C.S Lewis Square, Belfast (Photo courtesy of Bradley Quinn)

We know it’s tough having to stay inside at the moment but it is the perfect opportunity to get stuck into some reading!

Northern Ireland is spoilt for choice with our rich literary talent, from Nobel Prize-winning poets to creators of childhood heroes and a crop of gifted up and coming writers.

We’ve picked out some of our favourites for you. So why not curl up with a good book and a nice cup of tea? Be sure to let us know your favourites and any suggestions you have!

And our friends in Libraries NI are here to help too. Anyone who works, lives or studies in Northern Ireland can borrow eBooks, audiobooks and download eMagazines FREE from Libraries NI. Existing members who know their membership number can follow these step by step instructions.

Existing members who don’t know their membership number can contact the LNI enquiries line on telephone 0345 4504 580 or email enquiries@librariesni.org.uk

Don’t worry if you aren’t yet a member of Libraries NI, join online and get a membership number almost instantly.


1. Milkman by Anna Burns (2018)

Anna Burns hails from North Belfast and won the 2018 Man Booker Prize for Fiction for Milkman, the first time a Northern Irish writer has been awarded the prize. Milkman is a darkly amusing but very unsettling satire of The Troubles about a young woman whose only escape from the everyday horrors of life is through literature.

Link to e-copy

2. The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe by C.S Lewis (1950)

Born in East Belfast, C.S Lewis’ The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe is beloved by all generations. It’s the first book in The Chronicles of Narnia series, inspired by The Mourne Mountains. About the mountains, Lewis wrote "I have seen landscapes ... which, under a particular light, make me feel that at any moment a giant might raise his head over the next ridge”.

Link to audio book

3. Big Girl, Small Town by Michelle Gallen (2020)

Recently published and dubbed “Milkman meets Derry Girls”, this is a darkly comic novel about a young woman’s life in a small Northern Ireland town in the aftermath of The Troubles. Majella, the narrator of the story, has a unique take on life but is forced to change her ideas after a tragedy hits her family.

4. Thirteen by Steve Cavanagh (2018)

Although his novels are often set in the murky criminal world of New York, Steve Cavanagh was born and grew up in Lisburn and is a renowned author of thrillers. Thirteen sees the return of Cavanagh’s protagonist con artist turned lawyer Eddie Flynn as a murder trial begins to be derailed by a series of sinister events. Although part of a series, the book easily stands on its own.

5. Death of a Naturalist by Seamus Heaney (1966)

One of the 20th century's foremost poets, Nobel laureate Seamus Heaney’s debut poetry collection, Death of a Naturalist, was published in 1966. This collection consists of 34 poems and is largely concerned with the poet’s childhood growing up in rural Bellaghy, County Londonderry. The collection includes some of Heaney's best-known poems, "Digging", "Death of a Naturalist" and "Mid-Term Break".

Link to e-copy

6. One by One in the Darkness by Deirdre Madden (1996)

Deirdre Madden is one of Northern Ireland’s most talented writers and this is her best known book. One by One in the Darkness is an account of a week in the lives of three sisters shortly before the start of the IRA ceasefire in 1994, running alongside the story of their childhood in Northern Ireland of the 1960s and 1970s.

Link to e-copy

7. The Mill for Grinding Old People Young by Glenn Patterson (2012)

The Mill for Grinding Old People Young was released in 2012 and selected as the text for Belfast’s first One City, One Book initiative. The novel begins in 1897, with protagonist Gilbert Rice revisiting his earlier life and a Belfast full of commerce and confidence. The failed uprising of 1798 still lingers, while the industrial future of factories, mills, and shipyards looms large.

Link to e-copy

8. All the Beggars Riding by Lucy Caldwell (2013)

Born in Belfast, Lucy Caldwell is an award-winning playwright and novelist. All the Beggars Riding is as much about the art of writing as the story itself. A lonely woman nearing 40 is inspired by her creative writing class to confront her past and painful childhood memories. Her father's long absences from their home in London, while he worked as a plastic surgeon in Belfast amid the Troubles and where he led his other life with his other family...

Link to e-copy and audio book

9. Parallax by Sinéad Morrissey (2013) 

A native of Portadown, County Armagh, Sinéad Morrissey is one of Ireland’s leading contemporary poets. Parallax is the fifth poetry collection for which she won the T. S. Eliot Prize. The chair of the judging panel, Ian Duhig, remarked that the collection was 'politically, historically and personally ambitious, expressed in beautifully turned language, her book is as many-angled and any-angled as its title suggests.'

Link to e-copy

10. At Swim-Two Birds by Flann O’Brien (1939) 

A genius of a writer in both English and Irish, novelist, playwright and satirist Brian O'Nolan, better known under the pseudonym Flann O’Brien grew up in Strabane, County Tyrone. His place as a major Irish literary figure was assured on the publication of his first novel, At Swim-Two-Birds, a book about a man writing a book about a man writing a book!

Link to e-copy and audio book

11. Divorcing Jack by Colin Bateman (1995)

Colin Bateman is a novelist, screenwriter and former journalist from Bangor, County Down. Blending mystery, romance and that specific brand of dark Irish humour, Divorcing Jack is Bateman’s debut novel and the first in the Dan Starkey series. Set in Belfast the novel's events follow a turbulent period in the life of anti-hero, journalist Dan Starkey.

Link to audio book

12. The Firestarters by Jan Carson (2019)

This novel won the EU prize for literature 2019 . The story centres on post troubles East Belfast and the burden of parenthood . The story is laced with Magic Realism depicting (among other fantastical beings ) a girl with wings and a boy with wheels for feet.

13. Paperboy by Tony McAuley (2011)

Funny and touching memoir set in 1975. Tony is a Belfast Telegraph paperboy on the Shankill Road. The troubles rage round him but the young boys mind is concentrated on his acne, saving his paper money from ‘ hoods ‘and of course girls, especially the lovely Sharon Burgess. Highly enjoyable read!

We hope you enjoy these suggestions.  Please join in the discussion online and let us know your favourites at #discoverni

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