The Favourite Scottish Novel is Revealed

Category: Press Releases

Trainspotting by Irvine Welsh has emerged as the winner of Book Week Scotland’s poll to find the favourite Scottish novel of the last 50 years.

Over 8,800 votes were cast in the search for the nation’s favourite novel, with 1 in 10 votes going to Welsh’s debut novel about drug addiction in Edinburgh, which celebrates its 20th anniversary this year. Book lovers from around the globe got involved in the poll, with votes coming in from 57 different countries including the USA, Ethiopia, Iceland and South Korea.

Commenting on the announcement, Welsh said:

"I don't know if Trainspotting is the best Scottish book - I'm far from convinced it's my own best book. But I'm obviously flattered just to be on that list of great novels with those amazing writers, especially when I consider some of the brilliant books and my personal favourites that never made it onto this list."

The results of the poll revealed that the 10 favourite Scottish novels of the last 50 years are:

  1. Trainspotting by Irvine Welsh  833 votes
  2. Lanark by Alasdair Gray   750 votes
  3. Black and Blue by Ian Rankin  591 votes
  4. The Bridge by Iain Banks   496 votes
  5. One Fine Day in the Middle of the Night by Christopher Brookmyre  416 votes
  6. Excession by Iain M Banks 330 votes
  7. Morvern Callar by Alan Warner  296 votes
  8. 44 Scotland Street by Alexander McCall Smith 282 votes
  9. The Trick is to Keep Breathing by Janice Galloway 271 votes
  10. Docherty by William McIlvanney 269 votes

The poll was launched by Scottish Book Trust as part of Book Week Scotland 2013. Members of the public were invited to choose from a shortlist of 50 titles compiled by author and literary critic Stuart Kelly in collaboration with Scottish Book Trust staff. These books were carefully selected in an attempt to reflect the depth and breadth of the journey Scottish writing has taken over the last half century.

Commenting on the results of the poll, Stuart Kelly said:

“Crime, comedy, science fiction, the avant-garde - the public vote has reinforced the diversity of contemporary Scottish writing. My sole regret is that we have only one woman on the list - that said, The Trick is to Keep Breathing is indubitably a contemporary classic.”

Marc Lambert, Chief Executive of Scottish Book Trust, said:

“It’s great to be able to announce the top 10 Scottish novels of the last 50 years – as voted for by the public – during Book Week Scotland, our national celebration of books and reading. This is a fascinating list combining traditional classics with modern greats, with every book an absolute gem. Aside from acting as a barometer of Scottish reading tastes, the list has amply fulfilled its purpose of generating an exciting debate and discussion around great Scottish novels. Trainspotting is undoubtedly deserving of the top spot. It remains a brilliant read, and its publication was a key cultural moment in the history of the Scottish novel.”

More information about the vote and the top 10 novels can be found at


-       Alasdair Gray“My reaction to your news is delighted astonishment that Lanark has been judged more popular than a book by Ian Rankin, and only regret that this wonderful honour had no money attached to it.”

-       Christopher Brookmyre“I am really thrilled to see One Fine Day in the Middle of the Night placed so high in Scottish readers’ affections. It was my intention to take all the grandeur and excitement of Hollywood action movies and re-imagine them through a prism of very Scottish sensibilities, so the book’s enduring popularity would suggest that I got the balance right. It was the book I most enjoyed writing, and remains the one I recommend to newcomers who haven’t read my work before.”

-       Adele Hartley “Iain [Banks] was always a huge fan of his fans and I think he'd have been very flattered by their support and delighted to be in such fine company.”

-       Ian Rankin“Such an honour to find myself in this particular top 10, especially with a book I regard with great fondness. I'm sure the results will be pored over and discussed, but what really matters is that books are still read with a passion. I feel sure this will be the case in another 50 years' time!”

-       Alan Warner – I am amazed Morvern Callar made it among votes as high as 8000. That is quite a response.”

-       Alexander McCall Smith - "I'm pleased that people like Scotland Street. I get great pleasure from writing those books, and will continue to do so. Thank you."

Notes to Editors:

  • Scottish Book Trust is the leading agency for the promotion of literature, reading and writing in Scotland. It develops innovative projects to encourage adults and children to read and write, supports professional writers with a range of projects including skills development and awards, funds a variety of literature events and promotes Scottish writing to people worldwide.
  • For more information about Book Week Scotland, visit Follow @Bookweekscot on Twitter, check out #ScotBooksVoteor like the Book Week Scotland Facebook page.
    • Literary critic Stuart Kelly and the staff from Scottish Book Trust compiled the shortlist using the following criteria: the novel must have been written in Scotland, or the author must have been born in Scotland or currently live in Scotland. To find out what Stuart and the SBT staffers thought of the books, click on the covers on our book list.
    • While this list is limited to novels written in the English language and for adult readers, Scottish Book Trust is fully committed to promoting the wealth of diverse books and reading produced in Scotland. Go to our Scottish Book Lists section for recommendations including Gaelic books, children’s books, poetry collections and much more.
  • The top 10 countries where the votes originated from are:
  1. United Kingdom
  2. United States
  3. Australia
  4. Canada
  5. Germany
  6. France
  7. Ireland
  8. Spain
  9. Netherlands
  10. New Zealand
  • In recognition of William McIlvanney’s achievement, Canongate are bringing forward the publication of their beautiful reissue of Docherty, making it available in shops next week.
  • All the books on the Top Ten list are available to buy at The Edinburgh Bookshop.


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