The most recommended books about Scottish people

Who picked these books? Meet our 25 experts.

25 authors created a book list connected to Scottish people, and here are their favorite Scottish people books.
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Book cover of The Scottish World: A Journey Into the Scottish Diaspora

Claire R. McDougall Author Of Veil of Time

From my list on to lose yourself in the dream that is Scotland.

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.

Claire's book list on to lose yourself in the dream that is Scotland

Claire R. McDougall Why did Claire love this book?

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.

By Billy Kay,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

'Thaim wi a guid Scots tongue in their heid are fit tae gang ower the warld'

In The Scottish World, renowned broadcaster Billy Kay takes us on a global journey of discovery, highlighting the extraordinary influence the Scots have had on communities and cultures on almost every continent.

While others have questioned the self-confidence of the Scots, Kay has travelled the world from Bangkok to Brazil, Warsaw to Waikiki and found ringing endorsements for the integrity and intellect, the poetry and passion of the Scottish people in every country he has visited.

He expands people's view of Scotland by relating…


Book cover of Crown of Thistles: The Fatal Inheritance of Mary Queen of Scots

Marie Macpherson Author Of The First Blast of the Trumpet

From my list on Mary, Queen of Scots and her people.

Who am I?

Growing up in the Honest Toun of Musselburgh near Edinburgh, I was surrounded by bloody battlefields, haunted castles, ruined abbeys and palaces. In particular, Scotland during the turbulent 16th century Reformation and the tragic reign of Mary, Queen of Scots fired my imagination. I was curious to know more about the lives, loves, and destinies of these fascinating historical characters. I wanted to delve deeper, go beyond dates and events–what happened when–to explore why and how people acted. I’m passionate about writing historical fiction as it involves researching the tiniest details about everyday life–clothes, food, methods of travel, language, beliefs–to bring people from the past to life for the reader.

Marie's book list on Mary, Queen of Scots and her people

Marie Macpherson Why did Marie love this book?

Reams have been written about the tragic life of Mary, Queen of Scots, from the magisterial biographies by Antonia Fraser and John Guy to those focusing on her relationship with her sister queen, Elizabeth Tudor. Crown of Thistles by historian Linda Porter plugs a gap in Mary’s history by exploring the background to the prolonged rivalry and dynastic complications between the Stewarts of Scotland and the Tudors of England. 

Dr. Porter’s book was an invaluable resource which I mined for lots of fascinating nuggets and incisive comments not found elsewhere.

This is an excellent, highly readable introduction for anyone wishing to know more about the violent history of the ancestors who shaped Mary’s destiny.

By Linda Porter,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

The struggle between the fecund Stewarts and the barren Tudors is generally seen only in terms of the relationship between Elizabeth I and her cousin, Mary Queen of Scots. But very little has been said about the background to their intense rivalry. Here, Linda Porter examines the ancient and intractable power struggle between England and Scotland, a struggle intensified during the reigns of Elizabeth and Mary's grandfathers. Henry VII aimed to provide stability when he married his daughter, Margaret, to James IV of Scotland in 1503. But he must also have known that Margaret's descendants might seek to rule the…


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

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

From my list on Mary Queen of Scots for people who aren't into history.

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.

Gill's book list on Mary Queen of Scots for people who aren't into history

Gill Arbuthnott Why did Gill love this book?

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!

By Theresa Breslin, Teresa Martinez (illustrator),

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Mary, Queen of Scots as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it. This book is for kids age 4, 5, 6, and 7.

What is this book about?

The true story of the daring escape of Mary, Queen of Scots from the island castle in Lochleven is well-known throughout Scotland and the world.

Multi-award-winning author Theresa Breslin, who has carefully researched Mary's life, has adapted this famous adventure into a picture book for children.

Through stunning illustrations and a gripping story, both packed with historical detail, children will feel the tension of Mary's imprisonment and the excitement of her escape plans, gaining insight into this fascinating period of Scottish history.

A full and engaging historical tale for children from a fabulous Scottish storyteller.


Book cover of Paper Cup

Elissa Soave Author Of Ginger and Me

From my list on Scottish reads centring working-class women.

Who am I?

I am a Scottish writer and have long loved books from and about Scotland. But I would love to see more written about the working-class Scottish experience from women’s perspective as I think that would lead to less focus on the violence and poverty that is featured in so many contemporary Scottish books from male authors. There is so much joy in the Scottish working-class experience – a pot of soup always on the stove in someone’s kitchen, the stories, the laughter, a community that cares for their own. Let’s see more of that, and more stories from and about Scottish working-class women.

Elissa's book list on Scottish reads centring working-class women

Elissa Soave Why did Elissa love this book?

This beautifully written novel tells the story of Kelly, as she makes her way home to Galloway from Glasgow.

