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Confession: I’ve written a lot of “best Irish books” lists on this here website.
But up until this point, my methodology has been extremely subjective.
This time it’s different.
For starters, this list is an actual ranking—not just a bunch of suggestions in no particular order (as is the case with my earlier lists).
What’s more, this list is based on actual data from IrishMyths.com.
See that little disclaimer at the top of this post? That’s how I keep the lights on, so to speak. I recommend books, and if people buy them, I get paid a teensy-weensy percentage of each sale. It’s not much, but it helps me keep doing this…whatever this is.
So, what books are IrishMyths.com readers buying? Welp, turns out a lot of books on Irish and Celtic mythology (go figure), as well as books of Irish and Celtic legends, folktales, and fairytales—all of which I’ve included on this list.
(Side note: there are several differences between myths, legends, folktales, and fairytales, so this list really should be titled something like “The Top 10 Best-Selling Books on Irish and Celtic Mythology, Legends, Folklore, & Fairytales”, but for the sake of brevity I’m using “mythology” as a catch-all term. Besides, many Irish fairytales, folktales, and legends are rooted in Irish mythology. But I digress…)
One final housekeeping item:
I’ve listed these books according to number of sales, so the book in the number one spot—The Mammoth Book of Celtic Myths and Legends—is the number one best-seller, while the book in the number two position—Fairy & Folk Tales of Ireland—is the second-best-seller, and so on.
Oh, and before you even ask, no: Irish Myths in Your Pocket sadly did not make the cut, but I’d be lying if I said I didn’t contemplate fudging the numbers and tacking it on the end. Alas, this brief plug will have to suffice.
Now, onto the Irish and Celtic mythology books that have already earned and deserve the spotlight.
The 10 Best-Selling* Books About Irish Mythology and Celtic Mythology
*based on purchases made by readers of IrishMyths.com
by Peter Berresford Ellis
Per the publisher: “Developed from an early oral storytelling tradition dating back to the dawn of European culture, this is one of the oldest and most vibrant of Europe’s mythologies. From all six Celtic cultures – Irish, Scots, Welsh, Cornish, Manx and Breton – Peter Berresford Ellis has included popular myths and legends, as well as bringing to light exciting new tales which have been lying in manuscript form, untranslated and unknown to the modern general reader. An original, enthralling and definitive collection of Celtic myths and legends – tales of gods and goddesses, heroes and heroines, magical weapons, fabulous beasts, and entities from the ancient Celtic world.” Learn more…
by W. B. Yeats
Per the publisher: “Compiled by Yeats in 1892, these stories were collected around the country by a variety of historians, including Lady Wilde, the mother of Oscar Wilde. Within these pages, you’ll discover tales of greedy sons who get their comeuppance, canny priests, evil witches and demons alongside legends of heroic kings, giants and, of course, the good folk themselves – the fairies, the leprechauns and the cluricauns. These are yarns that have passed down through generations and which are still as entertaining and magical as when they were first recalled. This gorgeous foil-stamped edition includes enchanting illustrations and is presented in a handsome slipcase.” Learn more…
by Jeffrey Gantz
Per the publisher: “First written down in the eighth century AD, these early Irish stories depict a far older world—part myth, part legend and part history. Rich with magic and achingly beautiful, they speak of a land of heroic battles, intense love and warrior ideals, in which the otherworld is explored and men mingle freely with the gods. From the vivid adventures of the great Celtic hero Cu Chulaind, to the stunning “Exile of the Sons of Uisliu”—a tale of treachery, honour and romance—these are masterpieces of passion and vitality, and form the foundation for the Irish literary tradition: a mythic legacy that was a powerful influence on the work of Yeats, Synge and Joyce.” Learn more…
by multiple authors
Per the publisher: “These lrish tales all are reprinted from nineteenth-century sources, but they date back to a centuries-old oral tradition of storytelling that had yet to be committed to the printed page. They were passed down through the ages virtually unaltered and feature a wide variety of fantastic beings. This edition has an exquisitely designed bonded-leather binding, with distinctive gilt edging and a silk-ribbon bookmark.” Learn more…
by Philip Freeman
Per the publisher: “Most people have heard of the Celts – the elusive, ancient tribal people who resided in present-day England, Ireland, Scotland and France. Paradoxically characterized as both barbaric and innocent, the Celts appeal to the modern world as a symbol of a bygone era, a world destroyed by the ambition of empire and the spread of Christianity throughout Western Europe. Despite the pervasive cultural and literary influence of the Celts, shockingly little is known of their way of life and beliefs, because very few records of their stories exist. In this book, for the first time, Philip Freeman brings together the best stories of Celtic mythology.” Learn more…
