A couple of things to note- I am currently obsessed with voice in fiction. That comes across in this list. For some reason, I’m not reading as much YA as I used to, and I’m reading very few short stories, which I blame on learning how to write a novel.
The complete list of all the books I read this year can be found on my goodreads-
(This list is not in any particular order)
1. Tampa by Alissa Nutting- I love dark, evil, characters and disturbing stories and this book did not disappoint. “Tampa” tells the story of a female pedophile and her actions towards her prey. This is a brilliant satire. The main character is despicable, beautiful and vile. The story is told in her voice, and the readers can watch as she stalks and preys on teenage boys. I was revolted while I was reading it, but I couldn’t put it down.
Notable for the use of voice and the story. Not for the faint of heart.
2. Anatomy of a Girl Gang by Ashley Little- Ashley Little tells the story of a girl gang living in Vancouver. This was a fast moving story, told in 5? Different voices. Vancouver also has a voice in the novel. I asked for a copy of this for Christmas, because I want to study how she used the different voices to tell a story. Also dark and disturbing. You’ll never think of a curling iron in the same way.
Notable for- The use of voices and each character’s unique voice. Not for the faint of heart.
3. For Today I am a boy by Kim Fu- I was the Literary Editor of Ricepaper magazine for 5 years. I’ve read a lot of Asian Canadian fiction. This year was notable because there were so many cool, innovative books written by Asian Canadian writers. In addition to Kim Fu’s book, I also liked Doretta Lau’s “How does a single blade of grass thank the sun?” and Tamai Kobayashi’s “Prairie Ostrich.” Kim Fu’s book tells the story of a young person known as Peter. From an early age, Peter knows that she is actually a woman. This book tells Peter’s story. It’s the story of an Asian child growing up in an immigrant family, but it felt so fresh, new and tender that I was really impressed. I wish more people would read this book. (Bonus to Kim Fu- She was the one who suggested I check out Calgary’s Wordfest. I had a great time there.)
Notable for- A new take on an Asian Canadian coming of age story, a fresh voice, and a new storyteller.
4. All my Puny Sorrows by Miriam Toews- I love Miriam Toews’ work and this book was no exception. Because of its subject matter (depression and assisted suicide), this book was excruciating for me to read. The whole time I was reading it, I wanted to be finished. Still, I think it is a masterpiece. I did laugh out loud, especially when the narrator Googles “Will writing a novel kill you?” (No, but you’ll feel as though it might.) I got to meet Toews for a few minutes at Calgary Wordfest, which was a highlight.
Notable for: The subject matter.
5. The Untold by Courtney Collins-
Courtney Collins tells a feminist western about a female horse thief who actually lived in 1920s Australia. Someone else compared her writing to a female Cormac McCarthy. I need to read more McCarthy, but from what I’ve read, I think the comparison is apt. This book felt fresh and new. If you liked “The Sisters Brothers”, you’re probably like this one. It was fun to read a western where people rode through a desert landscape, and then stopped to skin kangaroos. (The book is set in Australia) If you need further proof that this book is great, I recommended this book to my dad, and he read it in a day and loved it.
Notable for- A feminist take on the western genre.
6. All the Broken Things by Kathryn Kuitenbrouwer- I loved this book just because it was so strange and unique, yet it worked. It combined bear wrestling, Vietnamese boat people, Agent Orange and a family story.
Notable for- A unique story with a combination of many different elements.
7. Between by Angie Abdou- When I heard that Angie Abdou was going to be writing about Filipino nannies, I was curious. I’m not Filipina, but I went there on an intense study mission with the Canadian Cooperative Association in the Philippines that took me into peoples’ homes. It wasn’t normal tourism as we had fairly intimate conversations and developed friendships with Filipinos. When I lived in Grande Prairie, I did a story on Filipino nannies and interviewed several, so they could share their voices and talk about their experiences. I’d love to hear what Filipinas think of this book. I loved it. Told in two voices, the book tells the story of Vero, a woman who hires a Filipino nanny, and Ligaya, the nanny in question. The story was innovative, truthful, daring and interesting and took a turn that I really wasn’t expecting.
Notable for- new subject matter. I had never read a book about Filipino nannies before. Now I’m waiting for someone to write a book about temporary foreign workers. That someone might be me, eventually.
8. China Dolls by Lisa See- This book traces the history of Asian women living in the 1940s and working in Chinese nightclubs in San Francisco and Los Angeles. It was a fast paced book, and I couldn’t put it down. (Bonus note- My mom wants me to tell you that the writing in this book is not very good)
Notable for- Historical material that I had never read about before.
9. Smoke River by Krista Foss- If I had my way, this book would have been on many “best of” lists in Canada. Yet it was completely overlooked. I’m not sure why. “Smoke River” tells the story of a Native blockade and native-white relations in Ontario. At first, I thought the book was based on the Oka Crisis, but it’s actually inspired by another case that took place in Ontario. The writing in this book is gorgeous and complex. Foss, who used to be a journalist, uses the voices of native and white characters to tell the story. The result is intense and multi-faceted. I wish this book had gotten more attention. It’s a good story, and a great technical achievement. If I was forced to pick one fiction book to champion this year, it would probably be this one because it just deserved so much more attention than it got.
Notable for- a new voice, an issue driven story and the use of multiple voices.
10. The Girl with all the gifts by M.R. Casey and The Quick by Lauren Owen- Both of these books are new takes on classic horror monster genres. The Quick really rifts on Dracula, and The Girl with all the gifts is a great new zombie tale. I keep on thinking about the characters in The Girl with all the Gifts. I don’t want to tell you more about these books, because I’m scared to spoil the plot for you.
Notable for- New takes on classic monsters.
11. Other books that seem notable to me- The family took shape by Shashi Bhat, We are all completely beside ourselves by Karen Joy Fowler, The best place on earth by Ayelet Tsabari, All our names by Dinaw Mengestu, Ellen in Pieces by Caroline Adderson.
Worst books- I read a couple of Harlequin romances featuring cowboys this year. They’re surprisingly boring.
Total number of books read- 171
Canadian books- 77 (I actually thought this total would be higher)
Women- 108 (not surprising)
POC- 39 (embarrassing)
LGBTQ- 8 (pathetic)