Monday, March 3, 2014

Canada Reads 2014

When CBC sent me an invite to be part of the studio audience for recording Canada Reads, I promptly forwarded it to my book buddies in the hopes that someone could make use of the invite, thinking I was too busy to spend a morning on Wellington Street. All it took was one little "are you sure?" from Nicki and I decided to rejig my schedule.

The concept  is interesting, with one book being eliminated at the end of each round, the contest is based as much on literary merit as it is affected by the strategic moves of the defenders. As Jian said, Canada is probably the only country with books in a reality show. The publicity is great for all the novels, and the winner usually ends up on the nation's best seller lists.

I've read two of the contenders on the list, and saw one already eliminated from the competition. Stephen Lewis was supporting Margaret Atwood's Year of the Flood, and although he spoke eloquently in it's defense, the novel was struck from the list at the end of the first round. 53 minutes. Lewis pointed out that Jian's questions were partly to blame, as the theme of this year's choices, "what is the one novel that could change Canada?" wasn't even touched on in today's discussion. I don't feel too bad for Atwood's elimination as she already has a huge following for her speculative trilogy, and this should get people talking about the book and the issues again.

Donovan Bailey has chosen one of the best novels, Half Blood Blues, but it was obvious he felt totally out of his element today. He'll have to up his game a bit if he hopes to persuade others to drop their choices. Nicki went up after to speak with him - she actually defended the very same novel on Haliburton Reads (and won).

If I were a betting person, I would say Cockroach by Rawi Hage will be the next book to get voted off the shelf. Samantha Bee is defending this title and was moved to tears when she spoke about the plight of refugees in Canada. Maybe that's what saved it being voted off today, because it was the social media top choice as most likely to be eliminated.  Wab Kinew remarked that he recognized the book was an homage to Kafka that was a great character study, but didn't even touch on the issue he hears about most in his work with newcomers, which is having their international credentials recognized. 

Wab also brought Norval Morisseau coffee mugs to charm and disarm his competition. Well-spoken and passionate about his choice of Orenda by Joseph Boyden, he is a strong contender. The only thing is he may end up alienating fellow-panelists if he comes on too strong. Something tells me he is going to need a lot more of those mugs.

At this point my bets are on Annabelle by Kathleen Winter. The story revolves around gender issues, and after hearing more about the novel it is already on my reading list. If it does take the title, it will be the second year running someone from Newfoundland has taken first place (Lisa Moore won last year for February).

Luckily the podcasts will be online and I can catch up through the week.


The Orenda won, and Wab Kinew impressed everyone that tuned in with his passion and intellect. Cockroach came second, to many people's surprise, because this was the book the online poll identified as the least likely favourite. Third went to Annabelle, followed by Half Blood Blues. Such an interesting week of discussion and interesting points of view.

1 comment:

Dick Grannan said...

Diane: Congratulations on being asked to be part of the audience for Canada Reads. I have been able to follow a little of it on the radio. I don't think Steven Lewis thought much of Cockroach! I only read two of the books on the list, but perhaps have a look at the others. Great Blog. Dick