We asked Scotland's most influential authors, politicians, poets, publishers, historians and other notable bookworms for their favourite books of the year.

Earlier we listed the top seven books of 2015. Here, some of our finest writers tell us what books they read in 2015 and why they couldn't put them down. 

Alexander McCall Smith, novelist

For those who can’t get enough Scottish history, Alistair Moffat always comes to the rescue. His latest book, Scotland, A History from Earliest Times (Birlinn, £25), is a superb introduction to Scottish history from a writer who can make it come alive like no other. I read his Bannockburn in one sitting; this is longer, but goes down as smoothly as a fine malt. David Eagleman, author of Sum, has now written The Brain: the Story of You (Canongate, £20). It’s very unfashionable to be ignorant of neuroscience these days, since it is being identified as the key to everything. This is a wonderfully stimulating introduction. Finally, Fallen Glory (Old St, £25) by James Crawford is a fascinating account of great buildings – ancient and modern – that have disappeared. Crawford writes beautifully about the context in which these buildings rose and fell – a real triumph.

Kerry Hudson, novelist

Two memoirs really stood out for me this year. The first is a graphic novel, Becoming Unbecoming by artist and writer Una (Myriad Editions, £14.99). Becoming Unbecoming explores Una’s own experience with her sexual and female identity against the backdrop of the hunt for the Yorkshire Ripper. It’s a brilliant, brave and fiercely intelligent book. Likewise, Linda Cracknell’s Doubling Back (Freight, £14.99) was a huge highlight for me this year. Part memoir, part travelogue, the book finds Linda walking through landscapes including Kenya, the Scottish Highlands and the Swiss Alps. It was such an utter pleasure to “walk” with her.

Alex Gray, crime novelist and co-founder of Bloody Scotland

The Limits Of The World by Andrew Drennan (Freight, £8.99) is an ambitious novel set in totalitarian North Korea describing the life endured by Han, a tourist guide with a love for banned Western books. Drennan’s delicate touch given the stark backdrop of this book shows real talent. Craig Russell’s The Ghosts Of Altona (Quercus, £19.99), the latest of his Jan Fabel series set in Hamburg won the Scottish Crime Book of the Year at Bloody Scotland. Terrific crime fiction, tense and beautifully written. Lovely writing is also evident in a striking debut young adult novel. Follow Me by Victoria Gemmell (Strident, £7.99) has layer upon layer of mystery as a teenage girl struggles to find the truth behind her twin sister’s apparent suicide. The insight into teenage angst and emotional turmoil is sensitively handled against a background that includes a homage to Andy Warhol and other 20th-century icons.

William Dalrymple, writer

It’s a very long time since I read a travel book that has taught or illuminated so much as Heirs to Forgotten Kingdoms (Simon and Shuster, £9.99), Gerald Russell’s brilliant and constantly engaging account of his travels through the disappearing minority religions of the Middle East. Tragically, this book puts on record for the last possible time a once-plural world that is on the verge of disappearing for ever

BN Goswamy is to Indian art history what Sachin Tendulkar is to its cricket pitches or Shah Rukh Khan to its movies: a towering colossus who has transformed the nature of his chosen field, as well as being, at the same time, an irreplaceable national treasure. India's most admired art historian combines in one elegant frame the eye of the aesthete, the discrimination of a connoisseur and the soul of a poet, with the rigorous mind of a scholar and the elegant prose of a gifted writer. His new book, The Spirit of Indian Painting (Allen Lane, £25, published next spring) is the summation of a lifetime's loving dedication to his subject. It may well also be his most beautiful, and is his most heartfelt work too.

But it was Peter Frankopan’s massive 650 page Silk Roads (Bloomsbury, £30) that is my book of the year: history on a grand scale, with a sweep and ambition that is rare, especially in professional academia. This is a remarkable book on many of levels, and one that anyone would have been proud to write: a proper historical epic of dazzling range, ambition and achievement.

Sir Tom Devine, historian

Books continue to pour from the presses on World War Two. Very few, however, now contain very much that is new. One very important exception is The Maisky Diaries. Red Ambassador to the Court of St James 1932-1943, edited by Gabriel Gorodetsky (Yale University Press, £25). Angela McCarthy’s Migration, Ethnicity and Madness (Otago University Press, £20) sheds considerable light on the under-researched but important area of the mental health of migrants with special reference to those who settled in the Antipodes from around the world. The book, though historical in focus, resonates powerfully with aspects of the current crisis in global migration. Penguin is thankfully republishing the entire series of the wonderful Maigret novels by the marvellous Georges Simenon, much more than a writer of detective stories. For those new to the genre, one way to begin is with Inspector Maigret. Omnibus 1 (Penguin Classics, £18.99)

Julie Bertagna, author

Ferrante fervour reached a peak this September when the last book in Elena Ferrante’s addictive Neapolitan saga hit the shelves. Ferrante is a publishing phenomenon; an invisible Italian writer, an enigma who shuns all publicity in an age of compulsory author media platforms and ever-Twittering presences, compared to Tolstoy and Dickens in the grand sweep, ambition and popularity of her work. The Story of the Lost Child (Europa Editions, £11.99) is the fourth and final episode that brings the revelation of the terrible thing, some unknown disaster, that characters Elena and Lila have been moving towards since we meet them as children in Book One (My Brilliant Friend). This is an epic exploration of a lifelong friendship and the complex interior worlds of two women, enmeshed with a rich cast, set against the story of a changing nation. Brilliant, brutal, beautiful, bleak and brave, Ferrante is this winter’s fireside read.

