All 180+ Alexander McCall Smith Books in Order [Ultimate Guide]

Alexander McCall Smith is well-known for his mysteries which are richly detailed and evocative with their settings in Botswana, Scotland, and beyond. In addition to his mysteries, however, the Alexander McCall Smith books in order includes novellas, standalones, and numerous children’s books. We have divided his bibliography into three sections: Mysteries, Other Adult Fiction, and Children’s Fiction.

About Alexander McCall Smith

Alexander McCall Smith was born in Zimbabwe in the 1940s when the country was a British colony under the name of Southern Rhodesia. He now lives in Edinburgh, Scotland and has for several decades.

His books, however, largely reflect his time spent in both Africa and Scotland. His popular No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency books takes place in Botswana, which McCall Smith has connections to through his childhood, adolescence, and early adulthood.

McCall Smith’s second-most popular series takes place in Edinburgh’s New Town. These mysteries have a more humor-forward and satirical tone compared to the Detective Agency books. 44 Scotland Street introduces a cast of characters that include the residents and neighbors of the address.

The series began as a serial in The Scotsman before becoming the full-length novel series it is today.

McCall Smith’s debut novel was published in 1980, but it wasn’t until 1998 that he rose to fame with the publication of the No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency. The series has now sold more than 20 million copies around the world.

As well, McCall Smith was knighted with the New Year Honours list at the end of December 2023. McCall Smith received his knighthood for his services to literature, academia, and charity. Prior to becoming a bestselling author, he was a well-respected and well-regarded academic.

Recent and Upcoming Releases
The Perfect Passion Company (February 13, 2024)
The Conditions of Unconditional Love (July 16, 2024) (Isabel Dalhousie)

Alexander McCall Smith Books in Order

Mystery Books

No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency Books

Since it is his most popular, our list of the Alexander McCall Smith books in order begins with his Detective Agency series. These books take place in Botswana and follow Precious Ramotswe, the only female private detective in the country, as well as those closest to her.

This series is equally plot- and character-driven, so it is important to read these books in order of publication. That will provide the best reading experience and follow the chronological order so that you don’t stumble across spoilers for books published earlier.

  1. The No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency (1998)
  2. Tears of the Giraffe (2000)
  3. Morality for Beautiful Girls (2001)
  4. The Kalahari Typing School for Men (2002)
  5. The Full Cupboard of Life (2003)
  6. In the Company of Cheerful Ladies (2004)
  7. Blue Shoes and Happiness (2006)
  8. The Good Husband of Zebra Drive (2007)
  9. The Miracle at Speedy Motors (2008)
  10. Tea Time for the Traditionally Built (2009)
  11. The Double Comfort Safari Club (2010)
  12. The Saturday Big Tent Wedding Party (2010)
  13. The Limpopo Academy of Private Detection (2012)
  14. The Minor Adjustment Beauty Salon (2013)
  15. The Handsome Man’s De Luxe Café (2014)
  16. The Woman Who Walked in Sunshine (2015)
  17. Precious and Grace (2016)
  18. The House of Unexpected Sisters (2017)
  19. The Colors of All the Cattle (2018)
  20. To the Land of Long Lost Friends (2019)
  21. How to Raise an Elephant (2020)
  22. The Joy and Light Bus Company (2021)
  23. A Song of Comfortable Chairs (2022)
  24. From a Far and Lovely Country (2023)

Other No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency Stories

In addition to the full-length novels, McCall Smith has also published one collection following these characters. The collection includes five short stories. While it is now out of print, there are second hand copies available.

More recently, McCall Smith contributed to the Mysterious Profiles project that features short stories by famous mystery thriller authors about their beloved characters.

  1. The Cleverness of Ladies (2012) (Out of Print)
  2. Precious Ramotswe (2022)

Professor Dr. von Igelfeld Books

The next mystery series Alexander McCall Smith began writing is relatively much shorter with only five books. This series follows the titular character Dr. Mortiz-Maria von Igelfeld. The professor is an endearingly awkward man and the series chronicles his misadventures in academia.

