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The Cascade’s Best of 2016

The Best of the Cascade 2016

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MOVIES

  1. Manchester by the Sea

As a rule, I like to think that anything at the top of a “best of” list for any given year is representative of the year or says “This is how far we’ve come.” Manchester by the Sea wasn’t technically proficient like Gravity, but it was an odd film to become so popular given how utterly depressing it is. Imagine Old Yeller for adults but the same vibes as the ending for the duration of the film. Manchester by the Sea is the kind of film that many people don’t prefer to see but once they’ve seen it, it sticks with them. In context with the kind of year 2016 was, a sad, super heavy, and powerful film like Manchester by the Sea should be at the top of the list.

Mitch Huttema

  1. Kubo and the Two Strings

Kubo was a movie unlike any other this year. The blend of animation and incredible stop-motion puppetry gave it a dark, beautiful look throughout, and the story hit the right balance between derivative and original so that it felt like a forgotten childhood fable. It’s a masterfully crafted film, with pacing that isn’t afraid to take its time, but never gets slow. This is the only movie I saw this year that I’m already itching to watch again, and that I’ve insisted that I’m going to show to multiple people, and I would strongly suggest you make a point of seeing it too.

Jeff Mijo

  1. Moonlight

There is a saying in film, “Every frame [is] a painting.” Every frame in Moonlight is poetry. Director Barry Jenkins has created a masterpiece, a breathtaking experience that offers only the honest soreness of existence without reprieve: no overt obstacles, dramatization, cheap tricks, or cop-outs. You will not be entertained. This is a direct, deliberate, and sometimes uncomfortably personal submersion into what it means to not only grow up black and gay in rough-side Miami, but what it means to be human. That’s hard for me to say — what it means to be human — cliché that it is, but if one writer was permitted to utter it about one film this year, Moonlight would that film. The cinematography is astonishing. The score is magnificent. The acting is obsessive. Moonlight will win an Academy Award for best film of the year. Period.

Bradley Peters

  1. Moana

While Moana doesn’t seem to have found the same level of pop-culture saturation as Disney achieved with Frozen a few years ago, to me it is unquestionably the better film. This tale of seafaring ancient Polynesian adventure follows many of the classic Disney clichés, but it subverts others — perhaps most noticeably the complete lack of a romantic interest — and it’s stronger for it. The movie is free to focus on the journey and the protagonist’s growth, but also the fantastic soundtrack by Hamilton creator Lin-Manuel Miranda, which stuck with me more than anything else in the film. It deserves additional appreciation, too, for casting actual Pacific Islanders in every single speaking role.

Jeff Mijo

  1. The Jungle Book

A film that transported me back to childhood; little Mowgli chumming with a panther, putting himself in a dangerous situation to lift honey for a bear. Shere Khan’s angry stalking of the Man-Cub motivates the plot — talk about a grudge. While trying to leave the jungle, Mowgli comes across a few memorable characters, of which we have one of my favourites, Baloo. After a sweet jam session of “Bear Necessities” Mowgli gathers the courage to face Shere Khan. The message behind the story is beautiful — unite against evil, and standing together we can accomplish wonders. Remakes have the potential of devastating childhood memories and tearing down the sentiments surrounding stories. Jon Favreau’s The Jungle Book solidified the love for this childhood classic.

Quintin Stamler

  1. Swiss Army Man

If you’ve seen this film, it’s likely the first time you’ve seen Daniel Radcliffe not play Harry Potter. Surprise! Him playing a dead man is more interesting than his whole career in HP. But with all seriousness, Swiss Army Man tops the list of comedies for me this year. It’s weird as can be, but that’s the appeal of it. When the premise of a film is that a man who attempted suicide manages to survive in the wilderness with the help of a corpse that farts like a boat motor, spews water from its mouth like a fountain, and wants to learn about the beauty of life, you know there is some redemption to be found, no matter how absurd and convoluted the journey to finding it is.

Mitch Huttema

7. Dr. Strange

Marvel Studios takes viewers on a mind-bending, time-traveling trip of incredible visuals which take full advantage of some the best 3D film technology they’ve shown to date. Though the film’s story contains many of the common themes and devices of other Marvel movies, Benedict Cumberbatch’s portrayal of the witty and clever doctor-turned-superhero is fantastic, and Mads Mikkelsen is ever magnificent in the role of the villain, playing the part of Kaecilius, a master of the mystic arts. Overall, Dr. Strange is an entertaining magical adventure and a welcome edition to the Marvel universe, and Stephen Strange will surely add an interesting element when he appears in future films.