Kirstin Innes, novelist

A new book by Sarah Hall is always a cause for celebration in my house. In The Wolf Border (Faber, £17.99), set in a parallel Cumbria made paranoid by a newly independent Scotland and an eccentric aristocrat’s whim to re-release wolves into the country, her language is beautiful and feral; perfectly suited to a story about wildness, animal instinct, the process of procreation and the foolishness of boundaries created by politicking humans. Irish-Canadian author Anakana Schofield’s Giller Prize-nominated Martin John (& Other Stories, £10, published here early next year) is an extraordinary, startling piece of writing. An experimental novel about a compulsive flasher (with an overbearing mam) on the London Underground might not sound like easiest of reads, but Schofield brings warmth and humanity to her characters, and the formal experiments she attempts within the text are always in service of their inner realities rather than ostentatious stylistic flourishes

Sally Magnusson, broadcaster and writer

Got round at last to Dr Atul Gawande’s profoundly thought-provoking and important Being Mortal: Illness, Medicine and What Matters in the End (Profile, £8.99). He argues we have allowed the end of life to become medicalised and forgotten to ask ourselves what makes life worth living. Everyone must read this book. I’m a sucker for good crime writing and The Ghosts of Altona by Craig Russell (Quercus, £7.99) was a worthy winner of the 2015 Scottish Crime Book of the Year. Writing of a really high order, great plot and a vibrant evocation of the city of Hamburg. A novel purporting to be the stream of consciousness of an elderly woman with dementia is a difficult trick for a writer in her twenties, but Emma Healey pulls it off quite brilliantly in Elizabeth is Missing (Penguin, £7.99). A wonderful read.

Liz Lochhead, Makar

Almost all of my reading this year has been directly or indirectly related to the thing I’m working on. Enjoyable, but thus the new Anne Tyler, A Spool of Blue Thread, and Ali Smith’s How to be Both remain anticipated treats-to-come. Don Paterson’s 40 Sonnets (Faber, £14.99) blow the whole form apart, honour it utterly. My book-of-the-year is Helen Simpson’s just-out Cockfosters (Jonathan Cape, £15.99). By a writer as much a master of the genre, as distinct, as Carver or Alice Munro or Chekhov, these nine pitch-perfect stories don’t put a foot wrong in nailing exactly what is like to be no-longer-young, all-too-mortal (and all-too-aware-of it) but alive and kicking. Her characters have ‘got on’, but it has cost them. “We’re making history as we go along of course and that’s the truth of it. We live in time”. Ours. Listen to the voices. And Simpson’s own. Irresistible. Funny, sharp, sly, subtle, stingingly tender.

James Robertson, novelist and poet

Freeland Barbour’s The Music and the Land (Birlinn, £60) is a handsome, two-volume affair, a musical journey through Scotland and further afield, illustrated by stunning photographs from Cailean MacLean and others. The scores of hundreds of Barbour’s dance tunes are reproduced along with anecdotes and information about the people and places that inspired them. A very fine first novel is Truestory by Catherine Simpson (Sandstone, £8.99). It tells of a mother trapped on an isolated Lancashire farm by the demands of her autistic son and the failings of her husband, and what happens when a stranger arrives, offering hope and the possibility of escape. A groundbreaking anthology, full of diverse voices and bursting with energy, is Whaleback City: The Poetry of Dundee and its Hinterland, edited by W.N. Herbert and Andy Jackson (Dundee University Press, £9.99). And an impressive debut poetry pamphlet is Fios (Tapsalteerie, £5) by Stewart Sanderson, who quietly and cleverly demonstrates a deep concern with the meanings of words.

Candia McWilliam, novelist

I am not going to waste my breath on the lament for serious unsensational fiction. I hope it is implicit, legible, here. Universal Man: The Seven Lives of John Maynard Keynes by Richard Davenport-Hines (Harper Collins, £9.99) is a sparkling and also human and imaginative consideration of the prodigiously and multiply intelligent Keynes. An account is given, of, for example, the roots of Keynes's The Economic Consequences of The Peace, that sheds light and shade on the history of Europe since the Great War and – certainly – to our own day. Davenport-Hines is himself of that rare generous intellectual temper whereby he assists his reader to think beyond their own mental habit. This is an astonishing book; full, rather surprisingly, of love. The sex isn't a surprise and is dealt with excellently, not bossy, not clinical, not lewd. A triumph.

The Herald:

40 Sonnets by Don Paterson (Faber, £14.99). Buy it and read it and go on reading it. Not a foot wrong.

Another Mother's Son by Janet Daley (Chatto, £12.99): this novelist reproduces the texture of thought and its chafe with principle and the outside world in sentences that are clean and shimmer with life, telling stories that apply to us all in an almost somatised London. Janet Daley is as unstrainingly, Europeanly, good as Anita Brookner. We live in a time of shouty novels; here is one you listen to and continue to hear.

Stewart Conn, poet

The poems in Second Wind (The Saltire Society/Scottish Poetry Library, £7) were commissioned from Douglas Dunn, Vicki Feaver and Diana Hendry on the theme of ageing. Their cumulative insights, from the perspective, or precipice, of old age embrace gallows humour, tenderness and trepidation. And each can be haunting, as in Dunn's resonant “There's love in the world. But never enough”, Feaver's Maiden sensing Death “following / Behind me in velvet slippers” and Hendry visualising herself “As guest or ghost in lighted rooms elsewhere”. Three fine poets in vintage form. Clive James's Poetry Notebook: 2006-2014 (Picador, £14.99) is an invigorating harvesting of miniature essays – lucid, impassioned, penetrating and witty. He muses not only on the poets from whom he has derived pleasure over the years but on the nature of poetry (“the centre of my life”), its binding energy and interior music, and its power to enchant.

