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Art, Architecture and Historic sites

History, Politics and Culture

Guides and Picture Books

  • Colin Baxter and Jim Crumley Scottish Landscapes, Portrait of Edinburgh (UK Lomond o/p), Baxter and Jack McLean The City of Glasgow (UK Lomond o/p).
    Best known for his ubiquitous postcards, Baxter's photographs succeed in capturing the grandeur of Scotland's countryside and cityscapes.
  • Collins Gem Dictionary (UK HarperCollins o/p).
    Handy, pocket-sized guide to the mysteries of Scottish vocabulary and idiom.
  • Joe Fisher The Glasgow Encyclopedia (Mainstream/Trafalgar).
    The essential Glasgow reference book, covering nearly every facet of this complex urban society.
  • Magnus Magnusson and Graham White, eds. The Nature of Scotland - Landscape, Wildlife and People (UK Canongate).
    Glossy picture-based book on Scotland's natural heritage, from geology to farming and conservation. Good section on crofting.
  • Oscar Marzaroli Glasgow's People: 1956-1988 (Mainstream/Trafalgar).
    Wonderful collection by Glasgow's most sympathetic photographer.
  • Richard Muir The Coastlines of Britain (UK Macmillan o/p).
    An exploration of all aspects of Scotland's varied coast with chapters on cliffs, beach, dunes, flora and fauna.
  • Anne Shade Scotland for Kids (Mainstream/Trafalgar).
    Indispensable advice on where to go and what to do with children in Scotland, written by a mother of two.
  • Cecil Sinclair Tracing your Scottish Ancestors (UK HMSO o/p).
    Probably the best guide to ancestry research in the Scottish Record Office; definitely worth reading before visiting General Register House.

Folklore and Legend

  • Margaret Bennett Scottish Customs from the Cradle to the Grave (UK Polygon).
    Fascinating and sympathetic extensive oral history.
  • Michael Brander Tales of the Borders (UK Mainstream).
    Part social history and part guide book, a collection of romantic nineteenth-century Border tales retold and put into historical context.
  • Alan J Bruford and Donald Archie McDonald, eds. Scottish Traditional Tales (UK Polygon).
    A huge collection of folk stories from all over Scotland, taken from tape archives.
  • Anne Ross Folklore of the Southern Highlands (UK Barnes and Noble).
    A comprehensive collection, with sections on clan lore, witchcraft, spells and taboos, festivals and scores of obscure customs.
  • Jennifer Westwood Albion: A Guide to Legendary Britain (Grafton/Salem House).
    Highly readable volume on the development of myth in literature, with a section on Scottish legends.

Memoirs and Travelogues

  • James Boswell The Journal of a Tour to the Hebrides (Penguin/McGraw Hill).
    Lively diary account of a journey around the islands taken with Samuel Johnson, written by his biographer and friend.
  • Derek Cooper Hebridean Connection (UK Fontana o/p).
    Written in the 1970s at a time of economic crisis, this is an unsentimental impression of contemporary island life.
  • David Craig On the Crofter's Trail (UK Jonathan Cape).
    Using anecdotes and interviews with descendants, Craig conveys the hardship and tragedy of the Highland Clearances without being mawkish.
  • James Hunter Scottish Highlanders (Mainstream/Trafalgar).
    Attempts to explain the strong sense of blood-ties held by people of Scottish descent all over the world; lots of history and good photographs.
  • Tom Morton Spirit of Adventure: A Journey Beyond the Whisky Trails (Mainstream/Trafalgar).
    Offbeat and funny view of Scotland's whisky industry as seen from the back of a motorcycle in appalling weather.
  • Robert Louis Stevenson Edinburgh: Picturesque Notes (UK Barnes and Noble).
    Charming evocation of Stevenson's birthplace - its moods, curiosities and influences on his work.
  • Douglas Sutherland Born Yesterday: Memories of a Scottish Childhood (Canongate/Transaction).
    Childhood memories of growing up in the 1920s and 30s in Orkney, Aberdeenshire and the Moray Firth.

