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All stories relating to Canada Reads


Canada Reads reveals celebrity defenders and titles

The CBC has announced the panellists and titles for the next Canada Reads, which runs March 3–6.

This year’s panellists are:

  • Philanthropist and activist Stephen Lewis defending The Year of the Flood by Margaret Atwood
  • Journalist and activist Wab Kinew defending The Orenda by Joseph Boyden
  • Olympic medalist Donovan Bailey defending Half-Blood Blues by Esi Edugyan
  • Comedian Samantha Bee defending Cockroach by Rawi Hage
  • Actress Sarah Gadon defending Annabel by Kathleen Winter

While this may seem like a civilized group now, anything can happen during the heat of the debate.

It’s anyone’s game at this point, but if Stephen Lewis wins, he will be the second member of his family to take Canada Reads. In 2009, his son, Avi Lewis, successfully championed Lawrence Hill’s The Book of Negroes.


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Canada Reads 2014 seeks inspirational novels

Canada Reads, the CBC’s “battle of the books,” is underway again. The annual radio showdown seeks to elevate one book that all Canadians should read.

This year, advocates will debate not only the best book, but also “the one novel that could change Canada.”

Listeners are once again being asked to nominate titles for the contest. For the first time, listeners are allowed to vote for up to five titles for consideration. The 40 most popular will comprise the 2014 top 40, to be announced by Jian Ghomeshi on on Oct. 24, and will eventually be whittled down to the five books up for debate.

From CBC Books:

We want the final contenders to be great stories, but we also want them to address the issues facing Canada today. In these times of political change, economic uncertainty and civil upheaval around the world, what’s the one book we can look to for inspiration? That will compel Canadians to make a change in their lives, whether it’s at home or work, in their community, in their country or around the world? Perhaps Canada needs a novel to inspire compassion, humour, political engagement, environmental awareness, insight into the lives of First Nations, or a new lexicon for mental illness?

The debates will take place between March 3–6. Up to five novel recommendations can be submitted until Sunday, Oct. 20.

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Lisa Moore: trusting change

(photo: Greg Locke)

In the June 2013 issue of Q&Q, Mark Callanan speaks to Lisa Moore about her third novel, Caught, a story of courage and escape

When Lisa Moore’s February won the CBC’s Canada Reads competition earlier this year, I was painting crown mouldings in the sunroom of a gargantuan Victorian-era house in St. John’s. This is not an important fact except insofar as it illustrates my sense of bearing witness to a momentous occasion, and therefore being finely attuned to my surroundings at the time.

Moore’s novel takes place in the aftermath of the sinking of the Ocean Ranger oil platform, a tragedy that profoundly affects the book’s protagonist. This year marks the 31st anniversary of the disaster, which is indelibly etched in the minds of Newfoundlanders. As the broadcast came down to the final vote, I felt that something big was at stake. This wasn’t just about a book; for the families and loved ones of the 84 men who died, it was public acknowledgment of a lasting grief.

Upon the launch of her third novel, Caught (published this month by House of Anansi Press), Moore accepts the Canada Reads victory with gratitude and equanimity. “I was aware throughout the entire process – hyperaware – that there were many other books that could have been on any one of those lists, and even as the list got winnowed I really saw it as a lottery,” she says, sitting in the fog-enshrouded light shining through a bank of windows in the kitchen of her downtown St. John’s row house. The tempo of her speech slows as she continues: “Outside of the quality of writing or the book or anything to do with me, I felt glad that the subject of the Ocean Ranger was spoken about, particularly on the anniversary. And that was intensely emotional.”

Click here to read the rest of the story.

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Photos: Canada Reads’ three remaining contenders

Two debates remain until CBC’s Canada Reads winner is crowned, and the “turf wars” are down to the Atlantic provinces, Quebec, and B.C. and the Yukon.

Click on the thumbnails below to find out more about the three books still in the ring.

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Q&A with Canada Reads defender Trent McClellan

This year’s Canada Reads debates are underway and David Bergen’s Age of Hope has already been eliminated. Dubbed the Canada Reads Turf Wars, the debates feature five panelists defending a book they selected to represent their region. The contenders are:

  • British Columbia and the Yukon: Carol Huynh defends Indian Horse by Richard Wagamese
  • Prairies and the North: Ron MacLean defends The Age of Hope by David Bergen
  • Ontario: Charlotte Gray defends Away by Jane Urquhart
  • Quebec: Jay Baruchel defends Two Solitudes by Hugh MacLennan
  • Atlantic Provinces: Trent McClellan defends February by Lisa Moore

Quillblog caught up with comedian Trent McClellan to talk about his pick and his affinity for literature. Born in Newfoundland, McClellan is a regular at comedy clubs and festivals, as well as on CBC radio and television, CTV, and the Comedy Network. His selection, February, focuses on Helen O’Mara, who lost her husband in the 1982 sinking of the Ocean Ranger oil rig.