Kat Marusiak

8. Rogue One

Where The Force Awakens relied on lightsabers, Harrison Ford, and familiar plot points to remind viewers of “the good old days” of Star Wars, Rogue One instead relies on the visual aesthetic to convey that feeling, while bringing in themes and a story structure wholly new to the Star Wars films. Although a few too many gratuitous cameos nod to the original trilogy, this first stand-alone Star Wars movie has a fantastic cast of new characters and does exactly what it needed to do: it feels like something in the Star Wars universe, while clearly setting itself apart from the seven “episodes.” In doing that, it gives me a new hope for the future spin-offs in the series.

Jeff Mijo

9. Divines

“People tell me I have balls for making this film. Listen, I don’t have balls, I have clitoris!” That’s French director Houda Benyamina during her ferocious acceptance speech for the 2016 Cannes Film Festival Palm D’or. Benyamina is a second-generation Muslim Moroccan migrant who grew up in the refugee slums near Paris. All of the rage that smoldered during her oppressed upbringing was channeled into this, her directorial debut and breakout feature film, Divines. “I decided it was better to make a film than a bomb,” says Benyamina after receiving her award. Divines follows two teenage girls as they strive to liberate themselves from the Parisian slums. This is a feminist film in the truest sense of the word, neither demanding respect nor commanding equality, and not condemning the suppression of women, simply breaking the fingers that point down and trampling anyone blocking their way to the top. Benyamina thought making a film was better than a bomb; she may want to re-verify her creation.

Bradley Peters

10. Zootopia

Zootopia was an early surprise for me in 2016. While at a surface level the plot seemed typical of modern children’s movies, the setting is built around the discussion of prejudice and discrimination based on factors beyond people’s (or animal’s) control; in this case, predators and prey. The analogies for racism sometimes don’t land quite right, but that a children’s film tackles them — and not just on an interpersonal level, but in the context of systemic discrimination, including policing — is an excellent step. And putting all of that aside, Zootopia is a straightforward, fun movie that I imagine will be a long-remembered favourite for many children.

Jeff Mijo

ALBUMS

  1. Bon Iver – 22, A Million

With 22, A Million, Bon Iver has found the sound that opens the floodgates of his soul: a combination of everything he’s done before, compounded, perfected, and reimagined with experimentation and artistic expression. This album is a heartbreaking howl in the darkness of lost time. What does living mean when confronted with the blaring inevitability of nothingness? The album will be relatable to anyone questioning whether they will ever feel

22, A Million is a demanding album; each song seems built directly upon the last so the notion of a “single” is practically destroyed and the listener is forced to undergo the wrenching journey of existential angst and beautiful longing by themselves, abandoned to Justin Vernon’s haunting vocals. But when the final track, “00000 Million” plays, and the weary line “Because the days have no numbers,” signals the end, you’ll feel a satisfaction in the artistic beauty of uncertainty as well as a sadness at the ending of a first experience.

My favourite track on the album was “29 #Strafford APTS,” but you need the build-up to fully appreciate it so just listen from the start.

Bradley Peters

  1. Leonard Cohen – You Want It Darker

Oftentimes, works released near an artist’s death are glorified by society, made to be something that they are not. In the case of Leonard Cohen, Canada’s most illustrious and reclusive poet, You Want It Darker lives up to those glorifications. Songs like “Leaving the Table” play as an obvious bowing-out from life on the part of Cohen, but rarely are artists afforded the opportunity to look back on life, as one would a series of distant lovers, pangs of loneliness and thoughts of what could have been accompany a rush of compassion, dare I say love.

On You Want It Darker Cohen wraps his arms around his own dwindling mortality and embraces it with a level of composure usually associated with royalty; acknowledging his mistakes, commiserating missed chances. Above all, though, Cohen’s still what he always was: A lover, completely and absolutely. One that knows he’s dying, but loves just as fiercely regardless.

Martin Castro

  1. Radiohead – A Moon Shaped Pool

This album is a breathtaking example of musical intelligence and control. It’s a modern orchestra; combinations of sound into music that manipulates the listener into an extraordinary emotional range. A Moon Shaped Pool will gently take your hand and usher you from the depths of despair into euphoria, from fear to confusion, and remorse to surrender, done with a frightening control and mastery of sound. When a song threatens to engulf you, like a storm, and the music is stretched nearly to collapse under its own complexity, it will dissolve like mist back into its basic beauty. This album deserves headphones or a good sound system and a full listen. It’s hard to recommend one song for a sample, but check out “Daydreaming” for an experience perfectly described by its title, or “Present Tense” for a wraith love dirge that you can sway to.

