10 books like Orkney

By Amy Sackville,

Here are 10 books that authors have personally recommended if you like Orkney. Shepherd is a community of 7,000+ authors sharing their favorite books with the world.

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Things in Jars

By Jess Kidd,

Book cover of Things in Jars

I loved this novel by Jess Kidd (and all her novels, natch) from the moment I started reading. Who wouldn’t love a Victorian-era set story of spectacle and sideshow, featuring lady detective Bridie Devine as she sets out to find a mysterious child who has disappeared? The child in question, Christabel, is rumored to be a Merrow, a kind of mermaid. Ruby Doyle, a dead man who may or may not be a hallucination (brought on by whatever it is that Bridie is constantly smoking) assists her in her investigations. The prose is charming, entertaining, and gripping. There is magic, folklore, and bags of personality.

Things in Jars

By Jess Kidd,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked Things in Jars as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

London, 1863. Bridie Devine, the finest female detective of her age, is taking on her toughest case yet. Reeling from her last job and with her reputation in tatters, a remarkable puzzle has come her way. Christabel Berwick has been kidnapped. But Christabel is no ordinary child. She is not supposed to exist.

As Bridie fights to recover the stolen child she enters a world of fanatical anatomists, crooked surgeons and mercenary showmen. Anomalies are in fashion, curiosities are the thing, and fortunes are won and lost in the name of entertainment. The public love a spectacle and Christabel may…


The Sealwoman's Gift

By Sally Magnusson,

Book cover of The Sealwoman's Gift

I love this book for many reasons. The Sealwoman is a passenger on the slave ship that takes our protagonist form her beloved homeland, and the ‘gift’ of the title is the story she tells of her shapeshifting roots. The voyage is hellish, and contains a terrifying birth scene among other unspeakable, unimaginable, only just survivable events. It’s based on a true story, which makes it all the more powerful, and it makes me wonder about the hidden truths in the folklore contained within it, especially the sealwoman’s story. 

The Sealwoman's Gift

By Sally Magnusson,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked The Sealwoman's Gift as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

'A remarkable feat of imagination... I enjoyed and admired it in equal measure' Sarah Perry, author of The Essex Serpent
'An extraordinarily immersive read, that emphasises the power of stories, examining themes of motherhood, identity, exile and freedom ... a journey that not only crosses continents, but encompasses tragedy and rich sensuality' Guardian
'A powerful tale of Barbary pirates ... richly imagined.' Sunday Times
'Engrossing' Sunday Express 'Fascinating ... a really, really good read' BBC R2 Book Club
'The best sort of historical novel.' Scotsman 'A lyrical tale' Stylist
'A poetic retelling of Icelandic history.' Daily Mail 'Compelling stuff' Good…


The Mermaid of Black Conch

By Monique Roffey,

Book cover of The Mermaid of Black Conch

I saved The Mermaid of Black Conch to read until after I had finished writing my book and it was worth the wait. Monique Roffey’s novel tells of the romance between a fisherman on the fictional island of Black Conch and Aycayia, a magical sea-woman from the ancient Taino people, indigenous to the Caribbean. Aycayia is trapped and persecuted, David rescues her and witnesses her miraculous metamorphosis from piscine to human. Histories of colonial and ecological violence are woven in through the characters of the crass American tourists who wish to capture her, and Miss Arcadia Rain, the white Creole landowner who helps David protect Aycayia. The mermaid also speaks in her own lyrical voice, interspersed with David and Miss Rain’s narration. Magical, poetic, and layered, Roffey’s novel is an enchanting repurposing of mermaid mythology.

The Mermaid of Black Conch

By Monique Roffey,

Why should I read it?

4 authors picked The Mermaid of Black Conch as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Escape to the ocean with the entrancing, unforgettable winner of the Costa Book of the Year - as read on BBC Radio 4.

