Liz Lochhead, poet and dramatist

My favourite living writer, Alice Munro, calls Amy & Isabelle "a novel of shining integrity and humour" on the front cover. To my delight, she’s absolutely right. I loved this novel by Elizabeth Strout (Simon & Schuster, £8.99) – astonishingly her 1998 debut apparently – even more than Olive Kitteridge or The Burgess Boys (and, oh boy, I loved both them books last year!). With ruthless intimacy, this very particular American small-town mother-and-daughter, love-and-resentment, story unpeels just exactly what it felt like to be 17; fair takes you back.

There's ruthless intimacy too in Richard Ford’s Between Them: Remembering My Parents (Bloomsbury, £12.99), pared, novella-length memoirs of his ordinary, decent, loving mother and father written 30 years apart. The "mother" piece, till-now unpublished and perhaps rawer, I found even more moving than its companion. "Honour thy father and thy mother …" He sure does.

Adrian Turpin

Artistic director, Wigtown Book Festival

Andrew Hagan's The Secret Life (Faber & Faber, £9.99), which details his eye-popping attempt to ghost-write Julian Assange's biography, is one of the most satisfying collections of long-form creative journalism since Julian Barnes's Letters From London. Philip Ardagh's The World Of Moominvalley (Pan MacMillan, £35) may well be the year's most beautiful book, a guide to the world of Tove Jansson's loveable and surprisingly complex Finnish children's characters.

Full disclosure – he's a friend – but Shaun Bythell's warts-and-all account of the year in the life of an Amazon-hating, grumpy Wigtown bookshop owner, The Diary Of A Bookseller (Profile, £14.99) has a deadpan humour that traces a line back to Diary Of A Nobody. It's also surprisingly moving in places. I finally read William Maxwell's The Chateau (Vintage, £9.99), the tale of a young American couple charmed and bamboozled by the ways of the French immediately after the Second World War. Not a just a book of the year but now one of my desert island books.

Jim Carruth, Glasgow’s Makar

For me the year has been marked by the return of two favourite writers after too long a gap. Both authors, now in their mid-70s, have tackled old age in their own inimitable way. Firstly Bernard MacLaverty’s Midwinter Break (Cape, £14.99) follows an elderly couple reflecting on their lives together over a weekend trip to Amsterdam. The writing is lyrical and precise in its exploration of a relationship. In Douglas Dunn’s new poetry collection, The Noise Of A Fly (Faber & Faber, £14.99), he combines the personal, in elegies for lost friends with reflections of his life to date, with the more public, exploring themes such as nationhood. New poetry collections from Michael Longley, Michael Symmons Roberts, Sinead Morrissey and John Burnside have all impressed but special mention has to go Cheryl Follon’s Santiago (Bloodaxe Books, £9.95). In an all too serious year its quirky offbeat gems continue to put a smile on my face.

Gordon Brewer, broadcaster

Jens Lapidus provides a very different take on contemporary Sweden and Nordic noir, sometimes writing as if in deliberate counterpoint to the fictional worlds of Martin Beck and Kurt Wallander. His latest, Stockholm Delete (Corvus), is another venture into a Sweden troubled by crime, coping with immigration and an increasing gap between a rich elite and ordinary citizens. I also enjoyed the strange little book by the Israeli writer David Grossman, A Horse Walks Into A Bar (Vintage, £11.89), which won the Man Booker International prize. It’s the story of a tortured stand-up comedian who, during a performance, exposes issues which have tormented him for decades. Don’t expect any laughs, though. Watching the film Arrival prompted me to read the stories of Ted Chiang, whose writing is so original and unusual it seems more Borges than science fiction. Originally published as Stories Of Your Life And Others, his collection has now been reissued as Arrival (Picador, £8.99).

Brian Morton, critic and writer

Ever since I learned that an uncle I never knew died in the so-called Spanish flu epidemic of 1918 to 1920, I've been obsessed with the pandemic that (probably) killed more healthy people than two world wars put together. Laura Spinney's Pale Rider: The Spanish Flu Of 1918 And How It Changed The World (Jonathan Cape, £20) was a bittersweet read because I wished I had written it myself. Spinney's subtitle makes a substantial claim, but her argument supports it pretty solidly. Culturally, even physically, we live in the shadow of that catastrophe, every bit as much as we still live in the mud of the Western Front. The other 2017 book I won't again be parted from was Douglas Dunn's The Noise Of A Fly (Faber & Faber, £14.99), a poetry collection of such wise maturity and simplicity of diction it seems almost miraculous.

