There are plenty of ‘Books Of The Year’ lists around this time competing for your time and attention, but we like to think that Scots Whay Hae!’s selection is one for the more discerning book lover with something for everyone.
This year, it goes up to 11 because I didn't read the final book until I had published my Top Ten in the current SNACK magazine (which you can find here) and had to have it. My list, my rules! This year the books take us from the problematic past, to the near-present, and into an often dystopian future, and from Glasgow, Edinburgh, and Airdrie to the wide open vistas and university canteens of America. There are stunning debuts, the return of a literary legend, magical memoir, short stories, a novella, and a whole lot more.
These are the publications which we felt stood out against the stiffest competition in what was another outstanding year for Scottish writing. Taken as a whole they show the artistic diversity and cultural imagination at large in Scotland today and are proof that Scottish writing is in the finest fettle.
Click on the highlighted links to learn more and buy books...
Not only the best debut of the year, but my book of the year – Ryan O’Connor’s The Voids introduced an exciting new voice to Scottish writing. The Voids is honest and artistic, setting out the drama of ordinary lives in a manner direct and raw, yet humane and ultimately hopeful.
The Voids is published with Scribe Publications
Jenni Fagan had another remarkable year. Her collection of poetry, The Bone Library, was rightly acclaimed, but it was her novellaHex which really stood out. It’s an exemplar of the form, a book which tells its story across space and time from a writer who is fully engaged with both subject and style.
Hex is published with Polygon Books
Inspired by the true story of Jean Campbell, the first Deaf person to be tried in a Scottish court,Sarah Smith’s Hear No Evil becomes a whodunit and a race against time. It also asks us to consider the institutional barriers Deaf and other disabled people have to face, something which remains relevant.
Hear No Evil is published with Two Roads
The Projectionist is a love letter to the cinema of the past, the fading glamorous of the buildings which showed them, and the small towns where they were often found. It manages to make you nostalgic for a time and place which never existed, and has twists, turns, and MacGuffins of which Hitchcock would have been proud.
The Projectionist is published with Rymour Books
Homelands: The History of a Friendship is both biography and autobiography, as Chitra Ramaswamy weaves together her own family’s story of migrating to the UK with that of her friend Henry Wuga who came to Glasgow as a teenage refugee escaping the horrors of Nazi Germany. Homelands rightly proffers there is more which unites us than divides.
Home Lands is published with Canongate
Industry of Light & Magic is a prequel to the cult classic This Is Memorial Deviceand, as with all his fiction, David Keenan is as interested in how a story is told as much as the story itself. Transporting us from Airdrie to Afghanistan, when taken as a wholeIndustry of Magic & Light is not just concerned with an alternative Airdrie, but alternative reality.
Industry of Magic & Light is published with White Rabbit
The return of arguably Scotland’s greatest living writer is a reason for cheer, although it seemed to go widely unheralded, and that’s a shame as God’s Teeth and Other Phenomena is James Kelman at his most playful, recounting the trials and tribulations of an ageing author on the US university circuit in what amounts to a thinly veiledportrayal of the great man himself.
God’s Teeth and Other Phenomena is published by PM Press
Philip Miller’sThe Goldenacre breathed new life into Scottish crime fiction, moving out of the mean streets in to the world of fine art and galleries, although the morality in these rarefied rooms is as reprehensible as in any dubious dive-bar. Artful both in style and substance, Philip Miller has written a crime novel for those who think they don’t do crime.
The Goldenacre is published by Polygon Books
Science fiction has rarely been as dystopian as in Ever Dundas’ novel HellSans. It mixes the classic sci-fi of Ray Bradbury with the body horror of David Cronenberg but is so much more than a book of shock and ugh. Dundas is making serious comment on our own society and the challenges many face.
HellSans is published by Angry Robot
There were many excellent short story collections published in 2022, but Dilys Rose’s Sea Fret stood apart with stories that work both individually and with each other.Rose writes with an empathy and humanity which is rare, andSea Fret is a reminder that great short stories deserve to not only be read, but rightly lauded.
Sea Fret is published by Scotland Street Press
Dashboard Elvis Is Dead is a rich and rewarding novel that takes in the culture and social history of both Scotland and the USA, beautifully weaving stories over decades before bringing them together in a manner which is devastating. The result is an epic yet intimate novel, one which manages to be both panoramic and personal.
Dashboard Elvis is Dead is published by Orenda Books
A version of this list first appeared in SNACK magazine
Our review of the Year in Books Podcast (Part I & II) with Publishing Scotland's Vikki Reilly will be with you very shortly…