Books Set in Scotland
Scottish writing has been at the forefront of world literature and Scottish literature has also influenced some of the world’s greatest writers. In October 2004, Edinburgh became the very first UNESCO City of Literature. Edinburgh also hosts the world’s largest International Book Festival and offers many literary tours year-round. Scotland even has its own national book town – Wigtown. Officially designated in 1998, Wigtown has a high concentration of second-hand bookshops and book-related businesses. So it is no surprise that there are plenty of books set in Scotland worth adding to your list.
Travelers to Scotland are captivated by its rich and stunning landscapes, 1200 medieval castles and historic houses, Gaelic language, Scottish folklore, nearly 300 Scottish clans, tartan, unsurpassed, and world-recognized golf courses, and of course Scotch Whisky. If you’ve never visited or you’re simply longing to go back, these books set in Scotland are sure to transport you there and inspire a future adventure!
Laidlaw by William McIlvanney (1977)
First in The Laidlaw crime trilogy, readers meet Jack Laidlaw, a hard-drinking philosopher-detective whose tough exterior cloaks a rich humanity and keen intelligence. Laidlaw’s investigation into the murder of a young woman brings him into conflict with Glasgow’s hard men, its gangland villains, and the moneyed thugs who control the city. As the gangsters running Glasgow race Laidlaw for the discovery of the young woman’s killer, a sense of dangerous betrayal infests the city that only Laidlaw can erase.
The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde by Robert Louis Stevenson (1886)
Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde is the original title of a novella written by the Scottish author Robert Louis Stevenson that was first published in 1886. The work is commonly known today as The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, or simply Jekyll & Hyde. It is about a London lawyer named Gabriel John Utterson who investigates strange occurrences between his old friend, Dr. Henry Jekyll, and the evil Edward Hyde. The work is commonly associated with the rare mental condition often spuriously called “split personality”, referred to in psychiatry as dissociative identity disorder, where within the same body there exists more than one distinct personality.
Girl Meets Boy by Ali Smith (2007)
From the astonishingly talented writer of The Accidental and Hotel World comes Ali Smith’s brilliant retelling of Ovid’s gender-bending myth of Iphis and Ianthe, as seen through the eyes of two Scottish sisters. Girl Meets Boy is about girls and boys, girls and girls, love and transformation, and the absurdity of consumerism, as well as a story of reversals and revelations.
The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie by Muriel Spark (1961)
In the classic work that launched a play, a movie, and a song, Muriel Spark tells the darkly intriguing story of an eccentric Edinburgh teacher and the intense relationship she develops with six of her students.
Whisky Galore by Compton Mackenzie (1947)
Wartime food rationing is bad enough, but when the whisky supplies run out on the Hebridean islands of Great and Little Todday, nothing seems to go right. Then the fifty-thousand-bottle cargo of the shipwrecked S. S. Cabinet Minister brings salvation – in its most giddily intoxicating form.
Friends, Lovers, Chocolate by Alexander McCall Smith (2005)
Nothing captures the charm of Edinburgh like the bestselling Isabel Dalhousie series of novels featuring the insatiably curious philosopher and woman detective. Whether investigating a case or a problem of philosophy, the indefatigable Isabel Dalhousie, one of fiction’s most richly developed amateur detectives, is always ready to pursue the answers to all of life’s questions, large and small.
In this delightful second installment in Alexander McCall Smith’s bestselling detective series, the irrepressibly curious Isabel Dalhousie gets caught up in a highly unusual affair of the heart.
Knots and Crosses by Ian Rankin (1987)
Inspector John Rebus: His city is being terrorized by a baffling series of murders…and he’s tied to a maniac by an invisible knot of blood. Once John Rebus served in Britain’s elite SAS. Now he’s an Edinburgh cop who hides from his memories, misses promotions and ignores a series of crank letters. But as the ghoulish killings mount and the tabloid headlines scream, Rebus cannot stop the feverish shrieks from within his own mind. Because he isn’t just one cop trying to catch a killer, he’s the man who’s got all the pieces to the puzzle.
Outlander by Diana Gabaldon (1991)
Claire Randall is leading a double life. She has a husband in one century, and a lover in another. Hurled back in time by forces she cannot understand, Claire’s destiny in soon inextricably intertwined with Clan MacKenzie and the forbidden Castle Leoch. She is catapulted without warning into the intrigues of lairds and spies that may threaten her life.
