Laurie Sansom, Artistic Director and Chief Executive of the National Theatre of Scotland

Laurie Sansom, Artistic Director and Chief Executive of the National Theatre of Scotland

Alice Munro's Dear Life (Chatto and Windus, £18.99) was a quiet revelation to me. I picked it up feeling a little ashamed of never having read anything by a writer who won the Man Booker International Prize and became a Nobel laureate in the same year.

I have a slight resistance to short stories, but this collection reminded me that in the best hands a whole life can be packed into the economy of 20 to 30 pages or less to devastating effect. Dear Life is full of remarkable moments in ordinary lives and is imbued with an aching sadness. There is a gentle beauty in these almost love affairs and disappearances, and Munro explores the very human instinct to bury crushing disappointments in many of these stories.

Like on my first encounters with writers such as Ali Smith and Paul Auster, I know I have found a writer who will be a companion throughout my life.

Fiona Hyslop, Cabinet secretary for Culture

The Chessmen by Peter May (Quercus, £7.99): I am not an avid crime fiction reader but I think Peter May's writing is absorbing. His keen sense of place and the powerful physical and cultural context he depicts of Lewis makes this trilogy compelling reading.

The Great Tapestry Of Scotland: The Making Of A Masterpiece (Birlinn, £30): This will be on my Christmas gift wish list. The Tapestry has captured the imagination of a nation by telling the story of Scotland in such a popular and vivid way and celebrating thousands of years of Scottish history and achievement. The Making Of A Masterpiece is a testament to the imagination of Alexander McCall Smith, Alistair Moffat and Andrew Crummy and, of course, the flair and creativity of one thousand stitchers from across Scotland.

I read The Year Of Open Doors, edited by Rodge Glass (Cargo, £13.99) this year; exciting new fiction from Scottish modern literary talents. It is a tour de force of story expression and understanding of the Scotland of today. It is good to see the ambitious and compelling contributions from these 18 writers, and strong representation from women - it is certainly a slim volume that speaks volumes.

Kerry Hudson, novelist

This year 'difficult' second novels have been very much on my mind so imagine my joy in reading Lisa O'Donnell's wonderful sophomore novel Closed Doors (William Heinemann, £14.99), the follow-up to her Commonwealth Prize-winning debut The Death Of Bees. A story of secrets, loss of innocence and the mixed blessings of close-knit communities, Closed Doors, set in O'Donnell's home town of Rothesay, is told through the eyes of 11-year-old Micheal Murray. Authentic and full of O'Donnell's trademark tar-black humour, warmth and heart, it balances the gritty subject matter with the intimacies of family life beautifully. Another treat from 2013 was Andrew Solomon's Far From The Tree (Chatto and Windus, £30), an exploration of the relationships of parents with exceptional children including those born deaf, prodigies and children conceived in rape. Life-affirming, thought-provoking and highly readable, the book was compiled over 10 years of interviews and I found it deeply moving.

James Robertson, author

I thoroughly enjoyed Wayne Price's short story collection Furnace (Freight, £8.99) - understated, sultry, passionate, sometimes menacing tales that show a real mastery of mood and language. John Herdman's Another Country (Thirsty Books, £7.99), is a rich, insightful and witty memoir of literary and nationalist personalities meeting, and often clashing, in the pubs of 1960s and 1970s Edinburgh. A cause with which I strongly empathise - getting to the truth of the Lockerbie bombing 25 years on - is tackled in two new books: John Ashton's Scotland's Shame: Why Lockerbie Still Matters (Birlinn, £7.99) is a slimmer assessment of the whole sorry saga than his previous study Megrahi: You Are My Jury, but no less damning; while Morag Kerr's meticulous examination of the facts, Adequately Explained By Stupidity? Lockerbie, Luggage And Lies (Matador, £12.99) effectively demonstrates how the bomb was loaded not in Malta but directly on to Pan Am Flight 103 at Heathrow. Finally, I welcome The Collected Plays Of Robert McLellan, edited by Colin Donati (Luath, £25). McLellan's is a very significant voice in 20th century Scottish theatre, not least because of his consistently articulate use of Scots, and it is great to see this volume at last.

