The Guest list: Our literary editor chooses titles that make their mark

The Man Booker Prize announced its longlist last week. But there are plenty of other books to admire...


1. The Spinning Jenny Award for making authors turn in their graves

This was a year clearly bereft of new ideas, but nevertheless saw the publication of some remarkably successful sequels: Young Sherlock Holmes by Andrew Lane; The Wild Things by Dave Eggers; And Another Thing by Eoin Colfer; Winnie the Pooh by David Benedictus... But the Silk Purse Makers' Guild prize goes to Penguin's beautiful production of Nabokov's The Original of Laura – the novel that its dying author wanted burned.

2. The shoo-in for The Bad Sex in Fiction Award

Craig Raine's Heartbreak has "a pair of female nipples" resembling "asymmetric hernias". Rich and Mad by William Nicholson has a sex scene that is controversial largely just for being a sex scene – the novel is for young readers. But Alastair Campbell triumphs: his novel Maya seems written with the prize in mind. "I gripped the expensive fabric of her green dress in my two hands and I tore it," it reads, before becoming far too rude for a family newspaper.

3. Finest example of a lost literary art form

A year bookended by sumptuous travel books and collections of letters is bound to raise questions about the future of such profound and nosy insights. Love Letters of Great Women, edited by Ursula Doyle, would be a lot poorer had its contents read along the lines of: "Gr8 2 C U @ Charleston parT!!! pls send sexy pix." And Jan Morris's Contact: A Book of Glimpses is pithy enough without being tweeted. If these genres are soon to die out, however, their apogee comes in a month's time with Under the Sun: The Letters of Bruce Chatwin. Travel, pathos, style and wit, and not a lol in sight.

4. Most Scottish book of the year

Andy Murray's autobiography was published in paperback in November and, ahem, doesn't need much updating now. But for Scottish charmers with a rather better hit rate, read the crazy real-life memoir California Schemin' by Gavin Bain – the bizarre tale of two boys from Dundee masquerading as California rappers. Alternatively, if you like a tale about how we wuz robbed, the Crimespotting anthology is a collection of Edinburgh crime stories by top Scottish writers. The most Scottish short story collection of the year, however, is The Year of Open Doors, edited by Rodge Glass.

5. The Cramming It In Award for covering all bases

According to Ned Beauman, his frighteningly assured debut novel Boxer, Beetle was going to be two books, featuring a Jewish boxer, eugenics, a rare beetle and a medical condition known as "fish odour syndrome". Yann Martel's Beatrice and Virgil has the Holocaust, a failed writer and a stuffed monkey and donkey, all living in a shirt. For the sheer brilliance of a vast other world, lose yourself in Helen Dunmore's The Betrayal and The Thousand Autumns of Jacob de Zoet by David Mitchell (both contenders to take this year's Man Booker Prize) or the overlooked The Lacuna by Barbara Kingsolver.

6. The must-read autumn memoir

No reader can have failed to notice that the memoir of the century will be published this autumn, telling an explosive story of political intrigue and an unstoppable ego the size of Baghdad. Yes, Nicholas Parsons' My Life in Comedy is published on 2 September, closely behind A Journey by Tony Blair. Also out this autumn are memoirs from Kenny Dalgleish, Stephen Fry, Paul O'Grady, Jo Brand, Russell Brand, Chris Evans, Dannii Minogue, Michael Parkinson, Gok Wan, Simon Pegg, Judi Dench, Derren Brown, Jonathan Agnew, Keith Richards, Dawn French and Susan Boyle, none of whom have any idea where the WMD are either.

7. The All About Me Prize for biography and memoir

Peter Mandelson's memoir The Third Man clearly should have been titled "How to Lose Friends and Alienate People" had Toby Young not got there first. Alastair Campbell's diaries, Volume One: Prelude to Power, are a masterclass in swearing to advantage: "JP was mega offside again ... GB was being a pain ... and some of them did absolutely fuck all unless asked. TB said the last few days have been kindergarten politics ..." Perhaps they could both do with a sympathetic biographer, such as Lewis Chester, who shows the sweeter side of Lew Grade in his biography All My Shows Are Great.

8. Best book about a giant squid

The best book narrated by a dog is undoubtedly The Life and Opinions of Maf the Dog, and of his friend Marilyn Monroe, narrated by Marilyn's best friend and written by Andrew O'Hagan. For criminal gangs and a famous gigantic missing architeuthidae, you can't beat China Miéville's fabulous Kraken. It's deep – but not in that way.

9. The Country House Holiday Award for a writer trying to relive his youth

In Martin Amis's The Pregnant Widow, a group of friends reflect on a long-ago holiday together and friendships that should have been allowed to drift. In Blake Morrison's The Last Weekend, a group of friends go on holiday together and wish that they had allowed their friendships to drift. Naomi Alderman's The Lessons gets the regret in early, perhaps because she is still only 36.

