The best books about Scottish working class culture

Why am I passionate about this?

Brian Conaghan has written seven Young Adult novels. When Mr. Dog Bites, was shortlisted for the Carnegie Medal. The Bombs That Brought Us Together, won the 2016 Costa Children’s Book Award. We Come Apart - a collaboration with Sarah Crossan - won the United Kingdom Literary Award. His novel, The Weight of a Thousand Feathers, won the 2018 An Post YA Irish Book of the Year. The M Word was shortlisted for the An Post YA and Teen Book of the Year. Cardboard Cowboys, to date, has been nominated for the Carnegie Medal. Brian lives and works in the Scottish town of Coatbridge.


I wrote...

When Mr. Dog Bites

By Brian Conaghan,

Book cover of When Mr. Dog Bites

What is my book about?

Dylan Mint has Tourette's. Being sixteen is hard enough, but Dylan's life is a constant battle to keep the bad stuff in - the swearing, the tics, the howling dog that seems to escape whenever he gets stressed... But a routine visit to the hospital changes everything. Overhearing a hushed conversation between the doctor and his mother, Dylan discovers that he's going to die next March. So he grants himself three parting wishes or 'Cool Things To Do Before I Cack It'.

It's not a long list, but it's ambitious, and he doesn't have much time. Sometimes you've just got to go for it – no holding back – and see what happens...

Shepherd is reader supported. When you buy books, we may earn an affiliate commission.

The books I picked & why

Book cover of Trainspotting

Brian Conaghan Why did I love this book?

As a reluctant reader from a council estate Trainspotting was the book that ignited the literary fire in me and became the gateway book to a multitude of others over the years. For a time everything I read was measured against it. When I taught this book in schools my students salivated on the accurate and relatable depiction of their familiar landscape(s) and national brogue. To me, I’ve always considered Trainspotting an observation about forgotten and voiceless communities; not simply a reductive book about heroin abuse.

By Irvine Welsh,

Why should I read it?

3 authors picked Trainspotting as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

'An unremitting powerhouse of a novel that marks the arrival of a major new talent. Trainspotting is a loosely knotted string of jagged, dislocated tales that lay bare the hearts of darkness of the junkies, wide-boys and psychos who ride in the down escalator of opportunity in the nation's capital. Loud with laughter in the dark, this novel is the real McCoy. If you haven't heard of Irvine Welsh before-don't worry, you will' The Herald


Book cover of Me and Ma Gal

Brian Conaghan Why did I love this book?

A day in the life of two inseparable friends in an impoverished Scottish town where everything seems challenging. They learn what friendship truly means in the face of certain dangers. Dillon’s award-winning debut depicts the vitality and intensity of boyhood friendship, as well as painting a vivid picture of contemporary working-class Scotland.

By Des Dillon,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Me and Ma Gal as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

A story of boyhood friendship and irrepressible vitality told with the speed of trains and the understanding of the awkwardness, significance and fragility of that time. This is a day in the life of two boys as told by one of them.


Book cover of Shuggie Bain

Brian Conaghan Why did I love this book?

This international bestseller and 2021 Booker winner is an easy pick. Shuggie Bain is heart-wrenching, bleak, hopeful, subtle, and bombastic in equal measure, but for anyone who grew up in Glasgow and its outskirts in the 1980s Stuart forensically captures the true essence of the working class struggle.  

By Douglas Stuart,

Why should I read it?

7 authors picked Shuggie Bain as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

WINNER OF THE BOOKER PRIZE
NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER
FINALIST FOR THE NATIONAL BOOK AWARD



A stunning debut novel by a masterful writer telling the heartwrenching story of a young boy and his alcoholic mother, whose love is only matched by her pride.



Shuggie Bain is the unforgettable story of young Hugh “Shuggie” Bain, a sweet and lonely boy who spends his 1980s childhood in run-down public housing in Glasgow, Scotland. Thatcher’s policies have put husbands and sons out of work, and the city’s notorious drugs epidemic is waiting in the wings.



