There is a lyrical strain in the Irish literary tradition that is really unmatched. I'm reading Angela's Ashes right now and marveling. Here are some of my favorite reads that give you a sense of that tradition and of the country and its people.
Circle of Friends-Maeve Binchy--a young woman from a small town experiences changing sexual codes when she goes to Dublin for school.
Dubliners-James Joyce--dreams deferred in Joyce's beloved city.
My Dream of You-Nuala O'Faolain--Sexy modern love story interspersed with story of the Great Famine. Unforgettable. Will stalk your dreams.
The Butcher Boy-Patrick McCabe-- mentally disturbed serial killer narrates his own downfall
The Complete Poems of W.B. Yeats--just the best. period.
The Last September-Elizabeth Bowen--protestant gentry's family in a "great house" just before the IRA and the civil war forces them out.
Angela's Ashes-Frank McCourt--childhood in Limerick, poverty, pathos and humor.
Ireland: Selected Stories--William Trevor-- The New Yorker's favorite short fiction writer's collection of stories about his homeland.