Sinéad O’Connor books: 4 definitive reads about ethereal poet

Sinéad O’Connor books: 4 definitive reads about ethereal poet

by Suswati Basu
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This week, the world lost the ethereal, vulnerable and powerful artist Sinéad O’Connor, or as she was known later in her life as Shuhada’ Sadaqat at the age of 56. What does this have to do with books you say? Well if you didn’t know already, the Irish singer was a gifted writer, and said “songs are conversations with my soul”. As a result there are a number of books written about her as well as her own autobiography.

In a statement earlier this week, her family said: “It is with great sadness that we announce the passing of our beloved Sinéad. Her family and friends are devastated and have requested privacy at this very difficult time.”

Who was Sinéad O’Connor?

Sinéad O'Connor was an Irish singer, songwriter, and musician. She was known for her powerful vocals, her outspoken personality, and her activism on social justice issues. She was born in Dublin, Ireland, in 1966. She began her music career in the early 1980s, and her debut album, The Lion and the Cobra, was released in 1987. Her second album, I Do Not Want What I Haven't Got, was released in 1990 and featured the hit single "Nothing Compares 2 U".

She was known for her controversial statements and actions. In 1992, she appeared on Saturday Night Live and tore up a picture of Pope John Paul II in protest of child sexual abuse in the Catholic Church. She was subsequently banned from the show. She also spoke out against racism, sexism, and organised religion.

The songstress released 10 studio albums, and she won two Grammy Awards. She was also nominated for an Academy Award for Best Original Song for her song "Nothing Compares 2 U". She was a complex and controversial figure, but she was also a talented musician and an important voice for social justice. She sadly lost her teenage son to suicide in January 2022, who she described at the time as the 'light of her life'.

She died on July 26, 2023, at the age of 56. Her cause of death has not been released.

Why was O’Connor important?

Poetry and writing

Nothing Compares 2 U music video by Sinéad O’Connor

We don’t often venture into the arena of non-classical writers, but we forget, even some of the greatest singers are poets including the likes of punk laureate Patti Smith or poet and novelist Leonard Cohen, who was steeped in literary discipline. However, we also wanted to give a special mention to the extraordinary and courageous O’Connor for her years of activism and her many years of surviving a life full of trauma and battling mental health issues, which is what we are all about here.

Jackie left on a cold, dark night
Telling me he'd be home
Sailed the seas for a hundred years
Leaving me all alone
And I've been dead for twenty years
I've been washing the sand
With my ghostly tears
Searching the shores for my Jackie-oh

Lyrics from the song Jackie, album: The Lion and the Cobra

Years of activism

No one will ever forget her for her SNL message of tearing up an image of Pope John Paul II, only to be vindicated years later about her claims. But her work extended to raising awareness HIV/AIDs, campaigned on pro-choice issues and abortion rights, and showed her support for the LGBTQ+ community.

Sinéad O’Connor rips up image of Pope on SNL

The Irish singer-songwriter held a profound admiration for rap music, incorporating local rap artists into her inaugural US tour and extending an invitation to MC Lyte for a collaboration. Together, they worked on a 1988 remix of the opening track “I Want Your Hands On Me” from her debut album. This was at a time when the Recording Academy often dismissed hip hop, and subsequently introduced a category for Best Rap Performance. She’s often seen as a trailblazer as a result, despite her many years of suffering.

Read: 5 books for Mental Health Awareness Week 2023

There’s no doubt she was haunted, which came through in her fragile and celestial lyrics. But she was open about her battles, unafraid to say “We alone get to call it the nuthouse – the patients”. She had spent six years in and out of mental health facilities. Her courage to face her demons for so long is one of many reasons she’ll be remembered. And so it’s sadly unsurprising to see a handful of unofficial books about Sinéad O’Connor appearing on Amazon’s self-publishing platform, capitalising on her passing.

Books about Sinéad O’Connor worth reading:

As a result, we’ve highlighted some of the best books by and about Sinéad O’Connor:

  • Rememberings by Sinéad O’Connor. This is O’Connor’s 2007 memoir, in which she writes candidly about her life, including her childhood, her rise to fame, and her struggles with mental health.
  • Why Sinéad Matters by Allyson McCabe. This 2015 book explores O’Connor’s impact on popular culture and her role as a social justice advocate.
  • Sinead: Her Life and Music: Life of Sinead O’Connor by Jimmy Guterman. This book tells the story of her childhood in Dublin, her education in a Catholic Reform School and her rise to musical fame.
  • Sinéad O’Connor 48 by Andrew Catlin. The book reproduces the chronological sequence of photographs from one of the first shoots with Sinéad for a magazine cover. It gives a fascinating insight into both Sinéad at a turning point in her life.

A pioneer for women in the music industry, the angelic skinhead broke new ground with her unique sound, which at times was a form of fierce fragility. Sometimes we forget living with purpose is an heroic act in itself, and O’Connor did it well for so long. Rest in peace you triumphant soul.

In the UK and Ireland, Samaritans can be contacted on freephone 116 123, or email or In the US, you can call or text the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline on 988, chat on, or text HOME to 741741 to connect with a crisis counsellor. In Australia, the crisis support service Lifeline is 13 11 14. Other international helplines can be found at

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