Quest to find Scotland’s favourite literary quote launched

A BID to find the nation’s favourite literary quote has been launched as part of Scotland’s biggest ever celebration of books and reading.
A quote from an Iain Banks novel has  made a shortlist of 40 to be chosen by the public as the nation's favourite quote. Picture: Lesley MartinA quote from an Iain Banks novel has  made a shortlist of 40 to be chosen by the public as the nation's favourite quote. Picture: Lesley Martin
A quote from an Iain Banks novel has made a shortlist of 40 to be chosen by the public as the nation's favourite quote. Picture: Lesley Martin

Classic lines by the likes of Dame Muriel Spark, William McIlvanney, Robert Burns, JK Rowling and Lewis Grassic Gibbon are set to compete for the honour.

The Scottish Book Trust, which is staging the fourth annual Book Week Scotland festival, has revealed a 40-strong shortlist after issuing a call for suggestions for quotes earlier this year.

Hide Ad

An online poll has now opened on the Scottish Book Trust website and the most popular quotes will be revealed at the culmination of the programme of events next month.

The shortlist – drawn up by an expert panel from the nominations – also includes children’s authors JM Barrie, Peter Pan’s creator, and Mairi Hedderwick, the writer of the Katie Morag stories, Scotland’s national poet Liz Lochhead and Sherlock Holmes creator Sir Arthur Conan Doyle.

Lines from The Crow Road, by the late Iain Banks, Lanark, the epic novel written over several decades by the polymath Alasdair Gray, and James Hogg’s 19th century classic The Private Memoirs and Confessions of a Justified Sinner are all in contention. And the trust has not restricted the list to Scottish writers, so lines by Charles Dickens, William Shakespeare, Lewis Carroll, Roald Dahl and JRR Tolkien have also made the shortlist.

An Iain Banks book, The Bridge, won a previous Book Week Scotland poll in 2013 to find the best Scottish novel of the last 50 years, which attracted more than 8,000 votes. A major surprise was sprung last year when devotees of historical novelist Dorothy Dunnett voted Francis Crawford, the star of her Lymond Chronicles series, as Scotland’s favourite literary character.

Marc Lambert, director of the Scottish Book Trust, said: “We really want to get the public engaged, get them thinking about the books they love and also provide a showcase for their opinions.

“We’ve always included writers who don’t necessarily live in Scotland in previous polls and we’ve not just looked at Scottish literature in our programmes.

Hide Ad

“People do not necessarily restrict themselves to a Scottish diet when they are reading and that is a good thing.”

A host of big names are to visit every corner of the country as part of the week-long initiative, which will see more than 300,000 books given away.

Hide Ad

Diana Gabaldon, the American writer behind time-travel series Outlander, Under The Skin author Michel Faber, singer-songwriter James Yorkston, crime writer Val McDermid, actor Brian Blessed, and historian Neil Oliver will all be taking part.

Ann Cleeves, the writer behind the Shetland crime novels, record-breaking cyclist Mark Beaumont and food writer Sue Lawrence are also in the line-up.

Scottish culture secretary Fiona Hyslop said: “More than two thirds of Scots read for pleasure and we are committed to encouraging more Scots from all backgrounds and of all ages to read more.

“Book Week Scotland offers the opportunity to make that commitment to reading and it has something that will appeal to everyone.”


1. I write this sitting in the kitchen sink.That is, my feet are in it; the rest of me is on the

I Capture the Castle, Dodie Smith

2. “For those who like that sort of thing,” said Miss Brodie in her best Edinburgh voice, “that is the sort of thing they like.”

The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie, Muriel Spark

Hide Ad

3. All animals are equal, but some animals are more equal than others.

Animal Farm, George Orwell

4. There’s far, far mair tae a wird than the sayin or spellin o’t. There’s the wird-picturs it paints; there’s the souns an the echoes o souns it strikks; there’s the feelins that cluster roon it like bees aroon hinney.

Wittgenstein’s Web, Sheena Blackhall

Hide Ad

5. The dead don’t go till you do, loved ones.The dead are still here holding our hands.

Darling, Jackie Kay

6. It was Glasgow on a Friday night, the city of the stare.

The Papers of Tony Veitch, William McIlvanney

7. I think it pisses God off if you walk by the color purple in a field somewhere and don’t notice it... People think pleasing God is all God cares about. But any fool living in the world can see it always trying to please us back.

The Color Purple, Alice Walker

8. A man’s a man for a’ that.

“For A’ That and A’ That”, Robert Burns

The Canongate Burns: the complete poems and songs of Robert Burns

9. Laugh as much as you choose, but you will not laugh me out of my opinion.

Pride and Prejudice, Jane Austen

10. No one could say the stories were useless for as the tongue clacked five or forty fingers stitched corn was grated from the husk patchwork was pieced or the darning done.

