The River in the Sky

Clive James
Picador, £14.99

Burning the Days

James Salter
Picador, £9.99
by SRB

Books of the Year 2018 – A Literary Advent Calendar

December 22, 2018 | by SRB


We’ve asked Scotland’s leading writers, booksellers, festival directors and critics to pick one, or two, books — published this year or in the past — that they most enjoyed reading in 2018. There will be new selections every day throughout December — so keep reading for great ideas about what to read next and visit your nearest high street bookshop to purchase your Christmas gifts! Today’s selections are from Alasdair McKillop and Jan Rutherford.

I don’t read much poetry. That’s intended as neither boast nor confession, just an update on the state of play. Clive James is still here and the lights are still on at the big top. That’s an update on the state of play as well. Reading Clive this year meant reading poetry, so I read some poetry. The River in the Sky is styled as an epic poem and sometimes he goes out of reach, but he always comes back. Something older? James Salter’s Burning the Days (Picador, £8.99) is about as good as it gets – he lands an almost impossible life on the page so beautifully.

Alasdair McKillop participated in the Emerging Critics programme in 2017. Since then, he has reviewed for publications including The Herald, The Times Literary Supplement and the New Statesman. On Twitter: @AGMcKillop

One book that has not yet received the attention it deserves is Malachy Tallack’s The Valley at the Centre of the World (Canongate, £14.99). By far the novel I have enjoyed most this year, it should have been shortlisted for every award going. Lyrical, insightful, tender… it explores life in a small community in a valley on Shetland. The characters are so fully formed that you inhabit their quiet life and live it with them and through them. Bring on the next from this writer.

Jan Rutherford is on the Board of Scottish Review of Books.

Blog / Discussion