It is recommended to read these books in publication order because that will also follow the chronology. This will make the most sense and provide the best reading experience.

  1. Portuguese Irregular Verbs (2003)
  2. The Finer Points of Sausage Dogs (2003)
  3. At the Villa of Reduced Circumstances (2003)
  4. Unusual Uses for Olive Oil (2011)
  5. Your Inner Hedgehog (2021)

Isabel Dalhousie Books

Once again, it is best to read these Alexander McCall Smith books in order of publication. Each book features its own investigation, but reading the books in order of publication will avoid any spoilers about the characters and their development.

The main character in the series is an amateur sleuth in Edinburgh, Isabel Dalhousie. Her hobbies include classical music, young men, and suspicious death. There is also a recurring cast of characters throughout the course of the series who are equally entertaining, making this a character-driven story as well.

  1. The Sunday Philosophy Club (2004)
  2. Friends, Lovers, Chocolate (2005)
  3. The Right Attitude to Rain (2006)
  4. The Careful Use of Compliments (2007)
  5. The Comforts of a Muddy Saturday / The Comfort of Saturdays (2008)
  6. The Lost Art of Gratitude (2009)
  7. The Charming Quirks of Others (2010)
  8. The Forgotten Affairs of Youth (2011)
  9. The Uncommon Appeal of Clouds (2012)
  10. The Novel Habits of Happiness (2015)
  11. A Distant View of Everything (2017)
  12. The Quiet Side of Passion (2018)
  13. The Geometry of Holding Hands (2020)
  14. The Sweet Remnants of Summer (2022)
  15. The Conditions of Unconditional Love (Expected: July 16, 2024)

Isabel Dalhousie Short Stories

There are also three short stories to enjoy if you fall in love with this character and setting.

  1. The Perils of Morning Coffee (2011)
  2. At the Reunion Buffet (2015)
  3. Sweet, Thoughtful Valentine (2016)

44 Scotland Street Books

44 Scotland Street is another mystery series that takes place amidst the streets of Edinburgh and follows a colorful cast of characters. For that reason, it is another series that you should read in order of publication if you intend on reading all the books in the series.

  1. 44 Scotland Street (2005)
  2. Espresso Tales (2005)
  3. Love Over Scotland (2006)
  4. The World According to Bertie (2007)
  5. The Unbearable Lightness of Scones (2008)
  6. The Importance of Being Seven (2010)
  7. Bertie Plays the Blues (2011)
  8. Sunshine on Scotland Street (2012)
  9. Bertie’s Guide to Life and Mothers (2013)
  10. The Revolving Door of Life (2015)
  11. The Bertie Project (2017)
  12. A Time of Love and Tartan (2017)
  13. The Peppermint Tea Chronicles (2019)
  14. A Promise of Ankles (2020)
  15. Love in the Time of Bertie (2021)
  16. The Enigma of Garlic (2023)
  17. The Stellar Debut of Galactica Macfee (2023)

Corduroy Mansions Books

The next series takes place in a new setting for McCall Smith further south in London. As with the previous series on our list, the Corduroy Mansions follows a cast of characters and focuses on life, laughter, and humanity through all its unexpected variations. Once again, it is best to read these books in order of publication to best understand and experience the characters.

  1. Corduroy Mansions (2009)
  2. The Dog Who Came in from the Cold (2009)
  3. A Conspiracy of Friends (2010)

Detective Varg Books

Finally, the most recent mystery series that Alexander McCall Smith has written is Detective Varg. These books shift the locale significantly from his usual settings to Sweden and follow Ulf Varg. He is a detective inspector with the Sensitive Crimes Department of the Criminal Investigation Authority for Malmö.

McCall Smith, however, describes this series as Scandinavian Blanc as opposed to Scandinavian Noir. This will create a similar atmosphere to those mystery thrillers, but without such a dark tone and with a touch more humor. As is typical in McCall Smith’s series, there is a cast of characters that readers will learn more about by reading the books in publication order.

