100 Best Scottish Books

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John Galt - Annals of the Parish (1821)

1 Jan 2005

100 Best Scottish Books of all Time

John Galt was born in Irvine, made his name in London, money in Canada, and died and was buried in Greenock in 1839. He was Coleridge’s favourite novelist and a star contributor to Blackwood’s Magazine. In the 1820s, he wrote a series of Scots stories…

Aonghas Pàdraig Caimbeul - An Oidhche Mus Do Sheòl Sinn (2003)

1 Jan 2005

100 Best Scottish Books of all Time

The title of Aonghas Pàdraig’s first full-length novel means ‘The Night Before We Sailed’. Few novels have been published in Scottish Gaelic and many of those that have are aimed at children and school pupils. This makes the author’s achievement in this…

Kate Atkinson - Behind the Scenes at the Museum - (1995)

1 Jan 2005

100 Best Scottish Books of all Time

How many books have you read recently that begin with 25 pages conducted, quite amicably, from inside the womb? This one, told in part through the eyes of unwanted baby Ruby Lennox (conception onwards), and in part through the tragic history of her…

Ian Rankin - Black and Blue (1997)

1 Jan 2005

100 Best Scottish Books of all Time

Ian Rankin is one of this country’s most prolific and commercially successful authors. No writer has chronicled the changing face of Edinburgh so vividly nor in such minute detail. Since 1987’s Knots and Crosses, the investigations of his celebrated…

Laura Hird - Born Free (1999)

1 Jan 2005

100 Best Scottish Books of all Time

Laura Hird's Born Free is a masterpiece of contemporary urban fiction. It is also a quintessentially Scottish book: funny but dark, malevolent but life affirming, poignant but endearingly compulsive. First published in 1999, Born Free followed Hird's…

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Tom Nairn - The Break-Up of Britain: Crisis and Neo-Nationalism (1977)

1 Jan 2005

100 Best Scottish Books of all Time

Twenty-five years after Thatcherism and the Falklands, New Labour and Iraq, who can now dispute that the British state is a strange, untamed beast, unreformed, still not fully at ease in the modern age, and shaped by memory of empire and imperial…

Frederic Lindsay - Brond (1984)

1 Jan 2005

100 Best Scottish Books of all Time

A political thriller, but a cut above the disposable airport novels of Tom Clancy, Brond throws a serpentine plot of political intrigue into central Scotland. After witnessing the mysterious Brond kill a child in Kelvingrove Park, student Robert is…

Naomi Mitchison - The Bull Calves (1947)

1 Jan 2005

100 Best Scottish Books of all Time

Naomi Mitchison is one of Scotland’s most prolific and impressive 20th century writers, although her work has not received the attention it deserves. She wrote The Bull Calves during World War II which she spent mainly at Carradale House in Kintyre and…

Anne Donovan - Buddha Da (2003)

1 Jan 2005

100 Best Scottish Books of all Time

From the opening paragraph of Buddha Da, there is a lyrical beauty about this book. It reminds me of my favourite songs, the ones that take me somewhere special whenever I hear them. So it is with Anne Donovan’s novel. The story of Jimmy, the Glaswegian…

Matthew Fitt - But n Ben A-Go-Go (2000)

1 Jan 2005

Who would have thought that the third millennium would blast off with a sci-fi novel written in Scots? Matthew Fitt’s debut leaves granny’s hieland hame behind and claims the Scots language for writing that is out of this world. Fitt is one of the…

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Patrick MacGill - Children of the Dead End (1914)

1 Jan 2005

Patrick MacGill’s autobiographical novel roams from the tenant farms of Ireland and the grinding poverty of Dermod Flynn’s childhood, to the byways and backroads of Scotland and the navvying life. Leaving home at the age of 12 to seek work ‘beyond the…

AJ Cronin -The Citadel (1937)

1 Jan 2005

In recent years, Jed Mercurio’s novel Bodies and its subsequent television adaptation have provided shocking insight into the mental and physical strain suffered by overworked medical staff, including consequent fatal lapses in judgement. Rewind some 70…

Frank Kuppner - A Concussed History of Scotland (1990)