Food and Drink

  • Michael Brander Essential Guide to Scots Whisky (UK Canongate o/p).
    A history of whisky from the days of the illicit distillers to the present day, along with a directory of malt.
  • Catherine Brown Scottish Cookery (UK Chambers).
    Practical, easy-to-follow recipes with interesting background notes on the history of Scottish food and ingredients.
  • Annette Hope A Caledonian Feast (UK Mainstream).
    Authoritative and entertaining history of Scottish food and social life from the ninth to the twentieth century. Lots of recipes.
  • Charles McLean The Pocket Whisky Book (UK Mitchell Beazley o/p).
    A tiny, thorough, fact-filled book covering malt, grain and blended whiskies, plus whisky-based liqueurs.
  • F Marian McNeill The Scots Kitchen (UK Mercat Press o/p) and The Scots Cellar (UK Lochar o/p).
    The first is a definitive, learned and entertaining guide to the history of Scots cooking, the second a history on the consumption and appreciation of whisky, ale and wine, with some good, alcoholic recipes.


  • Iain Banks The Bridge (UK Sphere) and The Crow Road (UK Abacus).
    Banks' work can be funny, pacy, though-provoking, imaginative and downright disgusting. It is never dull.
  • D K Broster The Jacobite Trilogy (UK Mandarin).
    Tear-jerking trilogy centred round the tribulations of the Jacobite supporters.
  • George Mackay Brown Beside the Ocean of Time (John Murray).
    A child's journey through the history of an Orkney island, and an adult's effort to make sense of the place's secrets in the late twentieth century.
  • John Buchan The Complete Richard Hannay (UK Penguin/Godine).
    This one volume includes The 39 Steps, Greenmantle, Mr Standfast, The Three Hostages and The Island of Sheep. Good gung-ho stories with a great feel for Scottish landscape. In the US, both Oxford University Press and Godine publish various editions of the Hannay stories. Less well known but better are Buchan's historical romances, for example The Free Fishers (UK B&W Publishing), John Burnet of Barnes (UK B&W o/p) and Witchwood (Canongate/Caroll & Graf).