  1. The Department of Sensitive Crimes (2019)
  2. The Talented Mr. Varg (2020)
  3. The Man with the Silver Saab (2021)
  4. The Discreet Charm of the Big Bad Wolf (2023)

Detective Varg Short Stories

There are also three short stories following these characters for you to enjoy, but two have gone out of print. Those two out-of-print stories also predate the beginning of the series, so were early versions of the main character and setting.

  1. Varg in Love (2012) (Out of Print)
  2. Scandinavian Noir in Twelve Chapters (2018) (Out of Print)
  3. The Strange Case of the Moderate Extremists (2019)

Other Adult Fiction

Standalone Books

The next section of our Alexander McCall Smith books in order is the all-encompassing “other adult fiction.” This will cover all his other writing for an adult audience that does not fall neatly into the mystery genre and his standalone books is a great place to begin this section.

While one title has since gone out of print, the other books below remain in print and are readily accessible. The list includes the three different genres of historical fiction, comedy, and romance.

  1. Uncle Gangster (1989) (Out of Print)
  2. La’s Orchestra Saves the World (2008)
  3. Fatty O’Leary’s Dinner Party (2014)
  4. The Forever Girl (2014)
  5. The Good Pilot Peter Woodhouse (2017)
  6. The Pavilion in the Clouds (2021)
  7. The Private Life of Spies (2023)
  8. The Perfect Passion Company (Expected: February 13, 2024)

Myths Books

The next book in this section is part of a larger series featuring myth retellings by various contemporary authors. However, we have only included Alexander McCall Smith’s contribution below. His slim book is a retelling of a Celtic god of love, youth, beauty, and the bringer of dreams. The book contains five different tales about Dream Angus.

  1. Dream Angus: The Celtic God of Dreams (2006)

Austen Project Books

Another collaborative project that McCall Smith took part in is the Austen Project books. These are contemporary retellings of Jane Austen’s famous and beloved novels.

In McCall Smith’s retelling, Emma Woodhouse has returned home after university to spend time with her health-conscious father before launching an interior-design business. Many new faces arrive in the village of Highbury during the summer as Emma continues to offer her unsolicited advice to those around her.

  1. Sense & Sensibility by Joanna Trollope (2013)
  2. Northanger Abbey by Val McDermid (2014)
  3. Emma by Alexander McCall Smith (2014)
  4. Eligible by Curtis Sittenfeld (2016)

Paul Stuart Books

This duology is another humorous series that takes place in Italy and France following the titular character, Paul Stuart.

In the first novel he is trying to finish his latest book, which is already behind schedule. But when he arrives in Italy there are no cars available to rent. An enterprising stranger offers him a bulldozer instead, which sets off a series of shenanigans across the Italian countryside.

  1. My Italian Bulldozer (2017)
  2. The Second-Worst Restaurant in France (2019)

Perfect Passion Company Short Stories

While the upcoming novel The Perfect Passion Company can be read as a standalone romance, there are two accompanying short stories that follow Katie Donald and the matchmaking company in Edinburgh’s New Town: The Perfect Passion Dating Company.

  1. Cook for Me (2023)
  2. A Laborer in the Vineyard of Love (2023)

Children’s and Middle Grade Fiction

Children’s Books

The final section in our list of the Alexander McCall Smith books in order are his children’s books, which also encompasses middle grade fiction too. He has written dozens of books for a younger audience. Most of these books have since gone out of print, but second-hand copies are readily available.

  1. Marvellous Mix-ups (2016)
  2. Freddie Mole (2018)

Out of Print Children’s Books

Again, throughout the course of his career, many of the books Alexander McCall Smith has written for a younger audience have gone out of print, including the below list. However, links to second-hand copies have been included whenever possible.