Kirsty Logan, novelist

Jen Campbell's The Beginning Of The World In The Middle Of The Night (Two Roads, £14.99) features dark, twisted fairy tales about men who steal animal hearts, mermaids on display at aquariums, and girls who run coffin hotels (if you want to know what that is, you'll have to read the book).

I'm choosy when it comes to crime fiction, but ES Thompson's Jem Flockhart books are the best I've read in years. Jem is just my kind of heroine: scarred, smart, complex, and unapologetically queer. The second in the series is Dark Asylum (Constable, £8.99), and having raced through that in a single sleepless night I'm already excited for the third.

I have such writer envy over Camilla Grudova's The Doll's Alphabet (Fitzcarraldo Editions, £10.99). Grudova is a master of world-building with an incredible command of language. I can't wait to read more from her.

Billy Kay, writer and broadcaster

For the sheer pleasure of being swept away in an epic tale of love and war by a master storyteller, Red Sky At Noon by Simon Sebag Montefiore (Century, £16.99) had me enthralled from beginning to end. This is the final part of his Moscow trilogy – a series of compelling historical novels in the great tradition of Scott, Thackeray and Tolstoy. Michael Marra Arrest This Moment by James Robertson (Big Sky Press, £16.99 paperback, £24.99 hardback) celebrates the life and brilliant music of the iconic Dundee makar. It is written and recorded with verve, wit and pathos … and the driest of dry humour which makes you laugh out loud, and then check your laughter with the sadness of his loss. An Eagle In A Hen-House, Selected Political Speeches And Writings of RB Cunninghame Graham by Lachlan Munro (Ayton Publishing, £14.99) gives us all the opportunity to appreciate at last the huge contribution made by Don Roberto to Scottish politics of the l9th and 20th century. What a man!

Very Rev Professor Iain Torrance

The end of October marked the 500th anniversary of the posting of Martin Luther’s 95 theses. This over-burdened and possibly mythic event unleashed Protestantism on Europe. Undoubtedly it unlocked an insatiable energy but it also undermined consensus. It lay behind both a certain construction of the nation state and a certain account of limited government. Was it catastrophic or the birth of modern Europe?

Alec Ryrie’s huge book, Protestants: The Radicals Who Made The Modern World (Collins, £25), maps this sprawling phenomenon, from its origins before Luther to the mega churches in Seoul today. It’s a wonderful, readable and fascinating account.

Lyndal Roper, an Australian with interests in feminism and witchcraft, has produced the best Luther biography of the anniversary. His Martin Luther (Vintage, £14.99) is a probing psychological account. It looks at his family relations, his inability to be a good colleague and how, at the end, he lost sight of ecumenism, caring only to preserve the purity of "his" Reformation.

Mono-cultural readers often bemoan that Islam has "not yet" had a reformation. Prince Ghazi bin Muhammad has done more than anyone today to convene a peaceful and tolerant Islam. His gentle and learned book, A Thinking Person’s Guide To Islam: The Essence Of Islam in Twelve Verses (Turath Publishing, £19.99), shows several "reformations" within the juridical schools.

Jamie Byng, CEO, Canongate Books

I was late coming to Colson Whitehead’s The Underground Railroad (Little, Brown, £8.99) but this novel is as rewarding as any novel I have read this year and is a book that dazzled me for its boldness, humanity, wisdom, artistry and relevance. I envy anyone who has yet to read it and hope everyone does – among other things the novel is an inspiring celebration of resistance and defiance. And God, do we need both now.

I also thought Nasty Women, edited by Heather McDaid Laura Jones, (404 Ink, £8.99) was a timely, provocative, ambitious, wide-ranging and important book, all the more impressive for the manner in which it was published by 404 Ink, the most exciting new publishing house to have appeared in the UK this year. I’m curious to see where Laura Jones and Heather McDaid take 404 Ink as I’m sure it will be far.