  • Moira Burgess and Hamish Whyte, eds. Streets of Stone (Mainstream/Salamander).
    Anthology of contemporary Glaswegian short stories.
  • George MacDonald Fraser The General Danced at Dawn (UK Fontana o/p), McAuslin in the Rough and The Sheikh and the Dustbin (UK Fontana).
    Touching and very funny collections of short stories detailing life in a Highland regiment after World War II.
  • Lewis Grassic Gibbon A Scots Quair (Penguin/Schocken o/p).
    A landmark trilogy, set in northeast Scotland during and after World War I, the events are seen through the eyes of Chris Guthrie, "torn between her love for the land and her desire to escape a peasant culture". Strong, seminal work.
  • Alasdair Gray Lanark (Canongate/Braziller o/p).
    A postmodern blend of social realism and labyrinthine fantasy: Gray's extraordinary debut as a novelist, with his own allegorical illustrations, takes invention and comprehension to their limits.
  • Andrew Greig Read all you can get by one of Scotland's most exciting and original contemporary literary voices!
    Electric Brae (1992) At the centre of the novel is the crumbling seastack of the Old Man of Hoy and the consuming relationship between a young artist, Kim, coldly passionate, talented, secretive, and Jimmy, a North Sea roughneck, engineer and climber. The Return of John Macnab (1996) Some friends decide to revive the challenge of the legendary poacher John MacNab.
    When They Lay Bare (1999) Part thriller, part romance, a tale of family feuds, revenge and tragic love.
    That Summer(2000)
  • Neil M Gunn The Silver Darlings (UK Faber & Faber).
    Probably Gunn's most representative and best-known book, evocatively set on the northeast coast and telling the story of the herring fishermen during the great years of the industry. Other examples of his romantic, symbolic works include The Lost Glen, The Silver Bough and Wild Geese Overhead (UK Chambers).
  • James Hogg The Private Memoirs and Confessions of a Justified Sinner (Penguin).
    Complex, powerful mid-nineteenth-century novel dealing with possession, myth and folklore, as it looks at the confession of an Edinburgh murderer from three different points of view.
  • James Kelman The Busconductor Hines (UK Phoenix).
    The wildly funny story of a young Glasgow busconductor with an intensely boring job and a limitless imagination. How Late It Was, How Late (Secker & Warburg/Norton) is Kelman's award-winning and controversial look at life as seen through the eyes of a blind Glaswegian drunk. A disturbing study of personal and political violence, with language to match.
  • A L Kennedy Looking for the Possible Dance (UK Minerva).
    Young Scottish writer dissects the difficulties of human relationships on a personal and wider social level.
  • Alexander MacArthur and Kingsley Long No Mean City (UK Corgi).
    Classic story of razor gangs in 1935 Glasgow.
  • William McIlvanney A Gift from Nessus (UK Mainstream).
    Moral tale set in 1960s Glasgow that counterposes the outward trappings of materialism with the emptiness of our inner life.
  • Compton Mackenzie Whisky Galore (UK Penguin).
    Comic novel based on a true story of the wartime wreck of a cargo of whisky on a Hebridean island. Full of predictable stereotypes but still funny.
  • Alistair MacLeodNo Great Mischief (2000).
    The story glides along, oozing with history and pain and sentiment. The MacDonald clan, through the eyes of Alexander MacDonald, comes clearly to life. We follow the clan for more than 200 years after they leave Scotland. To this family, history is all-important, and family is everything. The red- and black-haired and dark-eyed MacDonalds survive heartbreak and loss in the "land of the trees" -- Cape Breton -- and dig out a new life on the Maritime shores. Young Alexander and his twin sister live with their grandparents, near their other grandfather, and are eternally schooled in their family's past. I felt honoured to share in their history, to soak in their very lives. From the coast of Scotland to the hard-rock mines of northern Ontario to the bleary streets of today's Toronto, MacLeod takes us on a road seldom taken in modern fiction.
  • Claire Messud When the World Was Steady (Granta).
    Tells the story of two middle-aged sisters and the divergent life paths chosen by each. On Bali and the Isle of Mull, two islands as far apart as geography allows, the sisters reassess their place in the world and gingerly find the new bearings that will allow them to renegotiate the circumstances of their lives with newfound acceptance and flexibility. A compelling read, not only for the vivid description of place. Nominated for the PEN/Faulkner Award.
  • Naomi Mitchison The Bull Calves (UK R Drew).
    Moving story of a family facing personal and political realities after the failed Jacobite Rebellion of 1745. A generous, humane and thoroughly engrossing read.
  • Neil Munro The Complete Edition of the Para Handy Tales (UK Birlinn o/p).
    Engaging and witty, the stories relate the adventures of a Clyde puffer captain as he more or less legally steers his grubby ship up and down the West Coast. Despite a fond - if slighly patronizing - view of the Gaelic mind, they are enormous fun.
  • Ruaridh Nicoll White Male Heart (2001). Hemingway's ghost would seem to roam the Highlands. This is a tale of male bonding and competition, full of animal killing and proofs of masculinity. The blood is all in the service of showing that love, maybe even love of women, is a truer path. What's more, this journalist knows something Papa didn't: rural Scotland.
    Wide Eyed (2003) Dark, atmospheric novel set in a small east coast fishing village. Nicoll is - together with Andrew Greig - Scotland's most exciting and original contemporary literary voice.
  • Colin Nicolson, ed. Iain Crichton Smith: Critical Essays (Edinburgh University Press o/p/ Colorado Univeristy Press).
    A good introduction to the life and works of one of Scotland's leading contemporary writers, who writes poetry and novels in Gaelic and English.
  • Manda Scott Hen's Teeth (Women's Press).Glasgow and Campsies!!
    In a panic, Caroline calls Glasgow psychiatrist Dr. Kellen Stewart in the middle of the night because her lover, Bridget Donnelly, apparently died from cardiac arrest. Stunned, Kellen goes to Bridget's rural farm because the deceased is her former lover and teacher. The police are already on the scene when Kellen arrives.
    Though the evidence leaves no doubt as to the cause of death, something nags at Kellen, who begins to inquire into her former friend's recent past. She quickly learns that Bridget's brother died from a heart attack two weeks ago. For two fortyish siblings in near perfect health to have heart attacks is too unbelievable for Kellen to accept. She also finds out that some missing hens were brought to the farm just before Bridget's sibling died. As Kellen gets closer to the truth, she places herself in danger from a brilliant killer, who will not allow anyone to stand in the way of achieving his objective.
    HEN'S TEETH is a fabulous medical thriller that provides the smashing debut of a newcomer, Manda Scott. The crisp story line moves forward at a fabulous pace. The support cast and the city of Glasgow add depth to the plot. However, it is amateur sleuth and gay lover Kellen, who makes this a winning tale because her motives and desires not only ring true, but propel the story to an exciting climax. A wonderful first novel that deserves much reader attention. (Harriet Klausner)
  • Sir Walter Scott The Waverley Novels (Penguin).
    The books that did much to create the romanticized version of Scottish life and history. Recently the first titles in a new series of critical editions have been published by Edinburgh University Press: Kennilworth, Tale of Old Mortality, Black Dwarf, St Ronan's Well and The Antiquary.
  • Muriel Spark The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie (Penguin/NAL Dutton).
    Wonderful evocation of middle-class Edinburgh life and aspirations, still apparent in that city today.
  • R L Stevenson Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde (Penguin/Vintage), Kidnapped (Penguin/Signet), The Master of Ballantrae (Penguin/Oxford University Press) and Weir of Hermiston (UK Penguin).
    Nineteenth-century tales of intrigue and adventure.
  • Nigel Tranter The Bruce Trilogy (Hodder & Stoughton/Trafalgar).
    Massive tome by prolific and hugely popular author on Scottish themes.
  • Jeff Torrington Swing Hammer Swing (UK Minerva).
    Gripping contemporary account of working-class Glasgow, centred around a week in the life of Tam Clay. Winner of the 1993 Whitbread prize for fiction.
  • Irvine Welsh Trainspotting, The Acid House (UK Minerva) and Marabou Stork Nightmares (UK Jonathan Cape).
    Depending on the strength of your stomach, these trawls through the horrors of drug addiction, sexual fantasy, urban decay and hopeless youth will either make you rejoice at an authentic and unapologetic new voice for the dispossessed, or throw up. Thankfully, Welsh's unflinching attention is not without humour.


