Growing up Scottish: nine reads to add to your TBR

Booker Prize winner Shuggie Bain is a gorgeously written yet brutal and emotive story of one boy growing up in Glasgow as the son of an alcoholic mother. But it’s just one of the many different experiences of growing up Scottish that have been depicted in our homegrown literature. So if Shuggie Bain whetted your appetite for a good ol’ bildungsroman (not a word you can shoehorn into most conversations so yay for an excuse) here’s a list of nine more to add to your TBR.

Boyracers by Alan Bissett

Boyracers is the story of 16 year old Falkirk lad Alvin and his three older mates. Their days involve racing around town in a car called Belinda and debating film and music. Alvin has to overcome all the usual teenage problems – romantic entanglements and deciding what the hell to do with his life. Published in the early 2000s it’s just as relevant today and a well-deserved cult classic.

Good to know: If you loved the book you can find out what happened to Alvin and his pals next in Pack Men.


Duck Feet by Ely Percy

Duck Feet is a coming-of-age novel, set in the mid-noughties in Renfrew and Paisley, Scotland. It follows the lives of 12-year-old Kirsty Campbell and her friends as they navigate life from first to sixth year at Renfrew Grammar school. This book is a celebration of youth in an ever-changing world. It uses humour to tackle hard-hitting subjects such as drugs, bullying, sexuality, and teenage pregnancy. But moreover, it is a relatable and accessible portrait of figuring out who you are, plunging into the currents of life, and most of all, finding hope.

Read Aiden’s review of Duck Feet here


The Young Team by Graeme Armstrong

2005. Glasgow is named Europe’s Murder Capital, driven by a violent territorial gang and knife culture. In the housing schemes of adjacent Lanarkshire, Scotland’s former industrial heartland, wee boys become postcode warriors.

2004. Azzy Williams joins the Young Team [YTP]. A brutal gang conflict with their deadly rivals, the Young Toi [YTB] begins.

2012. Azzy dreams of another life. He faces his toughest fight of all – the fight for a different future.

Expect Buckfast. Expect bravado. Expect street philosophy. Expect rave culture. Expect anxiety. Expect addiction. Expect a serious facial injury every six hours. Expect murder.

Hope for a way out.

Read our The Young Team reviews here and here.


The Panopticon by Jenni Fagan

Fifteen-year old Anais Hendricks is smart, funny and fierce, but she is also a child who has been let down, or worse, by just about every adult she has ever met. Sitting in the back of a police car, she finds herself headed for the Panopticon, a home for chronic young offenders where the social workers are as suspicious as its residents. But Anais can’t remember the events that have led her there, or why she has blood on her school uniform…

We featured Jenni Fagan’s second novel The Sunlight Pilgrims in our featured Dystopian Reads.


Kieron Smith, Boy by James Kelman

Rejected by his brother and largely ignored by his parents, Kieron Smith finds comfort – and endless stories – in the home of his much-loved grandparents. But when his family move to a new housing scheme on the outskirts of Glasgow, a world away from the close community of the tenements, Kieron struggles to find a way to adapt to his new life.

Kieron Smith, boy is a brilliant evocation of an urban childhood. Capturing the joys, frustrations, injustices, excitements, revels, battles, games, uncertainties, questions, lies, discoveries and sheer of wonder of boyhood, it is a story of one boy and every boy. It is James Kelman at his very best.


Mayflies by Andrew O’Hagan

Everyone has a Tully Dawson: the friend who defines your life.

In the summer of 1986, in a small Scottish town, James and Tully ignite a brilliant friendship based on music, films and the rebel spirit. With school over and the locked world of their fathers before them, they rush towards the climax of their youth: a magical weekend in Manchester, the epicentre of everything that inspires them in working-class Britain. There, against the greatest soundtrack ever recorded, a vow is made: to go at life differently. Thirty years on, half a life away, the phone rings. Tully has news.

Mayflies is a memorial to youth’s euphorias and to everyday tragedy. A tender goodbye to an old union, it discovers the joy and the costs of love.

Read Aiden’s review of Mayflies here.


Happiness is wasted on me by Kirkland Ciccone

Cumbernauld was built to be the town of the future…that is, if the future looked like a really rubbish episode of Doctor Who.

It’s also home to Walter Wedgeworth, a child stuck in a uniquely dysfunctional family controlled by the tyrannical Fishtank, whose CB Radio aerial is a metal middle finger to all the neighbours on Craigieburn Road. When 11-year-old Walter discovers the corpse of a baby inside a cardboard box, he resolves to ignore it, pretend it didn’t happen.

He knows the price of being a grass.

But the child’s fate haunts Walter, bringing him into conflict with the world around him. Walter’s journey will lead him from childhood to adulthood; school, college, bereavement, Britpop, his first job, Blackpool, the Spice Girls, feuds with his neighbour, and finally…face-to-face with a child killer.

Taking place in the 90s, Happiness Is Wasted On Me is a genre-blending tale that spans a decade in the life of Walter. It’s a coming of age tale, a family drama, a mystery, and a biting dark comedy. Ultimately, it’s the story of how even the strangest people can find their way in the world.

Read our review of Happiness is Wasted on Me here.


Sonny and Me by Ross Sayers

‘Whoever said yer school days are the best days ae yer life was at the absolute wind up. I hink maist adults dinnae mind whit it was really like. Wait til yeese hear whit Sonny and me got detention for…’

Daughter and Sonny are two best friends just trying to get through fourth year at high school. But when their favourite teacher leaves unexpectedly, and no one will say why, the boys decide to start their own investigation. As they dig deeper into the staff at Battlefield High, they discover a dark secret which one person will kill to protect…Will they uncover the truth without being expelled? Can their friendship survive when personal secrets are revealed? And will they manage to skive off double English?

Divided City by Theresa Breslin

A young man lies bleeding in the street.

It could be any street, in any city. But it’s not. It’s Glasgow. And it’s May – the marching season. The Orange Walks have begun.

Graham doesn’t want to be involved. He just wants to play football with his new mate, Joe. But when he witnesses a shocking moment of violence, suddenly he and Joe are involved. With Catholics, and with Protestants. With a young Muslim asylum-seeker, and his girlfriend. With all the old rivalries – and fears . . .

A gripping tale about two boys who must find their own answers – and their own way forward – in a world divided by differences.


Have you read any of these books? Or have any of them on your TBR? Talk to us in the comments or follow us on Instagram for a blether.

You can find most of these books in our own Bookshop at bookshop.org – if you choose to buy from our shop we will receive a small commission which will be equally split between a donation to the Scottish Book Trust at the end of the year and keeping this blog running.

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