Canada Reads 2011

Wow it’s been a while.  I’ll do a post later on why I’ve been so busy.  It seems like a lot of my friends stopped blogging around the same time.  Maybe the year of the Rabbit will bring us all back to the blogosphere.

Anyway, I am very excited for Canada Reads 2011!  The debates begin today on CBC Radio One.  This is the first year that I’ve managed to read all 5 of the books before the debates (usually I’ve managed to finish 4 out of the 5).  I have to say I was very impressed by this year’s selections.  I was a little sceptical at first about how they were short listed.  This year Canadians were polled and voted for their top picks until it was whittled down to the top 10.  The panellists then chose their books from the top 10 creating the top 5.

Canada Reads 2011

Image courtesy of terryfallis.com

I’ve always enjoyed the Canada Reads selections.  There’s always a variety and there are usually books on the list that I wouldn’t have picked up on my own.  I also nearly always feel satisfied after reading them.  In previous years I’ve always found one book that dragged and just wasn’t my taste.  This year I loved every book.  Every book left me sad that it was over and wishing there was more.  For the first time, I don’t care which book wins because they were all incredible.

Here’s my take on the books, in the order that I read them (based on availability at the library):

The Birth House by Ami McKay – This book had been on my “to read” list for a long time and I wish I had read it sooner!  It was interesting and filled with compelling characters.  I loved the mix of the old ways and the new ways and the dichotomy of the sterile new medical facilities versus giving birth in the warmth of your own home.  It was a beautiful book and I will be recommending it to my friends.

Unless by Carol Shields – Although I was an English major and studied Canadian fiction I had never read Carol Shields before.  Unless was her final book and it was pure poetry.  This book was completely visceral and told in a nonlinear format.  It was beautiful.  I will definitely be reading more of her books and also recommending this one (I will probably recommend all 5 Canada Reads books to my friends).

The Best Laid Plans by Terry Fallis – This book was also on my “to read” list for a while.  It was very entertaining and perfect for those who love politics and those who don’t know much about politics.  It’s also the perfect book for grammar nerds.  I also love the structure of the narrative switching from the first person, Daniel to the first person (in the form of letters), Angus.

The Bone Cage by Angie Abdou – This book made me feel like a jock.  I loved the descriptions of the two athletes and the back and forth, alternating chapters on them.  I recently began training for my first half marathon.  Having never been athletics I enjoyed feeling athletic from reading this book. I loved how it tackled the question of what happens to athletes when they are past their prime.  What happens to them after they have peaked and what do they do when it’s all over when all they’ve known in their lives is their sport?

Essex County by Jeff Lemire – There were many moments in this beautiful graphic novel where I thought I might burst into tears.  The story focused on regret, moving on (or not moving on in some cases) and love.  The story followed 3 generations as they try to fulfill their dreams, in hockey, in comic books and more.  It highlights rural Canada versus urban Canada; the country/small town versus the big city and how you can feel lonely in both.  I’m looking forward to rereading this graphic novel when I go home.

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