10. The They Think It's All Over – Thank God It Is Now Cup

While lesser publishers cashed in on the World Cup, there were some intelligent takes on the vuvuzela fest. Steve Bloomfield's Africa United explains "how soccer keeps hope alive across a troubled continent". More Than Just a Game by Chuck Korr and Marvin Close recalls Nelson Mandela's time at Robben Island, playing football with his fellow prisoners.

11. The Radical Ideas Award for books promoting the hypothesis that Richard Dawkins is not God

With no new Dawkins published since last September, agnostic readers are in serious danger of starting to think that God might exist. Philip Pullman's The Good Man Jesus and the Scoundrel Christ is a gripping novel about Jesus, an itinerant preacher, and Christ, his brother and amanuensis; and Cole Moreton's personable Is God Still an Englishman? gently probes the Church of England and its role in Britain.

12. The Katie Price Honorarium for women's history

With nothing but the tabloids and TV shows to keep us up to date, it's a good job that Katie Price is publishing her next set of memoirs, You Only Live Once, in October. Louise Wener's Different for Girls is the funny story of a woman's life in the man's world of Britpop; and Red Dust Road by the poet Jackie Kay describes her search for her birth parents. But if it's sex and slatterns you're after, you need the Byzantine brilliance of Stella Duffy's novel Theodora: Actress, Empress, Whore.

13. The Harper Lee Memorial Prize

Though Ms Lee is alive and well, it's unlikely she'll ever follow her 1960 classic To Kill a Mockingbird. But this year's Orange Prize shortlist proved that its portrayal of racism is not yet a history lesson. Lorrie Moore's A Gate at the Stairs is a creepy analysis of post-9/11 America. And Black Water Rising by Attica Locke is a brilliant literary thriller.

Round one: the Man Booker dozen

The Thousand Autumns of Jacob de Zoet by David Mitchell

"A world of incredible scope, originality and imaginative brilliance" set in a Dutch trading post in 18th-century Japan, according to this paper's review.



The Betrayal By Helen Dunmore

The follow-up to her magnificent 2001 novel The Siege. "Brave, tender and with a unique gift for immersing the reader in the taste, smell and fear of a story," said our review.



Parrot and Olivier in America By Peter Carey

"Carey is a lyrebird of stunning prowess, a mimic par excellence," according to our review.



The Long Song By Andrea Levy

Set in Jamaica during the last turbulent years of slavery, Levy's novel would make for a disquieting read for a holiday in the West Indies.



February By Lisa Moore

The New Yorker says Moore's novel, which watches a bereaved mother grapple with loss, "[evokes] memory and grief in pitch-perfect detail".



In a Strange Room By Damon Galgut

This fictional travelogue through Greece, India and Africa sees Galgut's writing attain new heights.



The Finkler Question By Howard Jacobson

An assured comic novel that explores Jewish male identity in Britain. Our review today in The New Review calls Jacobson's prose "a seamless roll of blissfully melancholic interludes".



The Slap By Christos Tsiolkas

An Australian novel exploring the ramifications of a man slapping someone's child. "A beautifully structured examination of the complexity of modern living," said our review.



Skippy Dies By Paul Murray

Set in a teenage world of boarding schools and computer games, this Irish novel has been described as "Joycean". The protagonist, Skippy, dies in the opening sequence.



Trespass By Rose Tremain

A London antiques dealer moves to rural France in search of salvation. "The work of a writer at the top of her game," said our review.



Room By Emma Donoghue

Published next month, the story of a child's life in a room was inspired by the real-life case of Josef Fritzl.



C By Tom McCarthy

Due to be published on Thursday, C tells the story of Serge Carrefax, a young man born at the dawn of the 20th century.

Arts & Entertainment
art

By opportunistic local hoping to exhibit the work

Arts & Entertainment
Leonardo DiCaprio will star in an adaptation of Michael Punke's thriller 'The Revenant'
film

Fans will be hoping the role finally wins him an Oscar

Arts & Entertainment
Cody and Paul Walker pictured in 2003.
film

Arts & Entertainment
Down to earth: Fern Britton presents 'The Big Allotment Challenge'
TV

VIDEO
Arts & Entertainment
The London Mozart Players is the longest-running chamber orchestra in the UK
musicThreatened orchestra plays on, managed by its own members
Arts & Entertainment
Seeing red: James Dean with Sal Mineo in 'Rebel without a Cause'
film

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition iPad app?
Arts & Entertainment
TV
Arts & Entertainment
Heads up: Andy Scott's The Kelpies in Falkirk
art

What do gigantic horse heads tell us about Falkirk?

