Scotland’s Favourite Book poll to be held

Diver Lewis Jepson reads a book in the shark tank at Deep Sea World, North Queensferry. Picture: PA
Diver Lewis Jepson reads a book in the shark tank at Deep Sea World, North Queensferry. Picture: PA
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A NATIONWIDE poll to find Scotland’s favourite book will be held as part of the country’s biggest celebration of reading and literature.

A 50-strong shortlist is expected to be published at the end of the month, with the online poll to be run over several weeks before the winner is announced around St Andrew’s Day.

Novels by Scottish authors published in the last half-century will be considered eligible for the poll, to be run during the second annual “Book Week Scotland” campaign.

The initiative is being run again by the Scottish Book Trust, which said it wants to ignite a “national conversation” about what Scots like to read - and why.

Organisers are hoping to beat an attendance figure of 20,000 recorded during last year’s nationwide programme, which was funded to the tune of £250,000 by arts agency Creative Scotland to get the event off the ground.

Around 400 events in 349 different locations are being held as part of this year’s event - which was launched at Deep Sea World in North Queensferry, close to where the celebrated author Iain Banks lived before he passed away earlier this year.

More than 330,000 free books will be given away during the Book Week Scotland campaign this year, including 150,000 free copies of a new short story and poem collection celebrating the most treasured possessions of various Scots, while every primary one pupil in Scotland will receive three picture books each.

Five home-grown visual artists will be paired with five leading Scottish writers to create five large-scale art installations to be installed around the country, which will be aimed at helping inspiring people of all ages to open a book.

Marc Lambert, chief executive of the Scottish Book Trust, said: “It’s incredible when you think about it that it’s taken this long to get a national book week up and running in Scotland.

“This is the nation of the book, where books and literature culture are absolutely essential to Scotland’s reputation and profile abroad, as well as ideas about the country here in Scotland.

“We believe the event is now an integral part of the cultural calendar of the country and that’s exactly as it should be.”

The Book Week Scotland poll will allow people to vote for their favourites from a shortlist to be compiled by literary critic Stuart Kelly, who writes for The Scotsman, and is currently a Man Booker Prize judge.

Among the authors the Scottish Book Trust expects to figure are Alan Warner, Christopher Brookmyre, Janice Galloway and AL Kennedy, as well as the late Iain Banks.

Mr Lambert added: “We’ll be asking people to comment on on a list of 50 really important books that have been published over the last 50 years.

“We are commissioning Stuart to draw up the shortlist for people to discuss, criticise and debate. He’ll be selecting the books and writing a blurb on them.

“People always have very strong views about this kind of thing - and they very often fall out about them.

“Every previous time this has been done over the years, books like The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie, Sunset Song or Lanark have come out on top.

“It’ll be interesting to see what happens this time round and I suspect it won’t be one of those three books.

“I think there have been so many great books published in the last 10 or 20 years which will be fresher in people’s consciousness and may well begin to rise to the top of the list.

“It’ll be very interesting to see in terms of the cultural shift and the literary explosion that has taken place. It’s been incredible.”

Scottish culture secretary Fiona Hyslop said: “Scotland has a strong literary canon and Book Week offers a great opportunity for everyone to celebrate our world-class wealth of talent, creativity and imagination.”

Book Week Scotland runs from 25 November-1 December.