The Storyteller Poems, Liz Lochhead

Dreaming Frankenstein

11. Be not afraid of greatness. Some are born great, some achieve greatness, and others have greatness thrust upon ’em.

Twelfth Night, William Shakespeare

Hide Ad

12. I think there should be a rule that everyone in the world should get a standing ovation at least once in their lives.

Wonder, R J Palacio

13. I am your master... and you’re mine. Seems I canna possess your soul without losing my own.

Outlander Vol. 1, Diana Gabaldon

Hide Ad

14. I think that’s what maturity is: a stoic response to endless reality.

Postcards From the Edge, Carrie Fisher

15. Nothing in the world delights a truly religious people so much, as consigning them to eternal damnation.

The Private Memoirs and Confessions of a Justified Sinner, James Hogg

16. You may shoot me with your words, You may cut me with your eyes, You may kill me with your hatefulness, But still, like air, I’ll rise.

And Still I Rise, Maya Angelou

17. I’m sorry, but I can’t give you a yes or no answer. At least right now. I’m tired, and there’s a strong wind blowing.

Kafka on the Shore, Haruki Murakami

18. Of course it is happening inside your head, Harry, but why on earth should that mean that it is not real?

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, J K Rowling

Hide Ad

19. People must learn to hate, and if they can learn to hate, they can be taught to love, for love comes more naturally to the human heart than its opposite.

Long Walk to Freedom, Nelson Mandela

20. It was times like these when I thought my father, who hated guns and had never been to any wars, was the bravest man who ever lived.

To Kill a Mockingbird, Harper Lee

Hide Ad

21. For my part, I travel not to go anywhere, but to go. I travel for travel’s sake.

Travels With a Donkey in the Cevennes, Robert Louis Stevenson

22. I lingered round them, under that benign sky: watched the moths fluttering among the heath and hare-bells; listened to the soft wind breathing through the grass; and wondered how any one could ever imagine unquiet slumbers for the sleepers in that quiet earth.

Wuthering Heights, Emily Brontë

23. It was the day my grandmother exploded.

The Crow Road, Iain Banks

24. In his blue gardens men and girls came and went like moths among the whisperings and the champagne and the stars.

The Great Gatsby, F Scott Fitzgerald

25. You see, some things I can teach you. Some you learn from books. But there are things that, well, you just have to see and feel.

A Thousand Splendid Suns, Khaled Hosseini

26. When you have eliminated the impossible whatever remains, however improbable,

The Sign of the Four, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle

Hide Ad

27. Happiness is not a possession to be prized, it is a quality of thought, a state of mind.

Rebecca, Daphne du Maurier

28. It was the best of times, it was the worst of times

A Tale of Two Cities, Charles Dickens

29. The moment you doubt whether you can fly, you cease forever to be able to do it.

The Little White Bird, J M Barrie

Hide Ad

30. A person who has good thoughts cannot ever be ugly. You can have a wonky nose and a crooked mouth and a double chin and stick-out teeth, but if you have good thoughts they will shine out of your face like sunbeams and you will always look lovely.

The Twits, Roald Dahl

31. “It’s a dangerous business, Frodo, going out of your door,” he used to say. “You step onto the road, and if you don’t keep your feet, there’s no knowing where you might be swept off to.”

The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring, J R R Tolkien

32. Why, sometimes I’ve believed as many as six impossible things before breakfast.

Through the Looking Glass and What Alice Found There, Lewis Carroll

33. It is only with the heart that one can see clearly. What is essential is invisible to the eye.

The Little Prince, Antoine de St Exupéry

Hide Ad

34. The first thing you find out when yer dog learns to talk is that dogs don’t got nothing much to say.

The Knife of Never Letting Go, Patrick Ness

35. You hated the land and the coarse speak of the folk and learning was brave and fine one day and the next you’d waken with the peewits crying across the hills, deep and deep, crying in the heart of you and the smell of the earth in your face, almost you’d cry for that, the beauty of it and the sweetness of the Scottish land and skies.

Sunset Song, Lewis Grassic Gibbon

36. Better to reign in Hell, than serve in Heav’n.

Paradise Lost, John Milton

Hide Ad

37.To lose one parent may be regarded as a misfortune – to lose both seems like carelessness.

The Importance of Being Earnest, Oscar Wilde

38. You suffer from the oldest delusion in politics. You think you can change the world by talking to a leader. Leaders are the effects, not the causes of changes.

Lanark, Alasdair Gray

39. Nothing grows in our garden, only washing. And babies.

Under Milk Wood, Dylan Thomas

40. “Having bad moods is very tiring,” she thought to herself.

Katie Morag and the Tiresome Ted, Mairi Hedderwick