Judy Steel, author and playwright

In most of Scotland, the 500th anniversary of the battle of Flodden has been treated with a mixture of indifference and even embarrassment. In the Borders, however, it has been commemorated with the same deep feelings of communal grief and rage against the uselessness of war that manifests itself throughout Europe on Remembrance Day. The artistic legacy of this anniversary - and it has been considerable - included Rosemary Goring's excellent first novel, After Flodden (Polygon, £14.99). The theme of divided loyalties is very much to the fore in much of Allan Massie's work. In his Bordeaux trilogy in Second World War France, he explores it through his humane and thoughtful Inspector Lanne. Dark Summer In Bordeaux (Quartet, £12) is the second in this addictive series. Finally, a sumptuous, beautiful book that feasts the eyes as well as the mind: The Tapestry Of Scotland (Birlinn, £30) by Alistair Moffat and the designer and stitchers of this consummate art project.

Hugh Andrew, Birlinn publisher

My parents said I had to read them. But they had just gone out of print. As I began to publish somebody said I should bring them back into print but they were almost unobtainable. And now, finally, Harper Collins has brought back into print the first three of Maurice Druon's magnificent The Accursed Kings series. The story of the final years of the Capetian dynasty is told in riveting narrative and with the deftest of touches. This is a model of how to write historical fiction and it is little wonder George RR Martin hails the series as "the original Game of Thrones". The Iron King (Harper, £7.99), The Strangled Queen (Harper, £7.99) and The Poisoned Crown (Harper, £7.99) give a good sense of the big happy family that was the House Of Capet. I will follow that with something very different. Neil Gaiman's The Ocean At The End Of The Lane (Headline, £16.99) is one of those utterly magical and haunting books that falls into a category all of its own - fantasy, yes, but achingly beautiful at the same time and an utterly original masterpiece. In terms of non-fiction, Guy Halsall's expert debunking of Arthur in The Worlds Of Arthur (Oxford University Press, £20) is hard to beat for forensic examination of the evidence and carefully reasoned and convincing conclusions. Stephanie Dalley's The Mystery Of The Hanging Garden Of Babylon (Oxford University Press, £25) provides a new and very convincing theory as to where the Gardens were and who built them. And, if to me, she does not quite clinch her case then you learn a huge amount about the ancient world en route.

Gordon Brewer, Newsnight Scotland presenter

Bleeding Edge (Jonathan Cape, £20) is Thomas Pynchon's take on September 11, 2001 (he goes out of his way to avoid describing the events as 9/11). As this is Pynchon, it is also a confrontation with the conspiracy theories and secret histories surrounding the whole affair. And, as this is Pynchon, it is not entirely clear what he makes of them. The novel appears to reject most of the claims of the 'truthers' that the US government was somehow behind the events, but smuggles in several hundred pages of conspiracies of its own. It is intriguing, and probably the most straightforwardly readable of his books. I was struck by the ambition of The Flamethrowers by Rachel Kushner (Harvill Secker, £16.99). It manages to relate the art scene in 1970s New York to the Red Brigades in Italy, with lots of motorbikes thrown in. Christopher Priest's The Adjacent (Gollancz, £8.99) is equally ambitious, but much stranger. Arguably his best yet.

Chris Dolan, author

Richard Baxell's Unlikely Warriors (Aurum Press, £25) is the definitive history of the British volunteers who fought Franco. Baxell's understanding of the conflict and the times underpins the oral histories of the men and women who fought and died. A poignant historical work. Still on the theme of the Spanish war, Eduardo Mendoza's An Englishman In Madrid (MacLehose, £16.99) is, on the surface, a romp. But a wise one about the days leading up to Franco's attack. Mendoza has fun with the dirty politics in this homage to his home city. Rosemary Goring's After Flodden (Polygon, £14.99) plays a similar trick - a pacy period thriller that is equally revealing; about the schisms of 16th century Scotland, and a love song to the Borders. Allan Massie's Surviving (Vagabond, £8.95) has a group of ageing literati retired in Rome getting their hands dirty. Subtle wit and aching sadness fluently combine in a tale of books and youth and mortality.