Bradley Peters

  1. David Bowie – Blackstar

The final album by glam-rock legend David Bowie is an even more emotional and memorable experience due to the tragic fact that he knew he was dying when he recorded it, passing away only two days after its release. Bowie’s parting gift to the world contains a myriad of different musical styles, from art and experimental rock to folk-pop and hip-hop, with a lot of jazz, including horns, saxophones, and even some jazztronica and a harmonica solo. Blackstar is a unique, intriguing, and powerful album. Thank you, David, you will definitely be missed. “Seeing more and feeling less / Saying no but meaning yes / This is all I ever meant / That’s the message that I sent.”

Kat Marusiak

  1. A Tribe Called Quest – We Got It From Here… Thank You 4 Your Service

It’s hard to express the hype that surrounded A Tribe Called Quest’s new album. We Got It From Here… Thank You For Your Service is the sixth and decidedly final album by the pioneers of smooth, jazzy hip-hop. It’s been 20 years since the group’s last release. During the production of this album, one of the greatest rappers ever and Tribe member Phife Dawg passed away. His lyrics for the album had already been recorded. The group somehow managed to put the album together, working all through the night for months, completing the record on November 9, two days before its release. A Tribe Called Quest sounds as fresh as ever, motivated and inspired. The timing of the record, with all of the political chaos and racial turmoil, is impeccable. As well as being a swan song to a great musical crew, We Got It From Here… is a touching send-off to one of rap’s most influential players. Twenty years later and these dudes are still spitting fire. That’s worthy of a salute. For a sample, check out “We the People,” enjoy, then realize these dudes are fringing on 50 and have your mind blown.

Bradley Peters

  1. King Gizzard and the Lizard Wizard – Nonagon Infinity

In a rock soundscape whose heyday has long since come and gone, Australian seven-piece psychedelic outfit King Gizzard and the Lizard Wizard’s Nonagon Infinity blasts the listener with tight rhythms and fuzzy, intertwined guitar melodies. As far as psychedelic experimental rock goes, Nonagon Infinity is both an accessible record and one of the densest albums of 2016. Tracks like “Wah Wah” and “Gamma Knife” hurtle out of the gate with the energy of a bullet fired out of a gun attached to another speeding bullet. Opener “Robot Stop” ought to give prospective listeners a good teaser for the record. If the unrelenting action sequences of Mad Max had a musical equivalent, Nonagon Infinity would be it.

Martin Castro

  1. Big Thief – Masterpiece

Not many bands would have been able to get away with naming their debut record Masterpiece. Brooklyn’s Big Thief did. This indie foursome’s debut toes the line between rock and such sweet, sweet folk melodies that it’s eclectic to a fault. Picking a “best song” from the 12 on this record was probably the hardest thing I’ve had to do all year. It’s a four-way tie between the dazzling “Real Love,” the heart-wrenching “Paul,” the aptly-named “Velvet Ring,” and “Humans.”

Masterpiece lives up to its name. Songs like “Randy” put Adrienne Lenker’s tender vocals upfront and centre among tender guitars, while the record’s title-track boasts gritty rock aesthetics and a kick-ass guitar solo, only bested by the cathartic second half of “Real Love,” which marries the tenderness of Lenker’s vocals with a no-nonsense guitar solo. It’s an admirably efficient way of dissipating the tension.

I’ll give you $5 to listen to Masterpiece. That’s how much I think your life will benefit from having heard it.

Martin Castro

  1. Iggy Pop – Post Pop Depression

Dark and angsty lyrics, heavy guitar, groovy bass licks. This album features a supergroup lineup of Josh Homme, Matt Helders, Dean Fertita, and Iggy Pop. With so many allstars conducting the same train, there’s a good change of wreckage. In a sense, that’s what happened, and it was great.

Fans of Pop should expect nothing less than a grungy, self-mutilating record. The presence of the younger musicians brings Pop’s now-ancient techniques into relevance. One could argue that screaming profanities for a straight minute after a song isn’t relevant, but I think Pop would disagree. And so would I.

