November 7, 2013

J.K. Rowling is not going to make a list of “favorite Scottish books” anytime soon


From Robert Burns and Walter Scott to Robert Louis Stevenson, Arthur Conan Doyle, and Hugh MacDiarmid, the list of names associated with Scottish literature is littered with some of the greatest authors ever to write in the English language. And, with novelists and poets like Alasdair Gray, Tom Leonard, A.L. Kennedy, and current U.K. Poet Laureate Carol Ann Duffy, contemporary Scottish literature is not without its fair share of prominent writers.

But unfortunately, for many readers, contemporary Scottish literature begins with Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone and ends with Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows. That’s why it was so shocking to see J.K. Rowling’s name excluded from the list of eligible authors in a competition hosted on the Scottish Book Trust’s website “that pits Scotland’s top writers in a public vote to find readers’ ‘favourite Scottish books of the last 50 years’.”

Since publishing her first Harry Potter novel in 1997, She-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named (ok, that joke probably wasn’t worth it) has written six further Harry Potter books in addition to two best-selling novels on the way to becoming one of the highest-grossing authors in history. Rowling’s exclusion from the list of authors eligible in the Scottish Book Trust’s competition reflects both the vibrancy of contemporary Scottish literature and the fact that she just isn’t that great a novelist. To put it in the terms used by Scottish literary critic Stuart Kelley, who helped to assemble the list, “There are a lot of works [included] which expand the novel, books which fundamentally change what a novel does.” More bluntly, “There are 50 better books than [Rowling’s 2012 novel The Casual Vacancy] on that list.”

Voting is open to everyone and ends November 18. The top ten vote-getters will be revealed at the end of November during Book Week Scotland. Below you’ll find a quick look at some of the books that were good enough to make the list.

Michael Elmets is a Melville House intern.