Books from Scotland: the big picture

From The Bookseller:

It feels slightly strange to be writing this introduction to the Books from Scotland special as the world, and the world of Scottish books, has changed greatly, perhaps even irrevocably, since we started planning these features some months ago. The impact the coronavirus will have on Scottish publishers, booksellers, authors, agents, libraries and festivals—in short, Scotland’s entire books industry—is substantial, very real and absolutely immediate. It would be unrealistic to pretend that the next year or two will be anything but challenging for most of the sector.

Even so, there are many reasons to be optimistic (even if cautiously so) about the next few months and years. Spending even just a brief amount of time in the Scottish books world will give readers an appreciation of the strength and depth of talent and innovative spirit on hand, and give an insight into why it is one of the most vibrant of the UK’s cultural sectors.

That vibrancy is undoubtedly partly due to the changing face of modern Scotland itself. In the past few decades—particularly, it could be reasonably argued, since devolution—the country has become more and more of a dynamic, progressive and outward-facing nation. Its arts, and its publishing sector, have both reflected and helped to drive that.

Perhaps the most interesting thing about the Scottish book scene is how diverse and cutting-edge it is. We have showcased just a handful of the new voices of modern Scottish literature across this special, including the Cairo-born, Aberdeen-based author Leila Aboulela; the working-class queer Glaswegian kid-turned- fashion designer-turned-acclaimed novelist Douglas Stuart; and Melanie Reid, the high-flying journalist who writes movingly and humorously, but in a very honest and clear-eyed manner, of adjusting to a life with a disability after she was paralysed following an accident.

. . . .

The Scottish book trade entered 2020 off an incredibly strong year. Physical book sales rose across the country for the fifth consecutive year in 2019; the Edinburgh International Book Festival welcomed a record 265,000 attendees; a string of new indie bookshops opened (including Topping & Company and the Portobello Bookshop in Edinburgh); and another Edinburgh bookshop, Golden Hare Books, was crowned the UK’s best indie at the British Book Awards. Meanwhile, major award wins included Sandstone Press-published Celestial Bodies by Jokha Alharthi (translated by Marilyn Booth) winning the International Booker Prize.

Link to the rest at The Bookseller

4 thoughts on “Books from Scotland: the big picture”

  1. So, it’s not about telling great stories, but about the magic powers of diversity (is there anything it can’t do?).

    I remember when we had no idea of the age, nationality, health, and sometimes gender of our authors. Stories were more important.

    The most useless phrase in an author bio is “Writing as a __diversity token specimen__, I…”

    • I think you may be taking this a bit too seriously. It’s just a puff piece so it’s going to use all the currently approved verbiage but in the end it doesn’t have to relate to anything but approved elite culture.

    • I’d rather get a fundamentally black story from an author who has lived it than from some author who ‘imagines’ what it might be like.

      Even if the former is harder to read, I learn more from the nuances.

      If it’s not fundamentally something in particular, almost any author with a good imagination will do – a boon for SFF stories and anything set in the future.

  2. Lots of Scottish writers teĺling great stories right now – dare I say it, me included! We don’t get much of a mention in this piece, but there are plenty of us and in this small country most of us know each other.

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