PART OF THE Feeling Festive ISSUE

Favourite Books of 2019

‘If we get fiction requests then Haunt Publishing’s debut anthology Haunted Voices is the perfect book for the dark Scottish nights – a great intro to some really exciting voices in gothic writing, which is such a glorious but undervalued Scottish storytelling tradition!’

It’s been a brilliant year for Scottish books, and you truly are spoilt for choice for books to give as presents. If you’re still undecided, the best people to speak to about gift ideas are our wonderful booksellers. We spoke to a few to ask them what they’ll be recommending to their customers in the run up to Christmas day.


Sally, Far From the Madding Crowd in Linlithgow

2019 has been another bumper year for Scottish books, but leaping ahead of the rest is Mary Paulson-Ellis’s second novel, The Inheritance of Solomon Farthing. Set between contemporary Edinburgh and the final, brutal days of the First World War it is once again a study of what happens to those who slip through the cracks of our society. Family secrets are revealed and unravelled like a spool of cotton and there are some simply stunning scenes and fine prose throughout. Paulson-Ellis obviously cares deeply for her subjects and characters; I cannot wait to read her next book. Notable mentions must go to The Sound of the Hours, Karen Campbell’s sumptuous World War Two novel set in Italy and David Keenan’s second novel, For The Good Times which covers the Troubles in his own inimitable style: once read never forgotten with Mr Keenan, long may he continue!

The Scottish book we are recommending most highly is the brand new and utterly gorgeous The Secret Life of the Cairngorms. This is the second year in a row we’re nominating an Andy Howard book with Sandstone Press as our Scottish Christmas title of the year – it is a partnership that’s really working and they are offering a book that pretty much everyone will enjoy. Packed full of stunning photos and thoughtful essays and a front cover that has a red squirrel bounding through snow, I’m very much hoping someone remembers to get it for me to unwrap on Christmas Morning! As always, there are a couple of honourable mentions – this year to the brand new Harveys Complete Collection Maps of the Munros. This is an absolutely stunning collection and pair it with the Munro Pocket Log & Tick List from those clever people at Top Munro for the ideal present for any confirmed hill-bagger!


Mairi, Lighthouse Books in Edinburgh

There have been some fantastic books out this year – Scottish publishers like Monstrous Regiment, Knight Errant both had bestselling books for us, Sara Sheridan’s Where are the women? is such a brilliant work of feminist historiography…that said, absolute favourite has to be Wain by Rachel Plummer.  Her LGBT reimaginings of Scottish folktales are gorgeously illustrated and totally magical for readers of all ages – as a bookseller it’s been a book that has led to some of the most rewarding, heartwarming conversations I’ve ever had with readers.

Can I make an honorary mention of Ceremony, a Tapsalteerie pamphlet collection of poetry from the Scottish BAME writers network – it’s a thing of beauty, showing the immense richness and creativity in Scotand’s contemporary writing scene. It’s also a timely reminder that to sideline/ignore/overlook our BAME writers is to do a disservice to our literary landscape as a whole – it is shocking that given the talent & craft evident in this teenie wee book so few have found publishers.

Jemma Neville’s Constitution Street should be read by everyone. At a time of constitutional crisis this book is so full of rational hope for a politics from the ground up that it will inspire even the most disheartened. Jemma’s human interest stories are woven into a shrewd legal and political analysis, showing us that we as citizens can act to strengthen and support our communities. It’s got a snazzy cover and is hugely readable so you can literally give it to everyone this holiday.

If we get fiction requests then Haunt Publishing’s debut anthology Haunted Voices is the perfect book for the dark Scottish nights – a great intro to some really exciting voices in gothic writing, which is such a glorious but undervalued Scottish storytelling tradition!


Sarah-Lou, The Highland Bookshop in Fort William

Hands down Scottish book of the year is Surfacing by Kathleen Jamie. It is an unforgettably stunning collection of essays told in Jamie’s powerful prose. She takes us on a textural journey through both her memory and archaeological history where she moulds each chapter into something utterly precious.

The book I’ll be recommending this Christmas is Warriors, Witches and Damn Rebel Bitches by Mairi Kidd. We love, love, love this book. A real celebration of strong Scottish women from history perfectly wrapped up in a fun and modern format that deserves a place under every Scottish Christmas tree this year!


Dorothy, The Watermill in Aberfeldy

My favourite Scottish book of the year has been A Breath of Dying Embers by Denzil Meyrick. The latest out for DCI Daley and his side-kick Brian Scott. Very topical with terrorists and drone attacks on the Mull of Kintyre!

Our Christmas recommendations include:

The Munros: The Complete Collection of Maps from Harveys – not one to put in your rucksack for walking but very nice.
The Secret Life of the Cairngorms – only because it has a cute red squirrel on the cover! – seriously there stunning illustrations in the book.
The Way of All Flesh and The Art of Dying – have started reading this series and they’re good blend of history, medical drama and thriller.
And for children, An Illustrated Treasury of Scottish Castle Legends and Three Craws from Floris books, and The Tale o the Wee Mowdie from Tippermuir Books Ltd


Greig, Blackwells in Aberdeen

Hand down my favourite Scottish book this year would be Karen Barrett-Ayres eye-catching Doric For Beginners. It has been a delight this year to introduce our regulars, tourists and our world wide student base to this humorous visual guide to the dialect of the North East. Ken fit I mean.

Another local recommendation with Lia Sanders fantastic Unusual Aberdonians: 36 (ish) Lives Less Ordinary in the North East of Scotland.  This local history book chronicles the lives of 36 of most intriguing, bizarre and stranger-than-fiction folk from the North East. The book has been flying off our shelves since launching back in November.


Julie, Golden Hare in Edinburgh

I absolutely adored Moder Dy, the debut collection by Shetlandic poet Roseanne Watt. I’ve been reading a lot of poetry this year, and this really stood out for me – there’s a real playfulness with language and a quiet melancholy that really moved me. I keep thinking about it and I love recommending it to people in the bookshop.

There are so many Scottish books that are big hits at Golden Hare – the Theresa Breslin/Kate Leiper folktale collections from Floris, the Muriel Spark novels from Birlinn and many more, but I absolutely love the newly published Illustrated Declaration of Arbroath by Andrew Barr published by the Saltire Society. It’s a gorgeous book about a key document in Scottish history that’s very pertinent to read in our current time –  I’m recommending it to a lot of parents whose teens are interested in history or politics, but to be honest I want nearly everyone to read it.


Duncan, Toppings & Co in Edinburgh

My favourite of book of 2019 is Pockets of Pretty (An Instagrammer’s Edinburgh) by Shawna Law – A beautiful guide to help us discover the hidden corners of our stunning new home!

This Christmas, I’ll be recommending Tall Tales and Wee Stories by Billy Connolly – Some of his stage favourites collected for the first time in a book, as essential as old friends and a good dram over the festive period!



Vivian, Main Street Trading Company in St Boswells

My personal favourite this year was Night Boat to Tangiers by Kevin Barry. Genuinely menacing but also hilarious!

My Christmas recommendation would have to be The World According to Doddie. We could all do to follow a few of his suggestions.

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