Dad’s Down at the Pub: 5 Irish Memoir Must-Reads

March 20 2014
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St. Patrick’s Day may be over but it’s still Irish-American Heritage Month—so toss out that solo cup of green beer and pick up one of these (ultimately uplifting!) memoirs about harrowing, poverty-stricken Irish childhoods. From Frank McCourt to Muala O’Faolain, from Limerick to Northern Dublin, Ireland has produced some of the most beloved contemporary writers. Here are their extraordinary stories.

Singing My Him Song
by Malachy McCourt

Malachy McCourt, bestselling author of A Monk Swimming, shares the extraordinary story of how he went from living the headlong and heedless life of a world-class drunk to becoming a sober, loving father and grandfather, still happily married after thirty-five years. Bawdy and funny, naked and moving, told in the same inimitable voice that left readers all over the world wondering what happened next in A Monk Swimming, Singing My Him Song is "told with the frankness and honesty for which McCourt has become renowned" (New York Daily News).

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Singing My Him Song
Malachy McCourt

Malachy McCourt, bestselling author of A Monk Swimming, shares the extraordinary story of how he went from living the headlong and heedless life of a world-class drunk to becoming a sober, loving father and grandfather, still happily married after thirty-five years. Bawdy and funny, naked and moving, told in the same inimitable voice that left readers all over the world wondering what happened next in A Monk Swimming, Singing My Him Song is "told with the frankness and honesty for which McCourt has become renowned" (New York Daily News).

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MENTIONED IN:

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Close
All Souls: A Family Story from Southie
by Michael Patrick MacDonald

A breakaway bestseller since its first printing, All Souls takes us deep into Michael Patrick MacDonald's Southie, the proudly insular neighborhood with the highest concentration of white poverty in America. Rocked by Whitey Bulger's crime schemes and busing riots, MacDonald's Southie is populated by sharply hewn characters like his Ma, a miniskirted, accordion-playing single mother who endures the deaths of four of her eleven children. Nearly suffocated by his grief and his community's code of silence, MacDonald tells his family story here with gritty but moving honesty.

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All Souls: A Family Story from Southie
Michael Patrick MacDonald

A breakaway bestseller since its first printing, All Souls takes us deep into Michael Patrick MacDonald's Southie, the proudly insular neighborhood with the highest concentration of white poverty in America. Rocked by Whitey Bulger's crime schemes and busing riots, MacDonald's Southie is populated by sharply hewn characters like his Ma, a miniskirted, accordion-playing single mother who endures the deaths of four of her eleven children. Nearly suffocated by his grief and his community's code of silence, MacDonald tells his family story here with gritty but moving honesty.

Amazon logo Barnes & Noble logo iBooks logo Indiebound logo

MENTIONED IN:

10 Absorbing Reads That Bring Real Women of History Back to Life

By Emily Lewis | March 3, 2021

Readers’ Choice: Your 9 Favorite Classics and What to Read Next

By Off the Shelf Staff | March 2, 2021

March eBook Deals: 10 Enthralling Reads to Add to Your Digital Library

By Off the Shelf Staff | March 1, 2021

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By Off the Shelf Staff | February 26, 2021

Author Picks: 6 Memoirs That Stuck with Me Long after the Last Page

By Charlie Gilmour | February 25, 2021

Our 16 Most Anticipated New Reads of March

By Off the Shelf Staff | February 24, 2021

Close
Borstal Boy
by Brendan Behan

This miracle of autobiography and prison literature begins: "Friday, in the evening, the landlady shouted up the stairs: 'Oh God, oh Jesus, oh Sacred Heart, Boy, there's two gentlemen here to see you.' I knew by the screeches of her that the gentlemen were not calling to inquire after my health . . . I grabbed my suitcase, containing Pot. Chlor., Sulph Ac, gelignite, detonators, electrical and ignition, and the rest of my Sinn Fein conjurer's outfit, and carried it to the window..." The men were, of course, the police, who knew seventeen-year-old Behan for the anti-imperialist terrorist he was and arrested him. He spent three years as a prisoner in England, primarily in Borstal (reform school), and was then expelled to his homeland, a changed but hardly defeated rebel. Once banned in the Irish Republic, Borstal Boy is both a riveting self-portrait and a clear look into the problems, passions, and heartbreak of Ireland.

Amazon logo Barnes & Noble logo iBooks logo Indiebound logo
Borstal Boy
Brendan Behan

This miracle of autobiography and prison literature begins: "Friday, in the evening, the landlady shouted up the stairs: 'Oh God, oh Jesus, oh Sacred Heart, Boy, there's two gentlemen here to see you.' I knew by the screeches of her that the gentlemen were not calling to inquire after my health . . . I grabbed my suitcase, containing Pot. Chlor., Sulph Ac, gelignite, detonators, electrical and ignition, and the rest of my Sinn Fein conjurer's outfit, and carried it to the window..." The men were, of course, the police, who knew seventeen-year-old Behan for the anti-imperialist terrorist he was and arrested him. He spent three years as a prisoner in England, primarily in Borstal (reform school), and was then expelled to his homeland, a changed but hardly defeated rebel. Once banned in the Irish Republic, Borstal Boy is both a riveting self-portrait and a clear look into the problems, passions, and heartbreak of Ireland.

