10 Northern Ireland Holiday Reads

Local authors who are worth taking along on your summer break

Whether you’re planning to enjoy a few days off at home this summer, or are going abroad for a well-earned break, don’t forget to pack a Northern Irish author or two for the trip! With most books available these days as both paperbacks and e-books for Kindle, you can take as many as you have the time to enjoy.

Below are some of our recommended reads for summer 2017, with five female and five male authors selected, though there are many more besides these if you have a look around. These books have everything from faeries and family feuds, to tales of prison life, police investigations and more, so there’s sure to be something that’s up your street.


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Street Song by Sheena Wilkinson

Published in April this year, Street Song is the multi-award-winning Wilkinson’s sixth novel and is described as ‘gripping’ and a ‘page-turner’ – perfect holiday fodder. It tells the story of a young singer whose life takes a downward turn after he becomes a pop sensation, but then begins to regain balance when he takes control of his career. Will his past catch up with him, however, and destroy all that he’s worked so hard for..?

If you enjoy young adult contemporary realism fiction, then Street Song will be right up your street. On the other hand, if it isn’t your usual type of read, then why not give it a go? You just might be surprised. Available as a paperback and e-book.

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The Watch House by Bernie McGill

This latest novel from Portstewart author Bernie McGill is published on August 10, so if you’re planning a late summer break, then it should certainly keep you engrossed. Set on Rathlin Island at the end of the 19th century, the story takes place during the time of the Marconi wireless experiments. Protagonist Nuala Byrne lives on the island and her live is irrevocably changed by the arrival of Marconi’s men.

With intrigue, romance and a few twists in the tail, The Watch House is perfect for anyone who enjoys historical fiction, particularly with a local feel to it. McGill has certainly done her research for historical accuracy as well, so it’s interesting from that perspective too. Available as a paperback and e-book.

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The Faerie Thorn and Other Stories by Jane Talbot

If you prefer to dip in and out of short stories and relish a dark tale on a sunny day, then Ballymoney-based Jane Talbot’s collection of adult faerie tales will do the trick. With stories recently adapted for the stage by Big Telly Theatre Company, The Faerie Thorn and Other Stories is inspired by myths and legends around the North Coast of Northern Ireland. The language is rich and evocative, the tales creepy and bewitching – a compelling combination.

Drawing on her love of oral storytelling, Talbot’s tales are also great for reading aloud around a summer campfire of an evening, and will stay with you long after the pages have turned. Available in both paperback and e-book formats.

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The Accidental Wife by Orla McAlinden

Short story fans will also enjoy former Portadown writer Orla McAlinden’s award-winning Northern Ireland-based rural tales, which interlink as you progress through the book and trace seven decades of the McCann family. Set against the backdrop of the Troubles, the book weaves together the threads of the family’s less than straightforward life – where secrets fester and the truth is not always what it appears.

Whether you like a novel or prefer to savour a story at a time, The Accidental Wife is a great choice for a summer read and is sure to keep you hooked from start to finish. Available in both paperback and e-book formats.

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Waters and the Wild by Jo Zebedee

If you’re a fan of fantasy and fairies then the latest novel from Carrickfergus author Jo Zebedee will be published on July 28 – just in time for taking on holiday in August. Zebedee usually writes sci-fi/space opera books, so this is her first foray into fantasy fiction, and she’s set her story in the Antrim glens and along the north coast.

Protagonist, Amy, is convinced the fairies took her when she was three years old. Now 18, it seems they’re calling her back – but are they real and what secrets will Amy have to confront if she’s to escape their clutches…? The e-book is available for pre-order now.

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Trespass by Anthony Quinn

With the paperback published in June this year, Trespass by Co Tyrone author Anthony Quinn is described as ‘an outstanding, deeply satisfying and beautifully written police procedural’ by the Irish Independent. So, if you want to devour a crime novel on your holidays, this seems like a good choice.

The story follows Inspector Celcius Daly as he investigates the abduction of a young boy outside Armagh courthouse. Led to a group of travellers with a certain reputation, Daly uncovers a family secret which harks back to the Troubles, and another disappearance. Under investigation himself, however, will Daly risk it all to unearth the truth? Available as a paperback and e-book.

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Modern Gods by Nick Laird

Described by author Carlo Gébler as ‘an exceptional work of literature’ in the Irish Times recently, Modern Gods is Laird’s third novel and was published at the end of June. Originally from Cookstown, and now New York-based, Laird incorporates parallel narratives in Modern Gods from sisters Alison and Liz – one in Northern Ireland, the other in Papua New Guinea.

The pair come together for Alison’s Ulster wedding but soon discover that the past has perhaps more influence over their futures than they supposed. After certain revelations they must each decide how to deal with what went before, if they want to move forward with their lives. If only it was that easy… Available as a hardcover and e-book.

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Skintown by Ciaran McMenamin

Born in Enniskillen, actor-turned-author Ciaran McMenamin launched his debut novel Skintown at this year’s Belfast Book Festival. Dubbed ‘the new Trainspotting,’ the novel is based in 90s Enniskillen – when raves and drugs kept the kids going, and the Troubles were winding down.

Vinny Duffy wants to escape what he sees as a dead-end town and might just have found a possible exit route when a good turn results in an unexpected business opportunity. If you like a bit of nostalgia and enjoy a fast-paced read packed full of ‘fighting, fishing, rioting, romance, reconciliation and acid house,’ then this might just spice up your summer reading list… Available as a paperback and e-book.

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Papercuts by Colin Bateman

Released last year, Papercuts is a short story collection from Bangor’s Bateman which draws on his earlier career as a local newspaper journalist, though the tales are by all accounts, fictional.

Guardian reporter Rob Cullen has returned from London to attend the funeral of his former mentor, and editor of the Bangor Express newspaper. He soon finds himself lured into doing some work at the ailing Express, however; the ensuing stories charting his various adventures in this regard. The book can also be read as a novel, as the stories inter-link, and it carries Bateman’s trademark dark humour within. Available as a hardcover, paperback and e-book.

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The Wing Orderly’s Tales by Carlo Gébler

Published last March, this collection of short stories was no doubt inspired by Enniskillen-based Gébler’s time as a creative writing tutor at the Maze prison. He was also writer-in-residence at HMP Maghaberry, so knows a thing or two about prison life, which makes these stories all the more authentic, though they are of course, fictional.

Gébler’s prison is HMP Loanend and the tales are told from the perspective of inmate and wing orderly, ‘Chalky’, who helps out on E and F wings. The reader gets a fly-on-the-wall glimpse into the lives of the various inmates and humour is combined with darkness to great effect in these gripping tales. Available as a paperback and e-book.