I first heard about CBC’s Canada Reads when I was in university (I was an English major). I have never really followed it before but had checked their website on occasion to see what books had won and what books were chosen. One of my favourite books in the world, In the Skin of a Lion by Michael Ondaatje won in the first year. (I have to add, that book is pure poetry. I can still picture scenes from it in my mind and often forget that I didn’t actually see them but read them).
I’ve only recently begun to listen to CBC Radio on a regular basis, probably because I’ve only really had a desk job like this for not too long. So when I heard the Canada Reads announcements (panelists and the books they’d chosen) on the radio I decided that I would try to read the books this year and listen to the debates as they went on. This week is debate week by the way.
Basically how it works is 5 famous Canadians (or “celebrity Canadians”) each pick a Canadian book to champion. They read all of the books, then debate and defend their own book during the week of debates. At the end of each debate they each vote to eliminate a book – the book with the most eliminations is voted out. They proceed until there is only one book left.
So far I’ve read The Fat Woman Next Door is Pregnant by Michel Tremblay. I very much enjoyed it. I love books written by French-Canadians (the book was translated by Sheila Fischman). They’re always written in a different way and to me it’s always very lyrical and somewhat confusing (but in a good way). It’s hard to explain. In the debates so far they’ve talked about how this book is about community and family. I couldn’t agree more.
I’ve also read The Outlander by Gil Adamson which was also beautifully written. Again I loved it and the end of the book left me breathless. They haven’t discussed it as much yet but I’m hoping maybe later they will.
Right now I’m reading The Book of Negroes by Lawrence Hill. Also a wonderful book! Beautifully written, poignant, enjoyable and sad. (also very big, I dropped the hard cover edition on my foot by accident and now it’s swollen!).
After listening to the debates on CBC Radio I really want Mercy Among the Children by David Adam Richards to be voted off. I haven’t read it yet (I’m going very slowly). It sounded remarkable based on what Sarah Slean, the champion for the book said about it in the announcement. I later found out that Alia couldn’t finish it (and Alia is an avid book worm who has read entire series of books that she’s not interested in out of compulsion! For her not to finish a book is a big deal to me, and has only happend twice!). Also, I don’t like Slean’s defence of the book. In their first two debates she questions what the meaning is behind Fruit by Brian Francis and The Fat Woman Next Door Next Door is Pregnant. She argues that a book should make something resonate in you, but when she questions whether these 2 books should be the winner, she always says that they don’t have meaning. Yet to me, The Fat Woman Next Door is Pregnant (I haven’t read Fruit yet) does resonate deeply with me and is filled with meaning. I wonder if she missed the point? That’s just my opinion though and others may disagree. She is a very eloquent speaker (in fact all of the panelists are) and I enjoy listening to them debate about the books.
They also have video available so you can watch the debates! And they have their own Flickr account (where I got the photo from), so I am also enjoying their web 2.0 integration. I look forward to listening to them debate all week and to hearing the winner. After all, I am a librarians daughter!