Former Professor of Medical Law at the University of Edinburgh raised in Southern Rhodesia (now Zimbabwe), Alexander McCall Smith is a best-selling British writer who started by publishing academic texts and children’s books.
In fact, before becoming known as a successful fiction writer, he was a respected expert on medical law and bioethics and served on related British and international committees. Of course, now he is most popular for The No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency series, 44 Scotland Street series, the Isabel Dalhousie series, and more!
How to read the Alexander McCall Smith Books in Order?
Reading the No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency series in order
When she is 34 years old, using the inheritance from her father, Mma Ramotswe moves to the capital city Gaborone to start up her detective agency? She buys a house for herself and find an office for her new business. Then, she starts solving problems! For more information, take a look at our article about the No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency book series.
- The No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency (1998)
- Tears of the Giraffe (2000)
- Morality for Beautiful Girls (2001)
- The Kalahari Typing School for Men (2002)
- The Full Cupboard of Life (2003)
- In The Company of Cheerful Ladies (2004)
- Blue Shoes and Happiness (2006)
- The Good Husband of Zebra Drive (2007)
- The Miracle at Speedy Motors (2008)
- Tea Time for the Traditionally Built (2009)
- The Double Comfort Safari Club (2010)
- The Saturday Big Tent Wedding Party (2011)
- The Limpopo Academy of Private Detection (2012)
- The Cleverness of Ladies (short story, 2012)
- The Minor Adjustment Beauty Salon (2013)
- he Handsome Man’s De Luxe Cafe (2014)
- The Woman Who Walked in Sunshine (2015)
- Precious and Grace (2016)
- The House of Unexpected Sisters (2017)
- The Colours of All the Cattle (2018)
- To the Land of Long Lost Friends (2019)
- How to Raise an Elephant (2020)
- The Joy and Light Bus Company (2021)
- A Song of Comfortable Chairs (2022)
- From a Far and Lovely Country (2023)
Reading the Precious Ramotswe series in order
The first investigation of Mma Ramotswe, from when she was just a child.
- The Great Cake Mystery (short story, 2012) – When a piece of cake goes missing from her classroom, a traditionally built young boy is tagged as the culprit. Precious, however, is not convinced. She sets out to find the real thief. Along the way she learns that your first guess isn’t always right. She also learns how to be a detective.
- Precious and the Monkeys (2010) – Well before Precious Ramotswe founded her Number One Ladies Detective Agency, as an eight-year-old girl she was already solving mysteries. Here, in this delightful, enchanting tale for children, we find out just who has been stealing her schoolfriends’ snacks and how the young Precious became the crafty and intuitive private investigator we all know and love!
- Precious and the Mystery of Meerkat Hill (2012) – Precious wants to be a detective when she grows up. She is always practicing at being a detective by asking questions and finding out about other people’s lives. There are two new students in her class, a girl called Teb and a boy called Pontsho. She learns that they are brother and sister, and-even more exciting-that Pontsho has a clever pet meerkat named Kosi.
- Precious and the Mystery of the Missing Lion (2013) – Young Precious gets a very special treat. She gets a trip to visit her Aunty Bee at a safari camp. While there she makes a new friend, a boy named Khumo, and meets an actor-lion named Teddy, who is starring in a film. When Teddy disappears, Khumo and Precious will brave hippos and crocodiles as they search for the missing lion.
- Precious and the Zebra Necklace (2016) – A new pupil, Nancy, arrives at Precious Ramotswe’s school, and the two girls soon become firm friends. When Precious finds out that all Nancy has to remind her of her missing parents is a photograph and a necklace of beautifully carved zebras, she offers to help find them.
Reading the 44 Scotland Street series in order
Not unlike Tales of the City, this is the lives and times of a group of people, from the remarkably precocious boy six-year-old Bertie to Big Lou, the owner of a coffee bar, or even to Cyril, a dog with the gold tooth. There are love triangles, friendships a lost painting, happiness, deception, marriage, breakups, and much more. For more information, take a look at our article about the 44 Scotland Street series.
