Tag Archives: Canada Reads

Canada Reads 2024 In Review

Credit: cbc.ca

It’s over! The yearly competition to determine which book penned by a Canadian author is ‘the one that all Canadians need to read right now’ has concluded and a victor has been chosen. If you’re not familiar with the format, here’s how it breaks down. Five luminaries on the Canadian cultural scene decide to “champion” one of 15 longlisted books in a debate that’s broadcast over radio and televised across the country. Between March 4-7, daily debates took place, with a round of voting to eliminate one of the books at the conclusion of each discussion. Long-running host Ali Hassan was at the helm, acting as moderator and throwing in a few puns along the way. The theme for this year was an interesting one: Which work is the “one to carry us forward.” Carry us forward to where, you might ask. Fans of Jeopardy (such as myself), may be familiar with last year’s Canada Reads winner and overall excellent human, Mattea Roach. Roach was a formidable competitor on the classic quiz show and now holds the title for “most successful Canadian competitor” in the history of Jeopardy. Roach selected Kate Beaton’s graphic novel, Ducks, as their fighter in the ring. The true account of Beaton’s time working in the oil sands of Alberta and the complicated relationship the writer had with her gainful employment are conveyed through skilled illustrations. It was the first graphic novel to be honoured by the Canada Reads title. Check out one of Roach’s epic wins on Jeopardy here for a taste of their excellence. Turning to this year, the ‘great Canadian book debate’ was in its 23rd iteration, and this year’s contenders chose some intriguing reads. Here are the titles with their corresponding champions:

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Post-Apocalyptic Optimism?

We’re in the midst of the annual Canada Reads tournament, wherein a panel of defendants select their choice of Canadian book they believe can “shift our perspective.” At the end of each round, one book is eliminated until only one remains standing. This year, the 2014 novel Station Eleven by Emily St John Mandel is in the running even though it’s almost a decade old, which got me wondering what gives this particular post-apocalypse story such staying power. Of course, this story about the world after a flu pandemic was re-introduced to audiences through the excellent HBO adaptation in 2021 (yikes at that timing, though). And the apocalyptic genre has come rushing back into fashion through the popularity of The Last of Us, based on the video game (for the sake of ease, I will be referring to those mushroom-infested people as zombies). But I think readers (and audiences) can find some odd comfort in Mandel’s version of a ravaged future, the same way people connected with the emotional elements of The Last of Us. These works of fiction contend with the spectrum of humanity (including the good parts) in the face of existential crisis.

While I raptly watched each episode of The Last of Us, I couldn’t help but hope that the show would transcend the usual zombie trappings. And it did…sometimes. I’m not a gamer, so I suppose the plot structure is shaped by its devotion to the source material. In my opinion, the show was at its best when it was at its most specific (the cannibalistic Christian cult, for example, is the opposite of specific: weirdo church guy turns out to be a bad man? Who knew!). And it’s especially at its best when it bucks the expectations of the genre. There is a reason that the third episode, called “Long, Long Time” after the Linda Ronstadt song, was the most well-received by audiences and critics. After two episodes of stellar (but typical) zombie fare, “Long, Long Time” caught viewers off guard by spending an entire episode on a side character’s love story. This genre tends to be bleak and nihilistic, and puncturing that narrative with an unexpectedly sweet and moving—if only marginally relevant—side story was an unexpected but welcome detour.

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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.

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