Zoe Strachan, novelist

Something old and something new this year. For the artist Leonora Carrington’s centenary, Silver Press issued The Debutante And Other Stories (Silver Press, £9.99). After losing the long out-of-print Virago paperback, it was thrilling to return to Carrington’s strange and wonderful world. The narrator of the title story hates balls, so implores her friend the hyena to go in her place. The hyena does, disguised in the narrator’s gown, high heels, gloves – and her maid’s face (having eaten the rest of the unfortunate woman, aside from her feet). As a tale of what happens when women reject societal expectations, it sits surprisingly well alongside Meena Kandaswamy’s devastating When I Hit You: Or, A Portrait Of The Writer As A Young Wife (Atlantic, £8.99). Charting the narrator’s survival of an abusive marriage, the book is also a love letter to the women of words who inspire and encourage us, and a testament to the resilience of the artist’s imagination.

Ron Butlin, poet and novelist

Naomi Klein’s No Is Not Enough (Allen Lane, £12.99) is a brilliant analysis of the craziness that is Trumpland. Amazingly, Klein also manages to offer us real hope. You Know What You Could Be (riverrun, £16.99) is Andrew Greig’s reminiscences about how The Incredible String Band helped change his life. Greig’s enthusiasm kept me enthralled. Great stuff! Mike Heron also contributes in fine style.

Pete Ayrton’s anthology Revolution! Writing From Russia 1917 (Harbour, £15) captures the excitement, chaos and disillusion of the Russian Revolution, with contributions from Trotsky, Babel, Zoshchenko, Bertrand Russell et al. Fascinating. Don’t miss Nora Chassler’s Madame Bildungroman’s Optimistic Worldview (Valley Press, £9.99) – a genuinely inspired book of aphorisms.

Dan Rhodes, novelist

Normally the Booker Prize committee deeming a book "funny" is a guarantee that it’ll be an excruciatingly unamusing ordeal, but this year they got it right. Paul Beatty’s The Sellout (One World, £8.99) is as serious a book as you could hope to find, but had me guffawing throughout. More of this, please.

Unless you’re a total weirdo you’ll wish you knew more about hares. The best way to go about this is by reading Marianne Taylor’s The Way Of The Hare (Bloomsbury, £16.99). The next time someone tells you they are just elongated rabbits you’ll be able to come back at them with a tirade of lore, anecdotes and data that will leave them crumpled in defeat. And that, ladies and gentlemen, is what reading is all about.

Let’s not forget the Viz annual (Dennis, £11.99). This year it’s called The Jester’s Shoes, for reasons best not gone into in a family newspaper.

Pat Kane, musician, writer and activist

The times are tumultuous, and the books are expanding and deepening to match. The Patterning Instinct by Jeremy Lent (Prometheus Books) establishes a new field – cognitive history – and shows you just how determining of our most casual assumptions are the mental framings we inherit from history. Its insights into Confucianism are especially helpful, as China hoves into global leadership. Equally massive, though mostly a warning, is Yuval Noah Harari's Homo Deus: A Brief History Of Tomorrow (Vintage, £9.99). It's actually more about "man the algorithm" than "man the god" – but faced with the coming explosions in automation, biotech and artificial intelligence, Harari discusses the ethics of the future at the required level, with lucidity and a wry Buddhist irony. And with Scotland shuffling around on the launchpad, having lost the keys to the spaceship, it will need David McCrone's scholarly masterwork, The New Sociology of Scotland (Sage, £32.99), to be both map and guide to a glorious and better future. When it finds the keys, that is. Or if it does.