- 44 Scotland Street (2005)
- Espresso Tales (2005)
- Love Over Scotland (2006)
- The World According to Bertie (2007)
- The Unbearable Lightness of Scones (2008)
- The Importance of Being Seven (2010)
- Bertie Plays the Blues (2011)
- Sunshine on Scotland Street (2012)
- Bertie’s Guide to Life and Mothers (2013)
- The Revolving Door of Life (2015)
- The Bertie Project (2016)
- A Time of Love and Tartan (2017)
- The Peppermint Tea Chronicles (2019)
- A Promise of Ankles (2020)
- Love in the Time of Bertie (2021)
- The Enigma of Garlic (2022)
- The Stellar Debut of Galactica MacFee (2023)
Perfect Passion Company series in order
- Cook for Me (2023) – Katie Donald’s aunt Ness announces that she’s heading to Canada for a late-in-life gap year, asking Katie to take over management of her matchmaking bureau in her absence. Katie, who is always ready for a new challenge, enthusiastically accepts the offer, taking charge of The Perfect Passion Dating Company at No. 24 Mouse Lane in Edinburgh’s New Town. Although Katie has little in the way of direct experience, with the help of her amiable and handsome office neighbor William Kidd, she soon finds herself making matches for the lonely hearts tired of meeting online-and who want a more personal touch.
- A Labourer in the Vineyard of Love (2023) – Katie Donald is learning the ropes at the Perfect Passion Company, which provides help to the lovelorn citizens of Edinburgh. Katie is assisted in her matchmaking endeavors by William Kidd, a talented knitwear designer in the office next door with a sympathetic ear, a playful interest in the business of matchmaking and a long-distance fiancée in his native Melbourne. George Fane, a thirtysomething hotelier tied to his family business and an overbearing mother, arrives one day asking for Katie’s assistance in finding a romantic partner-and a little distance from his mother to boot. As Katie searches for the right match for George, she discovers there is more than one way of looking at the Fane family’s story and that the work of the Perfect Passion Company may have to be a little broader in its scope than she had previously thought.
The Professor Dr Moritz-Maria von Igelfeld Series in Order
Welcome to the insane and rarified world of Professor Dr. Moritz-Maria von Igelfeld of the Institute of Romance Philology. Von Igelfeld is engaged in a never-ending quest to win the respect he feels certain he is due-a quest that has the tendency to go hilariously astray.
- Portuguese Irregular Verbs (2003) – Professor Dr von Igelfeld learns to play tennis, and forces a college chum to enter into a duel that results in a nipped nose. He also takes a field trip to Ireland where he becomes acquainted with the rich world of archaic Irishisms, and he develops an aching infatuation with a Dentist fatale. Along the way, he takes two ill-fated Italian sojourns, the first merely uncomfortable, the second definitely dangerous.
- The Finer Points of Sausage Dogs (2003) – Professor Dr. Von Igelfeld is mistaken for a veterinarian and not wanting to call attention to the faux pas, begins practicing veterinary medicine without a license. He ends up operating on a friend’s dachshund to dramatic and unfortunate effect. He also transports relics for a schismatically challenged Coptic prelate, and is pursued by marriage-minded widows on board a Mediterranean cruise ship.
- At the Villa of Reduced Circumstances (2003) – Professor Dr. von Igelfeld gets caught up in a nasty case of academic intrigue while on sabbatical at Cambridge. When he returns to Regensburg he is confronted with the thrilling news that someone from a foreign embassy has actually checked his masterwork, Portuguese Irregular Verbs, out of the Institute’s Library. As a result, he gets caught up in intrigue of a different sort on a visit to Bogota, Colombia.
- Unusual Uses for Olive Oil (2011) – Professor Dr. von Igelfeld experiences a series of new adventures. First, he finds that his academic rival Detlev-Amadeus Unterholzer has been winning undeserved recognition, a situation that must be addressed. Then von Igelfeld stumbles toward a romance with Frau Benz, a charming widow who owns her very own Schloss and a fleet of handsome cars-that is, until a faux pas lands him on the curb.
- Your Inner Hedgehog (2021) – Professor Dr. Moritz-Maria von Igelfeld and his colleagues at the University of Regensburg’s Institute of Romance Philology pride themselves on their unwavering commitment to intellectual excellence. They know it is their job to protect a certain civilized approach to the scholarly arts. So when a new deputy librarian, Dr. Hilda Schreiber-Ziegler, threatens to drag them all down a path of progressive inclusivity, they are determined to stop her in the name of scholarship.
