4 March 2021
Glasgow Times

Reading has become a huge part of people’s lives over the past year as they try to beat the lockdown blues. Here are ten of the best books about our city that have been published over the last few years.

1. Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine by Gail Honeyman

Eleanor Oliphant set the literary world alight when it was published in 2017 and there are plans to turn the heartwarming tale into a film. Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine leaves you asking if Eleanor Oliphant is completely fine very early on in the novel. It is a deeply sad story of a lonely young woman who should be in the prime of her life but there are plenty of laugh out loud moments throughout and of course, a happy ending for the heroine.

2. Shuggie Bain by Douglas Stuart

The first book by a Glasgow writer to win the Booker Prize since James Kelman in 1994, Shuggie Bain follows the life of a young boy who is told he is “different” from a young age. The novel is set in the 1980s when people across Glasgow were suffering the social and economic policies of Thatcher’s Conservative government, it shows how the sense of solidarity that existed in many of the city’s working class communities began to diminish. While in places it is graphic and dark, the humour and optimism of main character Shuggie will keep you reading until the end.

3. Scabby Queen by Kirstin Innes

A riveting social history of the last four decades in Scotland, Scabby Queen follows the life of minor celebrity Clio Campbell through game changing events including the Scottish independence referendum in 2014, the miner’s strike and the poll tax riots in George Square in the early 1990s. The story is told through the eyes of several different narrators who were friends and foes of Clio.

4. Motherwell by Deborah Orr

While not strictly a Glasgow book, Orr’s posthumous memoir published in 2018 shows how a clever girl drifted away from her family with dreams of attending university as far away from her domineering mother as possible. A look into the life of a respectable working class families during Scotland’s industrial golden age, readers will spot some familiar sayings and behaviours exhibited by Orr’s parents.

5. The Young Team by Graeme Armstrong

Buckfast and bravado define Graeme Armstrong’s debut, published in March last year. Everyone who grew up in Glasgow and the surrounding areas in the mid-2000s will remember the fear evoked by their local young team. Armstrong’s debut, based on his own experience of North Lanarkshire’s Young Teams, drugs and alcohol, shows the culture that existed across the city and beyond during that time. Readers will recognise the strong North Lanarkshire dialect as well as some familiar Glasgow patter.

6. The Glasgow Effect by Ellie Harrison

In 2015 when Ellie Harrison announced she received funding from Creative Scotland to stay within the boundaries of Glasgow and not travel any faster than 20 miles an hour, it caused a social media outcry but her work is an important and illuminating read. Many Glaswegians will spot some of the infuriating issues that face many of the city’s working class residents, such as the strange quirk of only being able to renew your SPT Zonecard on a Sunday. Harrison attempts to explain the reasons why Glasgow suffers with excess mortality in an accessible way.

7. HWFG by Chris McQueer

McQueer’s second collection of short stories shows a surreal and often hilarious take on the lives of ordinary Glaswegians. We see the return of some much loved character’s from his first collection, Hings, including Big Angie. McQueer’s work tackles issues such as sectarianism and Brexit. Readers will recognise someone they know in at least one of McQueer’s stories.

8. Poverty Safari by Darren McGarvey

Darren McGarvey uses his own experience to deliver a scathing critique of poverty, not just in Glasgow but across the UK. McGarvey argues that politicians of all parties lack understanding of how to tackle the issues that mean poverty is still prevalent in today’s society as well as providing his own solutions as to how it may be solved. Having won the Orwell Prize for Political Books in 2018, McGarvey has now produced two successful television series in conjunction with BBC Scotland.

9. Garnethill by Denise Mina

It wouldn’t be a Glasgow books list if we didn’t include a crime novel. Garnethill is the first in a dark trilogy. The story follows Maureen O’Donnell after she finds her boyfriend murdered. The police have named her as a suspect and so, Maureen starts her own investigation to uncover a similar murder and clear her name.

10. No Wonder I Take a Drink by Laura Marney

Initially set in Glasgow, the book follows Trisha to the Highland village of Inverfaughie after inheriting an old country house from a deceased family member. She’s in for a huge culture shock after leaving the cosmopolitan city behind and finding that in such a small town, everyone knows everyone. There are some genuinely laugh-out-loud moments that will brighten your lockdown evenings.

Lauren Gilmour