Your book fared pretty well this morning. There wasn’t much opposition and no one voted against it. How are you feeling about the coming days? People say, “Is that a good thing or a bad thing? Is your book just not being noticed?” Well I’m going to take it as people enjoy the book so there’s no critique. Even in the exchanges themselves there weren’t a lot of folks who went after it.… It’s a credit to the book and the work that Lisa Moore has done with it. But I have lots of homework to do tonight to prepare in case some arguments come up.

What’s the best part of being a defender on Canada Reads? On a personal level it was just really great to be exposed to books I probably wouldn’t have been previously. With this [format], you have to read all the books, which is great. You’re seeing all these different styles, the topics are varied, the characters are very different, and for myself as a comedian, it’s really helpful with regard to my writing and storytelling ability — the more information you’re taking in, the more you can give out. The other thing is just the whole “making books cool thing.” People are on Twitter going, “Hey, Canada Reads is coming up,” so I think you can see people who aren’t readers but are kind of on the fence are really getting engaged…. Someone mentioned, “Leave it to Canada to have a reality show about books.” It’s so Canadian. It’s been a cool experience so far.

Why does every Canadian need to pick up February? When you read a good story, you’re looking for something that’s primal, something that resonates with you…. This book is about a woman who is trying to process her past, being open to what is happening now and trying to have an optimistic view of the future. Happiness lies in the balance and equilibrium of those three things…. On top of that, there’s the story of industry in general and capitalism and how sometimes we just take away the safety aspect of things because there’s money at stake. But this is all interwoven into [Helen’s] life and experience. Sometimes the book is criticized because people say it’s a female perspective, [but] if you can’t plug your life into this book you’re cold and dead on the inside….  It’s about loss and I’ve dealt with that. I think it’s a book that can help a lot of people move forward.

Do you feel connected to the loss Helen goes through in February? My grandparents raised me, and by the time I was in Grade 8 my grandfather had passed away. The year I graduated from university, my grandmother passed away. So [I was] pretty much an orphan at the age of 21 or 22. You have a lot of questions: Why me? How did that happen? In the book, Helen wonders, “What was Cal doing when the rig went down?” And you feel all those things. I wondered what my grandmother was thinking when she passed away. What were her last moments? They’re pointless questions because you’ll never have resolution but you can’t help but think them…. It was quite easy to plug my life into the book and look at it in a broader scope.

You’ve also talked about how being a comedian doesn’t mean you can’t defend a serious book because comedy and drama are so alike. On Twitter, some folks were saying, “Really, a comedian to defend February?” But … it’s still storytelling. My object when I’m on stage is to say something to make people laugh. In drama, someone’s doing the exact same thing — making you feel something. They’re not that far removed. When I first started doing stand-up, I felt this obligation to be funny [on and off stage]…. But [now] I don’t. I felt that going in to this today, I wanted the other panelists to see that I was serious about this book. That this wasn’t just, “Hey, I’m a comedian, I’m going to make fun of your cover or this character.” I want them to see I have a literary background and I’m here to talk seriously about these books. If humour presents itself as an opportunity then I’ll take that, but not at the expense of the book I’m defending.

You mention your literary background. How has that helped you prepare for the debates? I have a degree in English and History from Memorial University. I was an avid reader and drifted away from it for a while. When I got into this, it felt like university again. We have themes, and motifs, and cross-themes, and it was really kind of good to exercise those muscles and it took me right back to university…. It’s like riding a bike; you can always pick it back up.

The Canada Reads debates run until Feb. 14, and can be followed on the web, or via radio or television.


Canada Reads announces 2013 “turf war” titles

Richard Wagamese

The latest instalment of CBC’s Canada Reads is being called a” turf war,” and for good reason. As usual, each of the five titles will be defended by a celebrity panelist, but this time they’ll also be representing a region of the country.

The 2013 titles and defenders are:

  • B.C. and Yukon: Indian Horse (Douglas & McIntyre) by Richard Wagamese, defended by Olympic wrestler Carol Huyhn
  • Prairies and the North: The Age of Hope (HarperCollins Canada) by David Bergen, defended by hockey commentator Ron Maclean
  • Ontario: Away (McClelland & Stewart) by Jane Urquhart, defended by author and historian Charlotte Gray
  • Quebec: Two Solitudes (Random House Canada) by Hugh MacLennan, defended by actor Jay Baruchel
  • Atlantic provinces: February (House of Anansi Press) by Lisa Moore, defended by comedian Trent McClellan

Canada Reads airs Feb. 11–14 on various CBC platforms.

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Esi Edugyan, JJ Lee, Charlotte Gill nominated for B.C. Book Prizes

The West Coast Book Prize Society has announced the shortlists for the 28th annual B.C. Book Prizes, and for Esi Edugyan, the competition cuts close to home.

Edugyan, whose novel Half-Blood Blues won the 2011 Scotiabank Giller Prize and this morning was longlisted for the Orange Prize for Fiction, is competing against her husband, Steven Price, and his novel, Into That Darkness, for the Ethel Wilson Fiction Prize. Both books are published by Thomas Allen Publishers.

