My first fiction book of the year is The Brief History of the Dead by Kevin Brockmeier. I became familiar with Brockmeier through his short story "The Ceiling." He is a brilliant writer that brings science fiction elements into the world of real people in some of the most creative and fresh ways I've ever seen.
Structurally, this book is brilliant. The writing itself is breathtaking. It's a compact novel and reminded me of The Great Gatsby with its small size and amazingly global plot. There are two storylines that begin so far apart it seems impossible that they'll ever come together. They do, of course (as promised on the back of the book), but Brockmeier weaves them together in such a way that it's unclear exactly where things started to pull toward each other.
I envy Brockmeier's writing style. He's my age, yet writes as though he's had every experience that any human has ever had. Not a single word is wasted, and there are no awkward tricks or stunts that pull readers out of the novel.
This novel is a must read for any fiction writer, as it is a textbook on structure and style. For non-writers, I would describe it as Stephen King's The Stand without the horror. I know that sounds weird and impossible, but you'll see what I mean. It's a simply brilliant book.