Discussion: Canada Reads 2017

It’s that time again! On March 27th, Canada Reads begins. If you’re not familiar with Canada Reads, it’s an annual competition where 5 Canadian novels are chosen based on a theme. Each novel has a prominent Canadian associated with it and their job is to defend the book as the moderator asks them questions. At the end of every day, all 5 panelists vote on which novel should be eliminated based on the day’s discussion. Even when the book is eliminated, the panelist stays on so every day, all 5 panelists vote on which novel should be eliminated.

This year, the theme is: “What is the one book Canadians need now?” I read all 5 novels and here is my ranking of which I think is least deserving to which I think should win.

5. Fifteen Dogs – Andre Alexis

Fifteen Dogs I had a really hard time getting through this book. Not only am I not a fan of apologues, I just don’t see how this book is related to the theme at all. I understand the book was trying to make a point about humanity and human nature, but this is no way a “Canadian” book. The book could have been set anywhere, and throwing random Toronto places into the book was wholly unnecessary. This isn’t a book that deals with specifically Canadian problems or makes any grand declarations about the lives of Canadians. While I know this is an award winner, I feel like this book was only picked for the short list because it won the Giller prize. Overall, a really poor pick for the competition this year.

4. Nostalgia – M.G. Vassanji

Nostalgia This was another book that I had a rough time with. I thought the idea of this book was so wonderful, but it suffered from really poor execution. The book had little to no plot building, and we were thrust into the story immediately without any understanding or background knowledge. The plot was also disjointed, and the main character was entirely forgettable. However, this book has social commentary on the plight of refugees and less fortunate countries, which I do think is something that Canadians need to consider and develop an understanding for.

3. The Right To Be Cold – Sheila Watt-Cloutier

The Right To Be Cold: One Woman's Story of Protecting Her Culture, the Arctic and the Whole PlanetThis was the only book in the competition that I was unable to finish. The subject matter bored me, mostly because I only tend to read memoirs of people I’m familiar with and want to know about. While I admire Sheila Watt-Cloutier for dedicating her life to her Inuit community and being a Canadian environmental activist, this isn’t something I wanted to read and I didn’t like the tone and voice of the book. The reason why this book is number 3 on the list instead of number 5 is because I do think that this subject matter suits the theme really well. Climate change is an ongoing problem, not only for Canada, but for the world. I think it’s important for Canadians to realize the effects of this global issue to our country and our people.

2. Company Town – Madeleine Ashby

Company TownThis was the most entertaining book out of the bunch. This is a science-fiction novel about how technology can affect Canada in the future. It also raised some really interesting points about multiculturalism. The world-building was so detailed and richly imagined. I loved the main character, Hwa, and all of the secondary characters as well. I even enjoyed the romantic sub-plot. It was written really well.

The only criticism I have is that it could be really confusing at times. I’m still not sure I understand everything that happened and sometimes the writing was a bit disjointed which meant I had to re-read a couple of passages.

However, it doesn’t really embody the theme very well, which is why I can’t choose it as my number one pick.

1. The Break – Katherena Vermette

The Break If this book doesn’t win Canada Reads this year, it will be a travesty. Not only does this book discuss the real problems Aboriginal women face in Canada, it’s beautifully written and extremely heartbreaking. Not only was it shocking with how graphic and horrific it was, it just showed how hard it is to be a Native woman in Canada. The blatant racism, the poverty, the addiction – it all builds and creates these women that are damaged, but still very strong and deeply loyal to their families and their communities. I loved this book for a lot of reasons, and I really hope this wins.

I’m really looking forward to seeing how the Canada Reads results stack up against my own personal rankings.

If you’re interested in following the competition, more details can be found here: http://www.cbc.ca/books/canadareads/how-to-tune-in-to-canada-reads-1.4037838

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