The Guest List 2014: Forget the Man Booker longlist, Literary Editor Katy Guest offers her alternative picks

'The Independent on Sunday's' best books of the year, from the snazziest title to the Irish novel most guaranteed to make you cry

The award for the most American writer we can find, to show that we're, like, totally embracing the new rule allowing Americans into the Man Booker Prize

There are more Americans on the Man Booker longlist this year than women – including the always memorable Joshua Ferris, with To Rise Again at a Decent Hour (Viking).

If only Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie's brilliant exploration of race in America, Americanah, had been published this year, she'd have been a sure thing. Ellen Feldman is a strangely overlooked author who never holds back in showing the country's uglier side. The Unwitting (Picador), set in McCarthy-era America, fleshes out E M Forster's theory: "If I had to choose between betraying my country and betraying my friend, I hope I should have the guts to betray my country."

The award for a snazzy title that book clubs will love if only they can remember it

I am thrilled that Karen Joy Fowler's We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves (Serpent's Tail) has been spotted by the Man Booker judges, because I've been banging on about it all year. The more people who read it the better, because then we can all discuss it without spoiling the early "twist".

Other elaborately titled novels include A Highly Unlikely Scenario: Or, a Neetsa Pizza Employee's Guide to Saving the World, by Rachel Cantor (Melville House) – "A dazzling debut in the spirit of A Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy and Super Sad True Love Story which fuses futuristic sci-fi with ancient mysticism"; and The Extraordinary Journey of the Fakir Who Got Stuck in an Ikea Wardrobe by Romain Puertolas (Harvill Secker).

The "You Saw Them Here First" award for Independent columnists and other writers you've read in The Independent on Sunday books pages

We're glad to see that the new rule about Americans doesn't replace the old rule that there must be an Independent writer on the longlist. This year, it is Howard Jacobson, for J (Jonathan Cape).

They're all at it, though. Philip Hensher's The Emperor Waltz (Fourth Estate) is a surprising omission from the longlist. 2013 Booker judge and Indy columnist Natalie Haynes has written a corker about Greek myth and murder in Edinburgh, The Amber Fury (Corvus). Other authors you'll have seen writing in these pages include Joanna Briscoe (the creepy Touched, Hammer) and Helen Walsh (the steamy The Lemon Grove, Headline).

The up yours award for ignoring big publishers and doing it yourself

Paul Kingsnorth's The Wake (Unbound) is the first Booker contender to be crowd-funded. Dan Rhodes didn't even wait for that. His completely fictional novel about a made-up character called Professor Dawkins, When the Professor Got Stuck in the Snow (formerly available, and maybe one day available again, through danrhodes.wordpress.com), was self-published, printed and distributed from his kitchen. Possibly the funniest book of 2014.

The Margaret Atwood award for sneaking genre fiction on to the shelves of the Booker-buying public

David Mitchell has been playing around the edges of genre fiction for years, but his latest longlisted title, The Bone Clocks (Sceptre), dives right in. He even has one character – a literary author – chastised by his agent for submitting a (shudder) fantasy novel!

Far be it from me to lead you to fantasy. But this year, at least two genre novels are among the literary novels of the year: crime fiction After I'm Gone, by Laura Lippman (Faber) and the sci-fi-esque The Fever by Megan Abbott (Picador).

The Relate award for making people think twice about marriage

Famous for the love story One Day, David Nicholls has been longlisted for Us (Hodder & Stoughton), about a middle-aged man trying to save his marriage.

As a caution about getting married thoughtlessly, I also loved Sathnam Sanghera's Marriage Material (Heinemann), a sort of 21st-century updating of Arnold Bennett's The Old Wives' Tale starring a Sikh family in the Midlands, and Mr Loverman by Bernadine Evaristo (Hamish Hamilton), which has one of the best characters of the year: 74-year-old Barrington Jedediah Walker, 50 years married to Carmel and in love with his best friend Morris.

The oh my God they're brilliant at every sort of writing award (but not everybody has abandoned short stories for Booker glory)

Hurray for the short-storyist, non-fiction writer and playwright Ali Smith being longlisted for her novel How to be Both (Hamish Hamilton)!

Graham Swift won the Booker in 1996 with Last Orders but recently returned to his first love, short stories, with huge success in the gorgeous England and Other Stories (Simon & Schuster).

One of 1996's judges was A L Kennedy, who recently published a heart-breaking and delicious collection, All the Rage (Jonathan Cape). Also look out for the book version of the beat poem "Storm" by the multi-talented Tim Minchin in October (Titan).

The Salman Rushdie award for the best novel about everyday people affected by political events in the Indian subcontinent

The Independent's review of Neel Mukherjee's The Lives of Others (Chatto & Windus) admired it for challenging middle-class reading tastes, "in particular the enduring love of post-Colonial English readers for Indian novels which charm rather than confront".

Though undoubtedly charming, Kamila Shamsie's A God in Every Stone (Bloomsbury) is similarly shocking, beginning in 1914 with a young Pathan man in the British army, and a young English woman in Turkey, and taking in love, war and archaeology.

