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Books by Irish women that everyone should read


By Sarah Finnan
04th Oct 2022
Books by Irish women that everyone should read

Out of 29 authors and editors, no books by women made the Times' list of recommended reading for the next prime minister.

The current global political climate is not an admirable one, to say the least. Inflation, emigration, climate change, rising housing costs, an ever-worsening childcare crisis; the list of grievances in our country alone would be enough to fill the pages of many, many books.

As the search for a new prime minister to replace Boris Johnson continues, the UK has heaped yet more onto their plate… and things don’t look set to improve anytime soon. In fact, a Times article has done little to assure the public at all

Drawing further attention to the very reason why change and action are so desperately needed, the article seems to almost deny the existence of female writers altogether, for out of the 29 authors and editors mentioned, not one is a woman. There is also only one female contributor included in the list. 

As one Twitter user pointed out, the headline shouldn’t read “A reading list for the next prime minister”, but rather, “A reading list OF BOOKS EXCLUSIVELY BY MEN for the next prime minister”. 

It’s worth noting that, as it stands, 56 MPs – almost 10 per cent – are currently under investigation for sexual misconduct.  

“Running the country isn’t easy,” it begins. “Times writers suggest some mind-expanding books for the two Tory contenders as they prepare for No 10.”

Amongst the Times’ suggested authors are Niall Ferguson, Edward Chancellor, Kevin Rudd, Robert Harris and Michael Ignatieff. Not to mention Vladimir Putin and former United States secretary of state and national security advisor, Henry Kissinger, who actually features twice. 

I think it’s safe to say that, one tires of reading the same damn articles time and time again – especially in the current climate, when the odds seem increasingly stacked against women. But casual everyday sexism is ceaseless, it seems. It’s laughable that the Times deemed this list appropriate, even more so in the context of politics and ensuring potential candidates are prepared to take on the task of running the country. How anyone could say (or write!) “the making of a prime minister is in these all-male books” with a straight face is beyond me. 

A subsequent Times article, written by Sarah Ditum, hoped to rectify the situation – generously describing the original piece as “an oversight”. “The point isn’t that you need to read women to tick a box on the token checklist,” she notes. “The point is, if you’re not paying attention to what women are thinking and saying and fighting about, you’re missing the action from half the polity.” 

Her suggestions include Invisible Women by Caroline Criado Perez, Helen Lewis’s Difficult Women, Barbara Castle’s memoir, Fighting All the Way, Notes on Grief by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, Anne Applebaum’s Twilight of Democracy, Margaret MacMillan’s War: How Conflict Shaped Us and Michelle Obama’s Becoming. 

I happened upon this poem by Alice Walker on Instagram, which about sums it up. 

As we know, now is not the time for silence, and so with that in mind, here are just a handful of books (in no particular order) by Irish women that we think everyone, not just the next prime minister, should read:

  1. What White People Can Do Next, by Emma Dabiri 
  2. Asking For It, by Louise O’Neill
  3. Republic of Shame: Stories from Ireland’s Institutions for Fallen Women, by Caelainn Hogan
  4. Recipes For A Nervous Breakdown, by Sophie White
  5. Overcoming: A Memoir, by Vicky Phelan
  6. The Education of an Idealist, by Samantha Power
  7. Promising Young Women, by Caroline O’Donoghue
  8. This Charming Man, by Marian Keyes
  9. Music Love Drugs War, by Geraldine Quigley
  10. A Girl Is A Half-Formed Thing, by Eimear McBride

This article was originally published in July 2022.

*Disclaimer: this is by no means an exhaustive list, just a small sample of the incredible literary talent Irish women have to offer the world. Feel free to drop your own suggestions in the comments!*