Last week I picked up Paddy's Lament by Thomas Gallagher. Its billed as "The 'shocking, powerful' account of the great famine and the Irish diaspora to America - an invaluable history that illuminates the continuing troubles." Written in 1987, it really lives up to its billing. It is the single best book I have found explaining all aspects of famine life in such a compelling way. I have a hard time putting it down at night. Try reading his chapter's about the coffin ships without experiencing the stench and claustrophobia for yourself. If you have ancestors who lived through the famine this book will add so much context to the story the genealogical records only hint at. I can't recommend it highly enough.