Homeless and with addiction problems, Kelly experiences some of the problems that Glasgow is sadly well-known for, but what I really love about Paper Cup is that we see these issues from a middle-aged woman’s perspective so there is no glorifying of violence and excess.

Instead we are drawn into the precarious world of a vulnerable and damaged woman, and made to consider just how easy it would be for any one of us to slip through the cracks and tread the same path as Kelly. A truly thought-provoking read.

By Karen Campbell,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

What if going back means you could begin again?

Rocked by a terrible accident, homeless Kelly needs to escape the city streets of Glasgow. Maybe she doesn't believe in serendipity, but a rare moment of kindness and a lost ring conspire to call her home. As Kelly vows to reunite the lost ring with its owner, she must return to the small town she fled so many years ago.

On her journey from Glasgow to the south-west tip of Scotland, Kelly encounters ancient pilgrim routes, hostile humans, hippies, book lovers and a friendly dog, as memories stir and the people…


Book cover of Rizzio: A Novella

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

From my list on Mary Queen of Scots for people who aren't into history.

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.

Gill's book list on Mary Queen of Scots for people who aren't into history

Gill Arbuthnott Why did Gill love this book?

I was given this as a present at the launch of my book on Mary. I took it home and devoured it the next day. It’s a short, punchy, and very immediate version of a single incident in Mary’s story: the dreadful murder of David Rizzio. Denise Mina does what I most admire in writers of historical fiction and somehow fills the story with suspense, although you know with your head how the story ends.

By Denise Mina,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

'a tour de force work of art' - The Wall Street Journal, Best Books of the Year

Longlisted for the 2022 CWA Ian Fleming Steel Dagger Award

It's Saturday evening, 9 March 1566, and Mary, Queen of Scots, is six months pregnant. She's hosting a supper party, secure in her private chambers. She doesn't know that her Palace is surrounded - that, right now, an army of men is creeping upstairs to her chamber. They're coming to murder David Rizzio, her friend and secretary, the handsome Italian man who is smiling across the table at her. Mary's husband, Lord Darnley,…


Book cover of Morvern Callar

Iain Hood Author Of This Good Book

From my list on Scottish reads about moments of madness.

Who am I?

Scotland’s greatest poet since Burns, Hugh MacDiarmid, said that there were no traditions in writing, only precedents. He was thinking that, were traditions followed, adhered to, applauded, and praised, and prized too highly, then the danger of slavish repetition rather than creative divergence was too high. We need the mad moments, when all bets are off and something truly unpredictable will happen. I write with Scots modernist, postmodernist, and experimental precedents in mind. I want there to be Scots literature that reflects a divergent, creative nation, willing to experiment with words and life, and, in Alasdair Gray’s formulation, “work as though in the early days of a better nation.”

Iain's book list on Scottish reads about moments of madness

Iain Hood Why did Iain love this book?

Ah, were you ever going to shout the famous question, “Why’d you do it!?”, at a character, it would have to be at Morvern.

Another book that grabbed the filmic imagination, this time of Lynne Ramsay, Morvern has the quietest moment of madness on this list. She finds her boyfriend, whom she never names but gives him a Godlike uppercase H whenever He is mentioned, dead by his own hand on the floor of their flat and coolly accepts the fact.

Then, as a sort of civic duty and not to cause a fuss, she chops him up and buries the pieces of him in a suitably empty Scottish landscape. As you do. The draft novel she steals from him seems obviously hers, as all her actions seem obviously Morvern.

By Alan Warner,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

An utterly unforgettable novel that portrays a vast internal emptiness by using the cool, haunting voice of a young woman in Scotland lost in the profound anomie of her generation—from “one of the most talented, original and interesting voices around” (Irvine Welsh, author of Trainspotting). 

Morvern Callar, a low-paid employee in the local supermarket in a desolate and beautiful port town in the west of Scotland, wakes one morning in late December to find her strange boyfriend has committed suicide and is dead on the kitchen floor. Morvern's reaction is both intriguing and immoral. What she does next is even…


Book cover of Charlotte Gray

Sarah Steele Author Of The Schoolteacher of Saint-Michel

From my list on formidable females in Nazi-occupied France.

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.

Sarah's book list on formidable females in Nazi-occupied France

Sarah Steele Why did Sarah love this book?

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.

By Sebastian Faulks,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

A remarkable story of a Scottish woman in Occupied France pursuing a perilous mission of her own

FROM THE AUTHOR OF THE INTERNATIONAL BESTSELLER BIRDSONG

In 1942, Charlotte Gray, a young Scottish woman, heads for Occupied France on a dual mission - officially, to run an apparently simple errand for a British special operations group and unofficially, to search for her lover, an English airman missing in action. She travels to the village of Lavaurette, dyeing her hair and changing her name to conceal her identity. As the people in the small town prepare to meet their terrible destiny, Charlotte…


Book cover of I Am Stone: The Gothic Weird Tales of R. Murray Gilchrist

Gwyneth Jones Author Of Kairos

From my list on classic tales of mysteries beyond the veil.

