The best books featuring feisty Scotswomen

Who am I?

Proud to drop the F-bomb—I’m an unrepentant feminist. I grew up during the heady days of the Sixties and Seventies when books played a major part in raising our consciousness. I’m remembering the wonderful Virago Press championing women’s voices, and writers such as Marilyn French, Angela Carter, Maya Angelou, and Maxine Hong Kingston. I’m not keen on books where women are helpless victims or ciphers while men get to do all the exciting stuff. And since real life can be quite grim enough (I was a journalist for over thirty years and remain a news junkie), I’m increasingly attracted by writing that includes a dollop of humour. 


I wrote...

Miss Blaine's Prefect and the Vampire Menace

By Olga Wojtas,

Book cover of Miss Blaine's Prefect and the Vampire Menace

What is my book about?

Fifty-something librarian Shona is a proud former pupil of the Marcia Blaine School for Girls, but has a deep loathing for Muriel Spark’s novel, The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie, which she thinks gives her alma mater a bad name. 

Impeccably educated and an accomplished martial artist, linguist, and musician, Shona is personally selected by Marcia Blaine herself to travel back in time for an important mission in fin-de-siècle France. But Shona finds this mission very confusing. Why have so many people been torn to death by wild animals, what are Maman and the mayor up to, and is the reclusive aristocrat in the isolated castle really suffering from toothache?

The books I picked & why

Shepherd is reader supported. We may earn an affiliate commission when you buy through links on our website. This is how we fund this project for readers and authors (learn more).

The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie

By Muriel Spark,

Book cover of The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie

Why this book?

A classic, and my inspiration. Dame Muriel and I went to the same school, James Gillespie’s High in Edinburgh, which she immortalised as the Marcia Blaine School for Girls. Jean Brodie is a monster, manipulating and grooming her favoured pupils, the “crème de la crème.” She is also dazzling and charismatic with a fine turn of phrase. The novel is deceptively short, more a novella—it was published in its entirety in The New Yorker magazine in 1961. But it’s a masterclass in fine writing, and every time I read it, I find new things to admire. It’s also very funny. “Who is the greatest Italian painter?”

“Leonardo da Vinci, Miss Brodie.”

“That is incorrect.

The answer is Giotto, he is my favourite.”


How to Survive Everything

By Ewan Morrison,

Book cover of How to Survive Everything

Why this book?

I’m full of admiration for this book. Morrison is a fifty-something bloke, but this narrative is told in the first person by a teenage girl, Haley, and the voice is totally perfect: opinionated, funny, sulky, naïve. The novel’s full of dark humour, and a real page-turner. Haley is kidnapped by her father to join a group of apocalyptic pandemic survivalists. Are they barking mad or the only people clear-sighted enough to see the danger the world is in from Virus X? You’ll veer from one viewpoint to the other throughout. You’ll also learn how to use a crossbow and what to put in your survival pack. (Warning: I could only read the bit about amputation through my fingers.) 


Under the Skin

By Michel Faber,

Book cover of Under the Skin

Why this book?

A bit of a cheat, since the protagonist, Isserley, is actually an alien. But she’s presenting as a woman in the Scottish Highlands, luring male hitchhikers into her red Toyota Corolla. We don’t discover why for quite some time, and when we do, it’s a shocker. The book effortlessly encompasses major themes of difference, injustice, big business, and gender politics without ever being polemical. If you’ve seen the film of the same name, starring Scarlett Johansson, forget it—it’s totally different from the book. Oh, and if you’re not already a vegetarian, this novel might turn you into one. 


Field of Blood

By Denise Mina,

Book cover of Field of Blood

Why this book?

The first in Mina’s Paddy Meehan series set in Glasgow in the 1980s and 90s. Paddy is a newbie on the Scottish Daily News, who dreams of becoming an investigative reporter. A child is abducted from the garden of his house, and the trail leads to two young lads. But Paddy doesn’t believe the lads acted alone and launches her own investigation. Headstrong, ambitious, and wet behind the ears, Paddy also has to combat rampant sexism and Catholic guilt. In an intriguing subplot, Mina weaves fact into fiction through Paddy’s obsession with her namesake. The real Paddy Meehan was a Glasgow criminal who was the victim of a notorious miscarriage of justice, jailed for a murder he didn’t commit. 


The Unreliable Death of Lady Grange

By Sue Lawrence,

Book cover of The Unreliable Death of Lady Grange

Why this book?

This historical novel is based on quite horrifying fact. In Edinburgh in 1732, Lord Grange was apparently mourning the death of his estranged wife Rachel. Except he’d actually had her kidnapped and marooned on the remote and desolate island of St Kilda. Lawrence isn’t only a historical novelist: she’s a respected cookery and food writer, and former winner of the BBC’s MasterChef. She first heard of Lady Grange when she was researching her cookbook on Scottish islands. And she discovered that Rachel’s life had been recorded by male writers in the 18th and 19th centuries, all of whom blackened her reputation. So this book, for the first time, gives Rachel a voice. 


5 book lists we think you will like!

Interested in Scotland, survivalism, and teacher student relationship?

5,888 authors have recommended their favorite books and what they love about them. Browse their picks for the best books about Scotland, survivalism, and teacher student relationship.

Scotland Explore 183 books about Scotland
Survivalism Explore 10 books about survivalism
Teacher Student Relationship Explore 9 books about teacher student relationship

And, 3 books we think you will enjoy!

We think you will like Complicity, The Prisoner of St Kilda, and Witch-Hunting in Scotland if you like this list.