Amazon logo Barnes & Noble logo iBooks logo Indiebound logo

MENTIONED IN:

10 Absorbing Reads That Bring Real Women of History Back to Life

By Emily Lewis | March 3, 2021

Readers’ Choice: Your 9 Favorite Classics and What to Read Next

By Off the Shelf Staff | March 2, 2021

March eBook Deals: 10 Enthralling Reads to Add to Your Digital Library

By Off the Shelf Staff | March 1, 2021

The 10 Most Popular Books of February

By Off the Shelf Staff | February 26, 2021

Author Picks: 6 Memoirs That Stuck with Me Long after the Last Page

By Charlie Gilmour | February 25, 2021

Our 16 Most Anticipated New Reads of March

By Off the Shelf Staff | February 24, 2021

Close
Are You Somebody?
by Nuala O'Faolain

Are You Somebody is a moving and fascinating portrait of both Ireland and one of its most popular and respected commentators. This gem of honesty and insight had its first life as the introduction to a collection of Nuala O'Faolain's Irish Times columns that became a number-one bestseller in Ireland. It now stands alone. Ireland has fallen in love with this memoir of an Irish woman of letters, and now this country will too.

Amazon logo Barnes & Noble logo iBooks logo Indiebound logo
Are You Somebody?
Nuala O'Faolain

Are You Somebody is a moving and fascinating portrait of both Ireland and one of its most popular and respected commentators. This gem of honesty and insight had its first life as the introduction to a collection of Nuala O'Faolain's Irish Times columns that became a number-one bestseller in Ireland. It now stands alone. Ireland has fallen in love with this memoir of an Irish woman of letters, and now this country will too.

Amazon logo Barnes & Noble logo iBooks logo Indiebound logo

MENTIONED IN:

10 Absorbing Reads That Bring Real Women of History Back to Life

By Emily Lewis | March 3, 2021

Readers’ Choice: Your 9 Favorite Classics and What to Read Next

By Off the Shelf Staff | March 2, 2021

March eBook Deals: 10 Enthralling Reads to Add to Your Digital Library

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Author Picks: 6 Memoirs That Stuck with Me Long after the Last Page

By Charlie Gilmour | February 25, 2021

Our 16 Most Anticipated New Reads of March

By Off the Shelf Staff | February 24, 2021

Close
Angela's Ashes
by Frank McCourt

"When I look back on my childhood I wonder how I managed to survive at all. It was, of course, a miserable childhood: the happy childhood is hardly worth your while. Worse than the ordinary miserable childhood is the miserable Irish childhood, and worse yet is the miserable Irish Catholic childhood." So begins the luminous memoir of Frank McCourt, born in Depression-era Brooklyn to recent Irish immigrants and raised in the slums of Limerick, Ireland. Frank's mother, Angela, has no money to feed the children since Frank's father, Malachy, rarely works, and when he does he drinks his wages. Yet Malachy -- exasperating, irresponsible and beguiling-- does nurture in Frank an appetite for the one thing he can provide: a story. Frank lives for his father's tales of Cuchulain, who saved Ireland, and of the Angel on the Seventh Step, who brings his mother babies. Perhaps it is story that accounts for Frank's survival. Wearing rags for diapers, begging a pig's head for Christmas dinner and gathering coal from the roadside to light a fire, Frank endures poverty, near-starvation and the casual cruelty of relatives and neighbors--yet lives to tell his tale with eloquence, exuberance and remarkable forgiveness. Angela's Ashes, imbued on every page with Frank McCourt's astounding humor and compassion, is a glorious book that bears all the marks of a classic.

Amazon logo Audible logo Barnes & Noble logo Books a Million logo Google Play logo iBooks logo Indiebound logo Bookshop logo
Angela's Ashes
Frank McCourt

"When I look back on my childhood I wonder how I managed to survive at all. It was, of course, a miserable childhood: the happy childhood is hardly worth your while. Worse than the ordinary miserable childhood is the miserable Irish childhood, and worse yet is the miserable Irish Catholic childhood." So begins the luminous memoir of Frank McCourt, born in Depression-era Brooklyn to recent Irish immigrants and raised in the slums of Limerick, Ireland. Frank's mother, Angela, has no money to feed the children since Frank's father, Malachy, rarely works, and when he does he drinks his wages. Yet Malachy -- exasperating, irresponsible and beguiling-- does nurture in Frank an appetite for the one thing he can provide: a story. Frank lives for his father's tales of Cuchulain, who saved Ireland, and of the Angel on the Seventh Step, who brings his mother babies. Perhaps it is story that accounts for Frank's survival. Wearing rags for diapers, begging a pig's head for Christmas dinner and gathering coal from the roadside to light a fire, Frank endures poverty, near-starvation and the casual cruelty of relatives and neighbors--yet lives to tell his tale with eloquence, exuberance and remarkable forgiveness. Angela's Ashes, imbued on every page with Frank McCourt's astounding humor and compassion, is a glorious book that bears all the marks of a classic.

Amazon logo Audible logo Barnes & Noble logo Books a Million logo Google Play logo iBooks logo Indiebound logo Bookshop logo

MENTIONED IN:

10 Absorbing Reads That Bring Real Women of History Back to Life

By Emily Lewis | March 3, 2021

Readers’ Choice: Your 9 Favorite Classics and What to Read Next

By Off the Shelf Staff | March 2, 2021

March eBook Deals: 10 Enthralling Reads to Add to Your Digital Library

By Off the Shelf Staff | March 1, 2021

The 10 Most Popular Books of February

By Off the Shelf Staff | February 26, 2021

Author Picks: 6 Memoirs That Stuck with Me Long after the Last Page

By Charlie Gilmour | February 25, 2021

Our 16 Most Anticipated New Reads of March

By Off the Shelf Staff | February 24, 2021

Close

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