Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Terrific Reads: Alexander McCall Smith

A few years ago I heard from three different people within a few days of each other that I should read "The No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency" by Alexander McCall Smith. Whenever that happens to me, I listen. I hunted down the book immediately.

Such a cute and wonderful book about a lady detective in Botswana. And, it's not just one book, it's a series of 13 books (as of now) with the most recent being published last year. Plus, a couple of years ago HBO did a short-lived and wonderful series encompassing just the first book. I have to admit, I have come no where close to reading all of the 13 books.

But, Smith is prolific. In addition to a variety of academic publications, children's books, and short stories, he has four other series on the go. 

When I next get asked that question of who would I invite to dinner, I may just include Smith. He's a Scot born in Rhodesia (now Zimbabwe), received a PhD in Law, was a Professor of Medical Law at the University of Edinburgh,  and became an expert on medical law and bioethics. That, and we writes all these wonderful novels! How could I not want him at my dinner table.

When looking for a book recently, I came across Smith's "44 Scotland Street", originally published as a serial in the "The Scotsman" every weekday for six months. Most of the characters live in the flats at 44 Scotland Street in Edinburgh.  And what wonderful characters they are: charming, eccentric, yet mostly average. There's no grandiose plot, just people going about their lives. But an easy and fun read. You cannot help but want to continue eavesdropping on these lives. 

Currently there are seven books in the series. I've only read two. But because I'm trying to be a library person I can't always dictate what books I get and when. So, I launched into "Corduroy Mansions", originally published as an on-line novel. It's similar to "44 Scotland Street" but takes place in London. Again, terrific characters, a fair bit of quirkiness and a desire to keep living with them. There are currently only three books in this series. 

I love when you read a book and the characters hang around with you throughout your day, and then once you've finished the book, they linger on in your life for quite some time. So far, all of his books have done that for me. I will never look at a saxophone again without thinking of poor Bertie at 44 Scotland Street.

His other two series, which I've not read, are "The 2-1/2 Pillars of Wisdom" and "The Sunday Philosophy Club", but I have no doubt they are just as fine.


  1. I've only read one of his books but I enjoyed it. You're not kidding that he's a prolific writer! He writes what seems like 10 books a year.

  2. I adore that series! So fun to read, I always feel so warm and fuzzy afterwards.

  3. This sounds like an author I must check out. He sounds brilliant; he's certainly prolific! It may be a while, as I've already got a few rather large books on the go (& I'm a slow reader) but I'll let you know what I think after I've read one.