Saturday, November 17, 2012

Canada Reads 2013 Heats Up

Each year, CBC's Canada Reads is an engaging public debate about which book all Canadians should read. It is usually a fiction title, though last year was the first for non-fiction. This year, Canada Reads is taking another direction: Regional faceoff. The country has been divided into five regions, and one book from each region will be featured in February's showdown. The voting public had a chance to provide input into a top ten list for each region, and from there a top five was chosen; on November 29th, regional representatives will select a single nominee from each region.

The top five lists are excellent - by any measure, they would make incredible reading lists. However, not everyone can be a winner. Here are the top fives from each region:

BC and Yukon

Bow Grip - Ivan E. Coyote
Everything Was Good-Bye - Gurjinder Basran
Indian Horse - Richard Wagamese
Monkey Beach - Eden Robinson
Obasan - Joy Kogawa

The Prairies and North

The Age of Hope - David Bergen
The Diviners - Margaret Laurence
The Garneau Block - Todd Babiuk
Late Nights on Air - Elizabeth Hay
The Trade - Fred Stenson


Away - Jane Urquhart
The Day the Falls Stood Still - Cathy Marie Buchanan
The English Patient - Michael Ondaatje
Far To Go - Alison Pick
Fifth Business - Robertson Davies


The Beautiful Mystery - Louise Penny
Ru - Kim Thuy
Solomon Gursky Was Here - Mordecai Richler
The Tin Flute - Gabrielle Roy
Two Solitudes - Hugh MacLennon


Annabel - Kathleen Winter
Anne of Green Gables - L.M. Montgomery
February - Lisa Moore
No Great Mischief - Alistair MacLeod
The Town That Drowned - Riel Nason

You may be asking yourself about some of the bigger names in Canadian literature - Margaret Atwood, Douglas Coupland, Alice Munro, Timothy Findley, Yann Martel, Stephen Leacock, etc. Well, the entry requirement for this year's list was that the book could not have been part of a previous Canada Reads competition - winner or finalist. The result is a list that is missing a few major authors. But our reading culture is so deep that it matters not - any of these books would be a fine addition to the Canada Reads Pantheon.

Now, for my picks. I was very happy that several of my top ten choices made it to the list: Monkey Beach by Eden Robinson, The Diviners by Margaret Laurence and Fifth Business by Robertson Davies. I have to root for those three for the regional winners, even though there are a couple that I would not mind seeing on the final list instead: Late Nights on Air is excellent, The English Patient is brilliant, and Obasan is a classic of Canadian literature. My picks for Quebec and Atlantic are Solomon Gursky Was Here and No Great Mischief; no disrespect for Montgomery or MacLennon, but I feel that they are already part of a great list of books that Canadians already read. Some new classics need to be placed at the fore.

Speaking of new classics, it is very interesting that there are several new books on the list - The Age of Hope and The Beautiful Mystery were released just this fall, and Ru was released in English earlier this year. It will be intriguing if any of these make the final list, as it will have not only the rest of the list to contend with, but the bulk of history that stands behind it as well.

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