Gabriel Byrne is one of Ireland’s most well known and celebrated actors. He serves as Ireland’s Cultural Ambassador and is a prominent voice in the countries unique Imagine Ireland campaign.

A talented artist himself, he recently spoke to the New York Post about ‘what’s in his library’.

Here are a few of his choice pieces of literature, from prized Irish authors:

Let the Great World Spin: by Colum McCann

I’m proud to say Colum’s a good friend of mine. He writes very simply, very powerfully, very beautifully. With each novel, you never know what world Colum’s going to enter into. “Dancer” was the reimagining of Russia in the early 20th century; he also wrote about a Romanian gypsy. This novel deals with 9/11 and the world of Philippe Petit, who walked between the World Trade towers.

The Commitments: by Roddy Doyle

Roddy is a schoolteacher — I used to be one myself. This book was the first to put the voice of discontented Irish youth and their connection to music on the page. He also portrays the new Dublin and its connection with America in this story about a band. It’s a very funny, very accessible novel.

Are You Somebody? The Accidental Memoir of a Dublin Woman: by Nuala O’Faolain

A ruthlessly honest book about what it means to be a member of a dysfunctional family, but it’s really the story about searching for love and acceptance. I met Bill Clinton, and he said he was having trouble writing his memoirs. I said, “Maybe you should have a read of this book.” He wrote down the name. A year later, I got a thank-you note from him.

Brooklyn: by Colm Toibin

Colm lectures at Princeton. He’s also one of our greatest young writers. The story is of a young girl who leaves Ireland to make her way in Brooklyn, falls in love there and is torn between home and away. It’s the dilemma of everyone who’s torn between two places, belonging in neither. It’s a stunningly beautiful, simple love story.


Read more:

Gabriel Byrne named Ireland’s first cultural ambassador

Gabriel Byrne says Irish have a ‘right to feel betrayed’

Colum McCann speaks about his pride in the Irish Arts


Dublin actor and former cultural ambassador Gabriel Byrne