Ian Rankin: How my teacher inspired me to pursue my passion

AHEAD of Book Week Scotland on 23 November, Ian Rankin continues a week-long series of reflections, Thank Books, on the power of literature and the people who deserve thanks for guiding them to it

Ian Rankin. Picture: Ian Rutherford

My Thank Books would go to my high school English teacher, Ron Gillespie, who taught me at Beath High School when I was a teenager.

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He was a very clever and open young man and his interpretation of literature was the opposite of narrow – you could talk about song lyrics with him and he would treat it as a conversation about poetry. He introduced me to TS Elliot, and for someone who grew up in a Scottish mining village it was difficult to interpret, but Mr Gillespie’s enthusiasm for and knowledge of poetry really opened up that world to me.

I was the first member of my family to go to university, and my parents, being working-class, thought that you went to university to get a career, so it was assumed that I would go to study accountancy or something similar. Without Mr Gillespie’s encouragement my life may well have taken a different path. His interest in and enjoyment of English kept it in the front of my mind that I wasn’t going to go to university to study something to just get me a career, I was going to go to university to study something I was passionate about.

There are hundreds of fantastic free events going on across the country during Book Week Scotland. Not-to-be-missed highlights include a special event with author Scarlett Thomas in amongst the carnivorous plants at the Glasgow Botanic Gardens on 24 November, An Evening with Cathy Rentzenbrink at Waterstones in Dundee on 25 November, a Faber Social night of storytelling, performance and the secrets of the Scottish music scene on 27 November in Edinburgh and An Evening with Paula Hawkins, also on 27 November, in Inverness. Information on all events can be found at www.bookweekscotland.com. For more information on Thank Books, search for #ThankBooks on Twitter