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Michael Lynch's Scotland: A New History provides a reasonably up-to-date historical background to the country. A Concise History of Scotland by Fitzroy Maclean is also recommended. The Highland Clearances and the nation's bloody massacres are passionately described in the numerous books of historian John Prebble.The Journal of a Tour to the Hebrides with Samuel Johnson by James Boswell includes visits to Skye, Coll and Mull, and is one of the greatest Scottish travelogues.Perhaps the best known of Sir Walter Scott's prodigious patriotic outpourings is Rob Roy, now popularly held to bear a striking resemblance to Liam Neeson.Several of Robert Louis Stevenson's novels have Scottish settings. Locations in Kidnapped include Mull and Edinburgh.An incomparable but often incomprehensible insight into Scotland and Scottishness can be found in any collected edition of the national poet Robert Burns.Compton Mackenzie's Whisky Galore is the humorous tale of what transpires when a cargo of whisky runs aground on one of the Hebridean islands during WWII.Life amongst Highland wildlife is described by Gavin Maxwell, whose works include Ring of Bright Water.Visitors to Orkney will enjoy reading George Mackay Brown's work, such as the novel Greenvoe or the short-story collection A Calendar of Love.The Silver Darlings is Neil Gunn's story of the great fishing communities of the north-east in the days before EU quotas.Muriel Spark's novel The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie is a shrewd portrayal of 1930s Edinburgh.More recent works include Trainspotting by Irvine Welsh, which takes the reader on a guided tour of modern Edinburgh's underworld of drugs, drink and despair.Contemporary Glasgow is described in James Kelman's collection of short stories, Not Not While the Giro. Kelman won the 1994 Booker Prize with How Late It Was, How Late.Duncan McLean's short-story collection Bucket of Tongues is set in a number of depressed urban locations, while Alasdair Gray's acclaimed novel Lanark is set in a not-too-heavily-disguised Glasgow.

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