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"100 Best Scottish Books of All Time"

31/07/2006
Several weeks ago, my wife picked up the booklet that accompanied this list and poll. I pretty much ignored it when it was current last year, as lists like that tend to annoy me. (The idea strikes me as unimaginative and not a particularly useful way to assess whatever is being ranked. And I don’t like the element of commodification I feel the process involves.) However, to my surprise, I’ve found the booklet an enjoyable browse for the most obvious room of the house.
One of the demerits of the format (namely, the lack of space available to discuss a book) is turned into an advantage: it forces pithy writing from some fine writers enthusing about some of their favourite books. Nonetheless, nothing can save the booklet from being just silly in some respects. I’m constantly irritated by the tendency of many readers and writers to equate “book” with fiction and, although the list contains works of non-fiction, it’s still exclusively continuous prose. This leaves the entire history and contemporary landscape of Scottish poetry, drama and short stories to be discussed in three short paragraphs each. Simply absurd.
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