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 selection is from Mark Douglas-Home.
Loitering with Intent
By Muriel Spark
It might not the best known of Polygon’s centenary editions of Muriel Spark’s twenty two novels but Loitering with Intent is wonderfully entertaining. Also, it’s a master-class for authors since Spark, through her protagonist, Fleur Talbot, an aspiring writer on ‘the grubby edge of the literary world’, gives instruction on character creation, psychological insight and the necessity for cold-eyed observation. The plot might seem simple, Spark’s skill on display in this short, very readable novel – it’s only 167 pages – anything but.
The Shepherd’s Hut
By Tim Winton
I hated this book and, for about 25 pages, thought I wouldn’t read on. I disliked Jaxie Clackton, the narrator, a teenage runaway. Everything about him was putting off: how he talked (‘that bucket of dog sick was a bastard to both of us’), the crudeness of the life he was leaving behind, the unremitting harshness of the Western Australian badlands he was running towards. Then, I loved it. I even liked Jaxie. Turning an unsympathetic character into a compelling, interesting one is a clever trick to pull off. By the end, I wanted more!