Under the Skin by Michel Faber (2000)
In this haunting, entrancing novel, Michel Faber introduces us to Isserley, a female driver who cruises the Scottish Highlands picking up hitchhikers. Scarred and awkward, yet strangely erotic and threatening, she listens to her hitchhikers as they open up to her, revealing clues about who might miss them if they should disappear. Under the Skin takes us on a heart-thumping ride through dangerous territory–our own moral instincts and the boundaries of compassion.
Mary Queen of Scots by Antonia Fraser (1970)
She was the quintessential queen: statuesque, regal, dazzlingly beautiful. Her royal birth gave her claim to the thrones of two nations; her marriage to the young French dauphin promised to place a third glorious crown on her noble head. Instead, Mary Stuart became the victim of her own impulsive heart, scandalizing her world with a foolish passion that would lead to abduction, rape and even murder. Betrayed by those she most trusted, she would be lured into a deadly game of power, only to lose to her envious and unforgiving cousin, Elizabeth I. Here is her story, a queen who lost a throne for love, a monarch pampered and adored even as she was led to her beheading, the unforgettable woman who became a legend for all time.
One Good Turn by Kate Atkinson (2006)
On a beautiful summer day, crowds lined up outside a theater witness a sudden act of extreme road rage: a tap on a fender triggers a nearly homicidal attack. Jackson Brodie, ex-cop, ex-private detective, new millionaire, is among the bystanders.
Gillespie and I by Jane Harris (2011)
From the Orange Prize-nominated author of The Observations comes an absorbing, atmospheric exploration of one young woman’s friendship with a volatile artist and her place in the controversy that consumes him. Jane Harris’s Gillespie and I presents a strongly voiced female protagonist evocative of Moll Flanders and Becky Sharp, who offers a keen sensibility, deeply felt observations, and poignant remembrances of the world of a young artist in turn-of-the-century Glasgow in this fantastic work of historical fiction.
Waverly by Sir Walter Scott (1814)
Sir Walter Scott was one of the bestselling novelists of the nineteenth century and is credited with establishing the historical novel. His first novel, Waverley (1814), tells the story of Edward Waverley, a naïve young man who is posted to Scotland with his regiment. Edward must decide whether he will follow the civilization he has always known, or be drawn into an older world of honor.
The Sunlight Pilgrims by Jenni Fagan (2016)
The Sunlight Pilgrims is a visionary story of courage and resilience in the midst of nature’s most violent hour; by turns an homage to the portentous beauty of our natural world, and to just how strong we can be, if the will and the hope is there, to survive its worst.
Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine by Gail Honeyman (2017)
No one’s ever told Eleanor that life should be better than fine. Meet Eleanor Oliphant: She struggles with appropriate social skills and tends to say exactly what she’s thinking. Nothing is missing in her carefully timetabled life of avoiding social interactions, where weekends are punctuated by frozen pizza, vodka, and phone chats with Mummy. But everything changes when Eleanor meets Raymond, the bumbling and deeply unhygienic IT guy from her office.
To the Lighthouse by Virginia Woolf (1927)
To the Lighthouse is made up of three powerfully charged visions into the life of the Ramsay family living in a summer house off the rocky coast of Scotland. There’s the serene and maternal Mrs. Ramsay, the tragic yet absurd Mr. Ramsay, their eight children, and assorted holiday guests. From the seemingly trivial postponement of a visit to a nearby lighthouse, Woolf examines tensions and allegiances and shows the small joys and quiet tragedies of everyday life that seemingly could go on forever.
The Diary of a Bookseller by Shaun Bythell (2017)
The Diary of a Bookseller is Shaun Bythell’s funny and fascinating memoir of a year in the life at the helm of The Bookshop, in the small village of Wigtown, Scotland–and of the delightfully odd locals, unusual staff, eccentric customers, and surreal buying trips that make up his life there as he struggles to build his business…and be polite.
What do you think of these books set in Scotland?
Have you been to Scotland before or is it on your bucket list? Have you read any of these books set in Scotland? Do you know any books set in Scotland that I may have missed? Let me know your thoughts, ideas, and suggestions about Scotland and books set there in the comments below!