  • J K Annaud Dod and Davie (UK Canongate).
    Translation into Scots of Wilhelm Busch's tongue-in-cheek morality tale. Robust and wickedly funny, the book appeals to badly-behaved children of all ages.
  • George Mackay Brown Selected Poems 1954-1983 (UK John Murray).
    Brown's work is as haunting, beautiful and gritty as the Orkney islands which inspire it.
  • Robert Burns The Complete Illustrated Poems, Songs and Ballads (UK Lomond Books o/p).
    Facsimile edition of the works of Scotland's most famous bard. Oxford University Press publish much of Burns' work in the US.
  • Douglas Dunn, ed. The Faber Book of Twentieth-Century Scottish Poetry (Faber & Faber).
    All the big names and some lesser known works.
  • Douglas Dunn, ed. Scotland: An Anthology (UK Fontana o/p).
    Wide-ranging anthology featuring both Scottish writers and outsiders that attempts to provide a background to past and present notions of Scottish nationality.
  • Liz Lochhead Bagpipe Muzak (UK Penguin).
    A great collection of monologues and poems examining contemporary everyday life from a deceptively simple angle.
  • Norman MacCaig Collected Poems (Chatto & Windus/Trafalgar).
    Justly celebrated for its keen observation of the natural world, MacCaig's work remains intellectually challenging without being arid. His poetry, rooted in the Highlands, uses detail to explore a universal landscape.
  • Hugh MacDiarmid Complete Poems (edited by Michael Grieve & W R Aitken; Carcarnet/ Penguin o/p).
    Complete works of Scotland's finest modern poet.
  • William MacGonagall Poetic Gems (UK Duckworth).
    Compulsive selection of works by Scotland's much-loved worst poet.
  • McCaig, Morgan, Lochhead Three Scottish Poets (UK Canongate).
    A representative selection from the work of three well-known poets. Contrasting perspectives - natural, metaphysical, urban, political and feminist - reflect the complexity of the modern Scottish experience.
  • John McQueen and Tom Scott, eds. The Oxford Book of Scottish Verse (UK Oxford University Press).
    Claims to be the most comprehensive anthology of Scottish poetry ever published.
  • Tom Scott, ed. The Penguin Book of Scottish Verse (UK Penguin).
    Good general selection.
  • Roderick Watson, ed. The Poetry of Scotland (UK Edinburgh University Press).
    An accessible anthology of poems in English, Scots and Gaelic (with notes and translations) from the fourteenth century to the present day.