Charles Taylor Prize for Non-fiction shortlisted authors Charlotte Gill and JJ Lee face off again, this time for the Hubert Evans Non-fiction Prize, alongside 2012 Canada Reads finalist Carmen Aguirre. Gill is also nominated for the Bill Duthie Booksellers’ Choice Award.

The winners in all seven categories will be announced at the Lieutenant Governor’s B.C. Book Prizes Gala on May 12 in Vancouver.

Ethel Wilson Fiction Prize:

Roderick Haig-Brown Regional Prize:

  • Chuck Davis, The Chuck Davis History of Metropolitan Vancouver (Harbour Publishing)
  • Fred Herzog, Fred Herzog: Photographs (Douglas & McIntyre)
  • Andrew Nikiforuk, Empire of the Beetle: How Human Folly and a Tiny Bug Are Killing North America’s Great Forests (Greystone Books)
  • Sheryl Salloum, The Life and Art of Mildred Valley Thornton (Mother Tongue Publishing)
  • Scott Watson, Thrown: British Columbia’s Apprentices of Bernard Leach and Their Contemporaries (Morris and Helen Belkin Art Gallery)

Hubert Evans Non-fiction Prize:

Dorothy Livesay Poetry Prize:

  • Patrick Lane, The Collected Poems of Patrick Lane (Harbour)
  • Susan McCaslin, Demeter Goes Skydiving (University of Alberta Press)
  • Garry Thomas Morse, Discovery Passages (Talonbooks)
  • John Pass, crawlspace (Harbour)
  • Sharon Thesen, Oyama Pink Shale (House of Anansi Press)

Christie Harris Illustrated Children’s Literature Prize:

Sheila A. Egoff Children’s Literature Prize:

  • Glen Huser, The Runaway (Tradewind)
  • Pamela Porter, I’ll Be Watching (Groundwood)
  • Karen Rivers, What is Real (Orca)
  • Caitlyn Vernon, Nowhere Else on Earth: Standing Tall for the Great Bear Rainforest (Orca)
  • Moira Young, Blood Red Road (Doubleday Canada)

Bill Duthie Booksellers’ Choice Award:

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Book links roundup: Kobo design update, writers favourite love poems, and more

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Book links roundup: Police sketches of literary characters, Bookninja’s send-off, and more


Carmen Aguirre wins CBC Canada Reads

Carmen Aguirre came out victorious at this year’s CBC Canada Reads. The B.C.-based author and playwright’s memoir, Something Fierce: Memoirs of a Revolutionary Daughter (Douglas & McIntyre), about growing up in the underground among South American revolutionaries during the 1970s, beat out Ken Dryden’s The Game (Wiley Canada), the former Habs goalie’s recollections of pro hockey and a very different version of the ’70s.

Something Fierce defender Shad had his work cut out for him, winning three votes to two against The Game’s champion, Alan Thicke, Thursday morning at the CBC studios in Toronto. The hip-hop artist was backed by Arlene Dickinson and Anne-France Goldwater (one of the rare instances when these two panelists agreed), while Thicke was seconded by Stacey McKenzie. The final showdown proved to be one of the tamest panels yet in a contest that included allegations of lying, bullying, terrorism, and lots of tears (we’re looking at you, Stacey).

Aguirre, who is currently touring her one-woman show, Blue Box, called into the studio from Ottawa after she heard the news. “It was a very interesting week for me because I’m alone in Ottawa right now,” she said. “I’d had to go every night to do my 80-minute monologue and then not sleep at night because I was waiting to see what will happen the next morning, but I’ve had a lot of virtual support.”

The Game and Something Fierce (a Q&Q Book of the Year for 2011), were the last titles standing after one by one panelists voted off Dave Bidini’s On a Cold Road (McClelland & Stewart), John Vaillant’s The Tiger (Vintage Canada), and Marina Nemat’s Prisoner of Tehran (Penguin Canada).

D&M is preparing for the expected increase in sales, often referred to as the “Canada Reads effect,” with a reprint of the book. As part of its participation in the contest, the publisher will make a financial donation to Frontier College’s Aboriginal Literacy Program.

Something Fierce will be released in the U.S. in August.

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Eva Stachniak's Empress of the Night

Eva Stachniak poses with a copy of her book, Empress of the Night

Tea and snacks inspired by Eva Stachniak's Empress of the Night

Rimma Burashko with author Eva Stachniak

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Eva Stachniak smiles as she signs a copy of Empress of the Night for a fan

Fans wait in line to have their copies of Empress of the Night signed by Eva Stachniak

Fans wait in line to have their copies of Empress of the Night signed by Eva Stachniak

Lesley Strutt, Dean Steadman, Amanda Earl, Alastair Larwill and Frances Boyle

Frances Boyle, Dean Steadman, Lesley Strutt and Alastair Larwill

Amanda Earl

Jewel of the Thames launch

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