Canadian bookworms are generally a shy bunch. We don’t get out much because we’re so busy reading and drinking tea (especially in the winter months) and our book awards are not as numerous as the Americans, so rarely do we get a chance to have national discussions about a book’s merit. That’s why the Canada Reads competition is so important to us; it is literally one of the only times you will see us Canucks get feisty over our local literature. This year, the contenders are as follows:
- Chantal Kreviazuk defends The Right to Be Cold by
- Humble The Poet defends Fifteen Dogs by André Alexis
- Tamara Taylor defends Company Town by Madeline Ashby
- Candy Palmater defends The Break by Katherena Vermette
- Jody Mitic defends Nostalgia by M.G. Vassanji
My thoughts on the nominees are as follows:
- I haven’t read this book, but I would like to. I’m ‘meh’ about Chantal K in general, but I’ve heard amazing things about Sheila Watt-Cloutier and this book about global warming. What’s fun about this book is that it’s going to introduce the environmental activism aspect into the discussions, which could get heated (put intended!).
- On one hand, this book doesn’t need any more attention, it has won two major book prizes already, so many have already heard of/read it. But, it’s published by a small press (Coach House Books) so it’s hard to not want to cheer this book on too. Alas, I have not read this one either.
- Wowza, this is a random pick. I was shocked to see this on the list, mainly becomes it seems kind of science-fictiony (not that there is anything wrong with that!) but you don’t usually see genre novels in this competition. No shock here that I haven’t read this either-and it doesn’t really interest me; unless it wins! I think this will be an uphill battle for its defender however, seeing as the winning title is being voted as ‘the one book Canadians need now’.
- This is the only book that I’ve read on this list, but I absolutely loved it (you can find my review here). I think this novel most answers the question ‘what Canadians need now’ because it addresses the systemic issues that First Nations people are facing. It’s brutal, but incredibly beautiful. And, I love Candy P, she’s got a voice like melted butter and she’s clearly prepared for this competition. If you watch the video of them discussing their books on Q, you will see she’s got one helluva game face on. Go Candy!
- Again, haven’t read this book (what kind of a book reviewer am I?), but he’s won a Giller Prize in the past, so he can’t be terrible. Jody Mitic has written a book himself (a memoir), which is important to note because I think he’s the only defender on the panel who is also an author (feel free to correct me in the comments if I’m wrong). Will this give him a bit of an edge? Perhaps. I have his book on my shelf at the moment, thanks to my mother-in-law (sorry I haven’t read it yet!), but depending on how this competition goes, I may have to pick it up sooner rather than later.
So there you have it, a quick rundown of the book-related excitement about to descend on us from March 27-April 3. Rest assured I’ll be listening to it from the comfort of my daughter’s playroom. Obviously, she will be forced to listen as well.
I used to love Canada Reads but I was so turned off a couple of years ago that I stopped listening. The debate seemed to take on a reality TV quality and become downright nasty at times. I complained to the CBC. The inclusion of a science fiction title is interesting. I used to read a fair amount of SF but often the writing frustrates me (too many adverbs, etc). Vassangi’s book #5 is also speculative fiction which is really odd for him. I am curious though (especially in these surreal times) and he is one of my favourite Canadian writers. So maybe I’ll listen in this time and hope for a good debate.
Oops, Vassanji, not Vassangi. I’m always spelling it wrong.
Hmm I think once the debates started being televised it turned a little more ‘dramatic than necessary’, so I don’t blame you for being turned off. That being said, each year is different because the defenders are always different, so you shouldn’t give up all hope!
I love watching Canada Reads. Sometimes it does get uncomfortable, but it’s true what you say about it being different every year. That’s one of the things I like – you never know how it’s going to go. And I like getting to know the defenders – I don’t always know much about many of them.
So far, I’ve read Fifteen Dogs (when it first came out) and The Break (just last week). I love Fifteen Dogs, but not sure how it’ll hold up to the theme. The Break is perfect for the theme and was so good, and has a great defender. The book about climate change could do well, because it’s true that we don’t have to worry about any of these other issues if we’re all dead. But how will the one non-fiction hold up against the fiction? I find that an odd mix – but maybe that’s just me. When I saw Company Town on the list I was surprised, but I haven’t read it yet, so… And Nostalgia intrigues me… I’d like to read that one next. But it depends which one comes in at the library first!
the fact that you can get these books at the library is absolutely bonkers! Calgary has a wait list of like a year LOL
Haha. One good thing about small town NS – I might be the only one reading them! (I’m sure there are others, but there’s not much evidence of it at the library. They must be buying their books!)
nicely done! I suspect you’re right, others are reading them, just buying them because it’s quicker 🙂
You have one up on me! I haven’t read ANY of them. I still consider myself a total newb when it comes to CanLit – I’ve only really become interested in this competition in the last 2 years. BUT I did order TWO of these books when the shortlist was announced: The Break and The Right to Be Cold. For one thing they are the only ones that really interested me and I do think they are the ones that Canada needs.
I’ve heard only good things about Fifteen Dogs and of course the fact that it’s from a small publisher does make you want good things for it – but like you say, it’s already really well known. Generally, I don’t read books about dogs – they usually make me ugly sob. I also am not a fan of talking animals…my husband really wants to read this one though.
I’d be really happy if I read two of these. And I’m super excited to watch the debate! Go Canadian Bookworms!
haha ‘ugly sob’ 🙂
It’s not so much that they are talking dogs, but that they are dogs that have been given the type of intelligence that humans have, while still being dogs. It’s an incredibly interesting study in dog and human behaviour. Though, of course, they all die at some point (mostly not because of humans). Get your husband to read and and tell you all about it 😉
I think that will have to be the compromise. I can’t with dying dogs!
no one can 🙂
I never actually follow the debate but I’m always excited to see the long list and short list. My gut says The Break will win; I am eagerly awaiting a copy from the library! The only one I have read is Alexis’ though I’ve read Vassanji before and the plot of this one sounds fascinating.
I am also hoping that the Break wins, and I think it fits the ‘question’ of the competition perfectly this year. Time will tell!
I’m gonna read The Break soon. I wonder if there will be any controversy around Candy. Some think she was soft on Joseph Boyden when she interviewed him recently. I love 15 Dogs and i ugly cried!!
Hmmm I only heard bits of that interview around Joseph Boyden. Controversy around this subject is inevitable I think! Now I feel like I need to ugly cry about something…cats maybe?
This sounds awesome! I wish America had some kind of televised book face off like this.
I don’t watch the debates but I always try to keep up with the contest and who gets voted out. I’ve only read The Break and Fifteen Dogs, but I think I’ll try to read the others (like some of your other commenters, I have a year long wait at the library … so I might just buy them). I feel like The Break would be an excellent choice for the winning book. We need to address the way we think of and treat the native community.