás. “The Great Irish Famine was a devastating, traumatic and transformational event in Irish history. The Bad Times/An Droch Shaol  reminds us of the lives so profoundly affected and the impact on the class system, above all on children. It uses a medium that will bring us deep into the heart of the tragedy that has left an indelible imprint on Irish society and Irish people.” Mícheál D. Ó hUiginn


10. Terrible Queer Creatures: Homosexuality in Irish History (Wordwell Ltd.) by Brian Lacey

Terrible Queer Creaturesi: a history of homosexuality in Ireland by Brian Lacey is a complete account of the varied, and often untold, history of homosexuality in Ireland. Published in 2015 by Wordwell Ltd in the same year as the gay marriage referendum, this important book explores the changing face of Irish cultural identity and social development. Dr. Brian Lacey, noted historian and archaeologist, uses his historical skill to bring to the surface from a wide variety of sources an entertaining yet scholarly exposition of the history of homosexuality in Ireland. He has provided a considered and entertaining look at the subject of Irish homosexuality, which is both engaging and accessible for all readers. Terrible Queer Creatures remains a vital resource, and record, of a significant cultural and social change in Ireland.”