The Guest List: An alternative to the Booker longlist

Not quite satisfied with the Booker longlist announced last week? The Independent on Sunday's Literary Editor comes up with her alternative selection of must-read novels for the summer

'The Yips', by Nicola Barker (Fourth Estate)

The third Booker-longlisted novel by Barker refers to an ageing golfer, reduced to eking out his fame in a late night bar. A similar tale of the angst of the fading sportsman is told in Rodge Glass's Bring Me the Head of Ryan Giggs: the bitter and hilarious story of a Manchester United drop-out. Given the timing, however, Chris Cleave's Gold is a more appropriate story of Olympic cycling success. Sporting refuseniks, try Philip Hensher's Scenes from Early Life – the fictionalised story of a real life boy, growing up during the creation of Bangladesh. With no running.

'The Teleportation Accident', by Ned Beauman (Sceptre)

Described by The IoS's reviewer as an "ingenious work of fiction joining the dots between Nazism, sci-fi, espionage, sex, politics, art and quantum physics", it was compared to Jake Arnott's brilliant The House of Rumour, which, by an amazing literary coincidence, could be described in much the same terms. Beauman acknowledges the influence of Jennifer Egan's 2011 novel A Visit from the Goon Squad, so fans should look out for her ebook-only Black Box, published on 6 September. Beauman has also been compared to Stuart Evers, whose If This Is Home was published this month.

'Philida', by André Brink (Harvill Secker)

Set in 1832 South Africa, Philida describes what happens when its heroine takes a stand against her master. Ripples of the story have run through several novels this year: Kate Grenville's Sarah Thornhill traces an innocent love affair across a backdrop of racial tension and murder in 19th-century Australia; Toni Morrison follows a soldier, back home in racist America just after the Korean war, in Home; and Attica Locke's The Cutting Season, published on 6 September, finds a 21st-century woman living in an old plantation house in Louisiana.

'The Garden of Evening Mists', by Tan Twan Eng (Myrmidon Books)

The second novel by the already Booker-longlisted Tan is set in 1950s Malaya. For more novels named after times of the day and starring strong-willed women at turning points in history, try Susannah Jones's When Nights Were Cold – for Edwardian derring-do, female friendship gone wrong, and mountaineering – and The Daylight Gate by Jeanette Winterson, published on 16 August, which takes the 1612 Pendle Witch Trials as the starting point for a sinister story about religion and obsession.

'Skios', by Michael Frayn (Faber & Faber)

Michael Frayn's comedy about Brits abroad "has all the bottom-slapping subtlety of 'Allo 'Allo, and yet Frayn's keen ear for dialogue and acute understanding of twisted internal reasoning pulls it back from the end of the pier", wrote The IoS's reviewer. Equally disastrous as a template for a peaceful family holiday is Mark Haddon's The Red House – a subtle and gripping novel about what happens when two dysfunctional families get together for a wet week in Wales. David Parks's The Light of Amsterdam is more optimistic about how time away from home can heal relationships, while Joanne Harris's Peaches for Monsieur le Curé will again make readers yearn for the fictional village of Lansquenet-sous-Tannes as it continues the adventures of Chocolat's Vianne Rocher.

'The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry', by Rachel Joyce (Doubleday)

A man leaves home to post a letter and finds himself on a spontaneous pilgrimage. It sounds somewhat like the plot of The Hundred Year-Old Man Who Climbed out of the Window and Disappeared – a novel by Jonas Jonasson that does exactly what it does on the cover. The story of Allan Karlsson, who escapes his old people's home and takes us on a glorious tour of the 20th century, was already a bestseller in Europe before it was published here this month. Fans of the format are probably already familiar with Peter Benson and his crazy adventure Two Cows and Vanful of Smoke, so look out for his new novel Isabel's Skin on 30 August.

'Swimming Home', by Deborah Levy (And Other Stories)

Another novel that's probably not best read before a holiday, the latest by Levy is a taut story about depression's effect on a group of tourists in the French Riviera. For light relief before a trip to France you might prefer Dan Rhodes's This Is Life – a deliciously quirky story which unfolds after a young art student in Paris throws a stone and hits a baby. For total French immersion, try Thérèse and Isabelle by Violette Leduc, about an affair between two teenage girls at a French boarding school. A cheat this one, as it was first published in 1954, but the first uncensored, unabridged version in English was published in February.