Joel Robertson-Taylor

  1. July Talk – Touch

The second release by Canada’s alt rock sensation, July Talk’s Touch is a beautifully passionate album about relationships, loneliness, and the desire to feel connected. Lead singers Peter Dreimanis and Leah Fay continue to perfect their dynamic “Beauty & the Beast” aesthetic, with his rough, guttural, and aggressive vocals like a raging fire, kept in check by her high, silky smooth voice and lovely, dulcet tones. The hard, abrasive elements and more calm, harmonious ones come together in an incredibly powerful manner. Killer bass, hard beats, and electric guitar licks are found throughout, and the implementation of passionate piano, keyboard, and several different percussion instruments makes their incredible music even more fresh and stand-out amid the sea of often generic sounds found on the radio today.

Kat Marusiak

  1. PUP – The Dream is Over

When I reviewed this record last year, I wrote that it was “as honest with itself and its listeners as you could hope for. It’s angst-ridden, earnest, and fun as hell.” That was five months ago. And since it came out, I can more-or-less confidently state that I’ve gone back to this record at least once every two weeks. If you’re looking for rock that’s just as full of springy guitar riffs as it is of small-town references and the kind of teen angst that bleeds over into people’s early to mid-20s, then you’ve come to the right place.

As dissatisfied as it is, the opening track, “If This Tour Doesn’t Kill You, I Will” is reflective of most of the content that follows on The Dream is Over: over-the-top punk tracks which ground themselves in some of the catchiest hooks this side of pop, and an anger which permeates every track on the record but still manages to be playful.

Highlights include “DVP,” “The Coast,” “Old Wounds,” and “Pine Point.” PUP also gets bonus points for being Canadian.

Martin Castro

  1. Car Seat Headrest – Teens of Denial

“So there I was, just another shitbag civilian. Afraid of the cops when I was outside, afraid of my friends when I was inside,” sings Will Toledo on “(Joe Gets Kicked Out of School for Using) Drugs With Friends (But Says This Isn’t a Problem),” a track which epitomizes the harshly introspective reflection of depressive tendencies apparent on most of Toledo’s work, but most of all on Teens of Denial. If he’s not already cemented his potential status as an indie darling, he will soon.

Enchantingly melodic and unflinchingly self-critical, Teens of Denial is the most emotionally vulnerable record I’ve heard all year.

Recommended track: “Drunk Drivers / Killer Whales.”

Martin Castro

  1. Red Hot Chili Peppers – The Getaway

The Getaway is the Red Hot Chili Peppers desperate attempt to find a way to stay relevant in a constantly changing industry and to an ever-evolving audience. Thing is, they do a pretty good job of it. A surprisingly satisfying blend of the funk sound that launched their career and the soulful Southern California crooner rock that is distinctive to them, The Getaway makes you feel nostalgic for the Chili Peppers of yore while providing a fresh sound that doesn’t make you feel like you’ve heard all of this before.

Vanessa Broadbent

  1. Blink 182 – California

Blink-182’s most recent album is very reminiscent of their older work, such as the 1999 release Enema of the State, and 2001’s Take Off Your Pants and Jacket. Combining a lot of catchy hooks, familiar, punchy beats, and a healthy dose of their trademark absurd humour with an element of the present nostalgic angst of being an aging pop-punk rock band, California is a fun listen for fans both new and old alike. Blink 182 prove that, while they may be getting older, they still have what it takes to be “Kings of the Weekend.”

Kat Marusiak

  1. Frankie Cosmos – Next Thing

On Next Thing Frankie Cosmos (Greta Simone Kline) blends an obviously apparent insecurity with an indie folk that makes use of pop sensibilities. I’m wary of touting this record as “one of those albums where you have to pay attention to the lyrics.” But the reason Next Thing was one of the best records of the year is that Kline has the ability to draw compassion from her listeners by painting scenes that are both conversational and intensely poignant. On Next Thing we’re invited to share in Kline’s insecurities (“When you’re young, you’re too young. When you’re old, you’re too old.”) while at the same time being shown the intricacies of everyday life in simple yet starkly beautiful tracks.

Martin Castro

  1. Kings of Leon – WALLS

Even though Kings of Leon traded the Southern blues rock sound that defined their early success for more of a heavy pop / rock vibe for their latest album, WALLS is still arguably the band’s best yet. A mix of the group’s classic rock ballads, but maybe even more soulful than ever, with songs that sound a little too top 40 but with enough heaviness to make it more than tolerable, makes this album cover a little bit of everything and appeal to pretty much everyone. It’s not traditional Kings of Leon, but it’s a positive progression in the right direction.

Vanessa Broadbent

BOOKS

The best books of the year in the exact order of their bestness according to one particularly Canadian literature-loving reviewer, and perhaps you can even trust her, seeing as she has two English degrees and read exactly one hundred books in 2016.