Hugh Andrew, publisher, Birlinn Books

The first book I read in 2015 instantly became a choice. David Carpenter’s Magna Carta (Penguin, £10.99), written for the anniversary, is a definitive account of this extraordinary document, beautifully written and featuring not simply insights on every page but major new discoveries. For those in Scotland who treated Magna Carta as irrelevant this is a magisterial rebuttal and reveals how intertwined the two kingdoms already were. Related to this is John Guy’s superb biography of Thomas Becket (Penguin, £9.99), not just a thrilling and dramatic story but a superb characterisation of the two protagonists and analysis of their motivation. One of the most extraordinary books of the year was GW Bowersock’s The Throne of Adulis (OUP, £16.99). Who today knows that what is now Yemen was the seat of a radical and fanatical Jewish kingdom engaged in the persecution and extermination of its Christian minority? Who too now knows that it was the Christian Empire of Aksum in Ethiopia that overthrew the Himyarites to establish for a brief period a Christian state in the Arabian peninsula? A story pieced together largely from inscriptions it is a recovery of a piece of our history integral to the rise of Islam and the fall of the Sassanian Empire and with startling relevance to today’s world.

Jackie Kay, poet, novelist, short story writer

A year for thinking about maps and charts and borders. Kathleen Jamie’s The Bonniest Companie (Picador, £14.99) captures the complex character of Scotland – urban and rural, wild and calm, past and present – with characteristic flair. She has the fabulous idea of writing a poem a day during Scotland’s tumultuous year. It is increasingly poems that people turn to when they want to understand the nuance of political and social change. Jamie’s book will stand as a guiding light. Andrew McMillan’s first book, Physical (Jonathan Cape, £10) comes with the kind of a clap and bang that announces a new voice on the poetry scene. McMillan’s strong and vulnerable charting of the male body is full of unusual and yet precise observations; he takes us places some of us have not been in poems before – into male urinals, men weeping in gyms… These poems are tough, tender, and reveal a keen emotional intelligence. He’s the kind of writer that makes you want to read him in the company of writers he loves; books speak to other books and together they tell the time. I re-read Mark Doty’s extraordinary Deep Lane (Cape, £10) where he explores the natural world and the underworld; and returned to Sharon Old’s Stag’s Leap (Cape, £10), a staggeringly moving book that charts the journey of divorce, and the conversation between the three books was wholly enjoyable. I’d invite them all to my dinner party.

Judy Steel, author

I always enjoy historical novels and Anne Donovan’s Gone are the Leaves (Canongate, £12.99) is a truly exceptional one, of two ordinary teenagers caught up in events far beyond their experience. The atmosphere is almost mystical; the underlying theme is love: love between the “under-aged”, and above all maternal love. Apart from the voices of several narrators, a storytelling technique that always works well for me, the book has two outstandingly original elements. One is that she never pin-points the time or the exact places in which her characters play out their lives; the other is her joyous use of onomatopoeic Scots words. For non-fiction, I would recommend the Letters of James Hogg (ed Gillian Hughes and others, Universities of Stirling and South Carolina, £70). Vivid and outspoken, they bring this remarkable Scotsman and his times to life in a way that reaches across the centuries. I read Volume 1 (1809-1820) so there are more of his letters to look forward to in the subsequent two volumes.

Ronald Frame, novelist

In a year of too many personal upheavals, I found great consolation in John Aubrey My Own Life (Chatto & Windus, £25) – a biography skilfully assembled by Ruth Scurr from the writings of the eccentric and deeply patriotic scholar and antiquarian (1626-97). The mission of his life was the preservation (in words, and also physically) of a time-rich culture, Englishness itself, which he believed to be vanishing. As well as the achievements of great Englishmen, he celebrated the material fabric of the country, from the stone of its buildings and monuments to the fugitive colours of stained glass. Ruth Scurr makes him a delightful (and, for me, timely) companion. Edith Hall’s Introducing the Ancient Greeks (Bodley Head, £20) is a splendidly readable distillation of 2,000 years of their civilisation. She homes in on 10 character traits which contributed to their greatness, and shows how important the sea was in terms of their national psyche. (Practically, it was what connected peoples spread over a very wide area.) The past seems intensely present. An unread recommendation: two trusted friends of forty years have sent me Monsters by Emerald Fennell (Hot Key Books, £7.99) It’s wonderful, they assure me. A YA – a read for young adults, a burgeoning market. Great cover. Promises the blurb, “A twisted tale of two friends with an unsavoury interest in murder.” I’m enticed further by my friends: Roald Dahl meets Muriel Spark!

Alistair Moffat, writer and director of Borders Book Festival

This has been a vintage year for historical fiction and as chairman of the Walter Scott Prize, I felt we had to publish a long list for the first time, such was the richness of what was submitted. The eventual winner, John Spurling, for his Ten Thousand Things (Duckworth, £7.99), was astonished when the result was revealed at the 2015 Borders Book Festival. But he shouldn’t have been. Set in 14th-century China and revolving around the life of an artist, Wang Meng, it is simply beautiful and a quote that Spurling puts in the mouth of his protagonist might well equally apply to the novelist: "No one has the same ability as you to translate the ten thousand things from reality to marks on paper. Your paintings are...journeys through the world, but also out of it.”

