The best books about Scottish people

2 authors have picked their favorite books about Scottish people and why they recommend each book.

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The Only Gaijin in the Village

By Iain Maloney,

Book cover of The Only Gaijin in the Village

In 2017, Scotsman Iain Maloney and his acerbic Japanese wife Minori decided to buy a house in rural Japan. This was no small decision, as Japan houses begin to depreciate almost as soon as they are built. Nevertheless, the author is resigned to spending the remainder of his days in Japan and is ready to commit. The book is ostensibly about one year in rural Japan, but Maloney veers frequently from the narrative path, flashing back and forth in time, riffing on, among other things, soccer, crowded trains, and tired tropes in memoirs written by foreigners.

While many have written about their experiences in Japan, few have taken readers quite so far off the beaten path – literally. Maloney’s understanding of the Japanese language and his immersion in Japanese culture (he’d first arrived in 2005) add credibility and depth, while his self-deprecation and humor make this an entirely enjoyable read.

Who am I?

Japan is endlessly fascinating. Many foreigners who have spent a year or two engaging with Japanese culture have published memoirs. But there are also many who have lived here longer, perhaps marrying and raising families and retiring in Japan. The stories of long-term foreign residents dig deep into the culture and share unique challenges and triumphs. My own memoir, Squeaky Wheels is about my experience raising a biracial daughter who is deaf and has cerebral palsy in off-the-beaten-track Japan. It also details our mother-daughter travels around Japan, to the United States, and ultimately to Paris. It is ultimately a story of my attempt to open the world to my daughter.

I wrote...

Squeaky Wheels: Travels with My Daughter by Train, Plane, Metro, Tuk-tuk and Wheelchair

By Suzanne Kamata,

Book cover of Squeaky Wheels: Travels with My Daughter by Train, Plane, Metro, Tuk-tuk and Wheelchair

What is my book about?

Squeaky Wheels is a mother-daughter travel memoir woven with comparative culture and accessibility awareness. Kamata’s adventures with her teen—who happens to be deaf, with cerebral palsy, and in a wheelchair—through subterranean Tennessee, to the islands of Japan, and to the top of the Eiffel Tower ultimately lead to a daughter’s increasing independence, a mother letting go of expectations, and advocacy for travel which prohibits discrimination.

The Scottish World

By Billy Kay,

Book cover of The Scottish World: A Journey Into the Scottish Diaspora

I value this book because, since joining the United Kingdom in 1707, much of Scottish history has been disregarded. Even though I studied history in my Scottish school to a high level, the details of our past were replaced with English history. Well-known radio personality, Billy Kay, brings together a wealth of information about Scotland’s outside influence through the ages. Scotland was one of the first countries to see the benefit of an educated working class, and in the countries to which they emigrated, their learning stood them in good stead. Scottish culture, over hundreds of years before it was incorporated into the United Kingdom, had well-established cultural centers throughout Europe and even as far as Russia.

Who am I?

There is a saying that you can take the girl out of Scotland but not Scotland out of the girl. I am that girl. Born and raised in Scotland, I earned an MA from Edinburgh University and a M.Litt from Oxford. I met my husband during the summer at  Dartmouth College and the rest, as they say, is history. Or, at least it would be, except for the hankering back to Scotland that never leaves. My novel set in Scotland was published by Simon & Schuster.

I wrote...

Veil of Time

By Claire R. McDougall,

Book cover of Veil of Time

What is my book about?

A recent divorcee, Maggie Livingston, escapes from the city to rural Argyll to heal. Her rental cottage sits in the shadow of the famous hill of Dunadd, where the kings of Scotland were once crowned. Maggie’s epilepsy causes her perception of time to be distorted, and during one seizure she finds herself back in the pagan Dunadd of the 8th Century. It is here she slips into the compelling company of Fergus McBridghe, a royal in the line of the ancient Picts who once held court here.

Concise English-Scots Dictionary

By Scottish Language Dictionaries,

Book cover of Concise English-Scots Dictionary

The various Scots dictionaries produced by Scottish Language Dictionaries and also available online are a veritable treasure trove of Scottish culture and the go-to place for anyone who writes Scots or wants to know about Scots. With quotations going back hundreds of years it gives you instant access to the rich literature and prose in a language still spoken by over 1.5 million Scots. 

Who am I?

