Looking back over all the books I read this year, there was a lot of ‘meh’ on the list. But there’s always at least a few that figure out how to worm their way into my heart!
As of right now, I’ve read 50 books and about 15 000 pages this year. Here are my five favourite novels, plus an excellent YA pick, an essay anthology you shouldn’t miss, and two important non-fiction books.
The Boat People by Sharon Bala
Every year, the first novel voted out of Canada Reads always seems to be my favourite. This year, that was The Boat People. This novel blends so many topics that I love in my reading: history, culture, present day issues. This is the story of the Canadian immigration system through the lens of two refugees, a law student studying immigration law, and an adjudicator for the Refugee Board. My biggest takeaway was this: how do we judge people for the things they’ve done in their past when they were just trying to survive?
An Absolutely Remarkable Thing by Hank Green
Hank Green would write a book that feels different from anything I’ve ever read before…
I’m not normally a sci-fi reader, but I did find myself really enjoying An Absolutely Remarkable Thing. The story kept me entertained, and I never (ever) knew quite what was going to happen next. It was weird, but like, good weird.
Erotic Stories for Punjabi Widows by Balli Kaur Jaswal
I didn’t have a whole lot of expectations when I started this novel, but I ended up loving it, and flew right through it. I mean, how can you not enjoy a story about a group of proper Sikh widows who sign up for an English literacy class, only to end up writing erotic stories?
The Alice Network by Kate Quinn
I’ve always loved historical fiction, and The Alice Network didn’t disappoint. Charlie, an American college student who is unmarried and pregnant (in 1947…) is sent to Europe to deal with ‘her little problem’. Eve, a former World War I spy, now spends her days drunk and alone. Until Charlie shows up, on a hunt for her cousin Rose who went missing in Nazi-occupied France, and the two embark on a mission to find the truth.
Little Fires Everywhere by Celeste Ng
This novel was remarkable, with an exceptionally high quality of writing. It’s not an action-packed story, but a real exploration of the characters in small suburban town. So many stories are intermingled, but somehow you never feel like you’ve changed perspective, or a storyline, or a timeline. The author weaves all the characters and stories together seamlessly, with an amazing result. Just read it.
George by Alex Gino
This is a YA fiction book, and a young one at that, but it’s made this list because the world needs this story. George is a middle-school kid who self-identifies as a girl, although the world identifies them as a boy. Written by a trans author, the book captures feelings and tells a story that feels real and authentic, and not built on stereotypes and tropes. Overall, I love that the world now has a book that can help teach young kids about gender identity.
Not That Bad edited by Roxane Gay
We may tell ourselves it’s ‘not that bad’, but that’s only because we don’t want to face the truth: it’s bad. Really bad.
This anthology of first-person essays tackles rape, assault and harassment, and holds nothing back. It’s a book I had to put down several times because I just couldn’t keep reading. But I always picked it back up again to keep reading the stories that were powerful, raw, and real.
21 Things You May Not Know About the Indian Act by Bob Joseph
The title is pretty self-explanatory, but this book does a great job of explaining the Indian Act, and it’s many many many repercussions on generations of Indigenous Peoples. It’s well-written, covers lots of territory, is not repetitive, and is so, so important.
So You Want to Talk About Race by Ijeoma Oluo
Not surprisingly, So You Want to Talk About Race talks about race. The book addresses the racial landscape in America, from privilege, police brutality and intersectionality to micro-aggressions, Black Lives Matter and the ‘N’ word. I’ve read a fair bit about race, privilege, etc. over the past few years, and this book has by far been the most accessible read yet. Highly, highly recommend, because we need to change this world we live in.