The Vanishing Half by Brit Bennett

While I did my fair share of anti-racist readings this year, it’s this novel by Brit Bennett that I keep thinking back to when it comes to issues of race. The (fictional) story follows light-skinned twins who run away from home as teenagers, and the vastly different paths they take: one returning, dark-skinned daughter in tow, years later, and the other blending in to white society. It’s a poignant, human look at how race is ultimately a construct and the quiet tragedy of assimilation. Here’s an idea: give copies to everyone in your family and have a rousing Zoom book club instead of Christmas dinner this year. €” Stacey McLachlan, editor at large

Mrs. Bridge by Evan S. Connell

I’m dedicated to making sure my literary canon is solid, so I often employ a one new, one classic strategy when it comes to reading. It’s a bit of a sucker’s bet in that the new book invariably has to compare to something that’s stood the test of time, but so be it. So I find myself looking backwards: to classics I never got to and to overlooked gems that have fallen out of favour. Mrs. Bridge by Evan S. Connell is a book that falls into both categories. It’s a series of only tangentially related episodes in the life of India Bridge, a housewife living in St. Louis between the wars. Her husband is a lawyer who’s not prone to emotions and her three kids also express varying degrees of indifference to their mother. Nothing much happens to Mrs. Bridge, but Connell manages to structure a level of mundane complexity that’s in turn enlightening and heartbreaking. It’s a style of writing that’s been taken up by Alice Munro and Elizabeth Strout, who likewise have the ability to capture the monotonous path that is life without ever seeming to be whinging about.

It’s the type of book that would be called passé now€”middle class people complaining about their plight, and it’s a valid point. But art and all it’s sadness and complexity lurks everywhere, and sometimes when a master like Connell turns his insight to an unexpected locale, magic happens. €”Neal McLennan, food and travel editor

The Swan Suit by Katherine Fawcett

My sister gifted me this book for my birthday this year. It was a much better present than last year's€”mainly because last year I got a handmade card that read, €œHappy Birthday. Your present hasn€™t come in the mail yet so you get nothing.€ But comparisons aside, it was an excellent present for me. This collection of fractured, feminist fairytales was exactly the escape I needed this summer, and the short story format was ideal for those few minutes when I arrived at the park before my friends (gals, we said 5:30, come on). And, it’s local: Fawcett is based in Squamish. Every tale is a thoughtful, clever satire, and very funny in a very dark way€”my favourite is €œHam,€ a post-Three Little Pigs narrative that tackles capitalism and the ethics of cooking baby wolves. there'salso a little mention of WL in it€”the third little pig makes so much bank in the baby wolfmeat biz that he buys a mansion in West Van with a glass garage door that's featured in Western Living. That's the dream, isn€™t it?€”Alyssa Hirose, assistant editor

All the Devils Are Here by Louise Penny

If you haven’t yet discovered Louise Penny’s fantastic Three Pines series, I’m a little jealous of you, because you have 16 books now to sink into, and I’m certain you’ll fall in love with every single character Penny’s created in this small village in the Eastern Townships of Quebec. Each story pivots around Armand Gamache, the Chief Inspector of the Sûreté, who investigates not only the murder in each novel, but the longer story arcs of corruption in the force€”most notably, in the early novels, in its brutal treatment of Indigenous people. Penny’s latest is truly a tour de force, this time with the Gamaches visiting Paris, awaiting the birth of their grandchild€”only to be pulled into an investigation on the attempted murder of a dear friend and mentor. Each book is a standalone mystery, and you can easily start with All the Devils Are Here without feeling lost€”for its combination of armchair travel (oh Paris, how I miss you), incredible descriptions of food (nobody does it like Penny), and a thrilling climax that had me guessing until the end. But I promise you, you’ll immediately want to dive into the rest of them as soon as you’re done€”as I plan to revisit the series this holiday season, too.€”Anicka Quin, editorial director