I grew up in a strong Scots–speaking environment just before the advent of television, so very much a Scottish village rather than the global village. Speaking several foreign languages and being able to study Scots language and literature at Edinburgh University gave me confidence and the realisation of how special Scots was, and how closely it is tied to the identity of the people and the land. The book is local, national, and international in outlook and is written from the heart and soul, with a strong influence of the Democratic Intellect thrown in to balance the passion. You can also hear me reading the book on Audible.

I wrote...

Scots: The Mither Tongue

By Billy Kay,

Book cover of Scots: The Mither Tongue

What is my book about?

Scots: The MitherTongue is a classic of contemporary Scottish culture. It is a passionately written history of how the Scots came to speak the way they do and acted as a catalyst for radical changes in attitude towards the language. Kay vigorously renews the social, cultural, and political debate on Scotland's linguistic future, and argues convincingly for the necessity to retain Scots for the nation to hold on to its intrinsic values. Language is central to people's existence, and this vivid account celebrates the survival of Scots in its dialects, literature, and song. The newspaper Scotland on Sunday chose Scots: The Mither Tongue as one of the best 100 Scottish books ever written. 

Español Correcto para Dummies

By Fernando Ávila,

Book cover of Español Correcto para Dummies

It says it’s “for dummies, but the truth is, this book is for people with a high level of Spanish who want to complete their learning. 

The book is an extensive review of the Spanish grammar, all explained in Spanish, with more than 400 pages. I see it as a fun and entertaining encyclopedia of this language, because you can find almost every aspect of Spanish grammar in it. If you are a beginner, you can also use it as a reference book which can accompany you through the journey of learning.

Who am I?

I’m a writer and a Spanish teacher. Creative and a little crazy. I love teaching people who arrive in my city (Madrid) to live for a while. I love writing fiction, specially novels, but also poetry and little stories. Sometimes I mix both skills and create texts as the one below. I dream about winning the lottery but I never buy tickets, and I also love to sing with my guitar when I’m alone. Pleased to meet you.

I wrote...

100 Entertaining Short Stories to Practice Your Spanish in Present Tense

By Patricia Lorente,

Book cover of 100 Entertaining Short Stories to Practice Your Spanish in Present Tense

What is my book about?

This is a book to learn Spanish language. To read little silly stories. To learn vocabulary having fun. To fix words in your mind. To practice structure and be more confident with present tenses before starting with the past. To feel ready to keep learning.

On my journey as a teacher I detected a lack of texts in present tense with students of basic levels. It’s not common to just talk or write in simple present, but it’s not impossible. A hundred short texts are enough to have a wide vocabulary review on different topics, with the help of highlighted key words and a preface with grammar, basic verbs, and essential words to be as fluent as you can be, being a beginner. 

Charlotte Gray

By Sebastian Faulks,

Book cover of Charlotte Gray

There are few who have written about occupied France as transportingly and with the same level of carefully dripped research as has Sebastian Faulks. Charlotte Gray is arguably the textbook from which all other authors might learn. It is impossible to sit inside a French farmhouse kitchen alongside one of his characters and not believe you are there, nor to be drawn into the world of Charlotte as she completes her SOE training and is dropped in France to fight for her country and to discover the fate of her lover, missing RAF pilot Peter Gregory. Spies, collaborators, constant jeopardy and a cracking love story too—unmissable.

Who am I?

Having spent much time in France, I’ve been party to some incredible stories of the war years. The beautiful home owned by friends was once gifted by General De Gaulle to the village baker for his work hiding Resistance messages in loaves of bread; 90-year-old Jeanne remembers her father hiding Jewish families and helping them cross into free France; woodlands are punctuated by wooden crosses marking execution sites. For a writer, this is irresistible material, and it has been an honour to write The Schoolteacher of Saint-Michel and The Lost Song of Paris in tribute to the many acts of bravery and resistance over four long years of German occupation.

I wrote...

The Schoolteacher of Saint-Michel

By Sarah Steele,

Book cover of The Schoolteacher of Saint-Michel

What is my book about?

The Schoolteacher of Saint-Michel tells the story of Lucie Laval, teacher in a Dordogne village split in two by the German demarcation line in 1942. Lucie is at the heart of a perilous operation to rescue Jewish children picked from the streets of Paris and pass them across to Free France, from where they will be taken to safety. Decades later, Hannah Stone honours her late grandmother’s request for her to visit Saint-Michel and find Lucie at Les Cerisiers, the Laval family home with its beautiful cherry orchard. The associated recipes Hannah finds in an old cookery book lead her to discover family secrets that have lain dormant for over half a century.