Judy Moir, literary agent

We Need New Names (Chatto and Windus, £14.99) by Zimbabwean writer NoViolet Bulawayo is an exceptionally fine novel, as powerful and memorable as Coetzee's magnificent Disgrace. It tackles the tragedy of Mugabe's regime, the experiences of African émigrés and the excesses of American culture through the voice of a feisty young girl - first as a 10-year-old and then as a teenager. We need new novels like this - authentic, original and cathartic. Stoner by John Williams (Vintage Classics, £6.99), first published in America in 1965, came to my attention when I discovered it was a Dutch best-seller this year. With prose of breathtaking clarity, and a narrative that flows along seamlessly, Williams subverts the American dream via an underachieving and rather unlucky university lecturer. Love of literature is the abiding consolation for Stoner through his travails, in this deeply satisfying story, full of insight, adversity and dignity. Anyone who loves literature will surely love this.

Elaine C Smith, actor

I really enjoyed Sisterland by Curtis Sittenfeld (Doubleday, £16.99); this author also wrote American Wife, which was a great read and this is her next book. James Robertson's The Professor Of Truth (Hamish Hamilton, £16.99) - I just adore James Robertson and he is still on wonderful form following And The Land Lay Still and the fabulous Joseph Knight. I read this book while on holiday in Portugal and it was made really special because my cousin gave me a signed copy from the author. I have also discovered the amazing Alan Bissett, poet and writer, and I urge everyone to go on to YouTube and hear him recite Vote Britain, but his novel Pack Men (Hachette Scotland, £7.99) is terrific. The late Stephen Maxwell's book Arguing For Independence (Luath, £9.99) is a must read as we approach the referendum, as is Blossom by Lesley Riddoch (Luath, £11.99). I can't praise this book enough, it's fantastic. And on the theme of where we are as a nation, I would recommend everyone to have a read of Brené Brown's Daring Greatly (Portfolio Penguin, £8.99) or have a look at her TED talks on YouTube about a woman who has studied shame and its effects for 15 years. She is quite an amazing woman. When I am on the road with a production I like to read something a bit lighter, so while touring during the summer with my one-woman show, I read a couple of good books. I am a great crime thriller aficionada so, as ever, Denise Mina with The Red Road (Orion, £12.99) is as good as she always is. And, as a mad tennis fan, Jimmy Connor's The Outsider (Bantam, £18.99) is a must read.

Ronald Frame, author

Of course the blurb of Jung Chang's new biography is persuasive. Empress Dowager Cixi (Jonathan Cape, £20), who lived from 1835-1908, is the most important woman in Chinese history. She ruled China for decades and brought a medieval empire into the modern age. But I was also enticed by the cover, a very rare photograph of the imperial consort in her finery, artfully deflecting her eyes from the camera lens (normally she 'received' from behind a screen, invisible), trailing fingernails several inches long beneath shields of gold, rubies and pearls. Hers was still a world of harems, eunuchs and unimaginable privilege - a maid held her pipe while she smoked it. Engrossing. Handsome Brute by Sean O'Connor (Simon & Schuster £16.99) explores the pukka life and times (inter-wars) - and murky psychology - of lady killer Neville Heath, "charming but deadly ex-RAF playboy". Both the personal and public realms are deftly brought to life - so to speak, given that we end with the hangman's noose. Better than a novel.

TC Smout, Historiographer Royal

My choices are two history books relating to 18th-century Scotland: neither is suitable for truncated attention spans. Roger Emerson's An Enlightened Duke: The Life Of Archibald Campbell (1682-1761), Earl of Islay, 3rd Duke of Argyll (Humming Earth, £24.95) gives the first full account of the man who made the Union of 1707 work for Scotland, and who by his patronage and encouragement supported many of the luminaries of the Scottish Enlightenment. Fredrik Albritton Jonsson's Enlightenment's Frontier: The Scottish Highlands And The Origins Of Environmentalism (Yale University Press, £30) traces the controversy between those who saw the Highlands as a land of potential plenty and opportunity but needing intervention, and those who considered it a barren wilderness where state or philanthropic action would be pointless. The first were heavily influenced by the great Swedish botanist Linnaeus, the second by the economics of Adam Smith. The finest scholarship distinguishes both books.

