Books

Books

Celebrations mark 20th anniversary of first Harry Potter book

It has stood the test of time as a prescient assessment of one of the 20th century’s literary sensations.

Books 4
VisitScotland's new Harry Potter campaign has been launched ahead of the 20th anniversary of the first novel on Monday.

Harry Potter holiday itinerary unveiled ahead of 20th anniversary

Scottish tourism chiefs have unveiled their first Harry Potter holiday itinerary to coincide with the 20th anniversary of JK Rowling’s famous creation.

Books 1
Tom McCarthy

Book review: Typewriters, Bombs, Jellyfish: Essays, by Tom McCarthy

Tom McCarthy is one of the few novelists whom I would not just describe as good, but significant. He is a game-changer, rather than someone playing the game. This collection of 15 essays offers an insight into his various concerns and complexities. It is about flickering signals and what systems leave behind (detritus is a major theme), about the difficult legacy of the 20th century and the possibilities still to be gleaned, about how there might yet be the possibility of radicalism in both aesthetics and politics.

Books
Scottish historian and writer William Dalrymple at his farm house in New Delhi. PIC: CHANDAN KHANNA/AFP/Getty Images

William Dalrymple on the Koh-i-Noor diamond, colonialism and Brexit

On 29 March 1849, the ten-year year-old Maharaja of the Punjab, Duleep Singh, was ushered into the magnificent Shish Mahal, the Mirrored Hall throne room at the centre of the great Fort of Lahore. The boy’s father, Maharaja Ranjit Singh, was long dead, and his mother, Rani Jindan, had been forcibly removed and incarcerated in a palace outside the city. Now Duleep Singh found himself surrounded by a group of grave-looking men wearing red coats and plumed hats, who talked among themselves in an unfamiliar language. In the terrors of the minutes that followed, the frightened but dignified child finally yielded to months of pressure. In a public ceremony in front of what was left of the nobility of his court, he signed a formal Act of Submission. Within minutes, the flag of the Sikh Khalsa was lowered and the Union flag run up above the Fort.

Books
JK Rowling at a book signing session at the Assembly Halls in Edinburgh, 10 July 2000 PIC: David Moir

From the archives: The Scotsman reviews Harry Potter, 28 June 1997

On Monday 26 June 2017, it will be 20 exactly years since the publication of JK Rowling’s first Harry Potter book, Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone. Here’s how The Scotsman reacted to the story of the boy wizard...

Books 3
Author Adam Thorpe. Picture: Geraint Lewis/Writer Pictures

Book review: Missing Fay, by Adam Thorpe

This novel is packed with great characters and a strong sense of place but the central mystery runs out of steam

Books
The Borders Book Festival PIC: Alex Hewitt/Writer Pictures

Festival review: The Borders Book Festival

This was how it should be all the time. Heat hanging over the Eildons almost as if it was going to stay there. The staff opening up all the side panels in the packed marquees in Harmony House Gardens. The grass warm, the stones hot, the ice cream queues long, the craft beer tent busy but oddly civilised. And all around, Melrose going quietly Med. Take the standing ovation for Judy Murray on Friday. Borderers aren’t normally given to such hot flushes of appreciation. In all the 13 other Borders Book Festivals Alistair Moffat has organised, it never happened. On the 14th it did. Why? Was it really just the weather mellowing Melrose? Actually no. Because what the audience saw in Murray was someone who was possibly more open and charming than they had imagined but who had faced greater obstacles in getting support for her sons than they had realised.

Books
Debut novelist Charles E McGarry beside Loch Awe

Podcast tells gory tale of Scottish crime writer’s life

It is not so much a whodunnit as a how do you do it?

Books
Andrew O'Hagan PIC: Gary Doak/Writer Pictures

Book review: The Secret Life, by Andrew O’Hagan

This triptych of non-fiction pieces is united by more than one concern. On the surface, however, it is simply about the way in which technology is reshaping our world. The first is a piece about Julian Assange, whom O’Hagan, one of our finest novelists, was commissioned to work with to produce his autobiography; auto- being slightly redundant in this instance. After wrangles over contracts, the book was published as the “unauthorised” life of Assange, but without O’Hagan’s name on the cover. The second essay involves Ronald Pinn, a name O’Hagan found on a gravestone – the young man was 20 when he died – and then utilised to create a virtual identity. Pinn took on a life of his own, in a manner farcical, fascinating and foul. Finally, we get “The Satoshi Affair”. Again, it is related to a significant project O’Hagan was invited to work on, and which worked out differently to everyone’s expectations: a book about the identity of the founder of bitcoin, the digital currency. Although, in the already post-truth world of the web, bitcoin was the invention of “Satoshi Nakamoto”, as O’Hagan writes, “Satoshi was loved by bitcoin fans for making a beautiful thing and then disappearing. They don’t want Satoshi to be wrong or contradictory, boastful or short-tempered, and they really don’t want him to be a 45-year-old Australian called Craig”.

