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Birlinn Books – Notes from the Basement, 8 December 2020

  08 Dec '20   |  Posted by: Birlinn
Just starting your Christmas shopping? Here’s Part I of our behind-the-scenes list of personal Christmas gift recommendations from members of the Birlinn Team.

The Scotsman’s annual Scottish Books supplement contained no fewer than eleven of our 2020 titles. More than a ‘books of the year’ list, this is a substantial summation of the year, a meaty 24-page collection of the best reviews from the Scotsman’s critics. We were delighted to see debut writers Alec Crawford and Patrick Laurie in there along with Denzil MeyrickDouglas SkeltonMaggie CraigAndy DrummondIain Maloney and more in such excellent company.

Today marks 40 years since the assassination of John Lennon in New York. Ken McNab, author of And in the End: The Last Days of the Beatles, has a long read in the Herald: a counterfactual history continuing Lennon’s story to the present. Imagine (and discuss). A must for any Beatles fan.

In a special column, Hugh Andrew, Birlinn’s founder and MD, reflects on ‘quiet books’ with an enduring appeal. His selections from the non-fiction backlist are stories of commitment, passion and resilience. Read A Message that Stands the Test of Time for a glimpse into what makes a book transcend categorisations such as ‘about walking’ or ‘about islands’.

In Search of Angels is a book that is about walking and islands but so much more. As a Gaelic speaker, Alistair Moffat was able to unlock the secrets of the Highland and Island landscapes for us monoglots, uncovering traces of the early saints. He’s humble and funny about his status as a ‘learner’, but this extract brims with love for the language.

We love Masterchef: The Professionals, the Beeb’s annual six-week celebration of ambition and excellence in the kitchen. Last week, Carla Lamont, chef-patron of The Ninth Wave restaurant on Mull got Monica Galetti and Marcus Wareing excited with her creativity and flavour combinations. If you missed her serving skirlie to Jay Rayner and Grace Dent, you can catch it on iPlayer. She was such a hit that her beautiful book vanished from our warehouse shelves in a trice. Check your local bookshop!

And in the glossies, Alexander McCall Smith has a new story in Harper’s Bazaar. ‘The Violin Case’, a Chicago love story, is one of a quartet of new commissions for their January issue, which is on stands now.

It’s root vegetable season, and what better way to brighten and lighten up than with a vibrant and earthy winter salad? Our recipe of the week is from The Scottish Vegan Cookbook by Jackie Jones. Her Beetroot Salad is accompanied by vegan crowdie, a make-at-home version of a Scottish cheese believed to have been introduced by the Vikings. Viking Vegan Crowdie, then.

To escape the cold, here’s a canny, brilliant sonnet from the irrepressible Hamish Henderson about the heat-seeking salamander. His Collected Poems makes a braw present for the bold reader.

Stay toasty,
Team Birlinn
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