Leo Cushley, Archbishop of St Andrews and Edinburgh

Although it was published in 2012, my favourite read in 2013 was Sun Tzu At Gettysburg: Ancient Military Wisdom In The Modern World by Bevin Alexander (WW Norton, £11.99). It is a "What If?" applied to a selection of famous battles. For example, the author more or less suggests "If Robert E. Lee had known Sun Tzu's work, perhaps he would have fought Gettysburg in this way - and changed history forever." Alexander's selection of battles is of ones usually well known and, with the benefit of twenty-twenty hindsight, he analyses the successes and failures of Stonewall Jackson, Napoleon and the UN in Korea, among others, applying Sun Tzu's principles of first avoiding what is strong and striking the weak; and second, striking into vacuity or undefended territory. The result is an entertaining and thought-provoking read, as we look again at several famous conflicts fought centuries after Sun Tzu lived and without any knowledge of his principles - and wonder what might have been.

Alan Warner, novelist

Hubris: How HBOS Wrecked The Best Bank In Britain by Ray Perman (Birlinn, £9.99): unintentional black comedy. Not nasty coal miners, Communists or even terrorists brought the free market to its knees, but its own greedy children: wildly overpaid men

in expensive suits. This is not meant to be

a comedy - and pulls its punches too much, but I roared until the end, though we are all, literally, paying for it. Snake Road by Sue Peebles (Chatto & Windus, £14.99): wise, memorable and written with a lightsome delicacy. It is a family novel - the kind of quiet, unflashy topic that is easily lost among grander, exotic themes; it is wonderfully wry and occasionally laced with despair and menace. A Capital Union by Victoria Hendry (Saraband, £8.99): another super Scottish novel (and a bold first book) that should have been rewarded; brilliantly researched with an interesting political theme (the SNP in wartime) - mainly set in Edinburgh during the Second World War. A curious and readable mix of the romantic and the hard-edged.

Doug Johnstone, novelist

Others Of My Kind by James Sallis (No Exit Press, £7.99) is a terrific, stripped-back novella, telling the story of Jenny, now an adult, who was abducted and kept in a box for two years as a kid. When a cop asks her to help with a similar recently escaped kidnap victim, Jenny is forced to confront her past in a narrative that somehow, from all the damage, manages to evoke a glimmer of hope in the reader. Similarly harrowing subject matter comes in the form of Helen Fitzgerald's The Cry (Faber, £7.99). The novel starts on a long-haul flight from Glasgow to Melbourne, with a fretful couple trying to care for their fractious infant son. What follows is a descent into hell for the couple as the fate of baby Noah becomes a worldwide media sensation. Terrifyingly believable and written with deep empathy.

Kirsty Gunn, novelist

My book of the year, hands down, no questions asked and I will shout it from the rooftops, is the extraordinary A Girl Is A Half Formed Thing by Eimar MacBride (Galley Beggar Press, £11). This is a novel that redefines the novel - that not only takes us

on an emotionally dense rollercoaster ride through the perils of intimacy and family life, but delivers the whole extraordinary story in

a syntax that is flat out new and terrifyingly and wondrously imaginative and brave and utterly dramatic, bringing a voice and a life into vivid 3D experience on the page. Like nothing else

- Brava! Eimar MacBride!

Lord David Steel, former leader of the Liberal Democrats

Three widely different books were my favourites this year. Justin Cartwright's latest novel Lion Heart (Bloomsbury, £7.99) is a story of a young man setting out to research Richard's crusades and search for his lost cross, and involving a love affair with a twist. Wojtek The Bear by Alison Orr (Birlinn, £7.99) is the remarkable true story of the bear that was recruited into the Polish army, later lived in the Borders, and ended its life at Edinburgh Zoo. It is both moving and amusing. A new history Kenya: Between Hope And Despair, 1963-2011 by Daniel Branch (Yale University Press, £14.99) is a perceptive account of Kenya's politics since independence.

