After taking over the bestseller lists at the turn of the century, the memoir genre went into the tank as the least trusted literary genre of 2006. Fortunately, fiction writers stepped in and rocked.
1 LONDONSTANI by Gautam Malkani (HarperCollins)
Desis seek bling, babes, cars and tech toys in this riveting meditation on masculinity told in an electrifying patois of hiphop, Punjabi and text message. Completely original.
2 THE INHERITANCE OF LOSS by Kiran Desai (Penguin)
Booker winner looks at illusion-filled characters as their lives unfold in England, the U.S. and India. Brutal and beautiful.
3 MORAL DISORDER by Margaret Atwood (McClelland & Stewart)
Surprisingly personal short stories from an artist at her peak. No one else can be so tough and so tender at the same time.
4 I WAS A CHILD OF HOLOCAUST SURVIVORS by Bernice Eisenstein (McClelland & Stewart)
A new genre is born in this hybrid tale, part graphic novel, part textual memoir. There is trauma here, of course, but the story is told with love and even a little humour.
5 HOW HAPPY TO BE by Katrina Onstad (McClelland & Stewart)
Though most of the attention went to Onstad's toxic evocation of the protagonist's life as a film journalist at a T.O. daily, the real revelation here is Maxime's sad backstory about growing up on brown-rice collectives out west. A knockout debut novel.
6 LULLABIES FOR LITTLE CRIMINALS by Heather O'Neill (HarperCollins)
O'Neill deploys all her poetic chops in this story of 12-year-old Baby, neglected by her druggie dad and exploited by just about everyone else. With impressive skill, O'Neill manages to show acumen and at the same time tell the tale from a believable tween point of view.
7 TULIA: RACE, COCAINE, AND CORRUPTION IN A SMALL TEXAS TOWN by Nate Blakeslee (PublicAffairs)
Led by a KKK-card-carrying narc, police in small-town USA round up 20 per cent of the black population on spurious drug charges, convict them and give them hundreds of years of jail time. No, this is not fiction - terrifying.
8 BLOODLETTING & MIRACULOUS CURES by Vincent Lam (Anchor)
Lam's Giller Award-winning short stories give deep insight into the pressures inside an emergency room, and the medical detail is fascinating. A superb story about the impact of SARS on the morale of hospital workers will forever change your reaction to news of an impending epidemic.
9 CONSOLATION by Michael Redhill (Doubleday)
A beautiful and under-appreciated novel about Toronto with two strands, one tracking a struggling apothecary in Muddy York in the 1870s and one that unfolds in contemporary T.O. and reflects back on the period story. A paean to Redhill's pet issue - the need to preserve Toronto's history.
10 The Great Deluge: Hurricane Katrina, New Orleans and the Mississippi Gulf Coast by Douglas Brinkley (William Morrow/HarperCollins)
A rogues' gallery of politicians who disgraced their offices in the time of crisis, with special venom for Ray Nagin, New Orleans's dithering mayor.