Robert Harris won the Scott Prize last year for his An Officer and a Spy about the Dreyfus case, and the moment his new Roman novel came out last month, I devoured it. Dictator (Hutchinson, £20) deals with the late career of Cicero as it is seen through the eyes of his secretary, Tiro. An excellent device, it is wholly satisfying – and credible, since Tiro invented a version of shorthand and so all that recall, often incredible in other historical novels, is neatly made possible. Unfussy and direct, yet politically very acute (in any age), Harris is a masterful storyteller. I’m currently experiencing that terrible phase of cold turkey after finishing something superb.

I bought A Work of Beauty: Alexander McCall Smith’s Edinburgh (Royal Commission on the Ancient and Historical Monuments of Scotland, £14.99) but didn’t get to it until January. I lived in Edinburgh for 20 years and came to see it as the most beautiful, complete city in the world. But Sandy McCall Smith’s superb tour de force helped me understand why. A friend of mine was very unwell for a while this year and I gave him this. He told me later, and when he was better, that Sandy’s description of their native city had really lifted him. McCall Smith should be prescribed on the NHS.

Nick Barley, director Edinburgh International Book Festival

One of the books that stood out in 2015 was the Man Booker-shortlisted debut novel The Fishermen (One World, £14.99) by Chigozie Obioma. It is brimming with life and buzzing with emotion but at the same time it carries a deeply poignant quality: Obioma has a deep understanding of recent Nigerian history. But my favourite discovery was Minna Needs Rehearsal Space by the ferociously-talented Danish writer Dorthe Nors (Pushkin Press, £8.99). It’s a very short novella that takes the form of a series of ‘headlines’, each stacked on top of one another. A device that’s maddening for the first few lines, it settles down and becomes a powerful driver through a beautiful, moving, totally compelling account of one woman’s yearning. I simply can’t wait for Nors’s next English translation.

Bernard MacLaverty, novelist and short story writer

Best book I read this year was Colm Tóibín’s Nora Webster (Penguin, £7.99). In prose that’s wrung out but not dry we’re left with the essentials. It is a picture of a middle-aged woman who has been recently widowed, and her attempts to make a new life for herself. It is moving and funny. Wonderfully done. A brilliant short novel by Birgit Vanderbeke translated from the German is The Mussel Feast (Peirene Press, £10). A monologue from a daughter as she and her mother and brother await the return of the breadwinner from work. His favourite food is mussels. Barbed and black comedy. And the best poetry for me this year has come in bunches of fourteen lines. Don Paterson’s 40 Sonnets (Faber, £14.99). A memorable collection.

Harry Reid, writer and journalist

Trigger Mortis, Anthony Horowitz’s James Bond novel (Orion, £18.99), keeps the franchise going with great aplomb. It helps that Horowitz is a better writer than Ian Fleming. The second volume of Charles Moore’s vast authorised biography of Margaret Thatcher (Allen Lane, £30) is for the most part thorough and measured, yet disgracefully cursory on the subject of her disastrous relations with Scotland. The historian Mark Peel’s thoughtful discussion of Britain’s private schools, The New Meritocrats (Elliott and Thompson, £20) is notable for a particularly trenchant discussion of school sport.

Rona Munro, playwright

This year most reading has been done on trains, planes and buses and while my brain has been exhausted jelly. In those circumstances I need beautifully written, strong narrative. Two books in particular really delivered that. The Girl with all the Gifts, by M.R Carey (Orbit, £8.99) is a genre piece, in a genre I hate, and I loved it. I won’t tell you the genre as it’s a huge plot spoiler, but I loved it because it took a genre premise and then realised it with completely believable characters. We are all completely beside ourselves, by Karen Jay Fowler (Serpent’s Tail, £7.99) was another book with a huge twist revealed about a third of the way in. Both make you consider what it means to be human in a very accessible way. Both are great reads even if someone does drop a spoiler.

Alan Spence, novelist

The novel of the year for me was Lila by Marilynne Robinson (Virago, £16.99), revisiting the fictional Gilead of her three previous novels. The prose, as always, is magnificent, pitch-perfect, carrying a moral authority, a gravitas and a spiritual depth. There really is nobody else writing like this. Two collections by Scottish poets at the very top of their game were also published this year. 40 Sonnets by Don Paterson (Faber, £14.99) shows his sheer mastery of the form, by turns scathing, witty and profoundly moving. The Bonniest Companie by Kathleen Jamie (Picador, £14.99) was written throughout the marvellous frustrating year that was 2014, and she casts a clear eye on Scotland now in all its moods and weathers. A delight.

Mark Douglas-Home, novelist

Anne Tyler's A Spool of Blue Thread (Vintage, £7.99) is a wonderfully engaging novel about the everyday small dramas of family life. I loved it. John Lister-Kaye writes about animals and birds with the same intimacy and insight that Anne Tyler describes humans. Gods of The Morning (Canongate, £14.99) follows the seasons through a year in the Highlands. It's a perfect book for picking up in a quiet moment or late at night. Rain by Barney Campbell, (Michael Joseph, £16.99) still has me wondering about the morality of sending young men to fight wars in faraway places. Campbell, from the Borders, was a young officer in Afghanistan. This novel, his first, is disturbingly authentic, as close as I would ever want to be to bullets flying and IEDs exploding. The ending is compelling, probably the best action narrative I have read this year.

