Canada Reads 2021

canada reads 2021 bannerAre you ready for the 20th anniversary of Canada Reads? From March 8-11, the CBC will be hosting its annual Canada Reads competition, in which five books by Canadian authors are selected by five different representatives, each one tasked with defending the title in fun “battle of the books” style debates, voting out titles until only one is left standing. That last book will be this year’s winner, crowned “the book that every Canadian should read” 

The debates are broadcast for public viewing, and this year will be no different! You can catch the debates on multiple platforms like CBC GemCBC Radio OneCBC TV, and CBC Books. You can even get involved in the discussion over on the CBC Canada Reads Facebook group!  

Check out this year’s competing titles below: 


midnight bargain book coverThe Midnight Bargain by CL Polk

The Midnight Bargain is the latest novel from Calgary’s CL Polk, author of 2019’s hit fantasy Witchmark (which was nominated at the Nebula, Locus, and Lambda Awards, and won the 2019 World Fantasy Award for Best Novel). This time, Polk concocts a fantasy world that’s part Regency (think Jane Austen or Bridgerton), part The Handmaid’s Tale, and all magical. In this world, women are forbidden from using magic while still in childbearing yearsbut that won’t stop our protagonist Beatrice Clayborn! Kirkus Reviews calls it “An expertly concocted mélange of sweet romance and sharp social commentary.” The book is being defended by Rosey Edeh, a three-time Canadian Olympian turned television host (she can be found on CTV Morning Live Ottawa). Edeh calls the The Midnight Bargain “a fantastic journey filled with magic, love and self-determination. It’s abiding, beautifully paced social commentary”.  

This book is available on Overdrive and Hoopla.


two trees make a forestTwo Trees Make a Forest by Jessica J Lee

Two Trees Make a Forest is a timely exploration of the intimate relationship between humanity and nature. Author Jessica J. Lee recounts her visit to Taiwan in an effort to understand her family’s history, who emigrated to Canada to in the 1970s. There she discovered something deeper than just a connection to her family; she discovered the way the geography of a place can shape us. Lee is an environmental historian, born in Canada and currently based in London, and of her trip to Taiwan she says, “I realized that the language gap for me wasn’t about Mandarin, necessarily, and it wasn’t about filling all the gaps in my grandparents’ stories. It was about finding the thing we have in common, and that was this connection to place.” The book is being defended by Scott Helman, a musician who you might know for the sweet little song BungalowAbout the book, Helman highlights the importance of Lee’s work particularly in our age of climate trouble, and in our highly multicultural country: this book is told through an environmental lens and dissects the painful crossroads that an individual must face within the place of a diaspora and a family.” 


jonny appleseed book coverJonny Appleseed by Joshua Whitehead

In Jonny Appleseed, author Joshua Whitehead brings to life the kind of character you rarely see represented in fiction: a two-spirit, “Indigiqueer” (what a great word!) young man, one who is not denied his Indigenous roots nor his sexuality. The novel traces his journey from the rez to the big city, where he becomes a cybersex worker. It won the Lambda Literary Award in 2019, and was longlisted for the Giller Prize in 2018. Whitehead, a member of Peguis First Nation, identifies as two-spirit, and says of his creation, “Jonny Appleseed grows up with the stigma of having to perform as hyper-masculine. What I’m seeing — in terms of sexual trauma brought upon Indigenous communities by things like residential schools — there’s always this idea of silence, this idea of being macho. Jonny is dealing with that.” The book is being defended by Devery Jacobs, a Mohawk actor who has appeared on shows like American Gods and The Orderwho says that Jonny Appleseed “finds the cracks of light in darkness, which is exactly what we need in 2021, to find those cracks of light.”


hench book titleHench by Natalie Zina Walschots

As if the movie Office Space and Victoria Schwab’s Vicious had an unholy love child, Hench tells the story of a modern-day office worker who happens to be employed by supervillains. Until she’s involved in an unfortunate fiasco with a superhero that gets her fired. You know, just an average day at the office. I don’t think I can top CBC’s description: “Hench explores the individual cost of justice through a fascinating mix of Millennial office politics, heroism measured through data science, body horror and a profound misunderstanding of quantum mechanics.” Author Natalie Zina Walschots is a journalist from Toronto who has also published a (thematically related?) poetry collection titled DOOM: Love Poems for Supervillains. Her debut novel is being defended by Paul Sun-Hyung Lee aka Appa from Kim’s Convenience (or Captain Carson Teva from The Mandalorian). His reason for defending this book? It’s fantastic storytelling, with relatable and complex characters, razor sharp wit and smart dialog, and with themes that run deep and resonate long after the book is done

 This book is available on Overdrive


butter honey pig bread coverButter Honey Pig Bread by Francesca Ekwuyasi

Butter Honey Pig Bread takes the reader on a journey from Lagos to Montreal to London to Halifax, but the story is deeply informed by author Francesca Ekwuyasi’s cultural ties to Nigeria, where she lived until the age of 20. The story involves three women: twin sisters Kehinde and Taiye, and their mother KambirinachiKambirinachi believes herself to be an ogbanjethat she was supposed to die as a child and so she is now cursing her family by remaining alive. After a traumatic event, the three women part ways, taking on lives of their own outside Nigeria. A recurring theme of the novel is the exploration of food as more than just sustenance, as Taiye becomes a trained chef. Fittingly, the book is being defended by Roger Mookingchef and television host of various Food Network shows, who says that Ekwuyasi will “solidify our place in the pantheon of great Canadian writers off this book alone.” 

This title is available on Overdrive and Hoopla.


About Alyssia

Alyssia is an Adult Services Librarian at the Vaughan Public Libraries. Nothing makes her happier than a great book and a great cup of coffee. She loves fiction in all formats - books, movies, television, you name it - and is always on the lookout for awesome new music.  |  Meet the team

One thought on “Canada Reads 2021

  1. Somehow I missed all of these titles, but I’m really interested in Two Trees Make a Forest! The idea that it’s not just a matter of what the direct translation of meaning, but also culture and how that influences language and the way it’s interpreted, reminded me of this article talking about the myth of Onamazu & the westernization of certain parts of the language (specifically the concept of “nature”) as discussed in this article from Emergence magazine:

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