Sara Sheridan Gardens 2021 A copy

The Good Books, Sara Sheridan: ‘The trick is finding books that engage your brain. A good book is a brain workout’

Sara Sheridan on being inspired by Alasdair Gray, reading Wuthering Heights at just ten-years-old and why Lord Byron wasn’t a ‘romantic’.


The first book I remember reading:

I have little memory of my early childhood. I know I learned to read using the Janet and John books but I can’t remember the experience. However, I definitely remember reading Wuthering Heights when I was about ten years old. Ghost Catherine appearing at the bedroom window kept me up at night with the terrors!

A book I recommend to everyone:

Water Music by T C Boyle. It’s a phenomenal historical novel about Mungo Park’s doomed trips up the Niger in 1799 and 1803. But it’s more than that – Boyle captures the essence of Georgian Britain, his characters leap off the page. Reading it feels like stepping into a time machine and going on an adventure. Salman Rushdie called this novel ‘rambunctious’ and it is.

The best books I have read in the last year:

Caledonian Road by Andrew O’Hagan is a state of the nation novel, set mostly in London. Straight up, it’s like Cold War Steve wrote a book – incisive, current, cynical – both funny and sad (I cried)

Clairmont by Lesley McDowell which beautifully brings to life Clare Clairmont, who had an illegitimate child by Lord Byron in 1817. Byron was indescribably cruel to her. I don’t know why they call those poets the Romantics – they weren’t romantic at all. This sensitively written novel also explores her relationship with her stepsister, Mary Shelley.

Connective Tissue by Eleanor Thom which is part memoir, part family history. Gorgeously written, Thom pulls together her family’s 20th century history including her grandmother’s flight from Nazi Germany which links into her son developing a genetic condition. Absolute standout. Loved it.

Hell Sans by Ever Dundas – searing sci-fi social commentary. Just brilliant.

And Leslie Hills wrote a book about the history of her house in Scotland Street in Edinburgh. It’s like being taken by the hand and walked round the capital by a ghost. 11/10.

A book I didn’t finish:

Books are written by people and I’d never publicly dis another writers’ work. What I can say is one reader’s trash is another reader’s gold – we all like different things and respond differently to stories. The trick is finding ones that really engage your brain – that’s what a good book is – a brain workout.

An author that has inspired me:

On the page I’d have to say Rodge Glass’s narrative voice is impressive – he never flinches from the tough stuff, yet remains supremely readable and joyful. In life, I love the way Joanne Harris engages people in her writing activism, demystifying the process and creating greater access. Alasdair Gray too, of course because he kept his voice so fresh. High bar.

My favourite place to read:

We moved house recently and I got properly teased because I kept buying comfy chairs. I’ve got them strategically placed all over the flat now. A wee side table for a cup of coffee, somewhere to put up your feet. The sofa from my childhood bedroom is in the bay window at the front. It gets the sun. Probably there.


Sara Sheridan is a Scottish activist and writer from Edinburgh. Her latest novel, The Secrets of Blythswood Square, is out now and can be bought here


Read more of The Good Books here.

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