Canada Reads 2010

A guest post written by Lija from The Writer’s Pet, who recently emigrated from Canada to the UK.

My home country’s population hovers around the paltry 30 mill mark (with three point three Canucks per square kilometre), but we seem to have a disproportionate knack for producing authors. Maybe it’s our thing (“cold” cannot be our thing, ok?).

Naturally, I’m feeling very patriotic about this year’s installation of Canada Reads, a CBC program (or “programme,” if you will) celebrating five Canadian books chosen (and ultimately defended) by five public figures. Everyone who wants to follow along has three months to read these books, and in March there’s a week-long series of radio debates about the merits of each. Titles will be knocked out until the “Read” of the year remains. 

This whole idea gives me the warm fuzzies – I get an image of the entire nation, deep in the middle of winter, all sitting next to their radios and wood-burning cook-stoves with a pile of books by their side. 

Past winning Canada Reads books include < ?php echo amazon('0330301837','In the Skin of a Lion by Michael Ondaatje ‘); ?> and < ?php echo amazon('0571224008','A Complicated Kindness by Miriam Toews ‘); ?> .

In the literary ring this year:


Good to a Fault by Marina Endicott

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< ?php echo amazon(1846271657,'Nikolski by Nicolas Dickner, translated by Lazer Lederhendler’); ?>

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< ?php echo amazon(0349108390,'Generation X: Tales for an Accelerated Culture by Douglas Coupland’); ?> 

< ?php echo amazonim('1590512162'); ?>

< ?php echo amazon(1590512162,'The Jade Peony by Wayson Choy’); ?>

< ?php echo amazonim('0099740516'); ?>

< ?php echo amazon(0099740516,'Fall on Your Knees by Ann-Marie MacDonald’); ?>

I’ve yet to read any of these, but will be starting with Good to a Fault. I’m a bit daunted by Fall on Your Knees (which Jackie handily reviewed here ), but will probably tackle it next.

PS. I couldn’t possibly do a cross-cultural post without listing my favourite Canadian authors: Robertson Davies, Margaret Atwood (natch), Alice Munro, Elizabeth Hays, Carol Shields, Miriam Toews, Barbara Gowdy. And on the YA side – L.M. Montgomery, Monica Hughes, Kit Pearson (her best work is actually a trilogy featuring two British war guest children staying in Toronto).

PPS. I sure do like a lot of female authors.

Which books would you nominate for a Britain Reads challenge?

They don’t have to be brand-new, but they do have to be by a UK author. Bonus points if you can name a public figure that you’d like to defend the book.

34 replies on “Canada Reads 2010”

Thank you Lija! Canada Reads sounds like a great event and I wish we had something similar in the UK. The books look great – in fact I couldn’t resist buying Nikolski when I saw that it had been endorsed by David Mitchell, so it looks as though I’ll be reading along with you. I now have copies of all of the books except The Jade Peony and hope to read them in the next few months.

mee, The Jade Peony is the only one I don’t have a copy of yet, so I wouldn’t bet on me reading it before you, but then I am a list follower, so may be unable to resist completing it, so you never know!

What a great list. As soon as I hear Canadian authors I can only think of Margaret Atwood, as Lija put its ‘natch’. Its interesting there are so many more out there. I dont think I always think of where the author comes from when I read a book and I should make an effort to notice that more.

British authors… Ian McEwan would be my number one and the choices of On Chesil Beach AND Atonement would be up there for sure!

Simon, There are an amazing number of Canadian authors and I am only just discovering how many of them are fantastic. A lot of them we don’t really hear about in the UK, but I have been investigating the Giller lists and now have a large selection to read in 2010. I’ll let you know all about them in the next few months!

I’m not a fan of Ian McEwan, so could easily find a few authors to beat him in a UK Reads. My first choice would be David Mitchell. I’m hoping his new one is fantastic!

For Britain reads – Beryl Bainbridge with ‘An awfully big adventure’ was the first book that came to mind for me, quickly followed by something totally opposite – Christopher Brookmyre’s The Sacred Art of Stealing – very contemporary and scabrously funny. Also Elizabeth Taylor’s A Game of Hide and Seek is staring at me from my TBR shelves… how about those for a start!

I went through a phase of reading most of Robertson Davies’ novels a good few years ago – a Canadian author I must revisit. Also I hear Mordecai Richler is fantastic – but I’ve not read him yet.

Annabel, I read my first Robertson Davies a couple of years ago. I need to read more by him, as he was good.

I haven’t read An Awfully Big Adventure – I’ll have to find a copy of that and see what it is like. You have some other great suggestions there too!

Thank you for hosting this, Jackie! I made it over here safe and sound and ready for some lazy reading days (no cook-stove in Toronto, unfortunately).