Willie Rennie, leader of the Scottish Liberal Democrats

The Long Walk: The True Story Of A Trek To Freedom by Slavomir Rawicz (Robinson, £7.99) follows the false imprisonment of a Polish officer by the Russians. The horrific journey to the camp would be a sufficient ordeal for most but the incredible escape ... A well-told and inspiring true story. And The Mountains Echoed by Khaled Hossein (Bloomsbury, £18.99) teases and enchants the reader with interwoven short stories leading to the revelation of the rich tapestry of life through time, in and beyond Afghanistan. This book brings to life a troubled country that deserves respect for its endurance. I dipped into JK Rowling's The Casual Vacancy (Sphere, £7.99) in part because I read her work to my son and because of the reviews. It built to an interesting read, exposing the complex and conflicting aspects of village life. I eventually liked it.

Todd McEwen, author

The book that impressed the hell out of me this year was Malicious Damage by Ilsa Colsell (Donlon Books, £35), an incisive and fascinating account of Kenneth Halliwell and Joe Orton's 'artistic' mutilation of some books in the Islington public library. Accompanied by beautifully-reproduced examples of their collages, it is a truly fascinating object altogether. Peter Burnett's The Studio Game (Fledgling, £7.99) is an arresting and very witty take on the contemporary art scene, set in Aberdeen of all places. I was very impressed with Anjum Hasan's book of attenuated, roundhouse-kick short stories, Difficult Pleasures (Penguin India, £3.99). And a lot of wonderful poetry came out this year: Robin Robertson's Hill Of Doors (Picador, £9.99), Christopher Reid's Nonsense (Faber, £12.99) and also Six Bad Poets (Faber, £12.99), A Twist Of Lime Street by Aberdeen's irrepressible scouser Eddie Gibbons (Red Squirrel, £6.99), and a sobering, enchanting and mysterious account of the almost geological-in-scale shift that disease can introduce to a family: Littoral by Patricia Debney (Shearsman, £8.95).

Sheena Mcdonald, journalist and broadcaster

On the eve of the 100th anniversary of the outbreak of the First World War, I was grateful to my dad for recommending The Price Of Glory by Sir Alistair Horne (Penguin, £12.99) which details the 1916 Battle of Verdun with humanity and accessible immediacy. It was acclaimed on publication (1962) and remains deservedly in print. Horne (like my dad) lives on. Less than half his age, Charles Emmerson has written the majestic and cliché-defying 1913 (Bodley Head, £25), a meticulously - researched global demonstration that the world we now know (eg a border-free Europe) was already in the common currency of aspiration. Sticking with originality, Charles Glass's Deserter (Harper Press, £25) highlights a largely unknown fact about the Second World War - that there were legion US and UK deserters. And The Blunders Of Our Governments by Anthony King & Ivor Crewe (Oneworld, £25) must be read by every incumbent and wannabe representative of the people.

Tom Devine, historian

The two World Wars continue to inspire the writing of first-class histories. Christopher Clark's The Sleepwalkers: How Europe Went To War In 1914 (Harper, £10.99) and Richard Overy's The Bombing War 1939-1945 (Allen Lane, £30) are both magisterial works, based on meticulous scholarship and also highly readable. Iain Martin's Making it Happen (Simon and Schuster, £20) reveals in detail the full extent of the hubris, greed and mania for growth that destroyed RBS.

Laura Marney, novelist

I have noticed crime fiction has had a high profile this year. Perhaps it has something to do with Bloody Scotland, the new crime writing festival, or perhaps because Scottish writers excel at it, but working as I do with some of our future novelists at Glasgow University, I know Scottish fiction to be wider and deeper: Ewan Morrison's strange and beautiful Close Your Eyes (Jonathan Cape, £8.99) and everything from Bill Thompson's quaintly anonymous Ballad Of Frank Maguire, to the ice and fire of James Robertson's The Professor Of Truth (Hamish Hamilton, £16.99) - his beautiful rendering of grief and intangible truth. While we are on injustice, in non-fiction The Poor Had No Lawyers: Who Owns Scotland And How They Got It by Andy Wightman (Birlinn, £12.99) has been essential reading for my own research. Meticulously detailed, it is a weighty tome on the exploitation of the law in Scotland. It is historical and oh-so contemporary and, perhaps, in these exciting times, a call to arms.

