Please note that due to the COVID-19 restrictions, HighlandLIT events are are taking place 'virtually' rather than physically.


Tell us about a Special Book!


Recently  in the light of our forthcoming Book Week Scotland event in November, we asked you to tell us about the book that transformed your life. Well, the feedback was that a life can be strongly affected by a book without being dramatically changed by it, and we agree! So we've got a new title , 'A Special Book', and we're now inviting you to tell us about a book that's special to you, and why.

 During the first part of the 15th November event, Lynn Cassells will speak about the book she co-authored with Sandra Baer, Our Wild Farming Life: Adventures on a Scottish Croft, which was published earlier this year. In following their dreams to grow their own food and farm regeneratively, Lynn and Sandra took inspiration from the books they read, and they hope their book will encourage readers who have dreams of their own to make real.

Later, we'll listen to 'A Special Book' contributions, and thanks to funding from Book Week Scotland we'll be giving away some copies of nominated books.

 Which books will be nominated? We're excited to find out! So please tell us about your special book: a book you found moving, inspiring, encouraging, impressive, liberating; a book that affected you deeply, and may even have changed the direction of your life; a book you remember with affection, respect, gratitude.

Email us on  with 'A Special Book' in the subject line. In the body of the email, give the author and title of your chosen book, and in no more than 150 words describe why/how it affected you.

We'll be sharing some responses on our website and social media, so please say whether you'd prefer to use a pseudonym or remain anonymous, or are happy for your response to be published under your own name.

We look forward to hearing of your 'special stories.'  Each person can contribute up to three, which can each be up to 150 words. Please get your contributions to us by 30th September.


Thanks very much to Drew Hillier who designed the lovely header.


‘To Kill a Mockingbird’ by Harper Lee (published in 1960)


‘To Kill a Mockingbird’ had a profound effect on me as a young boy. In the late 1960’s and early 70’s where racism was very prevalent and normalised, I did not understand what was at the heart of racism, nor did I understand how subtly it could play out, and more frighteningly how racist language could quickly turn to violence. ‘To Kill a Mockingbird’ awakened in me a new layer of complexity, how intolerance and hatred comes in so many forms.

More than forty years after the writing of this book, racism and intolerance is still prevalent around the world, and as I witness this perpetual absurdity, I am reminded that to stand up to these behaviours takes courage and constant resolve. I have always been inspired by the way Atticus Finch took a balanced and humanist approach to defend the oppressed despite prevalent and irrational social pressures.

Mark Williams

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'Animals in Translation’ by Temple Grandin (2005)


My take on the world was totally transformed when I read ‘Animals in Translation’ and learned about low-stress handling. Being gently encouraged to look at situations from others’ perspectives, and put yourself in their shoes - or hooves - instead of getting frustrated because they’re not doing what you want or expect, has been invaluable.  It’s a practice I use every day with my livestock, observing the environment and noticing what they’re paying attention to - and then changing what I’m asking if I’m failing to get the result I want.  There are always reasons for animal behaviour, you just need to find out what they are.  The stories Temple Grandin tells get her points across in a lovely, memorable way, like the horse that got really scared of black hats!


Katharine Sharp



'Smoky the Cowhorse’ by Will James (published in 1926)


I was a pony-mad 10-year-old the first time I read ‘Smoky’. It took me into an alien world - the vast, wild prairies of the American West - and engaged my imagination as well as all of my senses. Will James knew, loved and understood horses, and ‘Smoky’ felt like the biography of an actual horse, a wild horse, not a sentimental, made-up story like ‘Black Beauty’. I was amazed by the ‘bad’ grammar and spelling that convey the drawling cowboy voice, and enthralled by Smoky’s adventures and the human behaviours that affect his life, and his strong spirit that’s never almost broken. ‘Smoky’ taught me the power of a good story, authentic writing, and unpossessive love. And just thinking about its sad-happy ending brings tears to my eyes.


Warning: ‘Smoky’ contains some racist comments and attitudes prevalent in the USA in the 1920s, which we believe should be discussed with a 21st Century reader who is a young person or child.

Penelope Hamilton



A Dictionary of Archaic and Provincial Words, Obsolete Phrases, Proverbs, and Ancient Customs from the Fourteenth Century.


Read well, with ink and pencil notes. Printed in 1881, a book of Archaic and Provincial Words.

Two worn volumes sat by my Great Grandmother’s bed. Handed down, now sits beside me.

A book of words that were fading into the past. The author, James Orchard Halliwell, added more to his 10th edition in ink and pencil notes.

Tanned cuttings slip between the pages—one of the many dated 1910, ‘Frae Maidenkirk on the Border to Johnny Groats.’ Words almost lost, faded, written in pencil additions, neat in the columns.

Turn the page, and find the treasures, before they disappear.

Hazel MacMillan


'The Other America' by Michael Harrington


I was overwhelmed when faced with picking just one book that had affected me. I had a childhood full of books: reading or being read to. I loved the Little Golden Books and fairy tales of all sorts, but for most memorable I offer a three-way first: 'Black Beauty', 'The Secret Garden', and 'The Wizard of Oz'.  Although I love the movie also, the book is very different, including a nod to the economic times in which it was created with Dorothy returning to Oz with her Aunt and Uncle when the depression takes their farm in Kansas.

Some books are multi-generational, and so doubly cherished. I read 'The Lord of the Rings' again when my daughter was old enough to enjoy it and even now I cry for the real hero of the story—Sam Gamgee, the stalwart companion.

Perhaps the book with the most impact was 'The Other America' by Michael Harrington. An analysis of poverty in America.  In 1962, from the comfort of my suburban neighbourhood, it was startling to discover not only the extent of poverty but also how and why it was hidden. I was reminded by recent news of the death of Barbara Ehrenreich of her compelling first hand look at life among the working poor in America, 'Nickel and Dimed: Undercover in Low-Wage America.'

As I type this and prepare to send it, I look guiltily around the room at the stacks and heaps of books—some neatly on shelves (a recent tidy up) and others on the floor, in the closet, in the bedside stand. Each in its own way is special.

Sharon Gunason Pottinger

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