Tom Leonard, poet

Peter Makin's Neck of the Woods (Isobar Press, £10) contains poems with sharp natural haiku-like images appropriate from a poet longterm resident in Japan. "I do not want to be a number" writes Atef Abu Saif in his The Drone Eats with Me (Comma Press, £9.99), the acutely sensitive diary of a father living in Gaza in the midst of an Israeli onslaught which kills 100 of his fellow Palestinians in one day. Sandie Craigie's Coogit Bairns: Selected Poetry and Prose (Red Squirrel Press, private printing, 104pp) is the testimony of a working class Edinburgh poet refusing to be self-censoring in her language or her angry, joyful, satiric independence of mind. She died tragically seven years ago. Though some copies have been placed in national libraries, this is one of the books of the year and should be commercially available.

Val McDermid, crime novelist

In a time of turbulent politics in Scotland, I’ve found myself thinking a lot about what it means to be Scottish and looking for answers in some offbeat places. So among my favourite reads this year were Daunderlust by Peter Ross (Sandstone Press, £8.99) and This is Scotland by Daniel Gray and Alan McCredie (Luath Press, £9.99). Peter Ross’s collection of articles takes us into the often unexplored corners of Scottish individuality, letting us eavesdrop on voices usually unheard. McCredie and Gray take us inside the Scotland that’s seldom a destination but whose existence we need to take note of. And the pics are absolutely cracking. If, after that, you’re longing for a reminder of natural beauty that still has the tang of politics, head for Sarah Hall’s gripping novel, The Wolf Border (£17.99) about landscape, love and the troubled question of reintroducing wolves.

Nicola Morgan, children’s author

The Quality of Silence by Rosamund Lupton (Little, Brown, £14.99) is a thriller with heart, told through alternating voices of a mother and her deaf daughter as they struggle through eyeball-freezing Alaska to find a man they refuse to believe is dead. You will feel the cold, hear the silence and fear whatever is chasing them. For a non-fiction book which is NOT just an article painfully stretched by the insertion of a tedious list of examples, Drive by Daniel H Pink (Canongate, £9.99) is an eye-opening analysis of what really motivates us. Insight for parents, teachers, employers and other humans. I become ranty on the subject of valuing non-fiction and fiction equally. So, my children’s recommendation is the gloriously engaging and deeply researched Shackleton’s Journey by William Grill (Flying Eye Books, £14.99). It’s another book to make you feel the cold as you follow in words and pictures the terrifying story of Ernest Shackleton’s brave Antarctic crossing.

Alan Taylor, writer and journalist

Mark Sanford’s footnote in American political history was guaranteed after he told reporters he had been “hiking the Appalachian Trail” when in fact he was in Argentina canoodling with his mistress. The fall from grace of the erstwhile governor of South Carolina is reprised with restrained humour by Barton Swaim in The Speechwriter: A Brief Education in Politics (Simon & Schuster, £14.99). “The governor”, as Swaim calls him throughout, is a bullying, egotistical monster who not only routinely abuses his staff but, worse, the English language. This is where The Office collides with The West Wing. The Bonniest Companie (Picador, £14.99) is poet Kathleen Jamie’s response to the year of the Scottish independence referendum and may yet be the best thing to emerge from it. Muriel Spark always thought of herself as a poet and Complete Poems (Carcanet, £14.95), which includes eight previously unpublished and inimitable poems, is a happy addition to an oeuvre that never ceases to sparkle.

Regi Claire, novelist and short story writer

My discovery of 2015 was Tobias Wolff. In the Garden of the North American Martyrs (1976) was reissued with a new preface from the author this spring (Ecco, Art of the Story series,£9). I defy you not to be provoked – and enthralled. Nora Chassler's Grandmother Divided by Monkey Equals Outer Space (Valley Books, £8.99) is a roller-coaster 'trip' in words. Its portrayal of New York life on the fringes is exuberant, starkly honest and laced with wit. Several brand-new releases I can't wait to read: Alice Thompson's The Book Collector (Salt, £8.99) and Tendai Huchu's The Maestro, the Magistrate & the Mathematician (Parthian Books, £8.99), both novels, as well as Meaghan Delahunt's collection Greta Garbo's Feet & Other Stories (Word Power Women – a welcome new imprint - £11.99).

Andrew Greig, poet, novelist, writer

This year I have satisfied my inner anorak with Dylan Goes Electric: the night that split the Sixties by Elijah Wald (Dey Street Books, £16.99), which is an absorbing and insightful contextualisation of the undercurrents within American music and political culture of the early Sixties. Most enjoyable novel was The Bone Clocks by David Mitchell (Sceptre, £7.99). I keenly anticipate getting for Christmas Sonnets by Don Paterson (Faber, £14.99) and Kathleen Jamie's The Bonniest Companie (Picador, £14.99) – the kind of writers who give poetry a good name, nourishing parts of us that prose doesn't quite reach.

The Herald:

Kirsty Logan, short story writer and novelist

It’s been an excellent year for talented Scottish women, particularly when it comes to debut novels; my favourites were Lucy Ribchester’s The Hourglass Factory (Simon & Schuster, £7.99) and Kirstin Innes’s Fishnet (Freight, £8.99), which explore the female experience in very different ways. This year I also became a debut novelist, and one of the most enjoyable parts of that experience was doing readings with other debut writers. Two of the best books (and most interesting writers) I found this way were Sara Novic’s Girl At War (Little, Brown, £14.99) and Catherine Chanter’s The Well (Canongate, £7.99) – both writers are hugely talented, and I can’t wait to read their future work.