The Isabel Dalhousie series
Set in Edinburgh, Scotland, the series follows Isabel Dalhousie, a curious philosopher and woman detective, who loves to investigate all kinds of mysteries, searching for the truth, in a philosophical way or not. Isabel is always ready to pursue the answers to all of life’s questions, but she also has to help her friends and family members in need. For more information, take a look at the Isabel Dalhousie reading order.
- The Sunday Philosophy Club (2004)
- Friends, Lovers, Chocolate (2005)
- The Right Attitude to Rain (2006)
- The Careful Use of Compliments (2007)
- The Comforts of a Muddy Saturday (2008)
- The Lost Art of Gratitude (2009)
- The Charming Quirks of Others (2010)
- The Forgotten Affairs of Youth (2011)
- The Perils of Morning Coffee (short story, 2011)
- The Uncommon Appeal of Clouds (2012)
- The Novel Habits of Happiness (2015)
- At the Reunion Buffet (short story, 2015)
- Sweet, Thoughtful Valentine (short story, 2016)
- A Distant View of Everything (2017)
- The Quiet Side of Passion (2018)
- The Geometry of Holding Hands (2020)
- The Sweet Remnants of Summer (2022)
The Corduroy Mansions Series in Order
Corduroy Mansions, Pimlico is an oasis of old-fashioned civilization, its inhabitants considerate and peace-loving. But beneath the polite exterior seismic change is stirring.
- Corduroy Mansions (2009) – ‘Corduroy Mansions is the affectionate nickname given to a genteelly crumbling mansion block in London’s vibrant Pimlico. This is the home patch of – among others – a lovelorn literary agent, possibly the first-ever nasty Liberal Democrat MP, and Freddie de la Hay, an urbane terrier trained to be vegetarian and respectful of feline rights.
- The Dog Who Came in From the Cold (2010) – In the genteel environs of Corduroy Mansions, Pimlico, strange doings are afoot, mostly in the name of love. Lonely William French and his faithful canine Freddie are recruited to the service of MI6 by a beguiling lady operative, William’s neighbour Caroline finds her suitor James mysteriously lacking, and Barbara Ragg is tempted to the Highlands by blossoming romance. Meanwhile sage psychiatrist Berthea Snark, under normal circumstances the voice of reason, finds herself called away to protect her brother from a band of scheming New Age fraudsters seeking to insert themselves into the bosom of the family.
- A Conspiracy Of Friends (2011) – Barbara Ragg makes an eye-popping discovery about her stolid Scottish suitor’s past, while Oedipus Snark – newly appointed and tirelessly self-interested Government Minister – has a close encounter in Switzerland that leaves him a new man all together. Then plucky canine Freddie de la Hay goes missing, and his owner, widower William French, is so shaken by an unexpected declaration of love that he seriously considers making a disappearance himself.
The Detective Varg Series in Order
In the Swedish criminal justice system, certain cases are considered especially strange and difficult, in Malmö, the dedicated detectives who investigate these crimes are members of an elite squad known as the Sensitive Crimes Division.
- Varg in Love (short story, 2012) – Valentine’s Day puzzle for the super-cool detective with the cult following on Twitter.
- The Strange Case of the Moderate Extremists (short story, 2019) – Detective Ulf Varg from the Department of Sensitive Crimes is often called upon to investigate unusual matters. But rarely is he asked to conduct an inquiry on behalf of his own family.
- The Department of Sensitive Crimes (2019) – Ulf Varg works in Malmö’s Department of Sensitive Crimes. Like all Scandinavian detectives, he has his issues. In this case, these include his unresolved feelings for his colleague Anna, his impatience over the seeming incompetence of his irritating colleague Blomquist and his concerns for the health of his hearing-impaired dog Martin, the only dog in Sweden (and possibly all of Scandinavia) who can lip-read. Soon, Ulf and his colleagues find themselves investigating an attack on a market trader, the disappearance of a handsome man who may not exist, and a group of students whose relationships leave a great deal to be desired . . .
- The Talented Mr. Varg (2020) – Spring is coming slowly to Sweden – though not quite as slowly as Detective Ulf Varg’s promised promotion at the Department of Sensitive Crimes. For Varg, referred by his psychoanalyst to group therapy at Malmö’s Wholeness Centre, life now seems mostly a circle of self-examination, something which may or may not be useful when it comes to the nature of his profession and the particularly sensitive cases that have recently come to light.