'Bring Up the Bodies', by Hilary Mantel (Fourth Estate)

The even more wonderful sequel to the 2009 Man Booker-winning Wolf Hall, the second in Mantel's trilogy traces the Anne Boleyn period of Henry VIII's reign. This has been a good year for historical fiction, with Stella Duffy's The Purple Shroud, the sequel to her popular Theodora: Actress, Empress, Whore, picking up the story of the empress of Rome, and Madeline Miller's Orange Prize-winning The Song of Achilles making explicit the love affair between the Greek hero and his companion Patroclus – with some of the sexiest fictional sex of the year. Philippa Gregory's The Kingmaker's Daughters and Alison Weir's A Dangerous Inheritance are as compelling as fans will expect.

'The Lighthouse', by Alison Moore (Salt)

Another Damascene holiday experience, as a man on a week-long trip along the Rhine looks back on his abandonment by his mother. A haunting and accomplished novel, but also a good excuse to mention that Virginia Woolf's novels (including To the Lighthouse) have recently been brought out in neat ebook form, and that Ancient Light would have been another worthy Man Booker contender for once-shortlisted and once-winner John Banville. Among this year's best newcomers was Charlotte Rogan's The Lifeboat, about a group of survivors of a shipping disaster.

'Umbrella', by Will Self (Bloomsbury)

Amazingly, Self has been shortlisted three times for the Bad Sex in Fiction Award but, at least until now, not once for the Man Booker Prize. His Awakenings-style tale of a maverick psychiatrist may at last put that right. Strange healing powers were also a part of Benjamin Wood's The Bellwether Revivals, a disturbing tale in which a young man aims to cure the sick with music. Craig Raine's The Divine Comedy may take Self's place on the Bad Sex shortlist, with its breathtakingly poetic and explicit images of body parts.

'Narcopolis', by Jeet Thayil (Faber & Faber)

"A city in collision with itself" is portrayed in the first novel by the Indian poet, novelist, librettist and musician Thayil. Modern India is also the subject of Kishwar Desai's heartrending Origins of Love, about the surrogacy industry there. One story from the immense historical background to these stories is told in Alison McQueen's The Secret Children, set in Assam in 1925.

'Communion Town', by Sam Thompson (Fourth Estate)

Like Beauman's novel, this has been compared to David Mitchell's Ghostwritten. The other top 2012 novels about human settlements of various sizes, then, are The Fall of the Stone City (published on 30 August) by the Man Booker International Prize-winning author Ismael Kadare, and The Village, by Nikita Lalwani, which is set in an open prison in India. Finally, for an old-fashioned English novel by a writer at the top of her game, and just because, read How It All Began, by Penelope Lively – one of the most satisfying novels in a very good year.

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
Arts and Entertainment
theatre
Arts and Entertainment
Place Blanche, Paris, 1961, shot by Christer Strömholm
photographyHow the famous camera transformed photography for ever
Arts and Entertainment
The ‘Westmacott Athlete’
art
Arts and Entertainment
‘The Royals’ – a ‘twisted, soapy take on England’s first family’
tv Some of the characters appear to have clear real-life counterparts
News
Brooks is among a dozen show-business professionals ever to have achieved Egot status
people
Arts and Entertainment
A cut above: Sean Penn is outclassed by Mark Rylance in The Gunman
film review
Arts and Entertainment
arts + ents
Arts and Entertainment
James Franco and Zachary Quinto in I Am Michael

Film review Michael Glatze biopic isn't about a self-hating gay man gone straight

Arts and Entertainment
A scene from the movie 'Get Hard'
tvWill Ferrell’s new film Get Hard receives its first reviews
Arts and Entertainment
Left to right: David Cameron (Mark Dexter), Nick Clegg (Bertie Carvel) and Gordon Brown (Ian Grieve)
tvReview: Ian Grieve gets another chance to play Gordon Brown... this is the kinder version
Arts and Entertainment
Benedict Cumberbatch and Martin Freeman in the first look picture from next year's Sherlock special