John Burnside, poet and novelist

It has been a good year for creative non-fiction, with outstanding contributions from Gavin Francis, whose Adventures In Human Being (Profile, £14.99) offered a wise and lyrical tour of the human body, and Malachy Tallack, who circumnavigated the earth on its 60th parallel in order to reveal some poignant truths about the nature of home, in his extraordinary first book 60 Degrees North (Polygon, £12.99). Having to read 150-plus novels as a Man Booker judge was a wonderful, if demanding chore; occasionally, though, I had to take refuge in poetry, particularly in collections of work written nigh-on 40 years ago by two of America’s finest poets: Prodigal: New And Selected Poems, 1976 to 2014 (Houghton Mifflin, £11.17), by the inimitable Linda Gregerson, and Jorie Graham’s magisterial From the New World: Poems 1976-2014 (Ecco, £19.77).

Toby Litt, author

A year is far too short a time to get to know some books. Keston Sutherland is an astonishing poet (check his reading of Hot White Andy on YouTube), and his Poetical Works 1999-2015 (Enitharmon, £20) is a very significant collection. I expect to start understanding it in about a decade. Sutherland is political, as he says, “all the way down”. Political meaning Marxist. Each line is an explosive assault on complacency of all varieties. Georgi Gospodinov’s The Physics Of Sorrow (Open Letter, £10.99) is another book to dwell upon. Gospodinov is not a fast writer – his previous novel, Natural Novel, came out 10 years ago. The Physics Of Sorrow – which centres on the Minotaur in his labyrinth – is fragmentary and mythic but also robust and funny.

Ron Butlin, poet

One of this year’s most enjoyable poetry collections comes from Brian Nisbet (Nisbet Publications), a true poet whose poems glow with genuine wonder and joy. Now You Know is a marvellous collection I will return to again and again. Philip Kerr is back in top form with The Lady From Zagreb (Quercus, £16.99). A genuine page-turning thriller, excellent one-liners, and cynicism that only barely conceals a deep compassion. Like many people, I am furious at the crass greed and short-term self-interest of many politicians and business leaders. Owen Jones’s The Establishment (Penguin, £8.99) provides a brilliant analysis of what is wrong about so much in contemporary Britain. Engaging and well-argued, it is not to be missed – whatever your politics. The Beechwood Airship Interviews by Dan Richards (The Friday Project, £14.99) is a fascinating memoir on creativity. Artists, writers musicians, actors and the rest – why do they do it? This intriguing series of interviews reveals all.

The Herald:

Vic Galloway, broadcaster and author

Different Every Time – The Authorised Biography Of Robert Wyatt (Serpent’s Tail, £20) by Marcus O’Dair is detailed, intimate and eminently readable account of a true British eccentric and genuine outsider talent. O’Dair’s book takes in Wyatt’s childhood, upbringing and musical career from the 1960s to the present day, documenting the Soft Machine, Matching Mole and his sublime solo material. One of the best rock biogs I’ve come across in recent years, written with warmth and honesty. Life After Dark – A History Of British Nightclubs & Music Venues (Simon & Schuster, £20) by Dave Haslam. Fun, hugely informative and with an almost obsessive attention to the minutiae required, Hacienda DJ legend Haslam regales us with tales of the great halls and seedy dives in which we have all experienced life-changing nights. It’s fascinating historically, taking in over 200 years of nightlife, as well as being full of juicy anecdotes. Bass Culture – When Reggae Was King (Penguin, £9.99), by Lloyd Bradley was first published in 2000. Having left it languishing on a shelf for over a decade, I finally got around to reading this brilliant, evocative book. Bradley places the music and those who made it, as well as Jamaica’s seismic cultural upheaval, within the political and social context necessary. He also shows how influential and globally successful the music has become and continues to be.

Alice Thompson, novelist

This year, I particularly enjoyed Pippa Goldschmidt’s collection of short stories entitled The Need for Better Regulation Of Outer Space (Freight, £8.99). Her collection includes a cool appraisal of how Einstein deals with the death of his daughter and the surreal account of how the nuclear physicist Robert Oppenheimer leaves out a poisoned apple for his professor. In these stories, the powerful juxtaposition of scientific intellect and emotional frailty is played out engagingly. The stories also imply no matter how objective scientific genius is, the scientists themselves, like the rest of us, are subject to moral failings. Adventures In Human Being by Gavin Francis (Wellcome Collection, £14.99) is a lively account of the biology of the human body, shot through with personal anecdotes from his working experience as a GP. He details the natural entropy of the body while also celebrating the joy of life. The Magicians Of Scotland by Ron Butlin (Polygon, £9.99) is another enjoyable collection by this resonant poet. Butlin also writes unforgettably and lyrically about the pain of war and love.

The Herald:

Karen Campbell, novelist

How To Be Both by Ali Smith (Penguin, £8.99). Ali Smith plays with language and time here beautifully, moving between two narratives: a contemporary story of a girl coping with her mother’s death, and the (tinged by real-life) tale of a forgotten15th-century Italian artist. It’s the kind of book that sets off a series of wee lightbulbs in your brain, making you think more deeply about gender, art, grief, love – basically how we connect with everything around us. By splitting these stories so the reader literally doesn’t know which one they’ll start with until they open the book, Smith explores what comes first – what we see or what we feel? Surface or depth? The idea that time laps back and forth isn’t new of course, but she makes this notion work in a way that’s both satisfying and elusive. Touching and wise, it’s my stand-out book of the year.