Nick Barley, director, Edinburgh International Book Festival

The catastrophic demise of Freight Books cast a shadow over Scottish literature this year, reminding us that cultural glory can turn to disaster at breakneck speed – and authors have no safety net. Rising from the ashes was one of the standout debuts of the year, Ever Dundas’s sophisticated novel Goblin, now thankfully being republished by Saraband (£8.99). Let’s hope some of the other authors who have suffered at the hands of the Freight Books situation, such as the terrific poet Rachel McCrum (The First Blast To Awaken Women Degenerate), can also get hold of their rights and find a new home. We are fortunate that publishers like Canongate and Birlinn/Polygon continue to publish great Scottish writers while 404 Ink are emerging out of the brave new world of innovatively-funded publishing. It’s thrilling that their timely anthology Nasty Women was the number one bestseller at the Edinburgh International Book Festival in August. But let’s not pretend crowd-funding can replace the vital work Creative Scotland and a host of Scottish literary organisations do to support writers like Graeme Macrae Burnet. He’s a graduate of the Scottish Book Trust’s New Writing scene and his third novel The Accident On The A35 (Contraband, £12.99) confirms that Burnet is the real deal: another Scottish writer who is a major hit on the international stage.

Lucy Ellmann, novelist

How many people in the UK have been wasted, do you think, because they happened to be black? Not just wasted but trampled. Journalist and campaigner Reni Eddo-Lodge hasn’t really stopped talking to white people (yet). In Why I’m No Longer Talking To White People about Race (Bloomsbury Circus, £16.99), she tells of Britain’s ignoble history of discrimination, the Stephen Lawrence charade, the craven prioritisation of the white working class, and the "white feminism" endorsed by establishment fakes. She’s great when she’s angry. Echoing the eloquent James Baldwin (whose appearance in the film, I Am Not Your Negro, was one of the highlights of my year), Eddo-Lodge says: “The onus is not on me to change … racism is a white problem.” Brava! She’s begging white people to acknowledge their complicity in racism and do something about it. “White privilege is a manipulative, suffocating blanket of power that envelops everything we know, like a snowy day.” Enough of these white Christmases!

Allan Massie, novelist and journalist

The most entrancing novel I read this year is The Horseman by Tim Pears (Bloomsbury, £8.99).This intelligent and moving evocation of life on a country estate just before the First World War is both down-to-earth and magical. There are faint echoes of Alain Fournier’s masterpiece Le Grand Meaulnes, and there’s no higher praise. Robert Harris’s Munich (Heinemann, £20) is a model historical novel. Nobody today does narrative better than Harris or combines this with acute political intelligence. It’s a revisionist work too, granting Neville Chamberlain heroic status. It should be read in conjunction with Nicholas Shakespeare’s Six Minutes In May: How Churchill Unexpectedly Became Prime Minister (Harvill Secker, £20), the story of the disastrously mismanaged Norway campaign in 1940, and the Commons debate which led to the fall of the Chamberlain Government, as a result of which Winston Churchill, the author of that disastrous campaign, emerged as Prime Minister and national saviour.

Rosemary Goring, columnist and writer

Richard Ford’s memoir of his mother and father, Between Them (Bloomsbury, £12.99), is an exercise in love and economy. In recounting what he knows of his long-gone father Parker, a travelling salesman with a poor heart, who died when Ford was 16, and his lively, matter-of-fact mother, Edna, America’s finest novelist writes memoir very differently from his fiction. This is not a boy’s own story, though that perspective would have been interesting too. Rather than revealing his mum and dad through the prism of his own experience, it is a much more scrupulously honest, and rigorous accounting of who they were and what – so far as he can tell – they believed, and how they behaved. Colourful, thoughtful and restrained, it points to all the gaps in parents’ lives that children know nothing of, and never think to ask. Ostensibly spartan, Between Them is almost as rich in what you are left to read between the lines as in what is actually set in print.

All in good taste: Cate Devine on the year's best food and cookery books

It’s often said that food is integral to our most precious memories, but it has also been pivotal in shaping modern history. In a rather surprising pairing, the former MEP Struan Stevenson and chef Tony Singh chart – and recreate – in meticulous detail 10 meals that have had a lasting impact on the world, starting with Culloden in 1746 and ending with the Egypt-Israel peace treaty dinner in 1979. For its sheer originality, The Course Of History: Ten Meals That Changed The World (Birlinn, £16.99) is my stand-out food book of the year, even if the recipes are more likely to be marvelled at than actually made by modern readers. For they prove that food can melt the minds of the most powerful men.

