It is almost that time of year again. Time for the Canada Reads debates! I enjoy following the debates for several reasons, but one of them is just that I really love that there is a televised debate about books. I remember meeting one of my husband’s friends for the first time and he observed that I was a “bookworm” or “book nerd” I can’t remember which, I very proudly said, “yes. I am.” They all laughed and thought it was great that I owned it. But through and through I am a book nerd. So when I get a chance to watch people argue about the merits of a book, well it is like the playoffs in your choice of sporting event.
As I am writing this the shortlist and the panelists are yet to be announced. I have a few top picks in the long list that I am hoping to see get through. One being The Boat People by Sharon Bala, and the other Suzanne by Anais Barbeau-Lavalette, translated by Rhonda Mullins. I was not surprised to see Bala’s book on this list, it has received a lot of attention even before its publication date of January 9th. I was, however, surprised to see Barbeau-Lavalette’s book on this list. This one was a chance find for me when I was looking at the upcoming books on Coach House’s website. It caught my attention, but other than seeing it there I haven’t heard about this book very much.
The other books on the longlist I haven’t (yet) read. I am looking forward to seeing which get through and learning more about them. A great thing about Canada Reads is the exposure that books get. Suzanne, for example, it is an excellent book and I think one that should be talked about more than it has been. Even if it doesn’t make the shortlist I am excited to see that it has made the longlist and is getting some of the spotlight that, I feel, it deserves.
Canada Reads is not a “serious” critique of the books, but it is meant to be fun and engaging, to get people to talk about the books and consider new authors. It is considered more of a fun prize for the authors than a serious debate around literature. That, I believe, is why the books that get selected can vary so much. In most other prizes for literature, there are categories; at least fiction and non-fiction are separated, if nothing else. But with Canada Reads the type of book is irrelevant. It is difficult to argue non-fiction against fiction, they are structured differently, and the narrative style is entirely different. But, at the Canada Reads table, they are all present.
Every title that makes the list is receiving a certain amount of recognition. I have picked up many books because they have made this list, having not heard of them before. I don’t always read the winner—sometimes its style or plot doesn’t appeal to me—but I have always found a few gems in the mix.
I am excited to see the shortlist announced on January 30th and see who the panelists are going to be. It is a great time for books to take the spotlight for a few days. The debates can be watched live on TV or streamed from their website. It is also released as a podcast, but I enjoy watching the antics around the table so always tune into the live stream or televised version. I also avoid social media if I miss the live take—it inevitably will get spoiled if I am even a few minutes behind.