> 10 of the Best Scottish Books to Look Out For in 2023 - SNACK: Music, film, arts and culture magazine for Scotland

10 of the Best Scottish Books to Look Out For in 2023

2022 was another fine year for Scottish writing, with many of the best books reviewed and discussed in SNACK. But instead of looking back we are going to take a glance into the future to bring you ten titles which will be published in 2023, all of which promise great things for the year ahead, in SNACK’s words and the publishers’.


Kirsty Logan is one of Scotland’s most daring and imaginative storytellers, who, from the publication of her award-winning debut short story collection The Rental Heart and Other Fairytales, has shown that few write about the uncanny, ethereal, and otherworldly in the engaging and thoughtprovoking manner she does. There will be a lot of ‘witch fiction’ published in 2023, but Now She is Witch is the novel I am most looking forward to in that genre.

Now She is Witch is out now, published on the Harvill Secker imprint of Penguin Books


From fiction written about witches to the facts, and the terrible stories of the women persecuted, tortured, and murdered as witches in 16th, 17th, and 18th-century Scotland. Allyson Shaw’s Ashes & Stones is part historical investigation, part travelogue, part memoir as she travels Scotland uncovering – sometimes literally – memorials, standing stones, and other landmarks which bear witness to a terrible and abhorrent period in Scottish history.

Shaw also shares her own stories and life experiences, allowing voices from the present and past to be heard and to speak to each other.

Ashes & Stones: A Scottish Journey in Search of Witches and Witness is out now, published by Sceptre


As shocking as it may be for some of us, the 1990s are now part of history. Catriona Child’s Fade Into You embraces this and promises to evoke heady nostalgia in those who were there, and offer a step back in time for others. Taking its title from Mazzy Star’s beautiful song of the same name, and with an accompanying playlist promised, it looks like Child will infuse the novel with her love of music as she did so brilliantly with her previous novel, Trackman.

Fade Into You is published by Luath Press, 15th February


Leila Aboulela is one of Scotland’s finest writers, with an impeccable bibliography which begins with The Translator in 1999 through to 2019’s Birds Summons. Her latest novel, River Spirit, is set during the Mahdist War in 19th-century Sudan, and transports readers with sights, sounds, tastes, and smells to North Africa.

That extraordinary sensuality extends to the characters themselves, who live and love against the backdrop of war and a fight for independence. Told through various points of view which change chapter to chapter, River Spirit is a historical novel which offers lessons for today.

River Spirit is published by Saqi Books, 7th March. You can read an interview with Leila Aboulela in the February 2023 issue of SNACK


Poet and writer David Cameron’s previous novel Prendergast’s Fall was one of the most stylistically impressive of recent times: a book offering the reader a number of ways to engage with it, and one which rewards multiple readings. His next, Femke, is not as playful with form, but the writing is at least its equal. The central character, Femke, is an unforgettable creation, through which Cameron addresses the classical idea of the artist’s muse and examines the dark and often destructive aspects to such a relationship.

Femke is published by Taproot Press, 15th March


Over the past few years, Doug Johnstone has given us the excellent and exciting ‘Skelfs’ series of crime thrillers, which are among the best in the genre of recent times. But long-term admirers know he is a versatile and skilful writer, comfortable in many genres, so it’s with genuine excitement I tell you about his science fiction thriller The Space Between Us, in which first contact with extraterrestrials happens in Edinburgh. With his own scientific background – nuclear physics, since you ask – this promises to be another thrilling and inventive novel.

The Space Between Us is published by Orenda Books, 16th March


Rachelle Atalla’s novel The Pharmacist is one of the most notable debut novels of recent years, so to say the follow-up, Thirsty Animals, is eagerly awaited is an understatement writ large. Set in a world where water is running out, with Scottish cities particularly affected, individuals are faced with the decision as to whether to store or share what supplies they have. Thirsty Animals asks readers to consider both moral and practical questions which appear to be increasingly relevant as global events unfold.

Thirsty Animals is published by Hodder & Stoughton, 16th March


Polygon Books’s ‘Darkland Tales’ series of novellas have been among Scottish literature’s most exciting books of recent times, including Denise Mina’s Rizzo and Jenni Fagan’s Hex. The latest is Alan Warner’s Nothing Left to Fear from Hell, which is very exciting news as Warner has been a must-read writer ever since his highly-acclaimed debut novel Morvern Callar. This foray into historical fiction, tackling perhaps Scotland’s most famous figure from the past in Bonnie Prince Charlie, is a mouth-watering proposition.

Nothing Left To Fear From Hell is published on the Polygon imprint of Birlinn Ltd, 6th April


Artist and writer Iona Lee has long been considered among finest spoken word and live poetry performers around, so, although Lee has been published widely elsewhere (including a number of excellent pamphlets), news of her debut collection with Polygon is to be welcomed warmly. If you are aware of Iona Lee’s work then this will be near the top of your ‘must read’ list for 2023. If you aren’t as yet, then The Past Is Just a Tale We Tell will introduce you to a unique, contemporary, and utterly compelling voice.

The Past is Just a Tale We Tell is published on the Polygon imprint of Birlinn, 6th July


Last year James Kelman published God’s Teeth and Other Phenomena, one of the best novels of 2022, but, at least in this country, few people seemed to take notice, with it receiving only a handful of reviews. For Kelman acolytes such as myself, we should thank publisher PM Press for giving the legendary writer a home. And they are really warming to the task, publishing not just his novel, but also essays, interviews, and, excitingly, Keep Moving and No Questions – a short story collection. Kelman is a master of the form, so this promises great things.

Keep Moving and No Questions is published by PM Press, 13th June

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