‘We Don’t Know Ourselves: A Personal History of Ireland since 1958’ by Fintan O’Toole named as the An Post Irish Book of the Year 2021

Winner revealed on one-hour television special on RTÉ One


‘We Don’t Know Ourselves: A Personal History of Ireland since 1958’ by Fintan O’Toole has been announced as the ‘An Post Irish Book of the Year 2021’.


The six book titles that competed for the accolade were category winners from the recent An Post Irish Book Awards, and the overall winner was revealed as part of a one-hour special television show aired on RTÉ One, hosted by Oliver Callan. O’Toole’s book won the ‘Odgers Berndtson Non-Fiction Book of the Year’ at the recent An Post Irish Book Awards.


‘We Don’t Know Ourselves: A Personal History of Ireland since 1958’ has been forty years in the making. Described as “a clear-eyed, myth-dispelling masterpiece that combines the personal with the political,” the book has been lauded as O’Toole’s finest work to date.


Polemicist, literary editor, journalist and drama critic for The Irish Times since 1988, O’Toole has been described as Ireland’s leading public intellectual and has been recognised as such with a string of prestigious awards to his credit, including The Orwell Prize for Journalism and the European Press Prize in 2017 and on three occasions, the NewsBrands Ireland Journalism Awards Broadsheet Columnist of the Year. His book ‘A History of Ireland in 100 Objects’ won an Irish Book Award in 2013.


Born in Crumlin and educated at Coláiste Chaoimhín and University College Dublin, he now lives in America where he is a visiting lecturer in Irish Letters at Princeton University. In 2017 he was commissioned by Faber and Faber to write the official biography of Seamus Heaney.


The ‘An Post Irish Book of the Year 2021’ was chosen by a combination of an online public vote and a judging panel comprising of:


  • Maria Dickenson: General Manager of Dubray Books (Chairperson of the judging panel)
  • Madeleine Keane: Literary Editor of the Sunday Independent
  • Marian T Keyes: Senior Executive Librarian with Dún Laoghaire-Rathdown County Council Public Libraries
  • Simon Trewin: Leading UK literary agent. Runs Simon Trewin Creative Ltd
  • David McRedmond: CEO of An Post


The six nominated titles for the ‘An Post Irish Book of the Year 2021’ were:


  • Your One Wild and Precious Life – Maureen Gaffney
  • A Hug For You – David King, illustrated by Rhiannon Archard
  • Aisling and the City – Emer McLysaght and Sarah Breen
  • Did Ye Hear Mammy Died? – Séamas O’Reilly
  • We Don’t Know Ourselves: A Personal History of Ireland Since 1958 – Fintan O’Toole
  • Beautiful World, Where Are You? – Sally Rooney



In case you missed it, you can now watch the

‘An Post Book of the Year’ TV programme on the RTÉ player



Maria Dickenson, Chairperson of the judging panel for the An Post Irish Book of the Year, said: “In the opinion of the five-person judging panel, “We Don’t Know Ourselves’ is a book that will remain important for a very long time – a reflection of who we are and where we came from. Truly, this is a book for the ages. Fintan O’Toole understands Ireland in a visceral way – it isn’t just politics, but culture and popular culture. He ‘gets’ all of Ireland and its turbulent history during his lifetime.”


Commenting on this year’s winner, David McRedmond, CEO of An Post, said: “I think it’s an astonishing book, fresh and passionate. Deeply moving but often funny and wry, a chronicle for our times. The most remarkable Irish non-fiction book I’ve read in the last 10 years.”


Fintan O’Toole, winner of the ‘An Post Irish Book of the Year’, said: “To have a book that you hope speaks to people outside of a particular category, I suppose it’s trying to recognise something that maybe hits a chord more generally with Irish people with where Ireland is right now. Also, unlike other books I’ve written in the past, this one is pretty personal – there’s quite a lot of ‘me’ in it, so it feels a bit more vulnerable and therefore you’re just a bit more grateful if people like it!”



Previous winners of this esteemed ‘Irish Book of the Year’ award are:


  • A Ghost in the Throat – Doireann Ní Ghríofa
  • Overcoming – Vicky Phelan
  • Solar Bones – Mike McCormack
  • Atlas of the Irish Revolution – John Crowley, Donal Ó Drisceoil, Mike Murphy and Dr. John Borgonovo
  • Asking for it – Louise O’Neill
  • Academy Street – Mary Costello
  • Staring at Lakes – Michael Harding
  • The Spinning Heart – Donal Ryan
  • Solace – Belinda McKeon


For further information, log on to the An Post Irish Book Awards website or social media channels:




Facebook: @AnPostIBAS


Instagram: @anpost_irishbookawards


Twitter: @AnPostIBAS


For a range of reading recommendations, check out www.anpost.com/readerswanted