Shuggie’s mother Agnes walks a wayward path: she…


Book cover of Poverty Safari: Understanding the Anger of Britain's Underclass

Brian Conaghan Why did I love this book?

In this 2018 Orwell Prize winner, McGarvey takes a deep dive into working-class culture (notably in Glasgow) but his themes of social injustice, communities devastated by economic disparity, and systematic poverty are universal. Poverty Safari excavates with forensic precision what it’s like to be working class in a world of vast social, economic, and cultural inequality. This book - part memoir part polemic - is raw, powerful, and unflinching.  

By Darren McGarvey,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked Poverty Safari as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Brutally honest and fearless, Poverty Safari is an unforgettable insight into modern Britain, and will change how you think about poverty.

The Sunday Times Top Ten bestseller.
Winner of the Orwell Prize.
Named the most 'Rebellious Read of the 21st Century' in a Scottish Book Trust poll.

Darren McGarvey has experienced poverty and its devastating effects first-hand. He knows why people from deprived communities all around Britain feel angry and unheard. And he wants to explain . . .

So he invites you to come on a safari of sorts. But not the kind where the wildlife is surveyed from…


Book cover of Lowborn

Brian Conaghan Why did I love this book?

Hudson revisits the towns and cities that formed the backdrop of her, somewhat chaotic, childhood. She excavates the effects of poverty on the UK’s working and underclasses from this peripatetic experience. Lowborn is a vibrant, witty, and often poignant social commentary. Like all aforementioned books, it unwittingly challenges the notion of white privilege. 

By Kerry Hudson,

Why should I read it?

3 authors picked Lowborn as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

'Totally engrossing and deliciously feisty' Bernardine Evaristo

A powerful, personal agenda-changing exploration of poverty in today's Britain.

'When every day of your life you have been told you have nothing of value to offer, that you are worth nothing to society, can you ever escape that sense of being 'lowborn' no matter how far you've come?'

Kerry Hudson is proudly working class but she was never proudly poor. The poverty she grew up in was all-encompassing, grinding and often dehumanising. Always on the move with her single mother, Kerry attended nine primary schools and five secondaries, living in B&Bs and…


You might also like...

Luck of the Irish

By Kate Darroch (editor),

Book cover of Luck of the Irish

Kate Darroch Author Of Death in Paris

New book alert!

Why am I passionate about this?

Living on Devon's gorgeous coast, I'm melding my lifelong love of reading Cozy Sleuths with my love of writing and years of living in foreign climes to write Travel Cozies. I also have a Vella Heist serial Found Money starting on Vella soon, and a Cozy Spy series They Call Him Gimlet coming out in the Autumn.

Kate's book list on humorous murder mysteries

What is my book about?

Ten Tantalizing Cozy Mysteries to enjoy on Saint Patrick's Day! Sure to make you chuckle and keep you guessing! Plus, the authors' favorite Saint Patrick's Day Recipes.

Have fun curling up with these Cozy stories and a delicious drink, knowing that just by enjoying these tales you are doing good in the world as well - because 100% of book sales proceeds go to a non-profit helping children living in terrible conditions (through the non-profit RAICES Texas). 

Luck of the Irish

By Kate Darroch (editor),

What is this book about?

Ten Tantalising Cozy Mysteries to enjoy on Saint Patrick's Day! Sure to make you chuckle, make you go "aawww", maybe even raise goosebumps,too - or a bump of curiosity! Plus the authors' favorite Saint Patrick's Day Recipes.

Have fun curling up with these Cozy stories and a delicious drink, knowing that just by enjoying these tales you are doing good in the world as well - because 100% of book sales proceeds go to a non-profit helping children living in terrible conditions, RAICEStexas.org


Topics
  • Coming soon!

5 book lists we think you will like!

Interested in working class culture, poverty, and romantic love?

10,000+ authors have recommended their favorite books and what they love about them. Browse their picks for the best books about working class culture, poverty, and romantic love.

Working Class Culture Explore 4 books about working class culture
Poverty Explore 89 books about poverty
Romantic Love Explore 822 books about romantic love