Annabel Goldie, former leader of the Scottish Conservatives

History, geography and travel have by coincidence been the common themes of recent book choices. Running For The Hills (John Murray, £9.99) introduced me to the beguiling style of Horatio Clare with his vibrant and vivid account of growing up on a Welsh hill farm. The natural follow on was A Single Swallow (Vintage, £8.99), Clare's extraordinary and mesmerising odyssey following the migration of the swallow from South Africa to South Wales. The travel theme has continued with Patrick Leigh Fermor's classic, A Time Of Gifts (John Murray, £9.99). This beautifully written journal of an 18-year-old's journey on foot through pre-war Europe from Holland to Constantinople combines exquisitely literature, history, geography and travel. I am thirsting for the sequel, Between The Water And The Woods. Clearing out a relative's house, I came across a slim little volume, The Heart Of London by HV Morton (Methuen, o/p), a series of sketches he wrote as a journalist nearly 90 years ago. Now interesting from a historical perspective, these colourful vignettes are quirky in style, engaging and entertaining.

Richard Holloway, author and former Bishop of Edinburgh

It is hard to choose between my two reading 'highs' this year, one fiction, the other non-fiction, both by women. If I had to choose between them on the basis of pure reading pleasure then I would opt for Jo Baker's Longbourn (Doubleday, £12.99), her below-stairs version of Pride And Prejudice. It is a great read in its own right - I devoured it in a sitting - but it also throws an unusual light on Austen's great novel, which I shall I read next time with a stronger gaze on Mr Bennett. My next choice, if choice there has to be, is Olivia Laing's The Trip To Echo Spring (Canongate, £20). This road trip round six alcoholic writers is moving and fascinating in what it says about why writers drink. And I discovered a new poet this year, Derek Mahon: what is it about Ireland that hurts men into great poetry?'

Nick Barley, Director of Edinburgh International Book Festival

My favourite new books came from abroad. Rachel Kushner's The Flamethrowers (Harvill Secker, £16.99) was a highlight, and I have already found a contender for my book of 2014 - Michel Laub's Diary Of The Fall (Harvill Secker, £14.99). Alongside them, I hugely enjoyed re-reading some Scottish classics. In preparation for debates that will rage next year, I dived into Greenmantle (Oxford World Classics, £7.99) by John Buchan. It is a rollicking spy thriller set in the early months of the First World War, but also a demonstration of how the war was felt right across the world. It was also joyful to revisit Muriel Spark's The Ballad Of Peckham Rye (Penguin Modern Classics, £8.99), which follows the deliciously devilish Scotsman Dougal Douglas as he arrives in Peckham and runs amok. Both books are very much of their time, but in different ways are morality tales that resonate powerfully in the strange political landscape of Britain today.

Ruth Davidson, leader of the Scottish Conservatives

The sad passing of Iain Banks led me to go back to his writing for the first time in over a decade. I am so glad I did. His final book, The Quarry (Little Brown, £18.99), was published posthumously in June and is a simple set-up: a group of former housemates, gathering together for one last reunion at the home they had shared as students. Central to the story is Guy, who is dying of cancer and is looked after by his teenage son, Kit. Their stories and the tales of the other members of the assembled company from down the years intertwine expertly as a picture builds up of love, loss, friendship, indifference and the relationships we cling to or let slip as people grow up and grow apart. The Quarry is both dark and funny and - despite it focusing on the fear, pain, injustice, degradation and destruction caused by cancer - is oddly life-affirming.

