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.
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.
“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.
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.”