Best of the Best:
Machine Without Horses by Helen Humphreys
This genre blend of grief memoir, writer's guide and historical fiction made every part of my brain tingle.
Best Picture Book:
The Lost Words by Robert Macfarlane and Jackie Morris
An oversize book of acrostic nature poetry, celebrating words - from acorn to wren - with sumptuous illustrations.
Best Audiobook (tie):
The Poet X by Elizabeth Acevedo
Vibrant, authentic and moving verse novel in the passionate Afro Latina voice of a young slam poet; audiobook performed by the author.
The Pond by Claire-Louise Bennett
Interconnected stories and vignettes of an eccentric woman living in extreme solitude in Ireland; an exploration of human connection to the physical world, the link between our outer and inner selves... a sensory experience. As I listened to this audiobook performed by Lucy Rayner, I could almost feel myself vibrating with the book's energy.
Best Poetry (tie):
Welcome to the Anthropocene by Alice Major
Humanity and our relationship to the cosmos: these witty poems address the big questions. Edmonton author.
Insomnia Bird by Kelly Shepherd
Wordsmith collage that maps the exterior and interior places where city people, the natural world and work intersect. Edmonton author.
The Flower Can Always Be Changing by Shawna Lemay
Stunning poetic fragments by an introvert musing about her interactions at work at a public library, photography as a daily practice, and seeing beauty in ordinary things. Edmonton author.
Best Fiction in Translation (three-way tie):
Baba Dunja's Last Love, Alina Bronsky, translation by Tim Mohr
The unforgettable voice of an elderly woman in Chernobyl after the nuclear "incident."
Convenience Store Woman by Sayaka Murata, translation by Ginny Tabley Takemori
Another unforgettable voice, this time a pithy non-neurotypical Japanese in contemporary Tokyo.
Drive Your Plow Over the Bones of the Dead by Olga Tokarczuk, translation by Antonia Lloyd-Jones
It's all about the dark and delightful voice; an eccentric 60-year-old vegetarian English teacher in a remote village in Poland investigates the deaths of local hunters. Canada publication: February 2019.
The Cost of Living: A Working Autobiography by Deborah Levy
Clear, urgent and inventive documentation of Levy's passage into a new life, post marriage, at 50.
Best Graphic Novel (tie):
The Park Bench by Chaboute
Crisp black-and-white art uses a park bench to anchor a story of urban public life across decades. Warm, funny and nearly wordless.
On a Sunbeam by Tillie Walden
An epic boarding school/science fiction space adventure with beautiful art and a cast of fascinating queer characters.
Best Fiction by an Indigenous Author:
There, There by Tommy Orange
Set in contemporary Oakland California, brilliantly crafted with 12 alternating points of view, the multiple strands drawing together with increasing urgency. Best ending too!
Best Literary Fiction (a catch-all for all the rest):
Motherhood by Sheila Heti
Introspective, elegant and funny - in the style of a personal journal - as much about having a mother as it is about ambivalence towards being a mother.
Our Homesick Songs by Emma Hooper
Lyrical, character-based, uplifting story of a remote community facing dissolution in Newfoundland.
The Friend by Sigrid Nunez
"Writers have to bear witness, it's their vocation." What grieving illuminates about our truest selves. Differing views on artistic expression. The special bond between humans and dogs.
Winter by Ali Smith
The thawing of frozen relationships, interwoven with current issues - Brexit, Syrian refugees, fake news, the power of protest, etc. Wise and full of heart.