Mary, Queen of Scots

By Theresa Breslin, Teresa Martinez (illustrator),

Book cover of Mary, Queen of Scots: Escape from Lochleven Castle

This is a great introduction to Mary’s story for young readers. I love the clever way it centres the whole story of Mary’s life on her true, action-packed escape from Loch Leven Castle, helped by a young boy called Will Douglas. It’s beautifully illustrated and written. This is how to get ‘em interested in history at an early age!

Who am I?

I was utterly uninspired by history at school—couldn’t see the point of it at all—but then I discovered Jean Plaidy’s books and realised history was about people, real people. Dorothy Dunnett propelled me headlong into a fascination with sixteenth-century Europe, a period full of larger-than-life characters and an unusually high number of strong women. Mary Queen of Scots, Elizabeth I, Catherine de Medici, Mary of Guise, Hurrem Sultan (wife of Suleiman the Magnificent): they wielded real power. And Mary Queen of Scots was so young—it makes her the perfect starting point to interest young readers in history. I hope I’ve done her story justice.

I wrote...

The Amazing Life of Mary, Queen of Scots: Fact-Tastic Stories from Scotland's History

By Gill Arbuthnott, Mike Phillips (illustrator),

Book cover of The Amazing Life of Mary, Queen of Scots: Fact-Tastic Stories from Scotland's History

What is my book about?

Mary became Queen of Scots when she was six days old and Queen of France at sixteen. At eighteen she returned to Scotland, newly widowed, to rule a fractious country divided by religion while trying to maintain a cordial relationship with Elizabeth of England. How many eighteen-year-olds could have pulled that off? She was doing pretty well until she fell in love with her handsome, dashing, and utterly unreliable cousin Lord Henry Darnley—and everything went downhill from there. 

The Amazing Life of Mary, Queen of Scots tells Mary’s story through the eyes of Alec, a young servant. Full of facts about life in sixteenth-century Scotland, it’s a great introduction for children to Scotland’s most fascinating monarch.

Nanny Ogg's Cookbook

By Stephen Briggs, Paul Kidby, Terry Pratchett

Book cover of Nanny Ogg's Cookbook

Written by the late and great Terry Pratchett himself, this is obviously a must-have for any Discworld fanatic. The actual recipes in this tome range from questionable to delightful, the “narrator,” Nanny Ogg, is the real star of the show. Nanny Ogg’s er… life advice, this book will have you giggling and the recipes will have you intrigued.

Who am I?

I am a food blogger and cookbook author who has been making up recipes for fictional foods from fantasy and science fiction since I was old enough to walk and talk. I love building a bridge between stories, imagination, fandom and food. For over a decade, with a lot of research and some really bad puns, I have been helping other geeks and nerds all over the world make their fictional food fantasies come true.

I wrote...

The Geeky Chef Cookbook: Real-Life Recipes for Fantasy Foods

By Cassandra Reeder,

Book cover of The Geeky Chef Cookbook: Real-Life Recipes for Fantasy Foods

What is my book about?

Eat your way through the most legendary foods from the worlds of science fiction, fantasy, and more, with over 70 recipes of the most delicious and nerdiest eats as realistically imagined by Cassandra Reeder aka The Geeky Chef. Whether you binge sci-fi TV shows, rewatch cult films, get addicted to MMORPGs, or read all the fantasy book series, The Geeky Chef Cookbook has your fictional food fantasies covered.


By Adam Thorpe,

Book cover of Ulverton

Not just one house, this time, but houses - a whole village in fact.  Adam Thorpe’s dazzlingly inventive novel is the story of a rural community over three and half centuries, narrated by a chorus of different voices.  Human dramas proliferate: love affairs, murders, executions, violent uprisings. But as people come and go, things stay put, outlasting them. An adulterous eighteenth-century lady is confined to her shuttered bed-chamber, forbidden to go down the creaky old stairs. Fifty years later a garrulous carpenter, reminiscing in the pub, describes the cutting of the wooden scroll that finished the banister of the new staircase he and his mates have built in the Hall, once that lady’s home. Two generations later a consumptive young lawyer, taking down the testimony of dozens of Luddite machine-breakers, visits the Hall, notices the stairs, judges them dark and old-fashioned. Time passes again and a 20th-century television cameraman leans…

Who am I?

