10 books about Edinburgh that everyone should read

Edinburgh is one of the great literary cities in the world. Picture: Ian Rutherford
Edinburgh is one of the great literary cities in the world. Picture: Ian Rutherford
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Edinburgh has a great literary past, but the love of books is still alive and well in the city today.

From gritty crime stories to fascinating history, have a browse through our essential Edinburgh reading list.

Muriel Spark, author of the Prime Of Miss Jean Brodie. Picture: PA

Muriel Spark, author of the Prime Of Miss Jean Brodie. Picture: PA

The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie by Muriel Spark

The best known of Muriel Spark’s novels, The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie, tells the story of a charismatic teacher at an Edinburgh girls’ school.

Miss Brodie’s elite group of pupils – the ‘creme de la creme’ – learn about her love of travel, art and fascism. However, Brodie’s tangled love affairs mean that her prime cannot last forever.

A Work of Beauty by Alexander McCall Smith

Author Ian Rankin. Picture: Ian Georgeson

Author Ian Rankin. Picture: Ian Georgeson

Alexander McCall Smith (author of the No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency series) brings together stories, photographs, maps and paintings in this unique love letter to Scotland’s capital.

Giving readers both the big picture and the hidden detail, this book provides a tour of Edinburgh through the past and the present.

A Work of Beauty gives you the chance to learn more about the city’s most famous landmarks, its lost buildings, and its most fascinating characters.

Knots and Crosses by Ian Rankin

Irvine Welsh, author of Trainspotting. Picture: PA

Irvine Welsh, author of Trainspotting. Picture: PA

This brilliantly suspenseful book is the first in the famous Rebus series, in which the hard-drinking police officer John Rebus is introduced.

Detective Sergeant Rebus must help investigate the brutal murder of two young girls, while struggling with his own dark past.

Taunted by a puzzle of knotted string and matchstick crosses, Rebus is the only one who can solve the crime.

A Method Actor’s Guide to Jekyll and Hyde by Kevin MacNeil

Robert Louis Stevenon's Kidnapped is widely considered to be a classic. Picture: Getty Images

Robert Louis Stevenon's Kidnapped is widely considered to be a classic. Picture: Getty Images

This funny and touching novel follows the story of Robert Lewis, a troubled young actor whose life is getting out of control.

While starring in a new adaptation of Jekyll and Hyde in Edinburgh, Robert’s life takes a turn for the worse, with everything beginning to crumble around him.

This novel explores the nature of duality, with a healthy does of humour and plenty of heart.

Burke and Hare: The Graphic Novel by Martin Conaghan and Will Pickering

This award-winning graphic novel re-examines the bloody history of Burke and Hare, the infamous Edinburgh murderers who sold the corpses of their victims to the anatomist Dr Robert Knox.

Painstakingly researched and beautifully illustrated, this book brings to life the horror of Burke and Hare’s crimes.

The story sticks to the facts, and provides a very atmospheric view of 19th century Edinburgh.

Trainspotting by Irvine Welsh

This cult classic novel revolves around the lives of heroin addicts in Edinburgh, revealing the darkest, ugliest parts of their personalities, and of the city.

Welsh’s skill as a storyteller is undeniable, bringing both wit and compassion to a grim subject matter. If you liked Danny Boyle’s film adaptation, you’ll love the original.

The Heart of Midlothian by Sir Walter Scott

Beginning with the Edinburgh riots of 1736, Walter Scott’s historical masterpiece centres on the grim Tolbooth prison, known as the Heart of Midlothian.

Scott tells the story of Jeanie Deans, a young woman who travels from Edinburgh to London on foot to beg for a royal pardon for her sister.

Sir Walter Scott was a hugely important figure in Scottish literary history, and the monument which bears his name still stands in Princes Street Gardens today.

One Good Turn by Kate Atkinson

This wryly funny and thrillingly addictive novel begins when Edinburgh Festival punters witness a road rage incident. Jackson Brodie, a former private detective, sees the attack, but soon becomes a murder suspect.

As one character’s story is revealed, another makes itself known, each with their own troubles and longings. This is a thriller which packs emotional punch.

Edinburgh: Mapping the City by Chris Fleet and Daniel MacCannell

The history of Edinburgh is tied up in its architecture. This beautiful book includes 71 maps of Edinburgh which tell the story of the city, beginning over five centuries ago.

The maps each have their own tales to tell, showing how the city has changed and developed over time.

Anyone who is interested in Scottish history will love this cartographic journey through time.

Kidnapped by Robert Louis Stevenson

This rollicking historical adventure begins with the orphan David Balfour, who goes to live with his reclusive uncle in the Edinburgh suburb of Cramond.

After finding out his uncle’s villainous intentions, David escapes before being kidnapped and imprisoned on a ship bound for the Carolinas.

Set in the aftermath of the Jacobite rebellion, this novel offers unforgettable characters and a gripping story which both young and old will love.

• This article originally appeared in our sister title, i