Staff Picks 2016: Kate

So many great books this year, and so little let's get started! Here are my top ten of 2016: 

Beverly - Nick Drnaso
This poignant collection of short stories travels through alienated suburbia depicting fractured American family life in all of its sordid glory. Muted pastels and minimal dialogue subtly reveal the unmistakable trauma seething beneath the surface of the character's lives. Detached and misanthropic, these characters lead heart-breakingly quiet lives. With its darkly funny and nuanced stories, Beverly is a book that deserves many re-readings.

Panther - Brecht Evens
This terrifying and seductive book saw its well-deserved translation into English this year via Drawn & Quarterly. Brecht Evens' gothic fairy tale conveys the story of Christine and her shapeshifting panther friend in dazzling watercolors. The outstanding artwork and sharp writing make it easy to get lost inside this shadowy world of dreams and nightmares. Don't be fooled by the children's book format - Panther's archetypal horror stayed with me for weeks after reading.

Big Kids - Michael Deforge
In this story about transformation, a queer teenager grapples with high school life. When he unexpectedly "trees",  his perspective shifts completely and he begins to see the world through tree eyes. In the Big Kids universe, trees are hyper-evolved beings that have a zen-sensual connection to the exterior world. Not everyone is a tree though, as the protagonist learns; it's a fluid state, and some people will remain twigs forever. With this incredibly potent metaphor, Deforge captures something elemental about coming of age in my favourite Michael Deforge book to date! 

The Babysitter at Rest - Jen George
I laughed ad nauseum at the latest offering from the now seminal small press, the Dorothy Project. Jen George's collection of absurd and scathing short stories are the perfect marriage of comedy and despair. Whether satirizing basic institutions like healthcare, culture, and education or dissecting human relationships, her lampooning of the brutal violence of patriarchal culture is consistently hilarious and cutting. 

The Vegetarian - Han Kang trans. by Deborah Smith
This strange novella put me into a trance and once I started it I couldn't put it down. It revolves around the titular character Yeong-Hye's decision to stop eating meat and is told through the shifting perspective of her family. This exercise of personal agency, however small and mysterious, seems to enrage everyone around her. But the more they grasp at it, the further she eludes them. Ethereal images of carnality juxtaposed with the vegetal color this tragic modern fable.

Bad Korean - Kyung Me
This stellar collection of mixed media drawings was published this year by Space Face Books. It follows one character's path from her bedroom to the beach, the subway to the street, while accompanied by simple text statements narrating her thoughts. Chronicling the banal pleasantries of public space as well as her most intimate and gut-wrenching moments, it renders a spectrum of emotion from DGAF catty malaise to endearing optimism. Kyung Me's Bad Korean is a hypnotic visual poem.

Eileen - Ottessa Moshfegh
In this perversely funny, dark story the narrator, Eileen, reminisces about her youth. Living in small town Massachusetts with her alcoholic (retired cop) father and working at a penitentiary, life is bleak for the young Eileen. Her vast self-loathing is matched only by her contempt for everyone else in her vicinity. When not obsessing about death or bodily functions, she gets her kicks shoplifting and stalking her fantasy man and co-worker, Randy. Despite the anguish, Eileen’s inner world gleams with candor and lucidity in this totally engrossing read. 

Double Teenage - Joni Murphy
In melancholic prose, Double Teenage captures girlhood's ritualized growing pains. I read it this summer on a flight home, where its recurring theme of transition was especially poignant. Set in the Southwestern desert in the 1990s, double protagonists Celine and Julie invoke ghosts and magic spells as they try to discern why our culture has so many stories about dead girls. 

Virus Tropical - Powerpaola
Already widely published across the globe, this autobiographical comic was released in English this year in a beautiful edition by 2DCloud. It recounts Powerpaola's youth spent in 1980s Ecuador and Columbia living with her Mom and sisters. Her telling is full of charm and dark humour and each chapter, organized by themes such as religion, women, and money, is commemorated by a vivacious full-page drawing. Essential reading for fans of Julie Doucet or Marjane Satrapi, AND it's going to be a movie

Wendy's Revenge - Walter Scott
Wendy's Revenge is the fabulous followup to her sensational debut. The beloved heroine offers a much needed scene report on the sometimes seedy art world. This collection is every bit as excellent as the first. And, now that Wendy's international art career is happening, she travels a lot more. From Vancouver to Yokohama, LA, Toronto and New York, Wendy attends art openings everywhere - with enough remorseful hangovers for everyone to indulge in!

~~~~~~~ Honorable Mentions

Girl on the Shore - Inio Asano What is Obscenity - Rokudenashiko + Suite for Barbara Loden - Nathalie Léger trans. by Natasha Lehrer and Cécile Menon

Margaret the First - Danielle Dutton + Laid Waste - Julia Gfrörer + Hot or Not20th Century Male Artists - Jessica Campbell

~~~~~~~ Books I am going to read immediately

Fierce Femmes and Notorious Liars - Kai Cheng Thom + Problems - Jade Sharma + Surveys - Natasha Stagg + Social Medium: Artists Writing; 2000-2015 - ed. by Jennifer Liese + Float - Anna Carson + Swing Time - Zadie Smith 

For more reading suggestions be sure to check out everyone's Top Ten of 2016 lists right here:
Alyssa + Ben + Daphné + Helen + Henrika + Julie + Lucie + Rebecca + Saelan

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