The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie, Muriel Spark, 1961
The wry and witty tale of Edinburgh teacher Miss Brodie's prime and fall is an unmissable read.
"Now they were in a great square, the Grassmarket, with the Castle, which was in any case everywhere, rearing between a big gap in the houses where the aristocracy used to live. It was Sandy's first experience of a foreign country, which intimates itself by its new smells and shapes and its new poor … Into the High Street, and 'John Knox,' said Miss Brodie, 'was an embittered man. He would never be at ease with the gay French queen. We of Edinburgh owe a lot to the French. We are Europeans.'"
• The Grassmarket
Friends, Lovers, Chocolate: An Isabel Dalhousie novel, Alexander McCall Smith, 2005
The second in McCall Smith's delightful Sunday Philosophy Club series, featuring Isabel Dalhousie.
"He walked across the grass towards the stone, its shape reflecting the gable of the kirk, its lettering still clear after two hundred years. Robert Burns himself had paid for this stone to be erected, in homage to his brother in the muse, and had written the lines of the inscription: 'This simple stone directs Pale Scotia's way/To pour the sorrow o'er her poet's dust.' He stood quite still. There were others who could be visited here. Adam Smith, whose days had been filled with thoughts of markets and economics and who had coined an entire science, had his stone here, more impressive than this; but this was the one that made him weep."
• Canongate Kirk, Canongate
A Good Hanging, Ian Rankin, 1992A Good Hanging
Over the last 24 years, Rankin's Inspector Rebus novels have left no dark Edinburgh secrets or alleyways unexplored.
"It was quite some time since a scaffold had been seen in Parliament Square. Quite some time since Edinburgh had witnessed a hanging, too, though digging deeper into history the sight might have been common enough. Detective Inspector Rebus recalled hearing some saloon-bar story of how criminals, sentenced to hang, would be given the chance to run the distance of the Royal Mile from Parliament Square to Holyrood, a baying crowd hot on their heels. If the criminal reached the Royal Park before he was caught, he would be allowed to remain there, wandering in safety so long as he did not step outside the boundary of the park itself … Frankly, Rebus would have preferred the noose."
• Parliament Square
The Heart of Mid-Lothian, Sir Walter Scott, 1818
This is probably the best known of Scott's magisterial Waverley novels, whose title refers to the old Tolbooth Prison in the city.
"He stood now before the Gothic entrance of the ancient prison, which, as is well known to all men, rears its ancient front in the very middle of the High Street, forming, as it were, the termination to a huge pile of buildings called the Luckenbooths, which, for some inconceivable reason, our ancestors had jammed into the midst of the principal street of the town, leaving for passage a narrow street on the north; and on the south, into which the prison opens, a narrow crooked lane, winding betwixt the high and sombre walls of the Tolbooth and the adjacent houses on the one side, and the buttresses and projections of the old Cathedral upon the other."
• The Royal Mile
Trainspotting, Irvine Welsh, 1993
Funny, raw and authentic, Welsh's cult novel shows life as lived by the city's underclass.
"Supposed tae be a rank. Supposed tae be a fuckin taxi rank. Nivir fucking git one in the summer. Up cruising fat, rich festival cunts too fuckin lazy tae walk a hundred fuckin yards fae one poxy church hall tae another fir thir fuckin show. Taxi drivers. Money-grabbin bastards … Sick Boy muttered deliriously and breathlessly tae hissel, eyes bulging and sinews in his neck straining as his heid craned up Leith Walk."
• Leith Walk
Kidnapped, Robert Louis Stevenson, 1886
Robert Louis Stevenson's novel, set in 18th-century Scotland, brings its historical dramas thrillingly to life.
"We came the by-way over the hill of Corstorphine, and when we got near to the place called Rest-and-be-Thankful, and looked down on Corstophine bogs and over to the city and the castle on the hill, we both stopped, for we both knew without a word that we had come to where our ways parted."
The Private Memoirs and Confessions of a Justified Sinner, James Hogg, 1824
This moving and multi-faceted literary classic is the memoir of a young man haunted by religious doubt.
"As he approached the swire at the head of the dell – that little delightful verge from which in one moment the eastern limits and shores of Lothian arise on the view – as he approached it, I say, and a little space from the height, he beheld, to his astonishment, a bright halo in the cloud of haze, that rose in a semi-circle over his head like a pale rainbow. He was struck motionless at the view of the lovely vision; for so it chanced that he had never seen the same appearance before, though common at early morn."
• Arthur's Seat
The Existential Detective, Alice Thompson, 2010
Set in the Edinburgh seaside resort of Portobello, this is a surreal and beautiful tale of love, incest and memory from a brilliant young writer.
"As Will walked down the promenade it occurred to him that Portobello was the residue of everything. Not only the residue of a successful Victorian resort with a zoo and ladies of leisure holidaying with their servants in the Georgian cottages, the residue of a wealthy heyday, but also a place full of accumulated memories … He was left with the deserted beach and the empty plastic bottles on the shore and the odd straggling stranger on the promenade walking his dog."
One Good Turn, Kate Atkinson, 2006
This is a scintillating read, featuring former private investigator Jackson Brodie and set during the Edinburgh Festival.
"The rain had in no way deterred the crowds – it had never occurred to him that Edinburgh was in the middle of the Festival and that there would be carnival hordes of people milling around as if the end of a war had been declared … He ended up in the dirty heart of the city, in a street that somehow seemed to be on a lower level than the rest of the town, a blackened urban ravine."
• Merchiston Park
44 Scotland Street, Alexander McCall Smith, 2005
Inspired by Armistead Maupin's Tales of the City, the hugely entertaining story was first published as a series in the Scotsman newspaper.
"The door was somewhat shabby, needing a coat of paint to cover the places where the paintwork had been scratched or chipped away. Well, this was Scotland Street, not Murray Place or Doune Terrace; not even Drummond Place, the handsome square from which Scotland Street descended in a steep slope. This street was on the edge of the Bohemian part of the Edinburgh New Town, the part where lawyers and accountants were outnumbered – just – by others."
• Scotland Street
• Malcolm Burgess is the publisher of Oxygen Books' city-pick series, featuring some of the best writing on cities including Berlin, Paris, London, Venice, Amsterdam and Dublin. City-pick New York is out on 20 October