Year 3 / Issue 21 / Living with art and culture / Canada Reads

Canada Reads 2012
By: Mei Shao

Canada Reads is a yearly event that celebrates and promotes reading among the ordinary Canadians. Canada Reads was created by CBC Radio producer, Peter Kavanagh during the fall of 2001. During Canada Reads, five personalities champion five different books, each champion extolling the merits of one of the titles. The debate is broadcast over a series of five programs. At the end of each episode, the panelists vote one title out of the competition until only one book remains. This book is then billed as the book that all of Canada should read. Following the announcement of the winning title, the CBC opens an online forum where readers can discuss about the book. The forum's current moderator is Hannah Sung.

The books in the running for each edition of Canada Reads are announced several months before the programs are broadcast. Titles must be Canadian fiction, poetry or plays. They are promoted in bookstores, in the hope that the Canada Reads audience will purchase and read them all before the programs air. In some cases, publishers have published special editions of the nominated titles.

The publisher of the winning Canada Reads title donates a portion of sales proceeds from the winning book to a charitable organization working in the field of literacy. Recipients have included Frontier College, the Movement for Canadian Literacy, ABC Life Literacy Canada (formerly ABC CANADA Literacy Foundation) and Laubach Literacy of Canada.

This year’s Canada Reads is in full swing. The five finalists and their respective representatives have all been chosen. On November 23rd, Wednesday, CBC Live broadcast the launch event with Jian Gomeshi as the host, talking with the 5 panelists about their different plans for preparing for the final debate. Alan Thicke, the Canadian actor and songwriter, plans to focus more on the humanity of his book choice, The Game, and less on the hockey aspect of the book. Arlene Dickinson, the Canadian marketing professional and CEO of Venture Communications, who will defend Prisoner of Tehran, plans on using her experience on Dragon's Den to make her opinion heard. Anne-France Goldwater, the Montreal family law lawyer, is ready to “fight dirty” to protect The Tiger if she has to. Shad, the Canadian hip hop artist, who is defending Something Fierce, is planning to sit back and debate his chosen book "on its own merits." Finally, the defender for On a Cold Road, Stacey McKenzie, Canada's most unique fashion icon, wants to break down modeling stereotypes and win it all.

Among the 5 nominated books is the Iranian-themed Prisoner of Tehran by Marina Nemat, a candid account of her own ordeal of escaping Iranian prison to Canada. The final debate will take place in February 2012 and CBC’s very own Jian Gomeshi will be the proud host of this debate.

All the books are available at Chapters or online at CBC Shop, so take advantage of a cold wintry day, your Christmas break or whatever time you can get, stay in and huddle on your couch, with the company of a cup of hot tea or coffee, indulge yourself in a good book. Make your pick of the final winner! Happy reading!

The List of Previous Canada Reads Winners:

The Book of Negroes by Lawrence Hill

Lullabies for Little Criminals by Heather O'Neill

A Complicated Kindness by Miriam Toews

In the Skin of a Lion by Michael Ondaatje

The Last Crossing by Guy Vanderhaeghe

The Best Laid Plans by Terry Fallis

Rockbound by Frank Parker Day

King Leary by Paul Quarrington

Next Episode by Hubert Aquin

Natasha and Other Stories by David Bezmozgis

Nikolski by Nicolas Dickner