Brian Morton, writer and critic

My favourite book of 2015 was also the shortest I read all year, which didn’t save me any time because I read it five or six times over, with deepening enjoyment. Fleur Adcock’s poetry collection The Land Ballot (Bloodaxe, £9.95) is just 90-odd pages long. It looks back ambivalently at her native New Zealand and is largely occupied with her late father’s life. He died in 1987, though she wasn’t there to see him in his small coffin. I left the book on an Edinburgh-Glasgow train and feel slightly lost without it, and only half mollified by the thought that someone else is reading it now.

Lesley McDowell, author and critic

Anyone who finds Virginia Woolf’s life story just as fascinating as her novels will relish Priya Parmar’s Vanessa And Her Sister (Bloomsbury, £12.99), a fictional account of her relationship with her artist sister, Vanessa Bell. Parmar’s recreations of both women are beautifully and sympathetically done, without being sentimental. Hard as it might be to bring such an iconic figure to life in a novel, I can’t imagine how much harder it is to recreate a ghost. Katie King is a ghost who has appeared to people over the last 150 years or so. In her debut novel, A Ghost’s Story (Granta, £12.99), biographer Lorna Gibb has risen to the challenge with a fascinating story of what it might be like to be a ghost, and what makes us want them to exist. And the ghostly figure of John Craske – ghostly because he was elusive – who was a fisherman turned artist, became Julia Blackburn’s quarry in her lovely and moving memoir/biography, Threads: The Delicate Life Of John Craske (Jonathan Cape, £25).

Christopher Brookmyre, novelist

We Are Anonymous by Parmy Olson (Heinemann, £12.99) was an exhaustively researched and sensitively insightful account of the rise of Anonymous and in particular the activities – and downfall – of LulzSec. Olson’s book was distinct from other chronicles of what it calls the global cyber insurgency in that it was neither giddily cheerleading nor condemnatory, but illuminated the complex personal circumstances of these online swashbucklers.

The Herald:

Irvine Welsh’s A Decent Ride (Jonathan Cape, £12.99) was tear-streaming, lung-bursting, lying-down-helpless funny. Juice Terry Lawson proved he was complex and endearing enough to be centre-stage in a masterpiece of comic grotesquerie. Andy Weir’s The Martian (Del Rey, £7.99) got a polished big-screen treatment from Ridley Scott, but for my money the film failed to convey the book’s claustrophobic attention to scientific detail. The novel was both a science geek’s dream and nightmare, a nerve-shredding survival battle in which the accuracy of every last calculation can mean life or death, and every minuscule, even potential resource must be salvaged.

Kapka Kassabova, writer

These books are both slim, uplifting despite their titles, and coincidentally from the same publisher. Signs Preceding The End Of The World by Juri Herrera (And Other Stories, £8.99) opens with “I’m dead, Makina said to herself when everything lurched” and is read in one go because the prose bewitches you as much as Makina’s predicament. The Hades-like border-crossing adventure of a young girl from a Mexican town, it is a cardinal myth for our times. Now And At The Hour Of Our Death by Susana Moreira Marques (£8.99) came out of the author’s travels to remote Portuguese villages where carers visit the dying. It is an exquisitely measured meditation on how we die – which echoes how we live but not always in an obvious way; this implicit insight gives each chapter a quiet suspensefulness. It brims with wisdom and the rich evocation of a forgotten European periphery.

Lucy Ellmann, novelist

“If men could menstruate … [they] would brag about how long and how much.” Gloria Steinem has devoted 50 years of her life to political activism and My Life On The Road (Oneworld, £14.99) is an scattered account of what that might entail. Because of Shirley Jackson’s Let Me Tell You (Penguin, £20), I rediscovered her witty memoirs about bringing up three children in Vermont: Life Among The Savages, and Raising Demons (Penguin US, $16 each). She mercifully leaves her husband’s infidelities out of the picture, and spares us any mention of ghosts. And William Kotzwinkle’s glorious The Fan Man (Vintage, £7.99) remains the book to give people when they’re sick – or well. Everyone should know about Dorky Day.

Chris Dolan, novelist and scriptwriter

Graeme McRae Burnet’s His Bloody Project (Saraband/Contraband, £8.99) is a gripping crime story, a deeply imagined historical novel, and gloriously written – all in one tour-de-force of a book. Stevensonian – that’s the highest praise I can give. Peter Arnott’s Moon Country (Vagabond Voices, £8.99) is wild, wicked, hilarious and deadly serious. One of our finest playwrights turns a crafty eye on modern Scotland. Brace, brace! Return, by Ghada Karmi (Verso, £16.99) is essential reading for anyone who wants to see behind the guns and walls and rhetoric of the Israeli occupation of Palestine. It’s the most important non-fiction book of the year.

Todd McEwen, novelist

Frank Case was the manager of the Algonquin Hotel in New York for many years. His Tales Of A Wayward Inn (I got it from Abe Books, about £8) shows him to be a comic spirit equal to Dorothy Parker, Robert Benchley, George S Kaufman and the many others who gathered there in the 1920s and 1930s – he would have to be, wouldn’t he? Mr Case once told a diner who brought his dog to the table that the dog was welcome to come back – alone. But the greater pleasure I had this year (though a sad one) was to read the Selected Poems of my late friend Paul Violi (Rebel Arts, £15). His remarkable House Of Xerxes is a typically amusing and chilling take on the ancient arts of war in the language of Vogue: “Here come those splendid Persians! We were expecting fireworks and here they are!”