I’m fascinated by houses and the memories that haunt them. I grew up on a private estate in rural England where my father worked. When I was little I knew a witch. She rode a bicycle, not a broomstick: she cured my warts. The trees I played under were planted when the big house belonged to the 17th-century statesman and historian, Lord Clarendon. I knew storytellers who performed in the local pubs – part of an oral tradition that goes back millennia. I moved to London, but I kept thinking about those rural enclaves where memories are very long. I set my novel in that beautiful, ghost-ridden, peculiar world. 

I wrote...

Peculiar Ground

By Lucy Hughes-Hallett,

Book cover of Peculiar Ground

What is my book about?

It is the 1660s and a wall is being built around a great house. Wychwood is an enclosed world, its gardens adorned with fountains and its park bisected by avenues, a world where everyone has something to hide after decades of civil war. Three centuries later, as another wall goes up overnight, dividing Berlin, there is a house party at Wychwood. It is 1961: the times they are a-changing. 

From the award-winning author of historical works - including The Pike: Gabriele d’Annunzio, which won the Costa Biography Award, the Duff Cooper Prize, and the Samuel Johnson Prize - comes an ambitious, beautiful, and timely novel. Game-keepers and witches, gardeners and property-owners, 17th-century dissidents and 20th-century refuge-seekers people this compelling story about the passage of time, about migration, and about how those who wall others out risk finding themselves walled in.

Never Seduce a Scot

By Maya Banks,

Book cover of Never Seduce a Scot

Eveline has a secret. Her family thinks her daft, but even though she cannot hear, she has taught herself to read lips. She is content to keep her abilities to herself, as it enables her to “hear” all the things people say when they think no one is listening. Unexpectedly, she finds herself betrothed to a rival clan leader, who accepts her begrudgingly, only because she is beautiful. But Eveline is shocked to discover that her new husband’s voice is so deep she can hear him.  

This book is more of a steamy romance than my usual choice, but I love the Scottish setting and the heroine’s bravery and confidence. Even though she is tossed into situations that were not of her choosing, she is strong and smart, and deeply in love, which gives her the strength to make a new life for herself. After finishing this book, I wrote…

Who am I?

I have always been fascinated with stories about women who step outside the norm and accomplish their goals. Books that tell of girls who are shy or insecure, but find inner strength in the face of adversity, inspire me. My mother wasn’t afraid to guide me toward these stories when I was young, and I gave books with this theme to my daughters as well. It doesn’t matter where you start from, it only matters where you think you can go, and I love books that share this idea; especially stories of women who do amazing and unexpected things.  

I wrote...

Love on the Line

By Kirsten Fullmer,

Book cover of Love on the Line

What is my book about?

Andrea leaves the stress and tedium of grad school behind and sets off with her estranged grandpa, Buck, to build a pipeline through the mountains of West Virginia. She hopes to prove herself to Buck and the all-male crew, as well as learn what drove Buck away from the family. 

Most of the guys on the crew aren’t willing to accept Andrea, and Rooster, the handsome and cocky, tie-in foreman, thinks she’s nothing but a distraction. Yet, he is impressed by her work ethic and is drawn to her on many levels. He’s also determined to prove himself to Buck, a pipeline legend, and he knows that messing with Buck’s granddaughter is a bad idea. Will Rooster and Andy take a chance on ruining their credibility in order to be together? 

The Family Upstairs

By Lisa Jewell,

Book cover of The Family Upstairs

A young woman inherits a multi-million-pound house where three people were found dead and four children missing. This was a really easy, smooth read and I couldn’t wait to untangle the past, which includes a toxic friendship and unrequited love, and see if my guesses were correct.

Who am I?

Before becoming a writer I was a divorce lawyer, so I have plenty of personal experience about the dark side of relationships and I admit to a slight obsession with the human psyche, what goes on behind closed doors and beneath people’s façades! Consequently I love to tell stories about relatable characters who get caught up in extraordinary situations, relationships, pressures, dilemmas or crime. I also enjoy performing a literary sleight of hand in my novels and hopefully surprising my readers!

I wrote...

Betray Her

By Caroline England,

Book cover of Betray Her

What is my book about?

Best friends . . . better liars. A dark and addictive psychological thriller about who you can trust, and the damage the past can do. A compelling tale of love, jealousy, betrayal - and a devastating secret at the dark heart of a lifelong friendship.

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