Books
Guy Browning PIC: REX/Shutterstock

Book review: My Life in Lists, by Guy Browning

This is billed as “the first novel to be written entirely in list form” and also as “a novel for the listicle generation”, listicles being the much-maligned articles-as-lists that clutter up newspaper websites to the extent that pretty much every single category of thing known to man has now been reduced to a top ten.

Books
The Ministry of Utmost Happiness is the first novel by Arundhati Roy in 20 years. Picture: Axel Schmidt/AFP/Getty Images

Book review: The Ministry of Utmost Happiness, by Arundhati Roy

It’s colourful and charming in places, but Arundhati Roy’s new novel gets bogged down in well intentioned but ultimately distracting explication

Books
Actress Charlotte Rampling is among the stars heading to the book festival in August.

Ten highlights in the Edinburgh International Book Festival line-up

More events than ever before are in this year's Edinburgh International Book Festival line up. But these 10 are expected to be among the hottest tickets in August.

Edinburgh festivals
This is Europes largest lending library, the Mitchell Library. Picture: John Devlin

10 places for book lovers to visit in Glasgow

AS well as being the birthplace of several famous writers – such as Alasdair Gray, Liz Lochhead, and Edwin Morgan – Glasgow is home to a whole host of wonderful bookshops, events and tourist attractions which are sure to delight any book lover.

Books 1
James Fergusson PIC: Jeremy Sutton-Hibbert/Getty Images

Book review: Al-Britannia, My Country - A Journey Through Muslim Britain, By James Fergusson

All books about the contemporary are hostages to fortune. At the opening of this judicious and insightful book, James Fergusson writes that “the deaths and injuries wrought around the Palace of Westminster in March 2017 proved Britain is not immune to the ISIS-inspired horrors visited on Brussels or Paris or Nice in 2015 and 2016”. Being an author and not a clairvoyant, the events in Manchester were as shrouded from him as from the rest of us. His book is timely in a great many ways, but the problem with timely is that publishing lags behind reality.

News
Kenneth Steven

Book reviews: 2020 - A Novel, by Kenneth Steven and The End We Start From, by Megan Hunter

In his “Motto to the Svendborg Poems,” composed in exile in Denmark in the 1930s, Bertolt Brecht wrote: “In the dark times / Will there also be singing? / Yes, there will also be singing / About the dark times.” Clearly darkness is relative, and the challenges of the early 21st century pale into insignificance when compared with the chaos that had begun to engulf Europe when Brecht fled Nazi Germany. Still, there is something about the current decade, a sense of the deckchairs beginning to slide, that has caused various media commentators to liken it to the 1930s; and just as Brecht foretold, this sense of impending disaster also seems to be seeping its way into our literature.

Books
Sheena Kalayil, author of The Bureau of Second Chances

Book review: The Bureau of Second Chances, by Sheena Kalayil

It feels lazy to compare The Bureau Of Second Chances to Deborah Moggach’s 2004 novel These Foolish Things, upon which the 2011 comedy drama, The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel, was based – but it is impossible not to. It is not just that both books are set in India, or that they both tell the stories of people who have decided, at a time of change in their life, to move to the fascinating, even mysterious subcontinent. There is also a synchronicity between the novels, and a similar, bittersweet, uplifting tone which makes them impossible to put down.

Books
Mountains like Ben Nevis could provide inspiration for writers. Picture: Ian Rutherford/TSPL

Mountain writing competition is open for entries

WRITERS with a feeling for mountains and mountaineers are being sought by Mountaineering Scotland for its annual literary competition.

Inverness, Highlands & Islands
A section of the North Coast 500 in Torridon

Book review: The Finest Road in the World: The Story of Travel and Transport in the Scottish Highlands, by James Miller

The success of the North Coast 500 in rebranding a circuit of the Highlands owes much to parts of it being regarded as among the “finest road in the world”. Indeed, James Miller refers to several such claims in the title of his book, including the tongue-in-check observation of an 18th century clergyman negotiating the perilous Ord of Caithness. Two centuries later, the same accolade was bestowed by an MP on “the new Glasgow-Inverness highway”, aka the A82, whose opening did wonders for tourism, coinciding with sightings of Nessie.

Books
Gail Honeyman

Book review: Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine, by Gail Honeyman

Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine is a surprising first novel, set in Glasgow, and a surprisingly good one. That “surprisingly good” may sound condescending, but it isn’t. On the contrary; it’s because the early chapters didn’t appeal, were even tiresome, but proved necessary. Coming of age novels are common; this is less usual, a coming to life one. Equally unusually, it’s a Glasgow novel without violence (though there is violence of a peculiarly distressing sort in Eleanor’s past); instead it’s a Glasgow novel suffused with kindness.

Books
Ever Dundas

Book review: Goblin by Ever Dundas

The first novel by Ever Dundas is, in my opinion, the best debut fiction by a Scottish author since Jenni Fagan’s The Panopticon in 2012. It shares certain similarities with that work in that although both might lazily be referred to as magic realism, or sinister surrealism, they can both be read as elegiacally real books in which the fantastical moments are psychological swerves from the utter trauma of reality. Dundas has created a profoundly affecting, intellectually challenging and beautifully written fable which might not be a fable at all.

Books
Load more