Monthly Archives: January 2016

The Very Best of Birlinn’s Books You Must Read in 2016


Dragon GamesDragon Games

Jan-Phillip Sendker

You are in for a real treat if you haven’t yet discovered Jan-Philipp Sendker. Everyone is talking about him and we are thrilled that he is on our list. This is the fourth book by Jan-Philipp to be published by Polygon and last year we got to meet him for the first time when he came over from his home base in Germany to do an event at the Edinburgh International Book Festival. He returns this year and hopes to travel throughout the UK, meeting the readers and booksellers who devour his books. The first two books we published were his beautiful, passionate love stories set in Burma and now we will have two in the very moving, slightly grittier China / Hong Kong series – the second being Dragon Games, coming out in September of this year. The first in this series, Whispering Shadows, has been selected as a World Book Night title for 2016 – a first for us here at Polygon. Dragon Games is the book you sit down to and don’t get up again until it is done – a great read and a wonderful insight into China.

Jan Rutherford, Publicity & Marketing Director

Rum Affair, A 2A Rum Affair
A True Story of Botanical Fraud
Karl Sabbagh

The whole concept of Karl Sabbagh’s A Rum Affair is just so wonderfully eccentric that I can’t wait for it to arrive! Sabbagh takes something that, at a glance, looks like it should be the dullest thing on Earth, and turns it into one of the most entertaining and fascinating true accounts of scientific fraud in recent times. There really is nothing else like it.

Jamie Harris, Sales, Publicity and Events Administrator

Young Souls RebelsYoung Soul Rebels Vis 16
A Personal History of Northern Soul
Stuart Cosgrove

So chuffed here at Polygon to have the mighty Stuart Cosgrove on our list. Young Soul Rebels is a rambunctious, frank and incisive look at the UK’s love of sweet soul music through the last fifty years of British political history and culture. A cracking read (and soul bible) for all music fans – I guarantee you’ll be getting out your old vinyl and talcum powder.

Alison Rae, Managing Editor

Brilliant & Forever 15dThe Brilliant & Forever
Kevin MacNeil

A new novel by Kevin MacNeil is always something to get excited about. And when that novel is as marvellously invigorating as The Brilliant & Forever, well, let’s pop those champagne corks! Both a sharp satire on the culture industry and a true celebration of storytelling, it’s a book lover’s dream of a novel. There’s jokes and quotable lines galore! There are fabulous villains! (Seth and Dalston, I’m looking at you.) There’s haiku-kery! (There’s what? You’ll find out…) There’s a talking alpaca! Oh, and there’s so much more . . .

Outside of Birlinn, I’m intrigued by Mary Paulson-Ellis’s debut, The Other Mrs Walker. It looks to be a great year for Scottish fiction!

Vikki Reilly, Sales Liaison Manager

Mapping Scottish Islands
Christopher Fleet

The geeky nautical chart enthusiast and sailor in me can’t wait to read this book. I’m fascinated to learn about how many of the charts we still use today were created; it’s staggering to think that this was accomplished over 150 years ago. I also think this will be one of the most beautiful mapping books we’ve done. I’m looking forward to giving it as a gift to lots of people next Christmas!

Anna Marshall, Events Manager

Dead Queen of Bohemia, The 2The Dead Queen of Bohemia
New & Collected Poems
Jenni Fagan

Jenni Fagan is best know for her novel The Panopticon, but her poetry deserves just as much attention. Jenni’s first collection was published seven years ago, but as a whole this is a body of work that has been written over an entire life. Her book has a lot to offer: the writing is honest, humorous, sharp, witty and has a wry sense of humour to it; you live alongside these pieces and take a step into the world of The Dead Queen of Bohemia in each line. You’ll want to read and re-read this book, and each time you do you’ll take something different away from it.

Outside of our list, I have been listening to and enjoying Radio 4’s book of the week and I am very much looking forward to reading The Outrun by Amy Liptrot.

Edward Crossan, Poetry Editor and Online & Digital Development


WILD ISLAND (Self Cover 2)Wild Island

A Year in the Hebrides
Jane Smith

This is a lovely book – our proofreader said exactly that and asked for a copy as part of his fee, something that doesn’t often happen! It chronicles in words and vibrant paintings a year in the life of Oronsay, a Hebridean island farmed by the RSPB for the benefit of the birds, animals and flora there. Jane’s wildlife paintings are full of colour and energy, and her stories of her time on the island are so engaging and funny that readers will hardly notice they are getting lots of information about nature conservation too as they leaf through the pages. Wild Island would make the perfect present for any nature lover, and I can’t wait to get my hands on a copy.

Tom Johnstone, Managing Editor

Un-Discovered Islands
Malachy Tallack

Malachy Tallack follows up the heartfelt and beautiful Sixty Degrees North with Un-Discovered Islands. In a way it’s a companion piece, a book about islands imagined but thought real, places born in myth and mystery, from all over the world. It is going to be a stunning book, with some lovely illustrations; the perfect gift for Christmas.

Liz Short, Production Manager

my italian bulldozer progressMy Italian Bulldozer
Alexander McCall Smith

Alexander McCall Smith is fantastic at writing about Italy: its food & wine, its music, the history, the landscape and la bella figura. Onto this beautiful canvas he’s introduced una colossale macchina – a bulldozer.

Only McCall Smith has the literary dexterity to pull this off. Funny, elegant and moving – occasionally earth-moving – this book is a joy; you’ll be swept away, literally.

Neville Moir, Publishing Director

Darien A Journey in Search of EmpireDarien: A Journey in Search of Empire
John McKendrick

John McKendrick opens this history-cum-travelogue with a confident disavowal: ‘There has always been confusion about Darien.’ He’s right: I first heard of Darien in a primary-school history class, it was a locus of Scotland’s shame, a scheme that had gone disastrously wrong as we tried to punch above our weight on the world stage; then, in the first chapter of Swallows and Amazons, it became a promise of adventure; at the high point of Keats’ sonnet ‘On first looking into Chapman’s Homer’ (possibly my all-time favourite poem), Darien is epiphanic, a place where imagination and reality awesomely coincide. This book shows how it was all of these things at once. McKendrick promises to untangle some of the mysteries surrounding Scotland’s attempt to establish a colony and trading post on the Panama isthmus in the late seventeenth century. Unlike Keats or Roger, Titty et al., he has actually travelled to Darien, and his journey sees him hacking through the jungle with a machete to get to the heart of the matter. It’s an evocative (and sometimes hair–raising) way of bringing this chapter of Scotland’s history to life in all its enthusiasm, naivety, prescience, and tragedy.

Beyond our books – maybe 2016 will be the year for War and Peace (but maybe not).

Kristian Kerr, Publicity Officer