Reading list

Classic reads as chosen by the Orkney librarian

'In my late teens I didn’t really read very much. Then I got into reading a lot of nineteenth century authors. Here is my list of favourite Classics, with a few Modern Classics thrown in.'

Read our interview with Stewart Bain from Orkney Library


This is a great read and there is much more to it than a simple love story. Unfortunately it has also made me very uncomfortable whenever I find myself in a red room.


I first read this for an Open University course and I was fascinated to discover the history of the madwoman in the attic.

Frankenstein is one of the great gothic novels even if it does feature a hilariously inaccurate depiction of Orkney.

Germinal is one of my all-time favourites. Zola’s descriptions are incredibly powerful. The chapter with Etienne and Catherine chewing a leather belt to survive has stayed with me since the first time I read it.


I am a big fan of Thomas Hardy. Not a book to read if you want something to cheer you up, but Hardy’s prose is wonderful.

This is the best epistolary novel I have ever read. Admittedly, I haven’t read very many of them.

Poet’s Pub is a funny book by a fine Orcadian author. Worth reading alone for the fantastic character names, including Saturday Keith, Angela Scrabster & Ignatius O’Higgins.


Chris Guthrie is one of my favourite characters in Scottish literature and her conflict over rural life versus town life is extremely engaging.

I don’t tend to read fiction more than once but Wuthering Heights is the book I will always go back to. The first time I ever read it was as a Penguin Classics edition with a family tree, which was extremely useful.

There is nothing better than a stormy night spent beside a roaring fire with a book of ghost stories and M.R. James is the absolute master of the genre.


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