  1. White Hippo (1980)
  2. Film Boy (1988)
  3. Alix and the Tigers (1988)
  4. The Joke Machine (1990)
  5. Suzy Magician (1990)
  6. The Tin Dog (1990)
  7. Marzipan Max (1991)
  8. The Girl Who Changed the Weather (1991)
  9. Calculator Annie (1992)
  10. Springy Jane (1992)
  11. Who Invented Peanut Butter? (1993)
  12. My Chameleon Uncle (1993)
  13. The Doughnut Ring (1994)
  14. The Princess Trick (1994)
  15. Paddy and the Ratcatcher (1994)
  16. The Banana Machine (1994)
  17. Billy Rubbish (1995)
  18. The Bubblegum Tree (1996)
  19. The Watermelon Boys (1996)
  20. The Popcorn Pirates (1999)
  21. Monkey Boy (2000)
  22. Teacher Trouble (2000)
  23. The Spaghetti Tangle (2005)
  24. The Muscle Machine (2006)
  25. Good Dog Lion (2014)
  26. Boing Boing (2016)
  27. Hari & His Electric Feet (2017)
  28. Max Champion and the Great Race Car Robbery (2018)
  29. Noah Wild and the Floating Zoo (2020)

Harriet Bean Books

This is a short series with a target audience of four- to six-year-olds. The first book introduces Harriet Bean as she learns about five aunts that she has never met and sets out to reunite them with their brother, her father.

  1. The Five Lost Aunts of Harriet Bean (1990)
  2. Harriet Bean and the League of Cheats (1991)
  3. The Cowgirl Aunt of Harriet Bean (1993)

Akimbo Books

The main character in this series is Akimbo, who wants to help his father — a game preserve ranger in Africa — even if it means he ends up in dangerous situations. These are short chapter books with illustrations by LeUyen Pham.

  1. Akimbo and the Lions (1992)
  2. Akimbo and the Crocodile Man (1993)
  3. Akimbo and the Elephants (2005)
  4. Akimbo and the Snakes (2006)
  5. Akimbo and the Baboons (2008) (Out of Print)

Max & Maddy Books

Next in our list of the Alexander McCall Smith books in order are more early chapter mystery books that follow a sibling duo. Max and Maddy Twist grew up surrounded by crime-solving because their parents ran a successful detective agency. Then their nemesis Professor Claude Sardine shut them down, but Max and Maddy are ready to step into their parents’ shoes.

  1. Max & Maddy and the Chocolate Money Mystery (1997)
  2. Max & Maddy and the Bursting Balloons Mystery (1997)

Precious Ramotswe’s Very First Cases Books

Alexander McCall Smith also wrote a middle grade spin-off series from his popular No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency series. These dial the clock back to when Precious Ramotswe was a young girl and tell the stories of her very first cases.

  1. The Great Cake Mystery (2009)
  2. Precious and the Monkeys / Precious and the Puggies (2010) (Out of Print)
  3. Precious and the Mystery of Meerkat Hill (2012)
  4. Precious and the Mystery of the Missing Lion (2013)
  5. Precious and the Zebra Necklace (2015)
  6. Young Precious: The Collected Adventures (2018) (Out of Print)

The School Ship Tobermory Books

If you know a young child who is interested in both mysteries and the high seas, then The School Ship Tobermory books will be perfect for them. This adventure series takes place aboard a sailing ship and follows another set of siblings who rely on their wits to keep themselves safe and ensure evil men don’t walk free.

  1. School Ship Tobermory (2015)
  2. The Sands of Shark Island (2016)
  3. The Race to Kangaroo Cliff (2019)
  4. The Secret of the Dark Waterfall (2020)

Big-Top Mysteries

From the high seas of the previous middle grade books, this series takes place in a family circus. The main characters are Billy, Fern, and Joe Shortbread who are the stars of the show and also experts at solving mysteries. It is now out of print, but second-hand copies are available online.

  1. The Case of the Vanishing Granny (2019)
  2. The Great Clown Conundrum (2019)


Alexander McCall Smith has also published several collections throughout the course of his career. Some have since gone out of print, but links to second-hand copies have been included when possible.

