Standout Contemporary Irish Authors You Should Give a Listen

Winning prestigious awards and topping best seller lists, today’s Ireland-born-and-bred authors are making a big impression on the literary world. Here is a list of 10 standout contemporary Irish authors you should check out now.

Ireland may be a small country, but it's brimming with talent. Just listen to some of these popular contemporary Irish authors and see if you're not impressed with what this North Atlantic island has to offer to the literary community. Here are 10 contemporary Irish authors you should listen to now.

The Witch Elm

Tana French is an award-winning mystery author from Dublin. Most of her novels are part of the Dublin Murder Squad series, but they are loosely connected and can be listened to in any order. If you'd prefer a standalone novel, try French's latest, The Witch Elm. Toby seems to have his life completely together, but after burglars beat him to within an inch of his life, everything changes. Looking for a chance to slow down and recover, Toby moves to a remote estate to take care of his dying uncle. When a skull is found in a witch elm tree on the property, Toby finds himself in the middle of a mystery very much unlike the quiet life he'd expected to find in the country. Paul Nugent's narration brings the novel's complicated main character to life.

Room

Emma Donoghue is a Dublin-born author best known for her best-selling novel Room, but her 2016 novel The Wonder, narrated by Kate Lock, is also worth a listen. When an English nurse comes to a small village to witness what she is told is a miracle, she soon finds herself trying to save a child's life.

Conversations with Friends

Sally Rooney is a preternaturally talented Irish author who was awarded the Sunday Times Young Writer of the Year Award in 2017. Both of her novels, Conversations with Friends and Normal People, are narrated dynamically by Aoife McMahon. The latter, which follows two characters from the same small Irish town who keep falling back into each other's lives, was long-listed for the 2018 Man Booker Prize.

A Ladder to the Sky

John Boyne has authored seven books for adults and three for children, and he is a New York Times best-selling author. His latest, A Ladder to the Sky, tells the story of Maurice Swift, a man who has little in the way of talent, but will nevertheless stop at nothing to achieve his ambitions. If you love a good ensemble narration, this novel has four amazingly talented narrators: Richard E. Grant, Richard Cordery, Nina Sosanya, and Laurence Kennedy.

Let the Great World Spin

Colum McCann is a critically acclaimed author of literary fiction. In total, he has written six novels and three short story collections, so he has plenty of works to choose from. If you want to give one a listen, try Let the Great World Spin, a fictionalized account of Philippe Petit's 1974 tightrope walk across the Twin Towers from the perspective of several different people living in Manhattan. This audiobook also features an amazing cast of narrators: Richard Poe, Gerard Doyle, Carol Monda, Johanna Parker, and Ramon De Ocampo.

The Sea

John Banville was born in Wexford, Ireland, and is the author of 13 novels, including the Man Booker Prize-winning The Sea. In his 2017 novel Mrs. Osmond, Banville boldly takes Henry James's classic The Portrait of a Lady and imagines what happens to the character Isabel Archer after the events of the novel.

A Girl Is a Half-Formed Thing

Eimear McBride might live in London now, but she was born in Ireland; her debut novel, A Girl Is a Half-Formed Thing, is not one to be missed. In it, McBride tells the heartbreaking story of a girl who is struggling through her adolescence while dealing with sexual abuse and a brother who is suffering from a brain tumor. Narrated by the author, the audio version of the book hits the perfect level of melancholy that's beautiful rather than pitiful.

Tara Road

Maeve Binchy is the prolific author of several best-selling books, including Tara Road, which was an Oprah's Book Club selection. For the best listening experience, however, check out Binchy's posthumous novel A Week in Winter, narrated by Rosalyn Landor. When Chicky Starr decides to renovate an old mansion overlooking the ocean and turn it into a bed and breakfast, everyone thinks she's batty. But when Chicky opens the doors to visitors, everyone who stays is touched by the place, in one way or another. Landor's narration captures the mood of the novel well, hitting the notes of humor and warmheartedness that are Binchy's signature moves.

The Testament of Mary

Colm Tóibín is an Irish novelist, short story writer, essayist, playwright, journalist, critic, and poet. His short novel The Testament of Mary was hailed by The New York Times as an ideal audiobook. (Meryl Streep's narration may be a factor!) For an excellent ensemble narration, listen to Tóibín's novel House of Names, which features the narrators Juliet Stevenson, Charlie Anson, and Pippa Nixon. The story is a retelling of the classic Greek mythological tale of Clytemnestra.

The Woman Who Stole My Life

Marian Keyes may have gone to school for accounting, but her talents truly lie in her ability to write fun mysteries and thrillers. Aoife McMahon appears on this list for a second time (see Sally Rooney); she narrates Keyes's The Woman Who Stole My Life. In this novel, a beautician named Stella is struck by a serious illness that leaves her hospitalized for months. When she recovers, she discovers that her life has completely changed.


Emily Martin earned her PhD at the University of Southern Mississippi. She works as a contributor for Book Riot and as a blogger/podcaster at Book Squad Goals.

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