Outdoor Pursuits

  • Bartholomew Walks Series (UK Bartholomew).
    The series covers different areas of Scotland including Perthshire, the Borders and Fife, Loch Lomond and the Trossachs, Oban, Mull and Lochaber, and Skye and Wester Ross. Each booklet has a range of walks of varying lengths with clear maps and descriptions.
  • Andrew Barbour Atlantic Salmon (UK Canongate o/p).
    Complete and easy-to-read rundown on all aspects of the life-cycle of this fascinating fish and its place in the Scottish economy.
  • Donald Bennet The Munros; Scott Johnstone et al. The Corbetts (UK Scottish Mountaineering Trust).
    Authoritative and attractively illustrated hillwalkers' guides to the Scottish peaks. SMT also publishes guides to districts and specific climbs.
  • Hamish Brown Hamish's Mountain Walk and Climbing the Corbetts (Gollancz o/p).
    The first is now the classic book on the Munros, done in a single walk, the second its companion volume. Scotland Coast-to-Coast (UK Patrick Stephen o/p), The Fife Coast (UK Mainstream) and From Pennines to the Highlands (UK Lochar) are all guides to suit more experienced walkers and richly painted background sources.
  • Andrew Dempster Classic Mountain Scrambles in Scotland (UK Mainstream).
    Guide to hill walks in Scotland that combine straightforward walking with some rock-climbing.
  • Richard Gilbert Exploring the Far North West of Scotland (UK Cordee).
    Comprehensive guide to the wilds of the Highlands.
  • Michael Madders and Julia Welstead Where to Watch Birds in Scotland (UK Christopher Helm).
    Region-by-region guide with maps, details on access and habitat and notes on what to see when.
  • Hamish McInnes West Highland Walks vols 1-4 (UK Hodder & Stoughton).
    Good walks and accompanying maps, with a text that incorporates history and legend.
  • Oleg Polunin Collins Photoguide to the Wild Flowers of Britain and Northern Europe (UK Collins o/p).
    An excellent, easy to use field guide.
  • Ordnance Survey Pathfinder Series (Jarrold Publishing/Seven Hills Book Distribution).
    Top-quality maps, colour pictures and clear text. Titles include: Loch Lomond and the Trossachs, Fort William and Glen Coe and Perthshire.
  • Scotland for Game, Sea and Coarse Fishing (UK Pastime Publications).
    General guide on what to fish, where and for how much, along with notes on records, regulations and convenient accommodation. Published in association with the Scottish Tourist Board.
  • Robert Price Scotland's Golf Courses (Mercat Press o/p/Macmillan).
    A thorough lowdown on Scottish courses for serious golfers, with good photographs.
  • Roger Smith The West Highland Way, The Southern Upland Way (HMSO o/p).
    Comprehensive guides to long-distance paths across spectacular scenery, containing information on sights, history, nature and help on planning your trek, as well as specially orientated maps. HMSO also publishes an extremely useful series called Twenty-Five Walks; each volume, tailored to a particular region of Scotland, has walks of all types, colour pictures and excellent maps.
  • Brendan Walsh Scottish Cycling Guide (UK Mainstream).
    Selection of cycling tours covering the northwest and the islands.

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