I am very selective when it comes to literary fiction, so it may not be too surprising that some of the best books I read last year were in that category. Judith and Hamnet by Maggie O'Farrell tops the list. It follows the family life of a certain (unnamed) Elizabethan playwright and is intelligent, funny, moving and beautifully revisionist. Close behind is No One is Talking About This by Patricia Lockwood, a novel of social media and real life, quite brilliant, at times hilarious but also melancholy and hopeful, Also worthy of note was John Bainville's The Sea, a lyrical story of memory and remorse.
Poetry provided delightful language and strong emotion in the form of Postcolonial Love Poem by Natalie Diaz and Nuclear Family by Ottawa's own Jean Van Loon.
Although my ventures into non-fiction were few, far between and mostly brief, they did include two real gems. Helgoland by Italian physicist, Carlo Rovelli, is a wonderful unpacking of the origins of quantum theory. The science is excellent but so are the biographical notes and the often poetic language. I love everything Rovelli writes and this was no exception.
Notes on Grief by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie was an extended essay on the death of her father but also reveals much about the contrast between her homeland of Nigeria and her adopted country, the USA. Her fiction is lovely, powerful and insightful and so is this.
As mentioned I read a lot of mysteries and science fiction though I don't always choose particularly challenging work. Still, the three-book Welsh Guard Mysteries by Sarah Woodbury were standouts with strong characters, interesting history and good solid plots. In science fiction, I read Elder Race by Adrian Tchaikovsky, a novella that has tempted me to tackle his longer and more complex work in the new year.
I hope some of these brief descriptions tempt you and that you find some new favorite authors as a result.