And women. I did enjoy Annie Gray’s Greedy Queen (Profile, £16.99), a warts-and-all expose of Queen Victoria’s prolific eating habits. So fat did she grow on lavish banquets and stand-up suppers that she shot up from being a petite and elegant young woman to a dowdy monarch with a 50-inch waistline. It’s also a fascinating chronicle of how the British food culture changed over her 64-year reign.

I surprised myself by instantly liking Nigella Lawson’s At My Table (Vintage, £26), billed as a celebration of home cooking, and quickly adopting one of her easy chicken recipes; there are others on my bucket list. It is also liberally dotted with useful tips, such as how to extract ginger juice from a fresh root by hand. Lawson says that as well as a cookbook, this is a collection of stories and a container of memories.

And how could it be otherwise?

Everything to play for: Hugh MacDonald's sports books of the year

IT is an unconscious tribute to the sporting propensity for hyperbole that the best books of 2017 were concerned with the greatest, the invincible and the horrifically unspeakable.

The truism, too, that the significance of sport is not restricted to the playing field or arena has never been more boldly articulated than in the life of Muhammad Ali. The Greatest has been extensively chronicled, discussed and dissected but Ali: A Life (Simon and Schuster, £25) by Jonathan Eig adds more detail while continually building up a fuller portrait of the boxer who became an influential political and cultural figure. This examination does not spare Ali, with his flaws mercilessly exposed, but it is the best work on the phenomenon in recent times.

The unbeaten season of Celtic under Brendan Rodgers deserved a proper, energetic and insightful analysis and it has come in the shape of David Friel’s Invincible (BackPage Press, £9.99). This is far removed from a simple retelling of games won and goals scored. Friel slips behind the scenes to explain the workings of Lennoxtown, describe the moment when Moussa Dembele was convinced to join the club and show how a coach manages at the elite level.

The Greatest Comeback: From Genocide To Football Glory by David Bolchover (Biteback Publishing, £20) tells with passion and intelligence the story of Bela Guttmann, the coach who escaped the Holocaust and went on to take Benfica to glory in the European Cup. This is awful and glorious history, breathtaking in its scope and ambition.

The young set: Vicky Allan's children's book choices

For me, this year’s big revelation was the poet Louise Greig, whose move into children’s fiction produced two outstanding picture books. The Island And The Bear (Picture Kelpies, £6.99) is the story of a bear lost on an island in the Scottish Hebrides, loosely based on the real-life Hercules; The Night Box (Egmont, £6.99) is about a small boy, whose job it is to keep the night in a box, and let it out at the end of the day. Greig weaves magic in every line she writes. In The Night Box, illustrated by Ashling Lindsay, day “yawns”. It “inches like a snail around the clock”. In The Island And The Bear, accompanied by Vanya Nastanlieva’s illustrations we find the bear “suddenly there, filling the air with bear”.

Also a delight was A L Kennedy’s first children’s book, Uncle Shawn And Bill And The Almost Entirely Unplanned Adventure (Walker, £8.99). A witty, absurd attack on animal cruelty and a zany adventure tale, it is like Roald Dahl after a hefty swig of Irn Bru. It’s a riotous tale of what happens when mean farmers called the McGloones capture the story’s hero, Badger Bill, and surprisingly daft for one whose novels have frequently been so sombre. Irresistible.

For older readers, however, it’s hard to pass by Philip Pullman’s much-awaited La Belle Sauvage: The Book Of Dust Volume One (David Fickling, £20). This is a masterpiece from a gifted storyteller: more intensely grounded in reality than the His Dark Materials series it prequels, yet also all the more strange.

In the Young Adult sector, Patrick Ness produced what appears to be his most personal novel so far, in Release (Walker, £12.99). The coming-of-age story of Adam Thorn, 17 years old, gay, under the “yoke” of his preacher father and equally disapproving mother, it’s frequently gut-wrenching, yet funny, tender and warm.

Finally, Angie Thomas’s The Hate U Give (Walker, £7.99), was a teenage tale that should be required reading for those wishing to understand racial tensions in the United States. A howl of anger inspired by the tragic shooting in 2009 of Oscar Grant in California, it is an instant Black Lives Matter classic.