Sat, Dec

The Essential Library for Irish Americans

Non Fiction


Morgan Llywelyn, aside from being one of the great writers of novels about the romance and adventure of Irish history, is a lover of all things Irish, well read in Irish fact and fiction. Now she gives generously of her love and knowledge in a list of books recommended heartily and wittily. More than simply a list, The Essential Library for Irish Americans is an education in the Irishness of Ireland. Here at last is an instructive, opinionated, annotated list of books for anyone in America who is Irish or Irish at heart.

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Chosen for their accuracy and their pleasures, these books are described in clear, concise language that is in itself a pleasure. Ms. Llywelyn does not summarize the contents, but rather tells of the experiences that are in store for readers of each individual book.

Arranged in broad categories, such as biography and autobiography, history, poetry, and fiction, her beguiling commentary and the books she recommends promise hours of delight for anyone willing to open his heart to the Irish American experience.

American-born Irish historical novelist Llywelyn has compiled an annotated bibliography of works she feels anyone interested in Irish studies ought to read. Descriptions are provided for titles in categories and many works are recent publications, such as Thomas Cahill's How the Irish Saved Civilization, but standard Irish classics are well represented, e.g., Sean O'Casey's Autobiographies, J.M. Synge's Aran Islands, and Cecil Woodham-Smith's The Great Hunger.

Novelists include James Joyce, Walter Macken, James Plunkett, Jonathan Swift, Oscar Wilde, and Maeve Binchy; poets include Seamus Heaney, John Montague, and W.B. Yeats.

As with similar "must read" lists, one can argue for the inclusion of other works, but this compilation is one person's opinion. One notable omission, however, is any collection of short stories. Nonetheless, Llywelyn provides the basis for a solid grounding in Irish studies.



New York-born author Morgan Llywelyn is one of the world's leading popular chroniclers of Celtic culture and history. A prolific storyteller, she has written more than twenty books over the past two decades. Her fiction has received several awards and has sold more than 40 million copies, and she herself is recipient of the 1999 Exceptional Celtic Woman of the Year Award from Celtic Women International.

In the words of Judith A. Gifford of the reference publication Twentieth-Century Romance and Historical Writers, "Drawing on the history and lore that are part of her own heritage, the works of Morgan Llywelyn concern themselves with Celtic heroes and heroines, both real and mythical, bringing them and the times they inhabited to life with stunning clarity." Pauline Morgan, writing in the St. James Guide to Fantasy Writers, has explained, "[t]he majority of Morgan Llywelyn's books may be regarded as fictional biographies. Each book takes a person, often historical or legendary, and relates the story of their life. Most of the novels with a fantasy connection rely heavily on Celtic mythology, particularly that of the Irish.

Morgan Llywelyn now lives outside of Dublin, Ireland, and has become an Irish citizen.