The Anne Enright award for the Irish novel most guaranteed to make you cry

Niall Williams wins this year's award on the strength of his title alone. History of the Rain (Bloomsbury) is described as a "rain-sodden history of 14 acres of the worst farming land in Ireland" but inevitably, given its author, it is suffused with warmth and humour.

As is The True and Splendid History of the Harristown Sisters, by Michelle Lovric (Bloomsbury), about seven Irish sisters in the mid-1800s, all of whom have extravagant, Pre-Raphaelite hair …

The best novel featuring a dog now that Kate Atkinson's book jackets have all been redesigned so they don't have off-putting big ugly dogs on the covers any more

His last book, Netherland, was strangely described as "too good for the Booker", so maybe Joseph O'Neill's The Dog (Fourth Estate) will prove just good enough.

Meanwhile, anything by Michael Holroyd is always a treat. A Dog's Life (MacLehose Press), about an eccentric family patriarch, was written in the 1950s but pulled from UK publication when Holroyd's father threatened to sue …

The best book about a world war in a year full of really predictable world war anniversary books

In The Independent in April, Alex Wheatle chose Richard Flanagan's The Narrow Road to the Deep North, set in a Japanese PoW camp on the Burma "Death Railway" (Chatto & Windus), as the book he most wishes he could send a prisoner, "because it's life changing".

Martin Amis has also dared to go there with the first person account of Nazi concentration camp guards, The Zone of Interest (Cape), published in August – his best novel for ages. He and Sarah Waters would have come as no surprise had they appeared on the long list. Waters's The Paying Guests (Virago) is set in a post-First World War household, denuded of men and forced to take in lodgers.

The 'middle-aged man on a road trip' novel of the year

With a 70-year-old avant-garde composer and amateur microbiologist as its unlikely hero, Richard Powers's Orfeo (Atlantic) is a worthy contender.

There hasn't been an Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry this year (though Rachel Joyce's sort-of follow-up, The Love Song of Miss Queenie Hennessy, is published in October by Doubleday), so how about a Thelma & Louise for a new generation, Frog Music by Emma Donoghue (Picador): two women, the wild west and a weird baby – it's hard to put down. For another unlikely hero, try The Planner by Tom Campbell (Bloomsbury).

The "look how self-aware we are" award for a novel that best pokes fun at the art or literary world

It's a relief that Siri Hustvedt's The Blazing World (Sceptre), a clever story about an unsuccessful female artist who disguises herself as three men, has made the longlist under the author's real identity …

This has been quite the year for thinly disguised literary romans-à-clef, with Mark McCrum's Fest (Prospero Press) causing gossip in literary festival circles, while Edward St Aubyn's Lost for Words (Picador) rather boldly satirised the Man Booker judging process. For more from the art world, however, do read Donna Tartt's The Goldfinch (Abacus), which many assumed would be a shoo-in for this year's Man Booker. Perhaps the Americans won't necessarily walk it, after all.

Arts and Entertainment
Sir Nicholas Serota has been a feature in the Power 100 top ten since its 2002 launch
art
Arts and Entertainment
Awesome foursome: Sam Smith shows off his awards
music22-year-old confirms he is 2014’s breakout British music success
Arts and Entertainment
Contestants during this summer's Celebrity Big Brother grand finale
tvBroadcaster attempts to change its image following sale to American media group
Arts and Entertainment
Sarah Dales attempts to sell British Breeze in the luxury scent task
tvReview: 'Apprentice' candidate on the verge of tears as they were ejected from the boardroom
Arts and Entertainment
Kate Bush: 'I'm going to miss everyone so much'
music
PROMOTED VIDEO
Arts and Entertainment
Laura Wood, winner of the Montegrappa Scholastic Prize for New Children’s Writing
books

Children's bookseller wins The Independent's new author search

Arts and Entertainment
Pulling the strings: Spira Mirabilis

music
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
Neville's Island at Duke of York's theatre
musicReview: The production has been cleverly cast with a quartet of comic performers best known for the work on television
Arts and Entertainment
Banksy's 'The Girl with the Pierced Eardrum' in Bristol

art
Arts and Entertainment
Lynda Bellingham stars in her last Oxo advert with on-screen husband Michael Redfern

tv
Arts and Entertainment
Hunger Games actress Jena Malone has been rumoured to be playing a female Robin in Batman v Superman

