The best books about Scottish working class culture

Brian Conaghan Author Of When Mr. Dog Bites
By Brian Conaghan

Who am I?

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...

The books I picked & why

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Trainspotting

By Irvine Welsh,

Book cover of Trainspotting

Why 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.


Me and Ma Gal

By Des Dillon,

Book cover of Me and Ma Gal

Why 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.


Shuggie Bain

By Douglas Stuart,

Book cover of Shuggie Bain

Why 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.  


Poverty Safari: Understanding the Anger of Britain's Underclass

By Darren McGarvey,

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

Why 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.  


Lowborn

By Kerry Hudson,

Book cover of Lowborn

Why 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. 


5 book lists we think you will like!

Interested in working class culture, poverty, and bildungsroman?

5,887 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 bildungsroman.

Working Class Culture Explore 5 books about working class culture
Poverty Explore 42 books about poverty
Bildungsroman Explore 175 books about bildungsroman

And, 3 books we think you will enjoy!

We think you will like Unbroken, Running with Scissors, and Beartown if you like this list.