Irvine Welsh

Sure, we could drop some giddy adjectival s-bombs and f-bombs (but never c-bombs) to express our delight. Instead we’ll just say aye, aye, min to our 166th member of Top Ten Land, Irvine Welsh.


After mainlining himself into the literary scene with his gobsmacking first novel Trainspotting (1996), he has produced a robust body of literature that often explores working class Scottish life with raw detail, a keen ear for dialect and hallucinatory imagination. Drugs, sex, violence, humor, class divisions and friendship are some of these that run through his thrillingly inventive books, which put the boo in taboo. Risky-daring and playful, Welsh’s work experiments with typography and literary forms and often features recurring characters so that his novels and stories can seem, at times, like parts of a single work – though really they are parts of a single world that feels both familiar and beyond the pale.

Described as "the Scottish Celine of the 1990s" and "a mad, postmodern Roald Dahl," Welsh’s nine novels include Filth (1998), Porno (2002), Crime (2008), The Sex Lives of Siamese Twins (2014) and most recently, A Decent Ride (2015), a comic novel shortlisted for the Bollinger Everyman Wodehouse Prize featuring an un-reconstructed misogynist hustler who is shameless but also, oddly, decent.

His corrosive wit is also on display in his four collections of stories which include The Acid House (1994) - which includes one story where an acid head and a baby swap minds and another where God transforms a soccer player into a fly –and Reheated Cabbage (2012).

Irvine’s list adds three new books to our growing list of great books: Cities of the Red Night, A Disaffection, and Men at Arms. It may be interesting to note that two of his selections, Lanark: A Life in Four Books and The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, only appear on one other list: that of another bold Scot, A.L. Kennedy.

Irvine’s Welsh’s Top Ten List

1. Ulysses by James Joyce (1922).
2. Underworld by Don DeLillo (1997).
3. Blood Meridian: Or the Evening Redness in the West by Cormac McCarthy (1985).
4. Cities of the Red Night by William S. Burroughs (1981).
5. A Disaffection by James Kelman (1989.
6. The Brothers Karamazov by Fyodor Dostoevsky (1880).
7. Men at Arms by Evelyn Waugh (1952).
8. Lanark: A Life in Four Books by Alasdair Gray (1981).
9. Tender Is the Night by F. Scott Fitzgerald (1934).
10. The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde by Robert Louis Stevenson (1886).