The affinity of Scots with the written word has long been recognised thanks to the succession of poets, authors and playwrights the country has produced over the centuries. Trying to pick a definitive selection of the best of their output is an invidious task and this list is nothing if not subjective – but it at least offers a representative sample of Scotland’s greatest wordsmiths.

Kidnapped by Robert Louis Stevenson

While not as famous or as influential as other Stevenson works – Treasure Island and The Strange Case Of Dr Jekyll And Mr Hyde hold those accolades – Kidnapped is the one dearest to this writer’s heart, in part because its affecting final episode takes place just a few hundred yards from his home: at Rest And Be Thankful, on Edinburgh’s heavily wooded Corstorphine Hill. Published in 1886, the same year as Jekyll And Hyde, Kidnapped is essentially an 18th century road movie in print, with the journey taking place largely on foot as our heroes David Balfour and dashing Jacobite spy Alan Breck Stewart survive a shipwreck off the coast of Mull and then battle their way back to Edinburgh, from where David was kidnapped by his uncle Ebenezer and sold into slavery in the Carolinas.

Trainspotting by Irvine Welsh

A seminal work of late 20th century British fiction and a glorious, free-wheeling mash-up of styles and narrative voices, this novel was published in 1993 and introduced the world to Edinburgh drug users Renton, Sick Boy, Spud and Begbie and did it in an accent that was true both to them and to the novel’s author, Irvine Welsh. Episodic, misanthropic and scabrously funny it helped kickstart a Scottish artistic renaissance that fed into cinema, drama and visual art. There was a stage version followed by a film version which launched the careers of director Danny Boyle and stars Ewan McGregor, Robert Carlyle and Ewen Bremner. Without doubt, the most important and influential Scottish novel of the last 30 years.

Sunset Song by Lewis Grassic Gibbon

Published in 1932 and the first part of his acclaimed trilogy of novels, A Scots Quair, Grassic Gibbons’s work gives us one of Scottish literature’s great heroines – Chris Guthrie – and paints an indelible picture of a society on the cusp of great change, in this case a rural north-eastern farming community around the time of the First World War. A fixture on school syllabuses and much-visited by writers seeking to adapt it for television, radio and stage, it was given the big screen treatment in 2015 by cerebral and sensitive English director Terence Davies, a long-time fan of the novel.

The New Confessions by William Boyd

The Ghana-born, Gordonstoun-educated Scot has made the life fully lived his grand subject since being selected for Granta’s prestigious Best Of Young British Novelists list in 1983. His century-spanning 2002 novel Any Human Heart is probably his best-known and best-loved work (it was turned into a Channel 4 mini-series in 2010), but it has stiff competition in this novel from 1987. Beginning in Edinburgh in the late 19th century it follows the life story of Scottish adventurer John James Todd as he fights in the First World War, decamps to Berlin to make films during the period of the Weimar Republic, moves to Los Angeles where the American film industry is booming before and after the Second World War, and then winds up in a Mediterranean hideaway where he writes up the memoirs that give the novel its title. Great stuff.

The Prime Of Miss Jean Brodie by Muriel Spark

Based on her own experiences as a pupil at James Gillespie’s High School in Edinburgh (here recast as The Marcia Blaine School For Girls), Spark’s famous novel tells the story of titular school-mistress and her band of favourites, known as “the Brodie Set”. Published in 1961 it remains Spark’s best-loved work though its reputation goes far beyond the author’s birthplace: it was originally published as a story in The New Yorker and the American-based Modern Library listed it as one of its 100 Best Novels of the 20th Century.

Lanark by Alasdair Gray

Blending fantasy and surrealism with reality and social commentary, Alasdair Gray’s sprawling cult novel is a landmark of 20th century literature and tells the story of the titular Lanark and his experiences in the fictional city of Unthank, and a parallel story involving one Duncan Thaw set in a recognisable Glasgow. The author and artist, who died late last year aged 85, wrote the novel over a two decade period, beginning in the early 1950s. It wasn’t published until 1981 but by then it was already a legend within Scotland’s literary community. Glasgow’s version of James Joyce’s Ulysses?

Harry Potter And The Prisoner Of Azkaban by JK Rowling

Ask any Millennial which is the best Harry Potter novel and you’ll have almost as many answers as there are books, though it’ll probably come down to a spell-off between this one, the third in the series, and instalment number six, The Half-Blood Prince (you’ll have the same arguments over the film versions, but that’s another story). Here, our intrepid wizard first encounters Sirius Black when he escapes from prison apparently intending to kill Harry. Or not, as it turns out. Published in 1999 and begun the day after she finished book two, Harry Potter And The Chamber Of Secrets, Rowling once described The Prisoner Of Azkaban as “the best writing experience I ever had”.

The Private Memoirs And Confessions Of A Justified Sinner by James Hogg

One of the great cult novels in the Scottish literary canon, Hogg’s mind-bending masterpiece was published anonymously in 1824 and struggled to find either a readership or a reputation for much of the 19th century. Perhaps it was just ahead of its time. But with its curious structure, its innovative use of time-frames and its stark presentation of binaries such as good and evil it has certainly found its place in ours. What and who is real isn’t always easy to fathom but it remains one of the most beguiling and intriguing works of the 19th century or any other and you’ll find echoes of it in everything from Robert Louis Stevenson’s The Master Of Ballantrae to Chuck Palahniuk’s Fight Club.

The Crow Road by Iain Banks

A writer of exemplary science-fiction and top-notch psychological thrillers, and a witty and sparky personality to boot, Iain Banks was a towering talent and his death in 2013 aged just 59 robbed Scottish fiction of one of its greats. This novel, from 1992, introduces the reader to the wonderfully-named Prentice McHoan and his attempts to understand and unravel the mystery which has dominated his adult life – what happened to cause the disappearance of his uncle Rory eight years earlier. Skipping between settings in Glasgow and Argyll it balances a coming-of-age story with a genuine puzzler. It also has one of the best opening lines you’ll ever read: “It was the day my grandmother exploded”.

The Hound Of The Baskervilles by Arthur Conan Doyle

You know when you know something can’t have a supernatural cause but you’re still terrified all the same? That, in a nutshell, is the genius of this, the third full-length novel featuring Conan Doyle’s most famous literary creation, Sherlock Holmes. Much filmed, much-parodied, the book is still absolutely gripping. A perfect read, from its evocative description of super-creepy Dartmoor to the familiar to-and-fro of the Holmes/Watson sleuthing routine. It was first serialised in 1901 in The Strand magazine and was the first sight of Holmes that readers had had since he went over the Reichenbach Falls in 1893. They weren’t disappointed.

Do you have an issue with any of the choices? Do you think we missed anything? Is there a better Harry Potter novel or an unheralded classic of Scottish fiction that we should know about? Make your case in a paragraph or two and email your suggestions to: