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Steven W. Beattie, editor and writer

Steven W. Beattie is the review editor at Quill & Quire magazine. He also writes about short stories for The Globe and Mail.

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Powell, Kerry-Lee.
One of my favourite books from 2016 was Powell's debut collection, a group of stories about vulnerable characters trying to negotiate straitened circumstances. The first story begins with a sly allusion to Alice Munro, which is aiming high for a Canadian writer. But Powell's reach is the equal of her grasp in this book, which displays a poet's facility with concentrated language while also being hugely entertaining.
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Cohen, Leonard, 1934-2016
In addition to being an internationally renowned singer-songwriter, Cohen also authored one of Canada's modernist masterpieces, a novel that has been compared approvingly to Joyce's Ulysses. "It's wild and incredible and marvellously well written," the publisher Jack McClelland wrote to Cohen in June of 1965, "and at the same time appalling, shocking, revolting, disgusting, sick and just maybe it's a great novel." Time has done nothing to diminish the book's power.
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Beatty, Paul.
The winner of the 2016 Man Booker Prize is a satire about race that is pointed and angry, while also being laugh-out-loud funny. Politically incorrect, profane, and unflinching, Beatty's book is also an honest and forthright reckoning with race relations in America. Like all great satire, it is blazingly funny and deeply serious.
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Hochschild, Arlie Russell, 1940- author.
Taking a page from Thomas Frank's book What's the Matter with Kansas, the American sociologist Arlie Russell Hochschild, a liberal from Berkeley, California, travels deep into the heart of red state Louisiana to try to discover why Tea Party supporters there seem intent on voting against their own self-interest. A remarkable exercise in empathy, the book was published before Donald Trump won the Republican nomination in 2016; it has even more relevance now that he is president-elect.
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Kurniawan, Eka, 1975- author.
A native of West Java, the Indonesian writer Eka Kurniawan has written a beguiling, entrancing, magical realist novel that spans generations. Opening with the apparent resurrection of its protagonist - an Indonesian prostitute - and shuttling backward and forward through time, the epic narrative combines folklore, history, and rich detail in a story that has been likened to an Indonesian variation on The Canterbury Tales.
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Welsh, Jennifer M., (Jennifer Mary), 1965- author.
A former special adviser to the United Nations Secretary General and a renowned expert on international relations, Welsh uses her latest book - which constitutes the 2016 CBC Massey Lectures - to illustrate the limitations of Francis Fukuyama's "end of history" thesis. Rather than liberal democracy being the inevitable end result of human geopolitics, Welsh argues, it is instead a fragile political ideology that is currently threatened by the historical forces of income inequality, cold war, mass migration and barbarism. A timely book, and a fascinating analysis.
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Fearing, Kenneth, 1902-1961.
George Stroud is an editor at a magazine conglomerate (loosely based on Time Inc.) who is carrying on an affair with his boss's wife. When his boss murders his wife, Stroud is put in charge of the investigation, which more and more comes to implicate him. A neglected masterpiece of American noir, Fearing's 1946 novel (made into a 1948 movie with Ray Milland and Charles Laughton, and remade in 1987 as No Way Out with Kevin Costner and Gene Hackman) is also a biting satire about the soulless nature of corporate capitalism.
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Solnit, Rebecca, author.
The American writer and activist Rebecca Solnit first wrote this slim volume as a response to the George W. Bush administration's 2003 invasion of Iraq, but the book has a renewed relevance at the end of 2016. Examining our shared ability to find meaning in darkness and dredge hope out of apparent despair, Solnit points to the achievements of grassroots groups engaged in direct action for change around the globe. Solnit is no Pollyanna, but a clear-eyed realist who counsels resistance instead of passivity.
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Imam, Neamat, author.
In 1971 Bangladesh, following the nation's fractious and violent independence, a disgraced journalist encounters an indigent man who bears a striking resemblance to Sheik Mujib, the country's leader. He outfits the man in Sheik Mujib's trademark black coat and takes him to the public square, where he solicits money by having his new charge declaim the revolutionary leader's famous March 1971 speech encouraging the masses to rise up. All goes well at first, until the journalist's puppet starts to have political ideas of his own. Edmonton playwright Neamat has written a satire about Bangladesh that has particular resonance for our own time and place.
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O'Connor, Flannery.
A perennial favourite. O'Connor's stories are both specific to their time and place - the American South in the middle of the 20th century - and universal in their themes of hypocrisy, venality and the degradations of modernity. O'Connor's pitiless irony is perhaps the perfect note to strike in our own historical moment, and her voice remains unique in Western literature. Funny and angry in equal measure, these stories feel as fresh as if they had been written yesterday.
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