I’ve never been one for making serious New Year’s resolutions, but I often make a list of fiction reading goals and since I’m in Scotland, this year I’m focusing on Scottish authors (and it turns out there are many great ones!). Here we go:

1) Sir Walter Scott

KenilworthOften considered the first historical novelist, there’s no way I could pass up Sir Walter Scott! Right now I’m reading Kenilworth (about Queen Elizabeth I and Robert Dudley) and I hope to get to Ivanhoe and The Tailsman as well.





2. Dorothy Dunnett

Another historical novelist,  Dorothy Dunnett’s retelling of the story of Macbeth, King Hereafter, is the novel I’m most looking forward to reading.










3. Robert Louis Stevenson

jekyllAfter visiting a pub in Edinburgh inspired by this classic Gothic tale of good vs. evil, I decided it was time to read The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde.








4. George MacDonald

This Victorian writer was an influence on some of my favorite authors and wrote many, many stories, but I think I’ll start with his children’s classic, The Princess and the Goblinprincess and goblin







5. J.K. Rowling

goblet of fireI know, I know, technically J.K. Rowling was born in England (though her grandfather was Scottish–born on the Isle of Arran–so she’s 1/4 Scottish), but Harry Potter’s birthplace is Edinburgh, where Rowling wrote the early books. She has also stated in interviews that she always envisioned Hogwarts being located in Scotland (which is where you end up when you get on a train at King’s Cross station and head north!). I’ve been working my way through the series and am getting ready to begin The Goblet of Fire.



6. Sir Arthur Conan Doyle

After watching two seasons of the hit BBC series, I’m eager to read a few Sherlock stories by another Edinburgh-born author. Sherlock

14 thoughts on “Reading Resolutions 2014: A Year of Scottish Authors

  1. Once you are finished with “Kenilworth,” I’d recommend two of Scott’s most “Scottish” novels: “Waverly” is about the rebellion of 1746; “The Heart of Midlothian” is based on a notorious court case and a civil uprising at Edinburgh’s 18th century prison, located on what is now the Royal Mile. A few notes on Stevenson’s “Jekyll and Hyde”: many scholars see the novel as reflecting the dualities that co-exist within all of us (i.e. the struggle of good vs. evil), and that existed in 19th-century Scotland: New Town Edinburgh vs. Old Town; Scotland as a part of Great Britain vs Scotland having its own cultural identity. Evidently Stevenson himself struggled against the forces of good (i.e. the civilized society of New Town Edinburgh) and evil (he was a frequent visitor to the pubs and brothels south of Princes Street).
    Okay, you know what this means Ashlee? You will just have to go spend a bunch of time in Edinburgh. :-)

    1. Thanks so much for your comments and recommendations, Adrianne! Did you focus on Scottish literature for your PhD? Yes, I realized after I wrote this post that I had chosen to start with one of Scott’s least Scottish novels (mainly because I found a fun old edition of Kenilworth in a second-hand book shop)! :) I’m really looking forward to Jekyll and Hyde based on your comment about the dualities! Last week my parents came to visit and we did a Literary Pub Tour in Edinburgh that was fantastic…the guide mentioned the duality of the Old vs. New town and Stevenson’s personal struggles, which is very interesting and so evident in the “feel” of the city and its history. I could spend days in Edinburgh so that’s no problem…its probably my favorite city in Europe!

      1. Edinburgh is wonderful, although I’m sure it has changed since I lived there. I did my M.Sc. in Scottish Lit. at the Univ. of Edinburgh, but then, later, I did my doctoral dissertation on the Scottish historical novel, focusing on Scott, Stevenson, Oliphant, and Munro. It was a lot of fun and took me to some interesting archives. (I got to work in the archives at Edinburgh castle).

      2. WordPress isn’t let me write long replies. Grrr. I think you mentioned once the Elephant Cafe in Edinburgh where Rowling wrote? I loved that cafe. Have you tried millionaire’s shortbread? That was my addiction. We liked Negotiants near the uni too. I love St. Andrews, though. Almost wished I had studied there (I probably would have gotten into less trouble–ha!)

  2. I will resist sending you a long list of my favorite Scottish novels, but can I make two recommendations for future reading?
    Neil Gunn’s “The Silver Darlings” (about the herring fisheries along the far north-east coast in the 18th-century)
    Lewis Grassic Gibbon’s “A Scots Quair” (a trilogy about a young girl growing up near Aberdeen in the early 20th century)
    Both novels are romantic in a tragic kind of way. The authors were both Scottish nationalists who liked to emphasize the theme of Scotland’s relationship with England and her struggle to find a separate national identity. The Gibbon work (his real name was James Leslie Mitchell) is hard to read, as he writes in his own version of the north-east Scots dialect, but well worth it.

    1. Thanks! Both sound wonderful. Now I’m wondering if I should have pursued graduate study in literature instead of history, but hopefully I’ll be able to fit all these novels in while I’m here! :)

  3. The only Walter Scott novel I’ve ever read is IVANHOE. It’s opening chapters, I felt, started too slow, too much description, etc. I realize this was the way many authors wrote back then. I’d like to read something else he wrote, but I was wondering…do all his novels have similar slow beginnings? I have read other books from Scott’s era which didn’t begin as slowly…Dumas’s THE MAN IN THE IRON MASK is one such book which quickly comes to mind. Thanks for taking time to answer my question!

    1. Scott has definitely been slower reading for me too. I think all of the descriptions are part of the writing style of the era (and seemed to be part of Scott’s appeal, as his descriptions of the Highlands increased tourism to Scotland even in his lifetime!). I’m reading KENILWORTH now (which opens in a traveler’s inn in England) and there hasn’t been any mention of Queen Elizabeth or Robert Dudley in the first five chapters, but I’m trying to be patient and I enjoy his narrative style even if nothing has really “happened” yet. What’s amazing to me is that I’ve heard Scott’s novels were mega bestsellers (he was practically the JK Rowling of his day) compared to contemporaries like Jane Austen, whose books seem to be easier for modern readers to get into and definitely have a greater following than Scott’s today. I’ll let you know my verdict on Sir Walter Scott when I’ve finished a few of his works!

      1. Thanks. Ashlee! I also tried reading Austen’s PRIDE AND PREJUDICE, but just couldn’t get interested in it. Robert Louis Stevenson, I love! He’s one of my all-time favorite authors, alongside Dumas and C.S. Forester.

  4. If you do/did read King Hereafter, you must read Dunnett’s Lymond Chronicles. They are my all-time favorite books, which is saying something because I seldom read historical fiction.

    Check out the glowing reviews at Goodreads.com. I am not her only huge fan.

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