Reading Confessions: James Robertson

James Robertson photo by Marianne Mitchelson
Category: Reading

The 2010 Saltire Society Scottish Book of the Year, And The Land Lay Still by James Robertson, is the featured book on our first Book Talk show of 2013.

James Robertson has been widely praised for his honest, thoughtful take on Scottish 20th century life, but what are his thoughts on reading in the bath? Read on to find out...


Do you ever mentally edit someone else’s work while you read?

All the time. It’s a writer’s habit. But when I’m reading a book that’s really well-written, I love the realisation that there is no editing to be done.

Do you judge books by their covers?

I try not to, but a physical book is more than just words: typeface, layout, design are parts of the whole, so the cover is very important – and one reason why I prefer real books to e-books.

What’s your opinion on reading in the bath?

It’s better than reading in the shower.

How do you react to bad reviews?

Girn for five minutes, then get over it.

Where do you stand on spinebreaking?

It's a sin.

Have you ever pretended to have read a book to impress someone?

No, but I have sometimes not admitted to not having read some classic or other.

How do you arrange your bookshelf?

Shelf? Just one? If I could get all the books onto shelves I wouldn’t have to pile them on the floor.

Do you ever turn to the back of a book and read the end first? If not, what would you say to such people?

What would be the point? Do you watch movies backwards?

Is there a book by someone else that you wish you’d written?

Dozens. But if you want just one, At Swim-Two-Birds by Flann O’Brien.

Is there a book you have never been able to finish?

Catch-22 by Joseph Heller. Tried it three or four times, never got beyond page 20.


James Robertson is the author of And the Land Lay Still, The Testament of Gideon Mack, Joseph Knight and The Fanatic. Read his full Author Profile here.

Listen to the Book Talk review discussion of And the Land Lay Still here.