The best books about Scotland 📚

Browse the best books on Scotland as recommended by authors, experts, and creators. Along with notes on why they recommend those books.

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Book cover of Waverley

Waverley

By Sir Walter Scott

Why this book?

To understand the trauma caused by the Napoleonic Wars, and the craving of people in France, Europe and elsewhere to return to the ‘normal pace of times’ as the Austrian Statesman Clemens von Metternich had it, Walter Scott’s ‘Waverley’ is the best vehicle to convey ourselves into the mindset of the contemporary Europeans. Europe had to curb the ‘evil passions’ and had to ‘come to its senses’. Just as Waverley’s young hero Edward does by letting go of his romantic love for the rebellious Flora and returning in the arms of his very English, quiet and harmonious fiancée, Rose. Scott’s…

From the list:

The best books on how Europe waged peace after Napoleon

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Book cover of Witch Wood

Witch Wood

By John Buchan

Why this book?

Witch Wood tells the story of a high-minded, ardent and scholarly young Presbyterian minister, David Sempill, who is called to a benighted Tweeddale parish in 1645 at the time of the War of Three Kingdoms, and how his desire to root out covert witchcraft amongst some of his most ‘devout’ parishioners at a time of civil war and plague leads to tragedy and exile. The Marquis of Montrose, on whose biography John Buchan was working at the same time, has a walk-on part in the story. John Buchan considered this his best work of fiction, and I agree.

From the list:

The best Scottish historical fiction written in the 20th century

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Book cover of Kidnapped

Kidnapped

By Robert Louis Stevenson

Why this book?

Alright, so this timeless adventure starts in Edinburgh and moves through the Highlands and the West Coast of Scotland before returning to Lowland Scotland for its resolution, and takes place in 1751, after the Union of Crowns has finally settled the Borderlands. Yet in David Balfour and Allan Breck Stewart it dramatizes that same conflict between Reason and Impulse, the Romantic and Practical Necessity, that has its origins in the C16th-17th Catholic-Protestant struggle for hearts and minds and souls. It’s pacey, astute, unforgettable, while being highly insightful into the dual aspects of the Scottish psyche that the Reformation has…

From the list:

The best books for the walking the wild side of the Scotland-England borderlands

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Book cover of Nala's World: One Man, His Rescue Cat, and a Bike Ride Around the Globe

Nala's World: One Man, His Rescue Cat, and a Bike Ride Around the Globe

By Dean Nicholson, Garry Jenkins

Why this book?

Nala's adventure shows how the love of an animal can change the trajectory of a man's life. Dean set out to explore the world on his bike. Along the way he met and fell head over wheels (!) with a kitten, whom he named Nala. Something about the piercing eyes and plaintive meowing of the bedraggled little cat proved irresistible. He couldn't leave her to her fate, so he put her on his bike and then, with the help of local vets, nursed her back to health. Soon on his travels, they forged an unbreakable bond -- both curious, independent,…

From the list:

The best books on inspirational animal and human connections

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Book cover of Sunset Song

Sunset Song

By Lewis Grassic Gibbon

Why this book?

Written in 1932, but set at the turn of the twentieth century, this beautifully written and evocative novel has been adapted to both stage and film. I love this book with a passion, because of the beautiful prose and because in a way it taught me how the ordinary lives of my people are inextricably intertwined with the land. Sunset Song follows the life of Chris Guthrie a young woman on the east coast of Scotland, her relationship to the land and to the poor farming community she has grown up in. Like my novel, it is the first installment…

From the list:

The best Scottish books to lose yourself in the dream that is Scotland

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Book cover of Play is the Way

Play is the Way

By Sue Palmer

Why this book?

In 2020, as Chair of the Upstart Scotland campaign, I was invited to edit a collection of essays by experts from a wide range of disciplines. All were arguing for a more enlightened and coherent approach to the care and education of children between three and seven years of age. The 19th century approach to education in the UK and USA is completely out of kilter with children’s needs in a 21st-century world and we need radical change, starting at the beginning. This is when developmental foundations are laid that will underpin children’s lifelong learning, health and well-being. All teachers…

From the list:

The best books about child development and education

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