  1. Children of Wax: African Folk Tales (1989) (Out of Print)
  2. Heavenly Date and Other Flirtations (1995)
  3. “Trouble at the North Pole” and Other Stories (1996) (Out of Print)
  4. The Perfect Hamburger and Other Delicious Stories (2001) (Out of Print)
  5. The Girl Who Married a Lion: And Other Tales from Africa (2004)
  6. The Baboons Who Went This Way and That: Folktales from Africa (2006) (Out of Print)
  7. The Book That Changed My Life (2006) (Out of Print)
  8. Trains and Lovers (2012)
  9. Chance Developments (2016)
  10. Pianos and Flowers (2019)
  11. In a Time of Distance and Other Poems (2020)
  12. Tiny Tales: Stories of Romance, Ambition, Kindness, and Happiness (2021)
  13. The Exquisite Art of Getting Even (2022)
  14. I Think of You (2023)
  15. The Private Life of Spies and the Exquisite Art of Getting Even (2023)

Nonfiction Books

McCall Smith has also published several nonfiction books about various subjects.

  1. Better Than Fiction (2012) (Out of Print)
  2. What W. H. Auden Can Do For You (2013)
  3. A Work of Beauty: Alexander McCall Smith’s Edinburgh (2014)
  4. An Innocent Abroad (2014)
  5. Better Than Fiction 2 (2015) (Out of Print)
  6. Who Built Scotland (2017)


Finally, our list of the Alexander McCall Smith books in order ends with the anthologies that he has contributed to in someway throughout his career. Once again, links have been included to second-hand copies for the out of print books whenever possible.

  1. One City (2005) (Out of Print)
  2. A New Omnibus of Crime (2005) (Out of Print)
  3. The Sunday Night Book Club (2006) (Out of Print)
  4. The Best British Mysteries IV (2007)
  5. Midsummer Nights (2009)
  6. Ox-Tales (2009) (Out of Print)
  7. Crimespotting (2009) (Out of Print)
  8. The Mammoth Book of Best British Crime 7 (2010)
  9. No Rest for the Dead (2011)
  10. The Mammoth Book of Best British Crime 8 (2011)
  11. What You Wish For: A Book for Darfur (2011)
  12. Imagined Lives (2012)
  13. How Rude! Modern Manners Defined (2012) (Out of Print)
  14. OxCrimes: 27 Killer Stories from the Cream of Crimewriters (2014)
  15. The Lonely Planet Travel Anthology (2016)

A Summary of Alexander McCall Smith Books in Order

By far the most popular series by Alexander McCall Smith is the No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency series. So, for that reason we’ve included the summaries for the first ten books in the series. Spoilers have been kept to a minimum in the descriptions below, but you should read these Alexander McCall Smith books in order of publication for the best reading experience.

The No 1 Ladies Detective Agency Book Cover

1. The No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency

Precious Ramotswe became a private investigator to help people with the problems in their lives. She sets up shop with a small storefront in Gaborone and immediately gets hired to track down a missing husband, uncover a con man, and follow a wayward daughter.

But the case that tugs at her heart, and lands her in danger, is a missing eleven-year-old boy, who may have been snatched by witchdoctors.

Tears of the Giraffe Alexander McCall Smith Books in Order

2. Tears of the Giraffe

Precious Ramotswe is the proprietor of the only ladies’ detective agency in Botswana. She navigates her cases and her personal life with wisdom, good humor, and the occasional cup of tea alongside her loyal associate, Grace Makutsi.

Her latest cases include tracking down a wayward wife, uncovering an unscrupulous maid, and searching for an American man who disappeared into the plains many years ago. Precious is also pondering her impending marriage and the promotion of her talented secretary when she finds her family suddenly and unexpectedly increased by two.

Morality for Beautiful Girls The No 1 Ladies Detective Agency

3. Morality for Beautiful Girls

Precious is investigating the alleged poisoning of an important “Government Man,” and the moral character of the four finalists of the Miss Beauty and Integrity Contest. The winner of the contest will almost certainly then go on to be a contestant for the title of Miss Botswana.

However, her business is having financial problems, and when other difficulties arise at her fiancé’s Tlokweng Road Speedy Motors, she learns that her reliable partner is more complicated than he seems.

The Kalahari Typing School for Men Book Cover

4. The Kalahari Typing School for Men

It is with pride that Precious Ramotswe looks around at the life she has created for herself. But life is never without problems.

