Psst! Top author events for Book Week Scotland

Not one, but two very special author events are coming to Central Library for Book Week Scotland.

On Wednesday 23 November at 6.30pm, the Faber Crime Panel  who have been touring Scotland reach Edinburgh. Come and see Doug Johnstone, Rod Reynolds and Sarah Ward in conversation about their latest novels before they open the floor to audience questions.


meet_maggie_03And then on the evening of Friday 25 November, bestselling author Maggie O’Farrell comes to the Reference Library to chat about her seven fabulous books, including Instructions for a Heatwave (shortlisted for the 2013 Costa Novel Award) and her most recent smash, This Must Be the Place.

Don’t miss the chance to hear from this compelling Edinburgh author. Tickets will go fast!




Upcoming talks and workshops


Our events calendar has details of what’s happening in libraries over the next couple of months. Here are a few of the highlights:

Alison Demarco: The Signature from Tibet

Wednesday 11th May, 2.30pm. Free – book online

Alison Demarco’s The Signature of Tibet is a breathtaking four-part, epic fictional story inspired by true events and follows the lives of four main, inspirational characters: The Soldier, Pembuti, Anne, and Palden.  Spanning the Highlands of Scotland to the remote and isolated Lowlands of Tibet, the book travels back in time to 1904 when a young Scottish soldier enters Tibet with the British Expedition.  Signature From Tibet is a must-read for anyone seeking spiritual enlightenment—or would just like to share in a fantastic journey the likes of which they’re unlikely to ever encounter again!

Edinburgh Tales: Charles Piazzi Smyth

Wednesday 18th May, 2.30pm. Free – book online

Charles Piazzi Smyth was appointed as Astronomer Royal for Scotland in 1846, where he was based at the Calton Hill Observatory. Bruce Vickery will be talking about the context of Smyth’s arrival in Edinburgh as Scotland’s second Astronomer Royal, and about some of his multi-faceted activities while in this post. Bruce is a retired mathematical physicist with an interest in astronomy and its heritage in Edinburgh.

The Waves Burn Bright by Iain Maloney

Tuesday 24th May, 6.30pm. Free – book online
In 1988 the Piper Alpha oil platform exploded killing 167 men. The Waves Burn Bright is a deeply affecting, sensitive portrait of its devastating aftermath on one family.
Author Iain Maloney talks about his new novel, which is based on this tragic event. His other novels are  First Time Solo and Silma Hill. He was also shortlisted for the Dundee International Book Prize and in 2014 he was shortlisted for the Guardian Not The Booker prize.


Monday 30th May, 6.00pm. Free – book online

Whither ettlin tae write in Scots frae the affset, or whither aready applying yer creative skeels tae the leid, the Scrieve-It workshoap will luik tae weys o explorin an developin new or existin writin in Scots, wi the National Library o Scotland’s resident Scots Scriever, Hamish MacDonald.

Former Robert Burns Writing Fellow for Dumfries and Galloway, Joint Artistic Director of Dogstar Theatre Company and Director of Moniack Mhor Writers’ Centre, Hamish has written numerous warks in Scots includin plays, fiction and also bairns’ verse, short stories and a teenage novella for Scots imprint Itchy Coo Publishing.

How to promote your book

Thursday 2nd June, 2.30pm. Free – book online

Are you an aspiring, small or self-published writer and want to know how to promote your book?  Come along and learn how to put together a basic campaign that is sure to get you started.

Diane Hinds is an experienced entertainment PR who has taught Campaigning & Persuasive Skills at the University of Westminster, on its BA: Public Relations & Advertising course and is a frequent Guest Visitor at Victoria Zackheim’s Personal Essay Writing course, part of UCLA’s Extension programme.

Magnus Linklater – Little Sparta, a guide to the garden of Ian Hamilton Finlay

Wednesday 15th June at 6.30pm. Free – book online

Chairman of the Little Sparta Trust, Magnus Linklater discusses Jessie Sheeler’s publication ‘Little Sparta – a Guide to the Garden of Ian Hamilton Finlay’. Ian Hamilton Finlay’s garden in the Pentland Hills, near Edinburgh, is widely regarded as one of the most significant gardens in Britain. In addition to being a spectacular example of garden design, it also features almost 300 art works by Finlay and others which form an integral part of the garden scheme.

The guide tells the story of Ian Hamilton Finlay’s extraordinary creation, exploring the underlying themes, and introducing and explaining the significance of the main elements and art works in each part of the garden. The publication also features new photographs by photographer Robin Gillanders as well as archival material.




What we learned from Carina Contini

Last week we were doubly privileged to get a visit from Scottish restaurateur Carina Contini, who not only imparted her wisdom and culinary knowledge over the course of an hour, but also very generously gifted every library in Edinburgh a copy of her Scottish Garden Cook Book. Thanks so much Carina!

Carina with copies of her book

Carina with copies of her book

Here are some things we learned from Carina:

  • We’ve all heard of endangered species but  there’s also an endangered foods list known as The Ark of Taste
  • The best black pudding comes from Carluke – not Stornoway!
  • One of Carina’s favourite recipes is for Baked Alsaka
  • Princes Street Gardens were used for allotments during the second world war
  • The building which houses the Contini Ristorante on George Street is a replica of a Florentine Palazzo
  • The restaurant changed its name from Centotre to Contini Ristorante to because its former title was too difficult for people to pronounce!