Alan Bissett, author

Against my better judgement I enjoyed I Am The Secret Footballer by The Guardian's undercover Premiership star (Guardian Faber, £7.99), who lifts the lid on a shady and surprising world of inordinate wealth and privilege. Morrissey's Autobiography really brought me round to the man, and I even loved the bravura gambit of issuing it as a Penguin Classic (£8.99). Scottish fiction of the year for me is Brighton-based Nina de la Mer's hypnotising Layla (Myriad, £8.99). After all, how many literary novels have been written about lap-dancers? And while I am only halfway through Donna Tartt's The Goldfinch (Little Brown, £20) it is holding up better than her previous effort and I am hoping it will scale the dizzy heights of her incredible debut, The Secret History.

Right Reverend Lorna Hood, Moderator of the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland

The Reason I Jump: One Boy's Voice From The Silence Of Autism by Naoki Higashida, David Mitchell, Keiko Yoshida (Sceptre, £12.99). An exceptionally busy year as Moderator probably made this short book even more attractive! It is written from the viewpoint of a boy with autism - the question and answer format is at turns humorous, enlightening, challenging and rewarding. If you think you know about autism or know someone who might be interested in the subject or someone who is living with the condition in their family then I would recommend it as a quick and informative read with clear descriptions that could help to increase understanding - not from an academic perspective, but from a real person with a practical knowledge of what the condition feels like from the inside.

Alex Salmond, First Minister

Anyone looking forward with as much anticipation as I am to Europe and the USA locking horns in the Ryder Cup next year, would have Jewel In The Glen: Gleneagles, Golf And The Ryder Cup by Ed Hodge (Birlinn, £25) at the top of their book list. Written by a former caddy at Gleneagles, this book includes wonderful photography of the course and its picturesque surroundings, as well as interviews with sporting greats such as Jack Nicklaus, Tom Watson, Sir Jackie Stewart and Andy Murray. The book traces the Ryder Cup back to its very origins at Gleneagles in 1921 and highlights the many benefits hosting the tournament will bring to Scotland. An informative and entertaining read, it certainly whets the appetite for a great competition next year.

Alan Spence, author and poet

Three unusual and beautiful books have stayed with me this year. Levels Of Life by Julian Barnes (Jonathan Cape, £10.99) is a response to the death of Pat Kavanagh, his wife of many years. Clear-eyed, honest and unsentimental, it is a deeply moving meditation on love and loss, the reality of grief, the power of art. The same might be said of Artful by Ali Smith (Hamish Hamilton, £20). The book contains four lectures she gave at Oxford last year - On time / On form / On edge / On offer and on reflection - and they seamlessly interweave a narrative (again on the death of a loved one) that reads like a novel. It is playful and profound, touching and funny, erudite and engaging, a pure delight. Finally, The Embassy Of Cambodia by Zadie Smith (Hamish Hamilton, £7.99) is a single short story published in book form, and it is a tour-de-force, combining the personal and the political to great effect (and showing they are inseparable). It is a reminder of what the short form can do.

Jamie Byng, publisher of Canongate books

This has been a rich year for fiction. Stand-out novels for me include Kate Atkinson's Life After Life (Doubleday, £18.99), Donna Tartt's The Goldfinch (Little Brown, £20), Philipp Meyer's The Son (Simon and Schuster, £14.99), Jim Crace's Harvest (Picador, £16.99) and Ruth Ozeki's A Tale For The Time Being (Canongate, £8.99). I also reread Bao Ninh's The Sorrow Of War (Vintage, £8.99), which, 20 years on, had an even greater impact on me than it did first time around. Ninh fought in the Viet Cong and this book was borne out of his experiences as a soldier, but is also a heartbreaking love story. It is a remarkable and important novel.

Johann Lamont, leader of the Scottish Labour Party

Political biographies are usually only read by people like me who are interested in the vagaries and insider details of those who work in politics, but my favourite book this year was an autobiography that was fascinating for the author's life before he was an MP.

This Boy: A Memoir Of A Childhood by Alan Johnson (Bantam, £16.99) read more like a testimony of admiration and gratitude to the sister who got him through a difficult and tragic childhood.

It shows there is more to many politicians than the person at the despatch box or in the TV studio, and it is often these life experiences that shape their politics. It is such a good read it is in danger of giving politicians a good name.