Dessa Bayrock

Cascade Alum

The High Mountains of Portugal – Yann Martel

This was one of the first books I read in 2016, and it set the bar for the rest of the year. To answer the question you’re already thinking: yes, it is as good as Life of Pi, and maybe even better.

The premise: Three separate stories explore what it means to be caught up in something bigger than yourself, whether that something is grief, religion, or a chimpanzee. At first, these three narratives seem to have nothing to do with one another; by the end, they fit together like a perfectly measured dovetail joint.

Read this book if: you liked Life of Pi, if you liked Cloud Atlas, or if you think the phrase “the high mountains of Portugal” seems shrouded in old-world mystery and Wordsworth-type romance, because this novel delivers both.

The Hidden Keys – André Alexis

You may have heard of André Alexis after his novel Fifteen Dogs won the Giller Prize — and the hearts of thousands of Canadian readers — last year. So what does an author do after winning the biggest and shiniest trophy in Canadian literature? He writes a quietly wonderful follow-up novel with the same sort of golden heart.

The premise: An honest thief, a police officer, a taxidermist, and a heroin addict walk into a Toronto bar; by the time they leave, they’re all utterly caught up in a search for a hidden fortune. This modern — and extremely loose — retelling of Treasure Island is an adventure, a mystery, and a series of philosophical and moral questions all wrapped up together.

Read this book if: you liked Fifteen Dogs, if you’ve ever been to Toronto, or if you find yourself wondering about things like the crossroads of nationality and homesickness.

We Are All Just Animals & Plants – Alex Manley

Face it: poetry is good for you, and good poetry is even better for you. The great thing about poetry is that, if you don’t really like it, you can still memorize the best bits to whip out at parties. Here’s a line I particularly liked that you can borrow for free: “This thing is like a video / I saw on YouTube once, / a praying mantis stumbling, / smashed over and over / by a merciful human hand.”

The premise: Alex Manley has a knack for describing weird little details of this era in a way that makes you feel smarter for having thought something similar. He writes about the awkwardness of first dates, the odd fascination of tiki bars, and the self-flagellation of being hungover.

Read this book if: you’re hungover, if it’s snowed too much to go anywhere, if you feel like reading but a novel seems like too much commitment, or if Alex Manley is a guy you met in an elevator at a conference at 4 a.m. when you were both drunk and you never stopped loving the guts out of him.

Paper Girls (Vol. 1 & 2) – Brian Vaughan & Cliff Chiang

Paper Girls is one of the smash-hit graphic novels of 2016, and I know this because it’s on the bestseller list at both of my local, independent comic book shops. It’s zany, and vibrant, and more than a little unsettling.

The premise: Newspaper delivery is traditionally a boy’s job, especially in 1988, but that doesn’t stop the four heroines of this series from getting up at 4 o’clock in the morning to deliver their local paper. Unfortunately, it looks like a lot more than gender roles are going to hell when futuristic aliens come pouring into the world, bringing some kind of inter-time and inter-generational civil war into the quiet, pre-dawn world of 1988.

Read this book if: you enjoyed Donnie Darko, if you binge-watched Stranger Things, if you want to stick it to the patriarchy, or if you have a driving need to be on the cutting edge of everything hot and sick in graphic novels.

Do Not Say We Have Nothing – Madeleine Thien

This novel won the Giller last year, which is the biggest and shiniest prize in Canadian literature. That said, you’ll notice I’ve placed it behind four other books on this particular best-of list. It’s good; in fact, it’s really good. But it’s also very dense, and has the sort of tangential narrative that requires concentration. This is not the kind of novel you pick up as light reading; prepare for it to take over your life for a while if you decide to pick it up.

The premise: A complicated web of family relationships, friendships, loyalty, music, and betrayal spreads from modern-day Vancouver to Cultural Revolution-era China. What is left to a family — or to a nation — when everything they own is methodically stripped from them, leaving them in abject poverty? Yet even in the darkest moments, you cannot say they have nothing. (See what I did there.)

Read this book if: you love sprawling historical or intergenerational novels, if you are fascinated with life under totalitarian regimes, or if you feel the urge to have your heart ripped out before your eyes — because this book is going to make you bawl like an infant.

The Conjoined – Jen Sookfong Lee

You might — and should — recognize the author of this novel as one of UFV’s previous writers-in-residence; she’s also a hilarious and honest presence on Twitter, and a fighting force for a conversation about race and gender in Canadian literature. The Conjoined made its way onto more than a few best-of lists this year as an unexpected murder mystery that defies genre conventions.