I actually had to stop myself from reading Robertson Davies for a while because I went through a period last year when that’s all I read! Plus I want to “save” a couple more for later.

This sounds like so much fun. The only thing close to it in the U.S. that I know of is a young readers program here in California. Each year three titles are selected, students in grades 4-7 are encouraged to read them all and vote on their favorite which then gets a medal.

Nothing as ambitous as the program you’ve described.

Lija, your native country has such diverse and rich literature and some wonderful writers. You MUST read Fall on Your Knees!

Appropriate post as Jackie has been quite intrigued by Canadian lit of late, since this year’s Giller Prize nominees.

I will always champion Angela Carter as one of the best of British writers (and tragic losses to the literary world). Nights at the Circus is my favourite of her books and Sarah Waters would champion it wholeheartedly.

Claire, I am a bit obsessed with Canadian authors at the moment – hence the guest post! I have been using far too much in the past couple of months, so I apologise in advance for reading a large number of Canadian books in the next few months.

I haven’t read any Angela Carter yet – I really need to read her soon.

What I like about Canada Reads is that is isn’t the author that promotes the book, it’s a random ‘celebrity’ who argues and defends.

I have last years winner to read, The Book of Negroes, but really loved 2 of the other books – Mercy Among the Children and The Outlander.
I have The Jade Peony and Good to a Fault home from the library to read over the holidays.
I notice my library immediately ordered 5 extra copies of each of the books that were nominated for Canada Reads, and got them into circulation much faster than they usually do. I’ll only have Nikolski left to read.
It’s fun feeling like everyone is reading the same books at the same time. Last year, the local CBC radio station had 5 different book clubs each read one of the nominated books, and then they had their own program discussing the book they were assigned.

raidergirl3, I didn’t realise that The Book of Negroes won last year – I have had my eye on that for a while. I also have a copy of The Outlander here.

I also noticed last night that I have a copy of the 2004 winner, The Last Crossing on my shelves so hope to read that soon too. So many fantastic Canadian books!

A great guest post! Margaret Atwood is one of my favourite non-crime authors, and I know I should also try Michael Ondaatje, but so far I have only watched the film ´The English Patient´.

Nice post Lija! I’m going to try to get through the reading list too. I think I’ll start with Fall on Your Knees.

Too bad you’re so far away…we could book-share.

Hi Lisa! Thank you for commenting on my blog for the first time! I think that Fall on Your Knees is a great place to start, as I think it is the most intimidating – hopefully all the other books will be easier reads from there. Enjoy them all!

Glad you’re reading them all, too, Lisa. This is extra motivation to actually stick with the whole list. Plus, now that I’ve said I will – ON THE INTERNET – I have to follow through!

Thanks for mentioning Barbara Gowdy, she is my favourite female author! I always try to push erm… recommend her when people start Canadian author challenges 😉

I’ve read Nikolski this year (since it was recommended by my fav male author, David Mitchell) and I liked it. But it was not as good as I had hoped. Made me search for a childhood keychain though! And m brother, when I couldn’t find it 😉

Today I finished The Gargoyle, by Andrew Davidson. He’s Canadian as well, isn’t he?

Gnoe, I haven’t heard of Barbara Gowdy before. Which book do you recommend?

Sorry to hear that you didn’t enjoy Nikolski as much as you’d hoped – my copy arrived today and it looks good, so I hope I like it a bit more than you did.

I think Andrew Davidson is Canadian – I enjoyed The Gargoyle which ever country he comes from!

Eeeks, the ‘follow comments’ e-mail went into my spambox! But I retrieved it 😉

Nikolski was a fine read, I didn’t mean to imply it isn’t! So no need to worry. I just finished reading The Gargoyle and even got a review up *pats herself on the shoulder* 😉

About Barbara Gowdy, I’ve got two, no three favourites:
Mr Sandman (weird, funny)
The White Bone (amazing, written from the point of view of an elephant and it REALLY works)
The Romantic (aww… beautiful & romantic 😉

Here’s a quote about her from Wikipedia:
Authors such as Alice Munro and Carol Shields look at the everyday, but the bulk of Gowdy’s work reflects upon the opposite. Gowdy’s stories look at the extreme, the strange and the abnormal, but she is able to make her characters relatable and poignant. She often uses magic realism as a writing style, combining the fantastic or unusual with realistic and believable descriptions, placing her within the tradition of Southern Ontario Gothic.

Funny though, I would have thought of the label ‘gothic’ myself.

The Romantic was nominated for the Man Booker Prize.

Glad someone else knows who Barbara Gowdy is. I barely remember Mr Sandman (probably read it when I was too young for it), but that’s what got me into reading her.
I read Helpless last year and had one of those sleepless nights to get through the last half. When you find yourself rooting for a pedophile against your will, the writer must be pretty good.

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