Nicola Sturgeon discusses favourite books with author Maggie O’Farrell

Nicola Sturgeon has highlighted the power of libraries to encourage reading at a Book Week Scotland event.

The First Minister was discussing her love of reading with author Maggie O’Farrell at Stirling Castle at the event organised by Scottish Book Trust on Thursday evening.

Ms Sturgeon discussed some of her favourite novels which include Sunset Song by Lewis Grassic Gibbon, The Color Purple by Alice Walker and She Came to Stay by Simone de Beauvoir.

The First Minister said that she likes to read every day and tends to prefer fiction to non-fiction.

She said: “I try to read every night before I go to bed because I find that helps me switch my brain off and relax me.”

She added: “I’m not a great reader of non-fiction. Lots of politicians talk about non-fiction books but I read a lot of that for work, so I like to get away from that and I choose books that take me away from my job.”

The First Minister said that as well as reading, writing also helps her relax.

She said: “I started writing a diary earlier this year and I find it very therapeutic as a way to get things out of your head.”

Maggie O’Farrell – whose latest book is I Am, I Am, I Am, a memoir of the near death experiences that have punctuated her life – said that reading is “crucial”.

Her favourite books include Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte, Our Spoons Came From Woolworths by Barbara Comyns and The Yellow Wallpaper by Charlotte Perkins Gilman.

The author, who is currently working on a historical novel, said: “Reading is absolutely crucial.

“There are times particularly when I’m coming to the end of writing a book when I find it hard to read another novel, so I read short stories or poetry.

“I start to feel a bit peculiar if I’m not reading anything.”

The author has written seven novels and won the 2010 Costa Novel Award for The Hand That First Held Mine.

Both women talked about how they had enjoyed visiting libraries when they were younger and Ms Sturgeon this week announced that every public library in Scotland will receive a complete collection of Muriel Spark novels.

Funded by the Scottish Government and the People’s Postcode Lottery, and delivered in partnership with the Scottish Book Trust, the initiative will see more than 11,000 books delivered to libraries throughout the country.

Ms Sturgeon said she decided at the beginning of the year to start re-reading all of Muriel Spark’s books in order and is enjoying the experience.

She said: “Her novels are so multi-layered and complex it’s almost like reading them for the first time.”

Before the talk at Stirling Castle, Ms Sturgeon visited Bridge of Allan Primary School to attend the opening of a new library.

She said: “The young people had the responsibility for designing the room and that was a fantastic example of the power of libraries in schools to encourage a love of reading.”