The premise: Jessica has a complicated relationship with her overbearing, hippy, foster-care worker mother — complicated even further when Jessica discovers two frozen bodies in her mother’s chest freezer, and complicated even further by the fact that Jessica’s mother has died without leaving any explanation.

Read this book if: you enjoy books set in places you recognize (in this case, Vancouver), if you enjoyed Sookfong Lee’s classes, readings, or seminars last year, or if you like scratching your head so hard it bleeds — because this one’s a real, albeit enjoyable, headscratcher.

Dark Matter – Blake Crouch

This novel is being lauded as one of the year’s twistiest science fiction pieces, and it sure is twisty. It’s also the perfect amount of pulp fiction to carry you away from your student worries and woes for an afternoon, without being so pulpy that you roll your eyes at every other paragraph.

The premise: A mediocre physics professor with a happy home life is abducted and replaced by himself from a parallel world — a world in which he’s an ingenious and filthy rich researcher who lacks a happy home life. This novel raises two age-old questions: is it better to have success or people who love you? And how many parallel worlds must a man walk into to track down his wife and child?

Read this book if: you’re fascinated by parallel worlds, if you listen to the things Stephen Hawking says, if you’re looking for something to make you feel better about being dirt-poor but at least having friends and family.

Other notable books published this year which weren’t really this particular reviewer’s jam but which might be yours:

Wenjack – Joseph Boyden

An exhausted and abused residential school boy escapes and attempts to make his way home, not realizing just how far away the idea of “home” has become. This is an important story for the contemporary Canadian reader, and I would put it on the list of required reading in this age of (attempted) truth and reconciliation. However, it’s a surprisingly quick read, and I would have liked to see it fleshed out into a full-fledged novel; to be honest, the short form feels a little lazy. I also would have liked to see Joseph Boyden steer clear of the #UBCaccountable debacle, but we can’t always get what we want.

The Spawning Grounds – Gail Anderson-Dargatz

A family navigates the complicated history and mythology of living on unceded territory in the heart of B.C. — something which becomes more difficult with a series of natural disasters and the reappearance of an ancient bodysnatching spirit. This book is wonderful for placing the reader right in the middle of geographical and mythological British Columbia. At times, however, it reads more like an adolescent novel than full-fledged fiction. (Yes, you read correctly between the lines: I don’t believe young adult fiction is full-fledged fiction.)

The Fireman – Joe Hill

Joe Hill, who you might recognize as the author of Horns or else as Stephen King’s son, has a great wit and a talent for writing creepy, thrilling narratives. This novel is no different: a horrifying fungus has spread across the world, causing those affected to spontaneously burst into flame. It’s a fun premise, and suitably creepy, but sullied by Hill’s constant and irritating pop culture references. Look, guys, I’m hip and happening! I understand what’s popular with the kids! Joe seems to be saying. Yes, Joe. We get it.

Other notable books not technically published in 2016 but published late enough in 2015 that they deserve a spot on this list and by golly you should read them:

Radiance – Catherynne M. Valente

This novel is one of the best books I read last year, which I don’t say lightly, and also one of the weirdest: imagine if a low-budget art film had a baby with a pulpy science fiction novel from the ‘60s, and that baby turned out to be a murder mystery. It’s fantastical and fantastic; this is an especially good novel to listen to as an audiobook, if you’re into that kind of thing.

Fates and Furies – Lauren Groff

This novel is really two novels stuck together, even though they tell the same story: Lotto and Mathilde are a glamorous, talented couple in the world of theatre. Together they lead a wonderful, natural life — or do they? The first half of the book tells Lotto’s story of events, up until his death; the second tells Mathilde’s, which differs drastically in key places. What is the weight of a secret? Of a series of secrets? Add devastatingly beautiful prose to this recipe and you’ve got a humdinger of a heartbreaker — and this from someone who generally loathes the “story of a marriage” plotline.

Martin John – Anakana Schofield

Martin John was on the Giller shortlist the same year as Fifteen Dogs, which you can add to your store of fun facts that no one will care about but CanLit nerds. But I digress! This novel, I guarantee, is one of the weirdest and creepiest novels you will ever read — creepy in the classic Freudian uncanny sense of the word. Our eponymous narrator at first seems sympathetic, but is this really the case? As he repeats, and repeats, and repeats: harm was done, and further harm will be done. But who, exactly, is harming whom? Shudder.

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