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Because it wouldn’t be Glastonbury without people kicking off about the headline acts, a petition has already been launched to stop Kanye West performing on the Saturday night

music
Arts and Entertainment
Molly Risker, Helen Monks, Caden-Ellis Wall, Rebekah Staton, Erin Freeman, Philip Jackson and Alexa Davies in ‘Raised by Wolves’

TV review
Arts and Entertainment

TV
Arts and Entertainment
James May, Jeremy Clarkson and Richard Hammond in the Top Gear Patagonia Special

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Game of Thrones will run for ten years if HBO gets its way but showrunners have mentioned ending it after seven

Game of Thrones
Arts and Entertainment
Mans Zelmerlow will perform 'Heroes' for Sweden at the Eurovision Song Contest 2015

music
Arts and Entertainment
Elizabeth (Heida Reed) and Ross Poldark (Aiden Turner) in the BBC's remake of their 1975 original Poldark

Poldark review
  • Get to the point
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.

    Election 2015: How many of the Government's coalition agreement promises have been kept?

    Promises, promises

    But how many coalition agreement pledges have been kept?
    The Gaza fisherman who built his own reef - and was shot dead there by an Israeli gunboat

    The death of a Gaza fisherman

    He built his own reef, and was fatally shot there by an Israeli gunboat
    Saudi Arabia's airstrikes in Yemen are fuelling the Gulf's fire

    Saudi airstrikes are fuelling the Gulf's fire

    Arab intervention in Yemen risks entrenching Sunni-Shia divide and handing a victory to Isis, says Patrick Cockburn
    Zayn Malik's departure from One Direction shows the perils of fame in the age of social media

    The only direction Zayn could go

    We wince at the anguish of One Direction's fans, but Malik's departure shows the perils of fame in the age of social media
    Young Magician of the Year 2015: Meet the schoolgirl from Newcastle who has her heart set on being the competition's first female winner

    Spells like teen spirit

    A 16-year-old from Newcastle has set her heart on being the first female to win Young Magician of the Year. Jonathan Owen meets her
    Jonathan Anderson: If fashion is a cycle, this young man knows just how to ride it

    If fashion is a cycle, this young man knows just how to ride it

    British designer Jonathan Anderson is putting his stamp on venerable house Loewe
    Number plates scheme could provide a licence to offend in the land of the free

    Licence to offend in the land of the free

    Cash-strapped states have hit on a way of making money out of drivers that may be in collision with the First Amendment, says Rupert Cornwell
    From farm to fork: Meet the Cornish fishermen, vegetable-growers and butchers causing a stir in London's top restaurants

    From farm to fork in Cornwall

    One man is bringing together Cornwall's most accomplished growers, fishermen and butchers with London's best chefs to put the finest, freshest produce on the plates of some of the country’s best restaurants
    Robert Parker interview: The world's top wine critic on tasting 10,000 bottles a year, absurd drinking notes and New World wannabes

    Robert Parker interview

    The world's top wine critic on tasting 10,000 bottles a year, absurd drinking notes and New World wannabes
    Don't believe the stereotype - or should you?

    Don't believe the stereotype - or should you?

    We exaggerate regional traits and turn them into jokes - and those on the receiving end are in on it too, says DJ Taylor
    How to make your own Easter egg: Willie Harcourt-Cooze shares his chocolate recipes

    How to make your own Easter egg

    Willie Harcourt-Cooze talks about his love affair with 'cacao' - and creates an Easter egg especially for The Independent on Sunday
    Bill Granger recipes: Our chef declares barbecue season open with his twist on a tradtional Easter Sunday lamb lunch

    Bill Granger's twist on Easter Sunday lunch

    Next weekend, our chef plans to return to his Aussie roots by firing up the barbecue
    Joe Marler: 'It's the way I think the game should be played'

    Joe Marler: 'It's the way I think the game should be played'

    The England prop relives the highs and lows of last Saturday's remarkable afternoon of Six Nations rugby
    Cricket World Cup 2015: Has the success of the tournament spelt the end for Test matches?

    Cricket World Cup 2015

    Has the success of the tournament spelt the end for Test matches?
    The Last Word: Justin Gatlin knows the price of everything, the value of nothing

    Michael Calvin's Last Word

    Justin Gatlin knows the price of everything, the value of nothing