Short reviews of some great Irish books on the market.Getty Images/iStockphoto

“Best-Loved Oscar Wilde”

Edited by John Wyse Jackson

Here’s a book as brilliantly accomplished as the life of its gifted subject Oscar Wilde. Edited by John Wyse Jackson and superbly illustrated by Emma Byrne, “Best-Loved Oscar Wilde” selects illustrative works from each major period of the writer’s life, mirroring developments in Wilde's own sense of himself.

From his fledgling steps as a young aesthete at Oxford University to the tensions and seductions of his London life as a discreetly gay Irish man in Victorian England, complexity and contradiction abound here, as does his almost anarchistic impulse to lampoon or scoff at English hypocrisy.

With Wilde, each new work bested its predecessor. Jackson has assembled the proof, with selections that help us to understand Wilde's achievements and quietly comment on the loss to art that resulted from his persecution for being gay.

The book, illustrated to echo the high Victorian decadence of Aubrey Beardsley, concludes with a searing poem by Wilde about the sale of Keats’ love letters. The heartache over the dissolution of a poet's legacy mirrors his own, for Wilde had lived to see his life ruined by the hypocrisy he had skewered in his works.

“These are the letters which Endymion wrote

To one he loved in secret and apart,

And now the brawlers of the auction-mart

Bargain and bid for each poor blotted note,

Ay! for each separate pulse of passion quote

The merchants’ price! I think they love not art

Who break the crystal of a poet’s heart

That small and sickly eyes may glare or gloat.”

It's a detail of history that on the night Wilde achieved his greatest renown at the opening performance of “The Importance of Being Earnest,” he was simultaneously being attacked by a senior member of the English establishment, who had long sensed his threat and countered it in the only way they knew how, through persecution and violence.

Dufour, $18.

“The Hennessy Book of Irish Fiction 2005-2015”

Edited by Dermot Bolger and Ciaran Carty



The Hennessy literary awards have introduced the nation to accomplished new Irish writing (and writers) for four decades now, and the strength of this latest volume indicates that the Irish tradition is in gifted hands.

Featuring a selection of 25 shortlisted stories, some of the writers included here have already gained international attention and have published their debut collections or novels to acclaim.

Striking work by writers like Andrew Fox, whose short story “A Vigil” heralds the debut of a major new talent are complimented by the works of writers like Niamh Boyce and Kevin Power.

Inclusion in the collection is often the confidence boost that fledgling authors needs at the start of their careers, but the ambition and skill of the work assembled here suggests that these are already the mission statements of a talented new generation.

Dufour, $23.

“The Irish Pocket Potato Recipe Book”

By Evelyn Coyle

You can't beat an Irish spud, which all Irish expats can vouch for and often do. Traditionally planted on St. Patrick's Day, when hailstones can still bounce off your forehead under our famously changeable skies, they are generally harvested 13 to 20 weeks later.

Potatoes have meant many things to us: a subsistence crop, a means of mockery, even a cheap and illegal way to get drunk, but despite all this there can be no doubt of their lasting place in our affections.

If you really want to delight an Irish diner forget pasta and just include some good spuds. Coyle's book has found the sweet spot between gourmet and good home cooking, making this book approachable and easy to follow.

The recipes in “The Irish Pocket Potato Recipe Book” run from the traditional staples like leek and potato soup to the offbeat like potatoes baked in Smithwicks.

But of course this most versatile of vegetables (there is actually debate over whether it's a vegetable or a super carb) can produce a hundred different and delicious dishes with ease.

Served in soups or served as traditional favorites like roast potatoes or mashed or baked or fried, the tried and true recipes collected here will keep you busy (and happy) in the kitchen for months.

Dufour, $9.