Gavin Francis: Adventures in Human Being


We were delighted to welcome back award-winning author Gavin Francis to Central Library last night, who for our latest Edinburgh Reads event, took us on a journey round the wonder that is the human body.

We listened to two pulses in one, saw how the colon can be a thing of beauty and learned how the hip was once seen as the storehouse of life.


As you can see from these tweets, the audience loved it.

Join the waiting list to borrow Adventures in Human Being either as a book or an OverDrive eBook.

Gavin also recommends Do no harm by Henry Marsh and Kathleen Jamie’s Frissure.


Julian Sayarer – around the world on a bike

It’s not every day we get a world record breaker in one of our libraries, but that was the case yesterday when Julian Sayarer came to tell us how he cycled round the world in 169 days.

Julian started with the numbers – on his 18 000 mile round trip he averaged 110 miles a day, spending around 8 to 10 hours in the saddle. ‘A day’s work in a really wonderful office’ is how he described it.

Julian then went back to his childhood to tell us how his love of cycling had been forged when as an eleven year old he made the 20 mile round trip to his grandparents house. This escape from safety and routine sowed the seeds for a life of cycling and adventure.

As a teenager Julian was determined to become a professional cyclist, and fell in love with the stories, mythology and folklore of the sport.

It was a four-week ride from England to Istanbul, however, which opened his eyes to the possibilities of long distance cycling. He learned from a couple he met along the way about an attempt on the round-the-world record that had been backed by banks and big business. Seeing the bicycle and open road reduced to only a corporate marketing strategy, Julian resolved to do things his own way and to take back the record.

And so to his epic trip.

We learned about a wonderful cycle path along the Danube, the lack of personal space in China, the incredible hospitality of New Zealanders, how to cope with Romanian guard dogs and the ‘captivating emptiness’ of Kazakhstan.

All too soon our time was up. Thanks to Julian for coming to Edinburgh and giving such an inspiring and compelling talk.

Life Cycles, Julian’s account of his round the world trip, is available to borrow from your local library and as an OverDrive eBook.

What we learned about Scottish history this week

Central Library this week hosted two very different, but equally fascinating events looking at different aspects of Scottish history.

On Wednesday author Walter Stephen launched his latest book, ‘A dirty swindle: true stories of Scots in the Great War

Walter Stephen signing copies of 'A Dirty Swindle'

Walter Stephen signing copies of ‘A Dirty Swindle’

The skill of Walter’s book is the way he takes stories which many of us are familiar with on a surface level and delves deeper into them to give us a very real sense of what the war was like for those who experienced it.

Walter’s talk was illustrated by a slide show and two images in particular stood out.

One was a haunting picture entitled ‘Shell Shock’ which was drawn by an officer while he was being treated at Craiglockhart Hospital.

The other was a photograph of a ‘Forward Observation Officer’ jumping to safety as his balloon came under fire. Being a Forward Observation Officer was an incredibly dangerous role: being up in a balloon made you such an easy target.

Many of us will be familiar with the story of Hearts F.C and McCrae’s Battalion but as Walter pointed out two of the Hearts team actually failed the army medical and were prevented from signing up. (This despite them playing football for the top team in the country at the time)

Walter also spoke about the Quintinshill train crash and the ‘perfect storm’ that made it the worst rail disaster this country has known. Tragically some men survived only to die in horrific circumstances at Gallipoli little over a month later.

Walter ended the evening talking about the unease he felt about how the 100th anniversary of the first world war has been used for political purposes, and politics and history was very much the theme for our event last night, as Stuart McHardy and Donald Smith took us on a journey along Scotland’s Democracy Trail.

A wide-ranging discussion took in everything from the Volkswagen emissions scandal to upcoming EU referendum to the teaching of Scottish history in schools.

Donald and Stuart also introduced us to some of the lesser known but significant figures from Scottish history.

The life and legacy of Thomas Muir has been marked by a series this year (the 250th anniversary of his birth), but Stuart argued he’s not as widely celebrated as he deserves to be. “Where’s the movie?” he asked. And you would have to agree that Muir’s life was one long extraordinary globe-spanning adventure.

We were also introduced to lesser known characters such as James Thomson Callender and Francis Hutcheson and the effect their life and work had on the long struggle for democracy as we know and understand it.

The evening ended with questions from the audience about the Highland Clearances, the Scottish Youth Parliament, James Robertson’s And the land lay still and the possibility of a pardon for Thomas Muir.

We’d like to thank Walter, Donald and Stuart for two terrific evenings which would have encouraged many audiences members to read not just their books, but others as well, to find out more about our nation’s past.

Neil Oliver at Central Library

Archaeologist, historian, writer and broadcaster Neil Oliver (Coast, A History of Scotland, The History Detectives) is coming to Edinburgh Central Library.

Neil will talk about and read from his debut novel Master of Shadows – a gripping historical thriller which takes the reader from the highlands of Scotland to the crumbling majesty of Constantinople.

Edinburgh Central Library, Thursday 10th September, 7pm

Book your free ticket now!