'Mesmerising' MAGGIE O'FARRELL
'A unique talent' BERNARDINE EVARISTO
'Wonderful' BRIDGET COLLINS
'Brilliant' CLARE CHAMBERS

Near the island of Black Conch, a fisherman sings to himself while waiting for a catch. But David attracts a sea-dweller that he never expected - Aycayia, an innocent young woman cursed by jealous wives to live as a mermaid.

When American tourists capture Aycayia, David rescues her and vows to win her trust. Slowly, painfully, she transforms into a woman again. Yet…


Deep Water

By Lu Hersey,

Book cover of Deep Water

In this prize-winning novel for older teenagers, Hersey recreates a story of Selkie lore which, in terms of the magical element, remains largely faithful to the original folklore. Teenager Danni’s mother has disappeared, so her daughter sets out to find her. Danni finds herself in her mother’s small Cornish hometown, and soon discovers secrets about her family that are so surprising and hard to believe, they threaten to blow her world apart. What follows is an adventure that enthralls deeply, incorporating fantasy elements into a satisfyingly emotional, realistic story. Stylistically, the sea, selkies, the coastline, and the landscape play important parts, providing an atmospheric backdrop to this fast-moving thrill ride. 

Deep Water

By Lu Hersey,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Deep Water as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

When her mum vanishes, Danni moves to a tiny Cornish fishing village with Dad - where the locals treat her like a monster. As the village's dark, disturbing past bubbles to the surface, Danni discovers that she's not who - or what - she thought she was. And the only way to save her family from a bitter curse is to embrace her incredible new gift.


Orkney Folk Tales

By Tom Muir,

Book cover of Orkney Folk Tales

The best way to learn a new place is to read its folk tales. Muir’s curated collection not only gives a sense of the community values found throughout the wide spread of Orkney islands, but also of magic and wonder that pervades the place. You can easily take a tour to the specific locations mentioned in the stories, and I can assure you that rereading the stories in those places, with Muir’s charming, poetic prose, makes them come to life in fascinating new ways.

Orkney Folk Tales

By Tom Muir,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Orkney Folk Tales as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

The Orkney Islands are a place of mystery and magic, where the past and the present meet, ancient standing stones walk and burial mounds are the home of the trows. Orkney Folk Tales walks the reader across invisible islands that are home to fin folk and mermaids, and seals that are often far more than they appear to be. Here Orkney witches raise storms and predict the outcome of battles, ghosts seek revenge and the Devil sits in the rafters of St Magnus Cathedral, taking notes! Using ancient tales told by the firesides of the Picts and Vikings, storyteller Tom…


Maeshowe and the Heart of Neolithic Orkney

By Sally M. Foster,

Book cover of Maeshowe and the Heart of Neolithic Orkney

Orkney is home to more historical sites and monuments than I can name, but for those of us who celebrate the Winter Solstice, Maeshowe is a critical pilgrimage site. This official souvenir guide to Maeshowe and other Neolithic sites is a perfect companion to the stories and historical facts woven by tour guides. It also doesn’t hurt that you can pull it out, stare at the beautiful photographs, and imagine yourself back in Orkney every time you long to return.

Maeshowe and the Heart of Neolithic Orkney

By Sally M. Foster,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Maeshowe and the Heart of Neolithic Orkney as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.


The Outrun

By Amy Liptrot,

Book cover of The Outrun: A Memoir

I was born in a fishing village in Yorkshire and although I live in the city now, I always feel the pull of the sea. This book is a memoir set in Orkney and London. It is about the writer’s struggle with addiction and her recovery – partly through reconnecting to the natural landscape again. Amy’s prose is clean and bright. She constructs sentences with no fat on them. Her descriptions are sharply accurate. I really related to her need to get away from London to find her way back to health. London life is intense and although I love it here, it is a constantly demanding city. Reading this novel reinforced my desire to look at things closely, notice them anew, and to remember to go and visit the sea, whenever I can. 

