Listening and Reading My Way through Scotland

May 22, 2019

What do you think of when you imagine Scotland? Do you picture the rolling, verdant fields of the Highlands? Maybe you think of the craggy, stony mountains or the foggy moors filled with sheep. How about 6,000 miles of windswept coastline? Scotland sounds like a dream but what should I really expect? The perfect way to discover a place is through reading!

There are so many resources at the library to help prepare for my trip. It’s always nice to feel like you know a place before you get there. I need to have great theme music wherever I go. There are so many amazing CDs in the library collection! Travel guides are a must for any trip and you can always find the most up-to-date ones at Johnson County. Let’s not forget movies, one of the best ways to get familiar with a place is to see it on screen. The planning stage is one of the most exiting parts of any big trip. Here’s what I’m devouring to get ready to travel to beautiful, mystical Scotland. 

Music is an important component of any adventure. I've been listening to Glasgow's own Franz Ferdinand since I first heard the steady, insistent drumbeats of "Take Me Out" on their glorious debut album in 2004. I've listened to that album an estimated 596 times, but who's counting? Franz Ferdinand continuously releases fun, dark, danceable, catchy rock music. I highly suggest the often overlooked, Tonight: Franz Ferdinand. "No You Girls," "Bite Hard," and "Lucid Dreams" are a must listen while riding the subway and wandering the streets.

One of my favorite singers and all around amazing redhead is Shirley Manson of Garbage. Shirley has a gorgeous, unique voice and larger-than-life personality. Her lush, poetic lyrics make me want to live inside her songs. Garbage’s fifth album, Not Your Kind of People, blew my socks off! Their sound is as quirky and genre-melding as ever. “Control,” “I Hate Love,” and “Man On a Wire” are this album’s standouts. Whether Shirley is whispering, growling, or singing her heart out, I am there for it. I cannot wait to visit Edinburgh and imagine Shirley wandering around dreaming of taking over the world.

I can begin to feel familiar with the landmarks of a place by reading about them. The Bookshop on the Corner by Jenny Colgan pulled me in immediately. Colgan’s breezy, witty writing style made this novel a joy to read. The novel captures so many emotions just right. The library branch where Nina works closes, moving all services to a centralized media center. Nina dreams of opening her own bookshop and finds a van so she can move around Birmingham to local fairs and farmer’s markets. The perfect van is in Kirrinfief, Scotland which just happens to be without a library or bookstore. The locals are thrilled Nina’s here to bring them books.

Matching the perfect book to the perfect person is Nina’s favorite thing to do, which I very much relate to. Nina’s many issues with her huge van make me chuckle; as do her mishaps with love. The lush descriptions of the beautiful Scotland Highlands and the friendly locals made me even more excited to visit. The follow up novel, The Bookshop on the Shore is out in June.

The End of the Wasp Season by Denise Mina is the second book of the Alex Marrow series set in Glasgow. Part police procedural, part look into the killer's mind, all consuming! Thomas and Squeak enter Sarah Erroll's home and demand to know where her kids are. Things escalate from there and we next see the boys sneaking back into school after brutally killing Sarah. Thomas' father, Lars, hangs himself leaving behind angry investors who lost all their money. Detective Inspector Alex Marrow, pregnant with twins, investigates Sarah’s grisly death.

The Scottish dialogue brings this story to life. Mina’s mysteries are twisty, perfectly plotted, and beg to be read on a rainy day. Fans of Tana French will love Alex Marrow. Who doesn’t want to read about a savage murder, suicide, and a web of lies before striking out for places unknown?

One of my absolute favorite series is Harry Potter. I love every single thing about these books. J.K. Rowling began writing Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone at various coffee shops in Edinburgh, namely the Elephant House. A few streets down is the Georg Hariot School which bears a striking resemblance to Hogwarts. Diagon Alley is based on Victoria Street’s close and wynds of Edinburgh’s Old and New Town. Many of the characters’ names are found on the headstones in the Greyfriars Kirkyard. I feel like I’m going to step right into the story and wind up on the train to Hogwarts, fingers crossed. I’ll send an owl if I do!

I turn to travel books for more practical advice on where to go and what to see. The Eyewitness Travel Guides are my favorite because they have pictures, history, and places of interest. If a travel book does not have pictures, count me out.  Who needs a thousand restaurant recommendations? I need scenery and architecture. The detailed descriptions give you all the prices and hours, plus tons of color photos.

Rick Steves’ Scotland does an excellent job giving travelers all the local knowledge about a place. Steves’ tips are invaluable and always accurate. The layout of these travel guides shows the best places to visit, giving you a great overview of the major places. The honest reviews also tell you what to skip, saving you valuable time.

Seeing Scotland through film and TV is extraordinary. The scenery in Outlander is out of this world! Claire is a WWII nurse who takes a trip to Scotland with her husband to reconnect after the war. On Halloween 1945, Claire enters a stone circle and goes back in time to 1743 where she meets Highland dreamboat, Jamie Fraser. This story has everything: time travel, WWII, Jacobite Scotland, and an epic love story. The concept of Outlander is amazing. I like the show more than the books, which is a huge feat in and of itself.

Skyfall, my favorite James Bond film explores the storied past of the Bonds of Scotland and their Highlands home, Skyfall. M and Bond take an epic road trip through the sweeping mountain valley of Glencoe. The moor where Bond and Silva fight shows the vast open spaces with no houses in sight. This movie has so much going for it and the story is full of twists and intrigue that only Bond can pull off.

After doing all the prep work, I think I’m ready to cross the pond and explore! Cheers to you!


Reviewed by Library Staff