- The Man with the Silver Saab (2021) – Life – and crime – is not always as it seems for Ulf Varg and the other fearless detectives in Malmo’s Department of Sensitive Crimes. There are always surprising new cases to take on, and the latest batch is no exception. And that’s not to mention Ulf’s struggle to contain his feelings for his colleague Anna Bengsdotter. All in all, things are distinctly difficult in Malmo, and it seems up to Ulf and the Department to set them right.
- The Discreet Charm of the Big Bad Wolf (2023) – Ulf embarks on an important inquiry: a man’s cabin has mysteriously disappeared and Ulf is tasked with finding out what happened. How exactly does one steal a house? And, more to the point, how does one track down a stolen house? Meanwhile, a promising veterinary treatment for deafness in dogs has been announced, and Ulf’s dog, Martin, might be the perfect patient.
The Paul Stuart Series in Order
- My Italian Bulldozer (2016) – When writer Paul Stewart heads to the idyllic Italian town of Montalcino to finish his already late book, it seems like the perfect escape from stressful city life. Upon landing, however, things quickly take a turn for the worse when he discovers his hired car is nowhere to be found. With no record of any reservation and no other cars available it looks like Paul is stuck at the airport. That is until an enterprising stranger offers him an unexpected alternative. While there may be no cars available there is something else on offer: a bulldozer.
- The Second Worst Restaurant in France (2019) – Paul Stewart has returned to Scotland to continue his successful career. His agent and girlfriend, Gloria, has arranged for him to write The Philosophy of Food in Six Easy Chapters, a project he relishes but that will have to be delivered in six months. It is not going well, as Paul finds his domestic circumstances unsuited to concentrated hard work: Gloria has now moved in with him (not specifically invited) and has brought with her two extremely vocal and demanding Siamese cats.
Other Books for Adults by Alexander McCall Smith
- La’s Orchestra Saves the World (2008) – When Lavender, La to her friends, moves to the Suffolk countryside, it’s not just to escape the London Blitz but also to flee the wreckage of a disastrous marriage. But as she starts to become a part of the community, she detects a sense of isolation. Her deep love of music and her desire to bring people together inspire her to start an orchestra. Little did she know that through this orchestra she would not only give hope and courage to the people of the community, but also that she would meet a man, Feliks, a shy upright Pole, who would change her life forever.
- Trains and Lovers (2012) – As they journey by rail from Edinburgh to London, four strangers pass the time by sharing tales of trains that have changed their lives. A keen-eyed Scotsman recounts how he turned a friendship with a coworker into a romance by spotting an anachronistic train in an eighteenth-century painting.
- What W. H. Auden Can Do for You (nonfiction, 2013) – When facing a moral dilemma, Isabel Dalhousie―Edinburgh philosopher, amateur detective, and title character of a series of novels by best-selling author Alexander McCall Smith―often refers to the great twentieth-century poet W. H. Auden. This is no accident: McCall Smith has long been fascinated by Auden. Indeed, the novelist, best known for his No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency series, calls the poet not only the greatest literary discovery of his life but also the best of guides on how to live. In this book, McCall Smith has written a charming personal account about what Auden has done for him―and what he just might do for you.
- The Forever Girl (2014) – Amanda and her daughter Clover live in a close-knit community of expats on Grand Cayman Island, an idyllic place to all appearances. But the comfortable island life can become stifling in hard times. As Clover falls for her first love, and allows her heart to chart her life’s course, Amanda realizes that she has fallen out of love with Clover’s father and that her carefully mapped-out future is actually unknown territory. Through the years, mother and daughter try to navigate their chosen paths, as they are each torn between the dreams they cherish and the reality they face.
- Fatty O’Leary’s Dinner Party (2014) – It takes a lot to get under the skin of Cornelius ‘Fatty O’Leary, but then there is a lot of skin to get under. The heroically proportioned Fatty can normally take life as it comes. Right at home in easy-going Fayetteville, Arkansas, he is happily married to his childhood sweetheart Betty, and likes nothing better than the company of good friends Tubby O’Rourke and Porky Flanagan. But when Fatty and Betty head off to Ireland on the trip of a lifetime, they find that they have left their comfort zone far behind.
- The Good Pilot, Peter Woodhouse (2017) – Val Eliot, a young woman working on an English farm during the war, meets Mike, a U.S. Air Force pilot stationed nearby. When Val rescues a Border Collie named Peter Woodhouse, who is being mistreated by his owner, she realizes the dog would actually be safer with Mike. And so Peter Woodhouse finds a new home on the air force base, and Val finds herself falling in love. Peter Woodhouse becomes Dog First Class, a canine mascot on the base who boldly accompanies the officers on their missions, and Val becomes Mike’s fiancée. But then a disaster jeopardizes the future of them all.