It turns out that her son is responsible for the dead hoopoe bird in the garden. Meanwhile, her assistant Grace Makutsi wants a husband and needs help with her idea to open the Kalahari Typing School for Men. But Mma Ramotswe’s sexist rival has no trouble opening his Satisfaction Guaranteed Detective Agency across town.

Will her delightfully cunning and profoundly moral methods save the day?

The Full Cupboard of Life Alexander McCall Smith Books in Order

5. The Full Cupboard of Life

Mma Ramotswe’s engagement is still trundling along and Precious doesn’t want to put pressure on her fiancé about choosing a date when he is busy with other aspects of life. Indeed, Precious is busy too.

A wealthy lady has asked her to check up on several suitors to determine if the men are interested in her or her money. Meanwhile, Mma Makutsi is moving which is taking up most of her spare time. All of this is taking place against the backdrop of beautiful Botswana, a country of empty spaces and echoing skies.

In the Company of Cheerful Ladies The No 1 Ladies Detective Agency

6. In the Company of Cheerful Ladies

The detective agency is busier than usual when Precious realizes that there is an intruder at her house and, perhaps more baffling, a pumpkin on her porch.

Mma Makutsi also has a full plate since she’s taken up dance lessons and has been partnered with a man with two left feet. Meanwhile, Mr. Matekoni is overburdened at work with one of his apprentices running off with a wealthy older woman.

But what finally rattles Mma Ramotswe’s typically unshakeable composure is a visitor who forces her to confront a difficult secret from her past.

Blue Shoes and Happiness Book Cover

7. Blue Shoes and Happiness

First a cobra is found in Mma Ramotswe’s office, then the nurse reveals that faulty blood-pressure readings are being recorded, and finally the advice columnist in the local newspaper, Aunty Emang, may not be what she seems.

All of this means that Precious and Grace have a lot of work cut out for them. But there’s extra trouble brewing in Mma Makutski’s life. Her greedy uncles are demanding an extra-large bride price from her wealthy fiancé.

Even though money may buy her the fashionable items she desires, Precious promises Grace that it will not bring her the happiness she’ll find in the simpler things.

The Good Husband of Zebra Drive The No 1 Ladies Detective Agency

8. The Good Husband of Zebra Drive

There is rarely a dull moment in Precious Ramotswe’s life. Mr. J.L.B. Matekoni has been hinting that he wants to do something special for their adopted daughter. Now it seems like the time has come.

However, his plan has hit a few snags. That’s when he will undoubtedly consider himself incredibly lucky to call the ever-resourceful and ever-understanding Precious Ramotswe his partner.

The Miracle of Speedy Motors Alexander McCall Smith Books in Order

9. The Miracle at Speedy Motors

For her latest investigation Mma Ramotswe needs to trek to a game preserve where she rediscovers the breathtaking beauty of Botswana. She is there to uncover the truth about an elderly American traveler whose safari proved to be his last journey. But what she uncovers is a surprise to everyone.

Meanwhile, back at the No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency there are other problems brewing. Mma Makutski introduced the Complaint Half Hour to air her grievances, but then Precious institutes her own version. Further complicating matters, Mr. J.L.B. Matekoni also decides to mortgage the garage.

Tea Time for the Traditionally Built Book Cover

10. Tea Time for the Traditionally Built

Mma Ramotswe’s tiny white van started making a strange noise, so after years of repairing it, Mr. J.L.B. Matekoni sold it without telling her and gave her a new vehicle. This prompts Precious to embark on a mission to recover the van.

Meanwhile, Violet Sephotho has begun working at the Double Comfort Furniture Store and Grace thinks it is to make a move on her fiancé. The proprietor of a local football team has also sought out the No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency to explain the team’s losing streak. He is sure that someone is fixing the games and that it can’t just be a case of unskilled players.

Final thoughts on Alexander McCall Smith Books in Order

The Alexander McCall Smith books in order are greatly reflective of his time split between Africa and Scotland. While he has become most well-known for his mystery series No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency, Isabel Dalhousie, and 44 Scotland Street, he has also written dozens of children’s books.

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