Exactly 20 years since it was launched to huge critical acclaim and a famous declaration from its publisher that it “deserves to sell more copies than the Bible”, Trainspotting has been named Scotland’s favourite book of the last 50 years.
Irvine Welsh’s debut novel about a band of young heroin addicts in Edinburgh has topped a nationwide poll run over the last few weeks.
The novel that made Welsh a household name almost overnight and inspired Danny Boyle’s iconic film adaptation three years later won almost one in ten of the votes cast.
The Scottish Book Trust’s survey, limited to novels by Scottish authors over the last 50 years, attracted almost 9,000 votes.
Welsh’s book edged out Alasdair Gray’s best-known novel, Lanark, to claim top place in the poll by a margin of less than 100 votes, with Ian Rankin’s eighth Inspector Rebus novel, Black and Blue, coming in third place.
The late Iain Banks was the only author to have two entries on the original 50-strong shortlist in the Scottish Book Trust poll. Both of them – The Bridge and Excession – made it into the top ten.
William McIlvanney, Alexander McCall Smith, Alan Warner and Christopher Brookmyre also won a place in the top ten, but Janice Galloway was the only female author on the list.
Among the high-profile authors to miss out completely were James Kelman, AL Kennedy, Joan Lingard, Louise Welsh, Val McDermid and Muriel Spark.
Welsh, who secured 833 votes for Trainspotting, 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 flattered just to be on that list of great novels with those amazing writers.”
Welsh said his best book was either Glue, Skagboys or Marabou Stork Nightmares.
He added that A Disaffection by James Kelman, The Man Who Walks by Alan Warner, and The Amateurs by John Niven were among his own favourites.
Gray, who saw Lanark notch up 750 votes, said: “My reaction to your news is delighted astonishment that Lanark has been judged more popular than a book by Ian Rankin, and my only regret that this wonderful honour had no money attached to it.”
The only book from the last decade to make the top ten was 44 Scotland Street, Alexander McCall Smith’s novel, which started life as a serial in The Scotsman.
The original shortlist was drawn up by literary critic Stuart Kelly and staff at the Scottish Book Trust, which released the top ten to coincide with the ongoing annual literary celebration, Book Week Scotland.
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 by Janice Galloway is indubitably a contemporary classic.”
1 Trainspotting (1993) by Irvine Welsh 833 votes
2 Lanark (1981) by Alasdair Gray 750 votes
3 Black and Blue (1997) by Ian Rankin 591 votes
4 The Bridge (1986) by Iain Banks 496 votes
5 One Fine Day in the Middle of the Night (1999) by Christopher Brookmyre 416 votes
6 Excession (1996) by Iain M Banks 330 votes
7 Morvern Callar (1995) by Alan Warner 296 votes
8 44 Scotland Street (2005) by Alexander McCall Smith 282 votes
9 The Trick is to Keep Breathing (1989) by Janice Galloway 271 votes
10 Docherty (1975) by William McIlvanney 269 votes