Welcome to our first post on the literature and poetry page. I think we all agree that the past year and a half have been difficult on many fronts. We missed community and gatherings. We missed talking with strangers. We missed concerts, and movies, and shopping in bookstores. And even though we are now slowly and cautiously gathering again, one way we have been able to enjoy our time and escape without traveling these past months is through reading. I was fortunate to spend some time exploring contemporary Scottish authors, as NHSCOT developed ways to “gather without gathering”. We created a virtual book club which meets quarterly and have been happily surprised by the depth and the scope of contemporary authors in Scotland. We have also been fortunate enough to have several of these authors share their time in conversation with the NHSCOT community on Zoom.
Here are a few of the books on our reading list that you might enjoy – recipes from Scotland’s National Chef, tartan noir, historic stones and lifting strategies, and an intriguing story of Shakespeare’s family in the time of the Back Death.
Kitchen Essentials: The Joy of Home Cooking by Gary Maclean, Scotland’s National Chef and friend of NHSCOT – We realize that this is a cookbook – but we encourage you to the time to read Gary’s insight on cooking at home and contemplate how you can change your view on cooking for family and loved ones. Gary shows the way to enjoy a bit of Scottish cooking at home without too much “hassle” – its’ a way to revel in a bit of Scotland through food anytime of the year. (Black & White Publishing) blackandwhitepublishing.com
Still Midnight by Denise Mina – Even if you’re not normally a reader of crime novels, this is a fun ride. We chose this book as it is the first in a series of Alex Morrow novels. It was chosen as a 2010 Notable Crime Book by the New York Times. Denise Mina was the perfect guest author on our Zoom book club adding humor and sharing, in her lovely Scottish accent, her views on crime writing. (paperback, Reagan Arthur / Back Bay Books – Little Brown and Company)
Stonelifting: An Ancient Test of Strength Revived by Martin Jancsics and co-author Dr Bill Crawford. If you’ve ever wondered about the history of stones and why and how this came about as an event, this is your book. Martin explains the history and the methods of stone lifting and his passion for stone lifting shines through. ($26.99, Amazon)
Hamnet by Maggie O’Farrell – This family saga is so well written that it had to be on our list. It’s a timely story of Shakespeare’s wife and children in a time of plague. It’s a story about family and how the extraordinary play came to be written, that makes you wish you could do a bit of time travel. Hamnet’s mother is the heart of the novel. This is a book, and an author, that I will definitely read again. ($13.77, paperback, $26.95 hardback, Alfred A. Knopf)
The Mercies by Kiran Millwood Hargrave
338 pages; Little, Brown and Company
In Finnmark, Norway in the year 1617 a tragic storm took the lives of forty fishermen. With these men gone, the local women stepped up as a matter of survival. The tale is inspired by true events of the Vardo storm and the 1621 witch trials. It’s a dark tale that’s hard to put down.
Shuggie Bain by Douglas Stuart
430 pages; Grove Press
The story of Hugh “Shuggie” Bain, a lonely boy growing up in a tough situation in 1980’s Glasgow, Scotland. It’s the first novel by Douglas Stuart which won the Booker Prize in 2020.
The Other Bennet Sister by Janice Hadlow
463 pages; Henry Holt and Company
Inspired by the characters in Pride and Prejudice, this is the story of the awkward, plain sister Mary – The Other Bennet Sister. Janice Hadlow lives in Edinburgh and this is her first novel.
Evernight by Ross Mackenzie
344 pages; Andersen Press
Unlike our other selections, this is a book for children. It’s an adventure, dark and full of magic. We hope you might want to read it along with some young adventurers you know! This is for upper middle grade readers and it’s the first in a series.