1 Jan 2005

The kind of exercise in post-modernity that makes traditionalists drop their monocles in disbelief at the self-indulgence of it all, A Concussed History of Scotland earned Kuppner huge critical acclaim but, perhaps understandably, didn’t trouble any…

Robin Jenkins - The Cone-Gatherers (1955)

1 Jan 2005

In what circumstances is kleptomania acceptable; almost certainly when a nation’s culture is at stake? It hardly rates as the crime of the century but I once stole a conifer from the floor of the Tramway, after a memorable production of Communicado’s…

Thomas De Quincey - Confessions of an English Opium-Eater (1822)

1 Jan 2005

100 Best Scottish Books of all Time

Thomas De Quincey’s debut is an intense exploration of the liminal, from the evanescing ‘beatific druggist’ and the illuminatus prostitute of Oxford Street to the phantasmagoric godfather of logos revolutionaries such as Baudelaire, Kafka, Woolf…

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Iain Crichton Smith - Consider the Lilies (1968)

1 Jan 2005

100 Best Scottish Books of all Time

Iain Crichton Smith was, and is, lovingly acknowledged as one of modern Scotland’s foremost writers, wits and all-round ‘characters’. Generations of readers have grown up holding close to their hearts (and exam cram sheets) one or other of his terse…

R. M. Ballantyne - The Coral Island (1858)

1 Jan 2005

100 Best Scottish Books of all Time

Reading The Coral Island after a 40-year gap, I found I knew whole passages almost by heart. Had I read it that often? Ballantyne's stories, which began with his own adventures as an employee of the Hudson's Bay Company, successfully nourished…

Louise Welsh - The Cutting Room (2002)

1 Jan 2005

100 Best Scottish Books of all Time

A host of successful new authors has sprung from Glasgow University’s highly productive creative writing course over the last few years, with Louise Welsh at the front of the pack. The Cutting Room was Welsh’s 2002 debut novel and it is a book that has…

Robert Alan Jamieson - A Day at the Office (1991)

1 Jan 2005

100 Best Scottish Books of all Time

‘We should be free to wander,’ says the unnamed narrator early on. And that’s exactly what the author goes on to do. Pity the poor typesetter: each page of this book – a precursor to much modern experimental Scottish fiction – looks more like a work of…

Archie Hind - The Dear Green Place (1966)

1 Jan 2005

100 Best Scottish Books of all Time

There are two kinds of books in this list: great fiction by people who happen to come from Scotland, and great fiction influenced by and composed with Scotland in mind. The Dear Green Place is perhaps the best example of the latter. From renditions of…

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James Kelman - A Disaffection (1989)

1 Jan 2005

100 Best Scottish Books of all Time

How Late it Was, How Late may have grabbed the headlines, The Busconductor Hines may have been more seminal, but it is A Disaffection, quietly, which is James Kelman’s best book. Its ‘hero’ (a problematic term; it’s James Kelman we’re talking about) is…

RD Laing - The Divided Self (1960)

1 Jan 2005

100 Best Scottish Books of all Time

Cometh the hour cometh the book. I had a bit of a Jungian experience with The Divided Self. I'd been working on a play in which the main character is schizophrenic and was trawling my bookcases for drama as I like to read a lot of plays when I'm…

William McIlvanney - Docherty (1975)

1 Jan 2005

100 Best Scottish Books of all Time

Docherty is the most brilliant, forceful and yet measured example of William McIlvanney’s desire to ‘give working-class life the vote in the literature of heroism’. The struggles of the eponymous Docherty family in the early decades of the 20th century…

David Hume - An Enquiry Concerning Human Understanding (1748)

1 Jan 2005

100 Best Scottish Books of all Time

Only three years after the defeat of Bonnie Prince Charlie's troops at Culloden, a book was published that shattered the world of philosophy and paved the way for the Scottish Enlightenment. David Hume, then aged 37, recast the opening parts of his…

Andrew Greig - Electric Brae (1997)

1 Jan 2005

100 Best Scottish Books of all Time

Throughout the 1990s, when the majority of the emerging Scottish novelists seemed fixated with gritty urban realism, a handful of authors were taking their inspiration from the dramatic landscape of the country's remoter climes. Notable among these was…