film
Arts and Entertainment
Tim Minchin portrait
For a no-holds-barred performer who is scathing about woolly thinking and oppressive religiosity, Tim Minchin is surprisingly gentle
Arts and Entertainment
Clara takes the lead in 'Flatline' while the Doctor remains in the Tardis
tvReview: The 'Impossible Girl' earns some companion stripes... but she’s still annoying in 'Dr Who, Flatline'
Arts and Entertainment
Joy Division photographed around Waterloo Road, Stockport, near Strawberry Studios. The band are Bernard Sumner (guitar and keyboards), Stephen Morris (drums and percussion), Ian Curtis (vocals and occasional guitar), Peter Hook (bass guitar and backing vocals).
books
Arts and Entertainment
Sean Harris in 'The Goob' film photocall, at the Venice International Film Festival 2014
filmThe Bafta-winner talks Hollywood, being branded a psycho, and how Streisand is his true inspiration
Arts and Entertainment
X Factor contestant Fleur East
tvReview: Some lacklustre performances - but the usual frontrunners continue to excel
Arts and Entertainment
Richard Tuttle's installation in the Turbine Hall at the Tate Modern
artAs two major London galleries put textiles in the spotlight, the poor relation of the creative world is getting recognition it deserves
Arts and Entertainment
Hunger Games actress Jena Malone has been rumoured to be playing a female Robin in Batman v Superman
film
Arts and Entertainment
On top of the world: Actress Cate Blanchett and author Richard Flanagan
artsRichard Flanagan's Man Booker win has put paid to the myth that antipodean artists lack culture
Arts and Entertainment
The Everyman, revamped by Haworth Tompkins
architectureIt beats strong shortlist that included the Shard, the Library of Birmingham, and the London Aquatics Centre
Arts and Entertainment
Justice is served: Robert Downey Jr, Vincent D’Onofrio, Jeremy Strong and Robert Duvall in ‘The Judge’

Film

Arts and Entertainment
Clive Owen (centre) in 'The Knick'

TV

Arts and Entertainment
J.K. Simmons , left, and Miles Teller in a scene from

Film

Arts and Entertainment
Team Tenacity pitch their fetching solar powered, mobile phone charging, heated, flashy jacket
tvReview: No one was safe as Lord Sugar shook things up
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    How could three tourists have been battered within an inch of their lives by a burglar in a plush London hotel?

    A crime that reveals London's dark heart

    How could three tourists have been battered within an inch of their lives by a burglar in a plush London hotel?
    Meet 'Porridge' and 'Vampire': Chinese state TV is offering advice for citizens picking a Western moniker

    Lost in translation: Western monikers

    Chinese state TV is offering advice for citizens picking a Western moniker. Simon Usborne, who met a 'Porridge' and a 'Vampire' while in China, can see the problem
    Handy hacks that make life easier: New book reveals how to rid your inbox of spam, protect your passwords and amplify your iPhone

    Handy hacks that make life easier

    New book reveals how to rid your email inbox of spam, protect your passwords and amplify your iPhone with a loo-roll
    KidZania lets children try their hands at being a firefighter, doctor or factory worker for the day

    KidZania: It's a small world

    The new 'educational entertainment experience' in London's Shepherd's Bush will allow children to try out the jobs that are usually undertaken by adults, including firefighter, doctor or factory worker
    Renée Zellweger's real crime has been to age in an industry that prizes women's youth over humanity

    'Renée Zellweger's real crime was to age'

    The actress's altered appearance raised eyebrows at Elle's Women in Hollywood awards on Monday
    From Cinderella to The Jungle Book, Disney plans live-action remakes of animated classics

    Disney plans live-action remakes of animated classics

    From Cinderella to The Jungle Book, Patrick Grafton-Green wonders if they can ever recapture the old magic
    Thousands of teenagers to visit battlefields of the First World War in new Government scheme

    Pupils to visit First World War battlefields

    A new Government scheme aims to bring the the horrors of the conflict to life over the next five years
    The 10 best smartphone accessories

    Make the most of your mobile: 10 best smartphone accessories

    Try these add-ons for everything from secret charging to making sure you never lose your keys again
    Mario Balotelli substituted at half-time against Real Madrid: Was this shirt swapping the real reason?

    Liverpool v Real Madrid

    Mario Balotelli substituted at half-time. Was shirt swapping the real reason?
    West Indies tour of India: Hurricane set to sweep Windies into the shadows

    Hurricane set to sweep Windies into the shadows

    Decision to pull out of India tour leaves the WICB fighting for its existence with an off-field storm building
    Indiana serial killer? Man arrested for murdering teenage prostitute confesses to six other murders - and police fear there could be many more

    A new American serial killer?

    Police fear man arrested for murder of teen prostitute could be responsible for killing spree dating back 20 years
    Sweetie, the fake 10-year-old girl designed to catch online predators, claims her first scalp

    Sting to trap paedophiles may not carry weight in UK courts

    Computer image of ‘Sweetie’ represented entrapment, experts say
    Fukushima nuclear crisis: Evacuees still stuck in cramped emergency housing three years on - and may never return home

    Return to Fukushima – a land they will never call home again

    Evacuees still stuck in cramped emergency housing three years on from nuclear disaster
    Wildlife Photographer of the Year: Intimate image of resting lions claims top prize

    Wildlife Photographer of the Year

    Intimate image of resting lions claims top prize
    Online petitions: Sign here to change the world

    Want to change the world? Just sign here

    The proliferation of online petitions allows us to register our protests at the touch of a button. But do they change anything?