The Outrun

By Amy Liptrot,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Outrun as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

After a decade of heavy partying and hard drinking in London, Amy Liptrot returns home to Orkney, a remote island off the north of Scotland. The Outrun maps Amy's inspiring recovery as she walks along windy coasts, swims in icy Atlantic waters, tracks Orkney's wildlife, and reconnects with her parents, revisiting and rediscovering the place that shaped her.

A Guardian Best Nonfiction Book of 2016
Sunday Times Top Ten Bestseller
New Statesman Book of the Year


The Collected Poems of George Mackay Brown

By Brian Murray, Archie Bevan,

Book cover of The Collected Poems of George Mackay Brown

Brown is a seminal figure in Orcadian literature, and the moment you read any one of his poems, it’s clear why. This is an enjoyable introduction to his works and features some of the poems you can’t find in print in other sources. His poems balance the beauty and complicated reality of his home, but his love for the place shines through every carefully chosen word. Even if you don’t know if you like poetry, the rhythms of his works make them accessible to everyone, proving him to truly be Orkney’s skald. 

The Collected Poems of George Mackay Brown

By Brian Murray, Archie Bevan,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Collected Poems of George Mackay Brown as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

George Mackay Brown is recognised as one of Scotland's greatest twentieth-century lyric poets. His work is integral to the flowering of Scottish literature over the last fifty years. Admired by many fellow poets, including Seamus Heaney and Douglas Dunn, his poems are deeply individual and unmistakable in their setting: 'the small green world' of the Orkney Islands where he lived for most of his life with its elemental forces of sea and sky and Norse and Icelandic ancestry, is brought vividly and memorably to life.

Here, his rich resonant poetry is collected in one volume, making available again many poems…


Scotland's Hidden Sacred Past

By Freddy Silva,

Book cover of Scotland's Hidden Sacred Past

Of all Silva’s books, I am most excited about this one, because of his groundbreaking discoveries. I admire his relentless tenacity for research, while sniffing out enigmatic information. My love of Scottish history often leaves me feeling lost regarding its ancient history. But I also am super careful to take many extrapolations on ancient history with a grain of salt. Silva’s writings are refreshing and his sense of humor is delightful. So, if you want to learn more about your Scottish roots from before Christianity arrived, then take a stroll through ancient circles aligned with the constellation Orion. Home may not be where you think it is!

Scotland's Hidden Sacred Past

By Freddy Silva,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Scotland's Hidden Sacred Past as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Around 6000 BC a revolution took place on Orkney and the Western Isles of Scotland. An outstanding collection of stone circles, standing stones, round towers and passage mounds appeared seemingly out of nowhere. And yet many such monuments were not indigenous to Britain, but to regions of the Caspian Sea and the Mediterranean.
Their creators were equally mysterious. Traditions tell of the Papae and Peti, 'strangers from afar' who were physically different, dressed in white tunics and lived aside from the regular population. They were regarded as master astronomers with an uncanny ability to work with enormous stones. But where…


King Hereafter

By Dorothy Dunnett,

Book cover of King Hereafter

This book became my ultimate escapism at a low point in my life. It’s a wonderfully written, well-researched epic novel about the eleventh century Scottish king, Macbeth, based on the bold premise that he and Thorfinn the Mighty, Earl of Orkney, were one and the same man. Most of us—especially those who went to school in Scotland!—are familiar with the Macbeth of Shakespeare, but Dorothy Dunnett brings him alive in his own time, no guilt-ridden villain but a complicated warrior of great depth and humanity, true to his beliefs, his people, and his wife who is nothing like Shakespeare’s Lady Macbeth either! This is a rattling good read by any standards—engrossing, exciting, humorous, and moving. Even knowing the tragedy was coming, I cried. Each time.

King Hereafter

By Dorothy Dunnett,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

A novel about Macbeth, King of Scotland, by the author of the "Lymond" series. 11th-century Europe is full of young kings. Macbeth - part-Christian, part-Viking - has the imagination and determination to move himself and his people out of a barbarian past and into flowering nationhood.


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