- The Pavilion in the Clouds (2021) – It is 1938 and the final days of the British Empire. In a bungalow high up in the green hills above the plains of Ceylon, under a vast blue sky, live the Ferguson family – Bella, a precocious eight-year-old; her father, Henry — the owner of Pitlochry, a tea plantation — and her mother, Virginia. The story centers around the Pavilion in the Clouds, set in the idyllic grounds carved out of the wilderness. But all is not as serene as it seems. Bella is suspicious of her governess Miss White’s intentions. Her suspicion sparks off her mother’s imagination, and after an unfortunate series of events, a confrontation is had with Miss White and a gunshot rings off around the hills.
- Sphinx: from Pianos and Flowers (short story, 2022) – Inspired by a photograph from the Times of London archive, a young woman finds unexpected love while perusing Egyptian antiquities.
- The Private Life of Spies (2023) – In this dual collection of short stories, Alexander McCall Smith brings his trademark humor and warmth to inventive tales of spying and vengeance. In one story, a spy dropped deep into enemy territory manages to disguise himself–quite convincingly–as a nun. In another, an invitation to join the Vatican Secret Service sends a prospective operative down a rabbit hole of controversy and confusion. A third story finds an author, on the brink of public ruin, seeing the error of his ways after an act of kindness saves the day.
- I Think of You (2023) – Living what the philosophers call a good life is not always easy. If there is a single human quality that most of us value above others it is kindness. Love and kindness are at the heart of this new collection by Alexander McCall Smith. In each of these poems the author explores and celebrates, life, love and the majesty of the small, quiet moments in our lives together.
- The Love Story of Herb la Fouche (2023) – This is the story of Herb la Fouche, of St Julien, Ontario, a fictional town just over the Quebec border. It is the story of how Herb, a good, quiet and unassuming man, a chemistry teacher, comes up with a unique invention and ends up on the Caribbean island of Martinique. There he meets and marries Celine, the divorced sister of the local police chief, Alphonse Charbonneau. Herb’s life amounts to very little, but in this marriage he at last finds happiness and a certain nobility. All around are people whose voices are louder, their actions ostentatious, but it is the quiet life of Herb La Fouche that ultimately triumphs.
Children’s Books by Alexander McCall Smith in Order of Publication
- The White Hippo (1980)
- The Perfect Hamburger (1984)
- Alix and the Tigers (1988)
- The Tin Dog (1990)
- Calculator Annie (1991)
- Marzipan Max (1991)
- The Popcorn Pirates (1991)
- The Doughnut Ring (1992)
- Who Invented Peanut Butter? (1993)
- Paddy and the Ratcatcher (1994)
- The Muscle Machine (1995)
- The Bubblegum Tree (1996)
- The Five Lost Aunts of Harriet Bean (1997)
- Teacher Trouble (2000)
- Dream Angus (2006)
- Freddie Mole, Lion Tamer (2016)
- Hari and his Electric Feet (2018)
- Max Champion and the Great Race Car Robbery (2018)
The Big-Top Mysteries series
- The Case of the Vanishing Granny (2019)
- The Great Clown Conundrum (2019)
School Ship Tobermory
- School Ship Tobermory (2015)
- The Sands of Shark Island (2016)
- The Race to Kangaroo Cliff (2018)
- The Secret of the Dark Waterfall (2019)
- Akimbo and the Lions (1992)
- Akimbo and the Crocodile Man (1993)
- Akimbo and the Elephants (2005)
- Akimbo and the Snakes (2006)
- Akimbo and the Baboons (2008)
- The Cowgirl Aunt of Harriet Bean (1993)
- The Five Lost Aunts of Harriet Bean (1990)
- Harriet Bean and the League of Cheats (1991)
Max & Maddy
- Max & Maddy and the Bursting Balloons Mystery (1997)
- Max & Maddy and the Chocolate Money Mystery (1999)
If you like our article about reading the Alexander McCall Smith books in order, don’t forget to bookmark it! You may also be interested in The Mitford Years series by Jan Karon or Fredrik Backman’s Books, Alan Bradley’s books (the author of the Flavia de Luce series).