Scottish Book Trust's top Scottish picks

04 Nov 2015
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Book Week Scotland's five most influential books of all time – including Sir Walter Scott's Waverley novels and the Harry Potter series – as recommended by Scottish Book Trust.

Book Week Scotland's five most influential books of all time - including Sir Walter Scott's Waverly novels and the Harry Potter series - as recommended by Scottish Book Trust.

By Leila Cruickshank, Scottish Book Trust

1. The King James Bible

St Andrew is credited in the Declaration of Arbroath for turning Scotland to Christianity and opening Scots' minds to the word of God. When James VI of Scotland and I of England commissioned a new translation of the Bible in 1604, it was to bring that message to more people than any other book has ever achieved. The revised and edited Word of God took 47 scholars 7 years to complete, and became the most widely printed book in history, defeating even Harry Potter and 50 Shades of Grey. It is as influential for its language as it is for its religious message; today, corporate shills might urge you to "go the extra mile" unaware of its Biblical connotations, while a rom com bemoaning someone's broken heart would be unlikely to know that the King James Bible coined the phrase.

2. The Complete Sherlock Holmes by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle

No other detective, not even Marple or Poirot, has the hold on the public imagination of Conan Doyle's first consulting detective. Holmes is listed in The Guinness Book of World Records as the "most portrayed movie character" with over 200 appearances in film; he has never been out of print and has inspired books, plays, poems, puppets and computer games. Holmes was so popular that the author famously began to wonder if he was becoming more real than his creator, writing to his mother that if he did not kill Holmes off then Holmes would surely kill him. His mother responded to this cry for help by writing furiously "don't you dare kill that nice Mr Holmes".

3. Sir Walter Scott's Waverley novels

Scott's Waverley is noted among scholars for having almost unnecessary and incredibly boring first 8 chapters, but despite this, the books were a massive hit. Scott was one of the founders of the modern historical novel, inspiring Tolstoy's War and Peace, Dumas' The Three Musketeers, and Hugo's Les Miserables. While less popular today than the others on this list, Sir Walter Scott's romantic histories of Scotland in poetry and prose are credited with creating the Scottish tourist industry, and reinvigorating Scottish nationalism and interest in Scottish history. It's possible to argue that he paved the way for the rise of the SNP and the 2014 Referendum.

4. The Harry Potter series by JK Rowling

Selling over 450 million copies worldwide, being translated into 73 languages, and making $7.7 billion dollars worldwide from the movies alone, the story which began in a small Edinburgh coffee shop has encouraged children and adults all over the world to read. It also kickstarted the rise of the children's book, making children's publishing one of the few growth areas of the industry and making it cool for adults to be as fond of a children's series as their kids are.

5. David Hume's A Treatise of Human Nature

Edinburgh boy David Hume is regarded as one of the most influential philosophers of all time. His treatise would have rocked the establishment, had any of them read it, but by the time his genius was recognised he was already famous for a history of England rather than as a philosopher, yet it is the philosophy which has endured during the centuries. He aimed to create a science of man which examined human nature, experience and free will. He influenced Kierkegaard, Kant and even Einstein's Theory of Relativity.

Head over to Scottish Book Trust and be inspired with more book lists. Take part in Book Week Scotland from 23 - 29 November on bookweekscotland.com.

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