Back when Trainspotting came out, I was a big fan of that movie and novel. I subsequently went on to read Ecstasy, Acid House, and Filth… and after Filth’s whopper of an ending, I needed a break. I didn’t get Porno when it came out, because I was reluctant to the idea of a Trainspotting sequel… and I wanted to keep that world in tact a little while longer.
Cut to: a dozen years later, and I’m on a big reading kick. I pick Marabou off my shelf, which I had been meaning to read for said dozen years. A week later, I’m done Marabou and off on a huge Welsh kick. Glue was next, and just blew me away – it’s in the running for my favourite of his. Since then, I’ve read everything but Crime and The Sex Lives of Siamese Twins. So, for shits and giggles, I googled ‘best Irvine Welsh books’, wanting to see what other people thought of his novels, and not a lot of lists really came up, at least, no recent lists. So, for Welsh fans, and those aforementioned shits and giggles, here is how I’d rank the books of Irvine Welsh:
12) If You Liked School, You’ll Love Work.
- the last story in this collection of short stories was the only thing worth reading here. Great cover though.
- I haven’t read this since the 90s, but I recall being disappointed with the final result. Some good ideas, and connections, but felt half-cocked, especially in comparison to Trainspotting.
10) Acid House
- again, haven’t read it since the 90s, recall it being hit and miss. Some really cool short stories and some rubbish.
9) Reheated Cabbage
- put above Acid House just for I Am Miami, with another appearance by Juice Terry! The State of the Party and Elspeth’s Boyfriend (with Begbie) are also standouts. The one where aliens are bringing back the guy for cigs, coke, and women, is funny, but definitely one of the strangest things Welsh has written, and suffers from being too long without increasing on the absurdity.
8) The Bedroom Secrets of the Master Chefs
- Not bad. Not great. The idea of kitchen/food inspectors could’ve had more to do with the story – that part felt undercooked. And it felt like Welsh had sort of already done the bureaucratic office setting with characters competing for promotions in Filth, and the freak of nature supernatural stuff in an Acid House story. Still a good read.
- This is a great book. The first on the list. That said, the ending is such a punch to the dick that it put me on a Welsh hiatus for a long time. It builds well, the talking tapeworm was a great device, the office politics are great, and Bruce Robertson is one of his most memorable characters. So, in theory, everything works – it’s incisive, funny, and certainly lives up to it’s name, but personally, the end just left me exhausted. I understand how this could be higher on someone else’s list though.
6) A Decent Ride
- after reading Glue, I was a huge Juice Terry fan… and I will gladly read anything Welsh writes with him in it. And so to hear he was getting his own book, I had really high hopes for this one. At first, dug all the Juice Terry taxi cab rumpy-pumpy, but the Jonty stuff was kind of getting to me, ‘aye sur, aye sur’. Especially when I just wanted more Juice Terry. Then came the Yellow-Fleece sex scene and the flies out of the mouth, and I was wondering what exactly Welsh was up to… but by the end of this book, I thought he pulled everything together for a really enjoyable dark comedy.
- similar to A Decent Ride, one of his more comedic outings. This is Sick Boy’s story. As a sequel to Trainspotting, I can see it as a bit of a disappointment, but I felt Welsh really wrote Spud and Begbie magnificently well in this book. And everything came together well… perhaps his most accessible work. Reading this almost 20 years after Trainspotting (it took me ten to get around to reading it), made for a really enjoyable read – getting to spend time with Spud, Beggars, Sick Boy, and Renton again. And now even with Juice Terry!!!
4) Marabou Stork Nightmares
- This is definitely one of Welsh’s most impressive books, in technique, structure, and overall effect. I really dug the African setting and all the Marabou stork hunting stuff. I like how strikingly different it is than Trainspotting (and the rest of his novels, for that matter!). I devoured this book wanting to know what was happening next.
- Wow. A deserving prequel to Trainspotting. Could’ve have been a trite return to the well, but instead Welsh really fleshes out the characters of Trainspotting, and looks at the bigger picture of what got our heroes to that point in time, what got Edinburgh to that point in time. He really gives his fans what they came for here. He certainly gives Renton his due this time around, which was lacking in Porno. I can’t believe what a fantastic job Welsh did here, and how few people I’ve heard talking about this accomplishment. It is no easy feat to live up to one of the greatest books ever written.
- I was really surprised and taken with this book. For some reason, I never really heard much about it – I had heard at the time it came out, that it was good, but not as edgy as his other stuff. And I still had the taste of Filth in my mouth, and needed some time. Ten years later, after reading Marabou, and craving more, I chose Glue. And was blown away. I couldn’t believe people didn’t rave about this book when it came out. I think it’s one of the best portraits of growing friendships I’ve ever read. It’s one of Welsh’s most ambitious books, and definitely one of his most accomplished. For the group that is Renton, Begbie, Spud, and Sick Boy, Welsh creates an equally interesting group of original characters here with Gally, Business Birrell, N-Sign, and Juice Terry. Bravo, sir. I absolutely loved this book, some days, it’s my favourite of his.
One of the greatest books ever written.