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September 19, 2014

Scottish Books You’ll Want to Say Aye To

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Scotland has been getting a lot of attention lately. Emotions may still be running high in the wake of their verdict to remain part of the UK, but it's a good time to be a Scotophile (the jury seems to be out on whether that's a real word but we'll pretend it is). It’s certainly a good time to be a bagpiper; bagpipe music has abounded in the background of the coverage. It’s a good time to be someone who doesn’t get annoyed when people ask what you’re wearing under your clothes (a frequently asked question of kilt-wearers). And it’s a good time to be Mel Gibson. For once, he isn’t in the news for saying something dickish, but for giving that Braveheart speech newscasters can’t resist playing clips of. So if all the recent coverage has made you curious about Scotland, here are some books that will take you there.

TRAINSPOTTING by Irvine Welsh
Why It’s Braw: This modern classic takes you into the lives of a group of teenage heroin addicts as they get into drug-fueled hijinks and occasionally debate their Scottish identity. Welsh expertly transports you into their minds using shifting dialects and points of view. The film adaptation is proof that Ewan McGregor is one of the Oscars most snubbed actors.

THE BRIDE OF LAMMERMOOR by Sir Walter Scott
Why It’s Braw: It doesn’t get more Scottish than Sir Walter Scott. Although he may be best known for his other works like IVANHOEand WAVERLEY, THE BRIDE OF LAMMERMOOR is one of his more entertainingly bizarre works. It is a WUTHERING HEIGHTS-style story of brooding men and obsessive love and fallen families, but the conclusion is more absurd than anything the Brontës ever offered.

The Outlander series by Diana Gabaldon
Why It’s Braw: Although I mentioned in my last post that the TV show is actually far superior to the overlong, under-edited book, the book nevertheless transports you straight to Scotland, and I felt like I should include it since the show has brought it back into pop culture. 

THE PRIME OF MS. JEAN BRODIE by Muriel Spark
Why It’s Braw: This classic is at once a coming of age tale and a midlife crisis, all framed within the context of a school in 1930s Edinburgh. Jean Brodie is a schoolteacher who lives vicariously through her students. Spark tinges her story in delicious irony. Short and concise, it can be read in one sitting...unlike the next item on this list:

LANARK: A Life in Four Books by Alasdair Gray
Why It’s Braw: Kafka meets a sort of Glaswegian DIVINE COMEDY in this epic, nonlinear narrative. It’s lengthy but rewarding to patient readers, as you’re kept on your toes through sections that alternate between characters and realities.

If none of these books makes you want to go to Scotland, go pour yourself some whiskey or Irn-Bru and try reading them again.