August is the month if you love Scottish literature. With Edinburgh named the first ever UNESCO City of Literature in 2004 (Iowa City becoming the third in 2008 and England’s Norwich only gaining similar status in 2012), each eighth month of the year sees Scotland’s capital hosting the world’s largest International Book Festival.
So, it seems timely that the BBC, as part of their Love to Read campaign, are asking the public to vote online for their favorite book of all time by a Scottish author this month. From a long list of 30 novels, selected by an expert panel in conjunction with the Scottish Book Trust, the criteria is simply that the books be by authors born or based in Scotland. The results will be announced in October, when a special BBC Scotland program will be aired.
Pauline Law, Executive Producer of Arts with the BBC, is one individual who’s interested to see the results:
“This is a list that will get people talking and reading. There is such a vast range of good writing in Scotland that choosing which books to include was extremely difficult.”
Included on the list are J. K. Rowling’s Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone (or Sorcerer’s Stone in the US), The Thirty-Nine Steps by John Buchan, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes, The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie by Muriel Spark, Robert Louis Stevenson’s The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr Hyde, Trainspotting by Irvine Welsh, and Val McDermid’s Wire in the Blood.
Indeed, the long list is refreshingly varied, containing a healthy balance of both modern and classic literature. No doubt TV and film adaptations have helped some works to become more popular than others, particularly among those titles noted above (Daniel Radcliffe, anyone? Benedict Cumberbatch? Ewan McGregor?).
Early Scottish literature, around about the 14th Century, was dominated by poetry, whether it was epics or tragedies. Then Scotland’s national Bard, Robert Burns, came along, a pioneer of the romantic movement: January’s Burns Night is testament enough to the power of his verse.
Around the same time, Sir Walter Scott (whose Rob Roy makes an appearance on the long list) was making inroads as creator of modern historical fiction and romantic historiography. The world’s largest monument to an author sits to this day in Edinburgh, commemorative example of Scott’s legacy.
Since the 1980’s, Scottish literature has seen a revival near-equal to that of its Renaissance at the beginning of the 20th Century, though perhaps poetry remains ever at its heart and soul with Carol Ann Duffy becoming the first Scot to be named UK Poet Laureate in 2009.
Nevertheless, to echo the BBC’s Pauline Law, it will be interesting to see the results of the vote, to learn which prose volume, above all others in Scotland’s exceptional literary history, has captured the minds and hearts of the masses.
Which would you vote for?
YouTube Channel: Scottish Book Trust
Featured image via Isobel Adams