Zoe Strachan, novelist

I don’t have children, but by chance this year I’ve read two books that deal with motherhood in remarkable and often poignant ways. Maggie Nelson’s The Argonauts (Graywolf, £8.99) thoughtfully juxtaposes the birth of a child and the death of a mother amidst personal celebrations of “the many-gendered mothers of my heart”. Janice Galloway prefaces her new collection of stories, Jellyfish (Freight, £12.99), with a quote from David Lodge: “Literature is mostly about having sex and not much about having children; life’s the other way round.” In fact she gives us plenty of both, but it’s the stories about mothers and children that really cut to the quick.

Jamie Byng, publisher, Canongate

Elena Ferrante’s My Brilliant Friend (Europa, £11.99) is a novel of brilliance that I devoured this summer and continue to savour. Likewise Kate Atkinson’s A God in Ruins (Doubleday, £20), a book that deserved to win awards and, like Life After Life, was unfairly overlooked.

Johann Hari’s Chasing The Scream (Bloomsbury, £18.99) and Ta-Nehisi Coates’ Between The World And Me (Text, £10.99) are two of the most important and thought-provoking pieces of non-fiction I read. And if you are buying books, please go to an actual bookshop. You never know what else you might discover as a result and you will leave the bookshop a happier person.

Alan Bissett, novelist and performer

Sapiens: A Brief History Of Humankind by the Israeli scholar Yuval Noah Harari (Vintage, £8.99) might just be one of the best books I’ve read in any year. It’s a rambunctious, freewheeling, approachable and highly entertaining account of humanity from our first origins on Earth, and even speculates about our possible future. It challenged all sorts of preconceptions I didn’t even know I held. Funniest book of the year goes to the Canadian Jillian Tamaki’s Supermutant Magic Academy (Drawn & Quarterly, £13.99), a graphic novel which not only satirises Harry Potter/The X-Men but is one of the most painful depictions of teenagers since The Catcher In The Rye. I’ve invested heavily in George RR Martin’s Game Of Thrones series, so the beautifully-illustrated “pre-history” spin-off, The World Of Ice And Fire (HarperVoyager, £30), slaked my geek thirst. The detail never fails to make me stagger.

Dan Rhodes, novelist

I’ve been reading lots of short stories this year. Rachel Trezise’s latest collection, Cosmic Latte (Parthian, £8.99), is something of a masterclass, as is Stuart Evers’ Your Father Sends His Love (Picador, £12.99). I’ve been on the lookout for laughs, and somewhat predictably Neil Forsyth’s new Bob Servant book, Ask Bob: Your Guide To A Wonderful Life (BBC Books, £9.99), has several on every page. After so many years it’s easy to take Viz for granted, but their latest annual, The Otter’s Pocket (Dennis Publishing, £10.99), is a reminder that it’s home to some of the best writing out there. The Drunken Bakers is a Pinter for our times – and yes, it’s as funny as it used to be.

Damien Barr, writer

John Lahr’s Joyride (WW Norton, £19.75) is a classic of theatre criticism and human observation. Celebrity has debased acting so much. Nevertheless Lahr, who was born to Broadway royalty, is fascinated by these “athletes of the spirit” and we are too. Polly Samson’s The Kindness (Bloomsbury, £14.99) is a dark, twisting thriller of the emotions which shows how one secret can affect many lives. Sue Perkins could easily have packed Spectacles (Penguin, £20) with Mary Berry stories and recipes and got away with it. Instead she shows herself in brilliant unsparing detail. Patrick Gale’s A Place Called Winter (Tinder Press £7.99) is an Edwardian cross between Brokeback Mountain and Farming Today.

Lesley Glaister, novelist

Like many people I’ve been swept away by Elena Ferrante’s Neapolitan novels this year – enough said. My most recent treat has been Second Wind, new poems by Douglas Dunn, Vicki Feaver and Diana Hendry, (a Saltire Series pamphlet, £7) around the theme of ageing. So much is moving, unexpected, witty and simply fine. Day 6, When Motherhood and Madness Collide by Jen S Wight (Green Olive Press, £5.99) is a searingly honest account of post-partum psychosis. With no trace of self-pity, Jen recounts her precarious mental state in the year after her son’s birth. She gives the most lucid account of mental illness and its treatment I’ve ever read. Anyone with a concern for this subject should read it – but I don’t mean to make it sound worthy. I laughed, cried and devoured this in one sitting.

Pat Kane, author and musician

Paul Mason’s Postcapitalism (Allen Lane, £16.99) is the only book I’ve read three times in a row – partly because it’s such an inspiring analysis and programme for action, but also because of its drama and brio. I devour almost anything Grant Morrison writes, but his Nameless comic (image, £1.95) is brilliant and terrifying: James Hogg sent into hyperspace with a bag of ayahuasca. Alec Finlay’s A Better Tale To Tell (CCA/Aye-Aye Books, £5) is a moving poetic tribute to the language of civic aspiration unleashed by the indyref & the YeSNP – all the more poignantly for being based on fruitless submissions to the inert, suboptimal Smith Commission. Finally, Andrew Smart’s Beyond Zero And One (ORBooks.com, £12) and Roberto Unger and Lee Smolin’s The Singular Universe And The Reality of Time (CUP, £19.99) should sort out the rest of inner and outer existence for you.

See the full list in The Herald on Saturday and in the Sunday Herald