by Morgan Daimler
Per the publisher: “This dual language pocket book represents a collection of new translations of several Irish myths. Each story is first presented in the original Old Irish and then in English so that a reader can experience the story as it existed in the original before reading a new translation. Many of the existing translations are around a hundred years old, and often either exclude material or else skew the retelling to fit the mores of a more Victorian audience. The translations included here in stories including Angus’s Dream to the Taking of the Sidhe are an attempt to find a balance between a more literal translation that is still enjoyable to an English speaking audience. All material focuses on the stories of the Irish Gods, the Tuatha De Danann.” Learn more…
by Peter Berresford Ellis
Per the publisher: “Ireland boasts one of the Europe’s oldest and most vibrant mythologies, a tradition as powerful and compelling as that of ancient Greece. This dictionary, the latest addition to the Oxford Reference series, offers hundreds of fascinating entries covering everything from legendary beings, events, and places to topics and concepts of historical importance. They range from brief definitions of words such as “Fé” (an aspen rod used for measuring corpses and graves) to multi-page explanations of terms like “Druid” and “Celt.” Between the covers of this book we meet some of the most celebrated of Irish heroes and heroines, such as Fionn Mac Cumhail (Finn MacCool in English) and the beautiful and tragic Deirdre of the Sorrows.” Learn more…
by N.A. Montgomery
Per the publisher: “What happens when you take mythological races and creatures from around the world, mix them with the legend of King Arthur, stir in vampires & werewolves, and top it off with gods and demons battling to rule? You get The Morrigan Chronicles trilogy. Peek inside the magical world intertwined with ours, as Morrigan and her friends unravel a plot thousands of years in the making. But never forget—it’s often hard to tell the difference between friend and foe. The Morrigan – Celtic Goddess of War, Fate and Death. I am a warrior of the Tuatha de Danann. History writes us as a supernatural race in Irish mythology that battled demons and the Fomorians.” Learn more…
by Charles Solomon
Per the publisher: “The official behind-the-scenes art book for four-time Academy Award–nominated animation studio Cartoon Saloon’s and their co-producer Melusine’s stunning new animated fantasy adventure, WolfWalkers. Filled with exclusive hand-drawn sketches, paintings, interviews, and digital renderings that showcase Cartoon Saloon’s unique artistic style, The Art of WolfWalkers takes fans behind the scenes of one of animation’s most celebrated studios. Through exclusive commentary and interviews with cast and crew, renowned animation critic and historian Charles Solomon showcases the craft and skill behind some of the most lovingly detailed and imaginative 2-D animation currently being produced. ” Learn more…
by Dáithí O hOgáin
Per the publisher: “Ireland has one of the finest cultural heritages and a standard reference book combining the related subjects of folklore, myth, legend and romance is long overdue. There are 350 substantial entries, in alphabetical order from Abán, a 6th-century saint, to Weather, all with full references to sources, a synopsis of relevant stories, and discussion of their origin, nature and development. These are complimented by a genre-list of material under various headings, such as Mythical Lore, Fianna Cycle, Ulster Cycle, King Cycles, Peoples and Traditions, Religious Lore, and Folk Custom and Belief. There is also a wealth of genealogical detail, indicating how historical and social circumstances have influenced the growth and spread of Irish lore.” Learn more…
by Peter Harbison & Leslie Conron Carola
Per the publisher: “Island light is magical. And none more so than Ireland’s. Ireland’s light floods the landscape, luring the senses with a restless presence. The water surrounding and carving through the island reflects back to us the ever-changing movement of the wind-blown clouds and light. Stop for a minute and the settings change: what was straight is bent, light is dark, still is in motion. It is as though an unseen hand directs the wind, the clouds, and the light to harness our attention. Ireland: A Luminous Beauty is a collection of stunning full-color photographs by some of Ireland’s finest landscape photographers with concise text blending history, myth, and a sense of place.” Learn more…
*While not a book concerned directly with Irish or Celtic mythology, this book of photography—featured on my list of the 25 most beautiful books of Irish photography—deserves some recognition. If I had included it in the main list, Ireland: A Luminous Beauty would have shared the ninth spot with The Art of WolfWalkers.
P.S. More the listenin’ type?
I recommend the audiobook version of the number five best-seller, Celtic Mythology: Tales of Gods, Goddesses, and Heroes by Philip Freeman (narrated by Gerard Doyle). Use my link to get 3 free months of Audible Premium Plus and you can listen to the full 7.5-hour audiobook for free.