Arts & Entertainment
artGraffiti legend posts picture of work – but no one knows where it is
Arts & Entertainment
A close-up of Tom of Finland's new Finnish stamp
art

Finnish Postal Service praises the 'self irony and humour' of the drawings

Arts & Entertainment
Pierce Brosnan as James Bond in 2002's Die Another Day
film

The actor has confessed to his own insecurities

Life & Style
Green fingers: a plot in East London
TV

Allotments are the focus of a new reality show

Arts & Entertainment
Myleene Klass attends the Olivier awards 2014

Oliviers 2014Theatre stars arrive at Britain's most prestigious theatre awards
Arts & Entertainment
Stars of The Book of Mormon by Trey Parker and Matt Stone of South Park

Oliviers 2014Blockbuster picked up Best Musical and Best Actor in a Musical
Arts & Entertainment
Lesley Manville with her Olivier for Best Actress for her role in 'Ghosts'

Oliviers 2014Actress thanked director Richard Eyre for a stunning production
Arts & Entertainment
Rory Kinnear in his Olivier-winning role as Iago in Othello

Oliviers 2014Actor beat Jude Law and Tom Hiddleston to take the award
Arts & Entertainment
Benedict Cumberbatch is best known for this roles in Sherlock and Star Trek
TV

Arts & Entertainment
theatreAll hail the temporary venue that has shaken things up at the National Theatre
Arts & Entertainment
musicShe is candid, comic and coming our way
Arts & Entertainment
booksHer new novel is about people seeking where they belong
Arts & Entertainment
TV
Arts & Entertainment
tvGrace Dent on The Crimson Field
Arts & Entertainment
Gian Sammarco plays Adrian Mole in 'The Secret Diary of Adrian Mole'
books

Sue Townsend's much-loved character will live on
Arts & Entertainment
Kylie has helped to boost viewing figures for the talent show
TV

Kylie Minogue quits The Voice UK

Arts & Entertainment
Chiwetel Ejiofor, Favour Asikpa and Thandie Newton in 'Half of a Yellow Sun'
film

Review: Half of A Yellow Sun

Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition iPad app?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

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

    Homelessness: Why is the supported lodgings lifeline under threat?

    Why is the supported lodgings lifeline under threat?

    Zubairi Sentongo swapped poverty in Uganda for homelessness in Britain. But a YMCA scheme connected him with a couple offering warmth and shelter
    A History of the First World War in 100 Moments: When the world’s biggest shed took over Regent’s Park

    A History of the First World War in 100 Moments

    When the world’s biggest shed took over Regent’s Park
    The pain of IVF

    The pain of IVF

    As an Italian woman vows to keep the babies from someone else’s eggs, Julian Baggini ponders how the reality of childbirth is often messier than the natural ideal
    Supersize art

    Is big better? Britain's latest super-sized art

    The Kelpies are the latest addition to a growing army of giant sculptures. But naysayers are asking what a pair of gigantic horse heads tells us about Falkirk?
    James Dean: Back on the big screen

    James Dean: Back on the big screen

    As 'Rebel without a Cause' is re-released, Geoffrey Macnab reveals how its star perfected his moody act
    Catch-22: How the cult classic was adapted for the stage

    How a cult classic was adapted for the stage

    More than half a century after it was published 'Catch-22' will make its British stage debut next week
    10 best activity books for children

    10 best activity books for children

    Keep little ones busy this bank holiday with one of these creative, educational and fun books
    Arsenal 3 West Ham United 1: Five things we learnt from the battle between the London sides

    Five things we learnt from Arsenal's win over West Ham

    Arsenal still in driving seat for Champions League spot and Carroll can make late charge into England’s World Cup squad
    Copa del Rey final: Barcelona are paying for their complacency and not even victory over Real Madrid will put things right

    Pete Jenson on the Copa del Rey final

    Barcelona are paying for their complacency and not even victory over Real Madrid will put things right
    Rafa to reign? Ten issues clay courts will serve up this season

    Rafa to reign? Ten issues clay courts will serve up this season

    With the tennis circus now rolling on to the slowest surface, Paul Newman highlights who'll be making the headlines – and why
    Exclusive: NHS faces financial disaster in 2015 as politicians urged to find radical solution

    NHS faces financial disaster in 2015

    Politicians urged to find radical solution
    Ukraine crisis: How spontaneous are the pro-Russian protests breaking out in Ukraine’s east?

    Ukraine crisis

    How spontaneous are the pro-Russian protests breaking out in Ukraine’s east?
    A History of the First World War in 100 moments: The first execution at the Tower of London for 167 years

    The first execution at the Tower of London for 167 years

    A history of the First World War in 100 moments
    Fires could turn Amazon rainforest into a desert as human activity and climate change threaten ‘lungs of the world’, says study

    New threat to the Amazon rainforest:

    Fires that scorch the ‘lungs of the Earth’
    Liverpool, Chelsea and Manchester City: And the winner of this season’s Premier League title will be...

    Who’s in box seat now? The winner of the title will be ...

    Who is in best shape to take the Premier League prize?