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Requesting Irish-language book recommendations


I'm new to Irish, I started the course on a whim just to see what a beta module is like, but I'm really enjoying it.

My main goal in learning languages is generally to be able to read good literature in that language. Does anyone have a suggestion of a good book to read in Irish? Most of the good Irish writers I'm aware of wrote in English. Wikipedia (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Modern_literature_in_Irish) tells me Pádraic Breathnach, Micheál Ó Conghaile and Pádraig Ó Cíobháin are three of the most important contemporary Irish-language writers. Would you agree?

I would prefer to read something that people in Ireland might have read so I have something to talk with people about if I ever take a trip there. I like poetry and prose about equally, so any suggestions are welcome.

October 5, 2014



'Dúnmharú ar an Dart' by Ruadhrí Ó Báille s a book commonly used in secondary schools. I've never used it, but it's supposed to be simple enough, could be a good starting point for reading basic Irish.

'An Béal Bocht' by Myles na gCopaleen is worth a look too, it's a short, funny book making fun of the Blasket Islands genre of novels ('An béal bocht a chur ar' literally means 'to put on the poor mouth', it means to exaggerate your hardships in order to get sympathy from others). There's an English translation called 'The Poor Mouth', it might be an idea to read them side-by-side, you'll get more of the jokes that way


Just to say, you would miss virtually all of the satire in An Béal Bocht unless you have read a lot of literature in the Irish language. The jokes are mainly on the common tropes in the literature.


If you want something most Irish people have read, go with Cré na Cille by Mairtín Ó Cadhain. It is, perhaps, the premier book in Modern Irish. However, be prepared for it to be tough; these books are difficult. One thing you need to be wary of is non-natives writing. They're likely to introduce English structures, and you'll be missing authentic Irish. Otherwise, I'm going to copy An Lon Dubh Beag's post from ILF:

I'd say Cré na Cille is probably the greatest modern novel in Irish, written by Mairtín Ó Cadhain from An Spidéal. A close second is Mo bhealach féin by Seosamh Mac Grianna, there are so many quotable lines in that book, it is incredible. Liam Mac Cóil's books (An Litir for example) are probably around third place.

The best essayists are probably Séamus Ó Grianna and Pádraig Ua Maoileoin. There are collections of their essays available.

Séadna is a classic, not necessarily good itself, but later writers do draw on it.

Taidhgín by Tomás Ó Duinnshléibhe is an old classic that doesn't get mentioned much anymore, but the writing style is incredible, even though the characters and story are a bit run of the mill. He probably has the best style in the language, at least I think so.

Mise by Colm Ó Gaora from Ros Muc is the best autobiography, I think.

Of all the works of the Blasket writers I would say it is a toss up between An t-Oileánach or Allagar na hInise, I love all of them, but An Criothanach was far and away the best writer.

An Seansaighdiúir agus scéalta eile is one of my favourite collections of short stories.

Bóithrín na hAille Báine set in Conamara and An Béal Bocht set on an exagerrated version of Na Blascaodaí are probably the best books for humour. Tae le Tae by Maidhc Dainín Ó Sé is probably the best 'light' novel.

Máire Nic Artáin is my favourite love story.

Going back further: Foras Feasa Ar Éirinn is a historical text that is extremely well written and poetic in parts.

Aislinge Meic Con Glinne is the language's best satire, but very hard to read.

I'm also going to add in some other things: Short stories are a great way to get started, and it seems like authors really like them, so there's plenty to choose from. There's also even some that have been translated into English in another book (with both sets being available on Scribd; with subscription) so you can check to see how they translate it. Also, don't try to read Harry Potter. It's known for being notoriously difficult, and translated on such a level that even adult native speakers have issues with it (meaning, the author failed in making something accessible for kids).


Just to add, Cré na Cille is very, very difficult. Ó Cadhain mixes Scots Gaelic and the other dialects into the books on purpose as a literary experiment. In addition to this, he also uses some of the methods of Classical Irish (the literary standard of the poets in the period 1200-1700) to generate compound words and neologisms. These rules were used by the poetic classes to ensure nouns could be replaced by compound nouns (i.e. duck -> water bird) to preserve the metrical structure, while still still obeying the languages grammatical rules. Ó Cadhain had complete knowledge of Classical Irish, so this kind of thing is interspersed throughout the novel.


Thanks a bunch! I'll need to finish the duolingo tree before I feel comfortable reading anything substantial, but now I can get started looking through a few different texts to get a feel for the literary language. I also didn't know about ILF, so thanks for that!


I wanted to say that you'll probably need more than just Duolingo to read anything really substantial. There's a lot that's missing in Duolingo, such as relative particles (there's two types!) and reported speech, both of which are quite common in Irish.


Yes, Duolingo is just a start, for sure. I got the Pimsleur course from the library and have been looking through the Irish grammar Wikipedia page. Is there a particular textbook you would recommend for self study?


Personally, when you reach that level Gramadach na Gaeilge, along with perhaps Stenson's Intermediate Irish workbook, which has practice problems for you to work at. Gramadach na Gaeilge is available free online, and you can find Stenson's floating around in some the waters of the internet.

If you want a general catch-all textbook, it'll depend on the dialect you're wanting. Do you have a preference to which one?


Munster is the dialect used on the Pimsleur discs, and it's my understanding that Munster is the most used for literature (correct me if I'm wrong). Since reading is my primary goal, I think Munster is probably the best choice.


If y'want hard core Munster Irish, I'm gonna suggest the 1961 Teach Yourself then. The spelling has changed for some words since then (but it's not so radical as to use the old spelling!), and the book is freely available online. There's also been audio recorded for it. I'd search ILF, as I know they have it posted there.

It teaches ya a strong Cork Irish, so it's Munster to the core.


If you want a real challenge read the "Harry Potter" series as Gaeilge. I doubt anyone could do it :-D


The whole series hasn't been translated, just the first volume. It's a lovely translation, but much harder to read than the original English. For something a bit easier, the same translator translated the first Artemis Fowl book.


I'm reading a novel called "Hong" (by Anna Heussaff) on my Kindle, downloaded from Amazon. It's a teenage-level novel... a sort of sci-fi fantasy about computer game adventure. The level is fantastic for a DUO graduate as the vocabulary range is very similar to what we learn in the Duo course.

There's an Irish-Enlgish dictionary on Amazon for Kindle too, which works well and makes reading really easy as you just need to touch a word to get its definition.

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