Who am I?

If I knew why I'm attracted to ghost stories, spooky stories; “mysteries from beyond the veil”, it wouldn't be a mystery, would it? My brother was the same. We can (or could) suddenly find the streets where we lived as mysterious as a lost world. We used to call it “The Land of Ghosts and Witches”. Did we imagine this feeling? Did we make it up? I don't know. But there is a long name for a condition, a little kink that matches my experiences. I found an article in New Scientist about it once, but I've forgotten what it was.

Gwyneth's book list on classic tales of mysteries beyond the veil

Gwyneth Jones Why did Gwyneth love this book?

R.Murray Gilchrist was a Derbyshire man from a good Derbyshire family, liked or loved by the local people he met and helped, but a loner, a total oddity in the wild English Peak District of a hundred years ago: who wanted to be an artist of all things.

His stories are grotesque, sad, touching, and strange; all at once. He doesn't seem to set out to frighten the reader, not at all, but there's a sense of eerie, rather dreadful, longing that will haunt you. As Ellis Reed says (read the article), this was Lovecraft before Lovecraft, but with no cute tentacled monsters to lighten things up. Don't read them all at once.

By R. Murray Gilchrist, Daniel Pietersen (editor),

Why should I read it?

1 author picked I Am Stone as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

'The first thing my dazed eyes fell upon was the mirror of black glass... She held it so that I might gaze into its depths. And there, with a cry of amazement and fear, I saw the shadow of the Basilisk.'

Through odysseys across dreamlike lands, Gothic love affairs haunted by the shadow of death and uncanny episodes from the Peak country, the portrait of a unique writer of the strange tale emerges. With his florid, illustrative style and powerful imagination, R. Murray Gilchrist's impact on the weird fiction genre is unmistakable - and yet his name fell into obscurity…


Book cover of Never Seduce a Scot

Kirsten Fullmer Author Of Love on the Line

From my list on girls who don’t need to be saved.

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.  

Kirsten's book list on girls who don’t need to be saved

Kirsten Fullmer Why did Kirsten love this book?

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…

By Maya Banks,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Never Seduce a Scot as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Maya Banks, the New York Times bestselling author of romance and romantic suspense has captivated readers with her steamy Scottish historical novels, perfect for fans of Julie Garwood. Never Seduce a Scot features a remarkable woman whose rare gift teaches a gruff Scottish warrior how to listen with his heart.
 
Eveline Armstrong is fiercely loved and protected by her powerful clan, but outsiders consider her “touched.” Beautiful, fey, with a level, intent gaze, she doesn’t speak. No one, not even her family, knows that she cannot hear. Content with her life of seclusion, Eveline has taught herself to read lips…


Book cover of Still This Love Goes on

Fanny Britt Author Of Forever Truffle

From my list on music-loving readers in your family.

Who am I?

I often (half-) jokingly say that I'm a failed musician. Growing up in Montreal in the eighties, music was my deepest joy. I sang in choirs for years, and even fancied myself the next great baroque singer (I guess I was a nerd.) Nerves, however, got the best of me, and I turned to the next best thing, writing. In my family, music is a meeting place, a shared language; my kids have taught me as much about music as I have taught them. Nothing pleases me more than to see on a playlist of theirs a tune that I listened to before their birth. Music is the golden thread of my life. 

Fanny's book list on music-loving readers in your family

Fanny Britt Why did Fanny love this book?

Indigenous singer-songwriter Buffy Sainte-Marie is a music legend in Canada. When illustrator Julie Flett decided to turn one of Sainte-Marie's iconic songs, Still This Love Goes On, in a picture album, it was like the song was brought to life in a whole new way. Readers (or the small children the book can be read to) are able to travel through Buffy's poignant lyrics and Julie Flett's moving, evocative illustrations and truly feel what the song is about. Plus, you can listen to the song while you look at the book and hear Buffy's haunting, heart-breaking voice. Seeing music while hearing it? Sounds like a perfect introduction to me. 

By Buffy Sainte-Marie, Julie Flett (illustrator),

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Still This Love Goes on as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

"A love letter to family, home, and Indigenous traditions ... This story reminds readers of the joy we experience upon returning to those whom we love and who love us."-Kirkus

From Cree-Metis artist Julie Flett and Academy Award-winning icon Buffy Sainte-Marie comes a celebration of Indigenous community, and the enduring love we hold for the people and places we are far away from.

Based on Sainte-Marie's song of the same name, Still This Love Goes On combines Flett's breathtaking art with vivid lyrics to craft a stunning portrait of a Cree worldview. At the heart of this picture book is…