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Canada Reads

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Title: Canada Reads  
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Subject: Joseph Boyden, Canadian literature, Lullabies for Little Criminals, Life of Pi, Deafening
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Canada Reads

Canada Reads
Other names Le Combat des livres
Running time 30 min.
Country Canada
Language(s) English, French
Home station CBC Radio One
Première Chaîne
TV adaptations CBC Television
CBC Newsworld
Bold TV
Host(s) Jian Ghomeshi
Bill Richardson
Mary Walsh
Wab Kinew
Marie-France Bazzo
Christiane Charette
Marie-Louise Arsenault
Creator(s) Peter Kavanagh, Talin Vartanian
Air dates since 2002
No. of series 12 (English)
9 (French)
No. of episodes 51 (English)
45 (French)
Website Canada Reads

Canada Reads is an annual "battle of the books" competition organized and broadcast by Canada's public broadcaster, the CBC. The program airs annually in two distinct editions, the English-language Canada Reads on CBC Radio One, and the French-language Le Combat des livres on Première Chaîne.


  • Overview 1
  • Canada Reads 2
    • 2002 2.1
    • 2003 2.2
    • 2004 2.3
    • 2005 2.4
    • 2006 2.5
    • 2007 2.6
    • 2008 2.7
    • 2009 2.8
    • 2010 2.9
    • 2011 2.10
    • 2012 2.11
    • 2013 2.12
    • 2014 2.13
    • 2015 2.14
  • Le Combat des livres 3
    • 2004 3.1
    • 2005 3.2
    • 2006 3.3
    • 2007 3.4
    • 2008 3.5
    • 2009 3.6
    • 2010 3.7
    • 2011 3.8
    • 2012 3.9
    • 2013 3.10
    • 2014 3.11
  • Success 4
  • Criticism 5
  • References 6
  • External links 7


During Canada Reads, five personalities champion five different books, each champion extolling the merits of one of the titles. The debate is broadcast over a series of five programs. At the end of each episode, the panelists vote one title out of the competition until only one book remains. This book is then billed as the book that all of Canada should read.

CBC Radio producer, Peter Kavanagh proposed the idea of a national radio book campaign during the fall of 2001. Later that year, Talin Vartanian conceived Canada Reads, produced the first edition with Kavanagh, then became Executive Producer from 2002 to 2007. In 2007 the program was an "All Star Edition", a reunion of the winning panelists from the first five years. From 2007 to present, Ann Jansen has been producing the program.

Canada Reads was first broadcast on CBC's Radio One in 2002, and has aired annually on radio since then. The third and fourth editions also were broadcast on television, on CBC Newsworld. Broadcast dates were February 16 to February 20, 2004, and February 21 to February 25, 2005, respectively. The seventh edition was also broadcast on Bold TV, broadcasting from February 25 to February 29. Beginning with the third edition, the daily debates could be heard online as well as on Radio One. The fifth edition was broadcast from April 17 to April 21, 2006; the sixth edition aired February 25 to March 2, 2007. The seventh edition of Canada Reads was broadcast on February 25 to February 29, 2008 and for the first time it was available as a podcast.

The books in the running for each edition of Canada Reads are announced several months before the programs are broadcast. Titles must be Canadian fiction, poetry or plays. They are promoted in bookstores, in the hope that the Canada Reads audience will purchase and read them all before the programs air. In some cases, publishers have published special editions of the nominated titles.

The publisher of the winning Canada Reads title donates a portion of sales proceeds from the winning book to a charitable organization working in the field of literacy. Recipients have included Frontier College, the Movement for Canadian Literacy, ABC Life Literacy Canada (formerly ABC CANADA Literacy Foundation) and Laubach Literacy of Canada.

Since 2004, Radio-Canada, the French-language service of CBC, has annually produced a French version of Canada Reads entitled Le Combat des livres ("Battle of the books"). It is broadcast on Première Chaîne.

Both the English and French programs sometimes, but not always, include one personality more commonly associated with the other language community, who champions a translated work. One advocate, Maureen McTeer, appeared on both programs in the same year, championing the same novel in both its original English and translated French editions. Five other novels have also been chosen for both programs, although their English and French versions were not chosen by the same advocate or in the same year; one novel to date, Lawrence Hill's The Book of Negroes (French title Aminata) has won both competitions.

Canada Reads


Canada Reads 2002 aired from April 16 to 19, 2002. The winning title was announced on April 23, 2002, Canada Book Day. Mary Walsh was the moderator.

Author Title Advocate
Michael Ondaatje In the Skin of a Lion Steven Page
Margaret Atwood The Handmaid's Tale Kim Campbell
George Elliott Clarke Whylah Falls Nalo Hopkinson
Margaret Laurence The Stone Angel Leon Rooke
Rohinton Mistry A Fine Balance Megan Follows


Canada Reads 2003 aired from April 21 to 25, 2003. Bill Richardson was the moderator.

Author Title Advocate
Hubert Aquin Next Episode Denise Bombardier
Paul Hiebert Sarah Binks Will Ferguson
Helen Humphreys The Lost Garden Mag Ruffman
Wayne Johnston The Colony of Unrequited Dreams Justin Trudeau
Yann Martel Life of Pi Nancy Lee


Canada Reads 2004 aired on both CBC Radio and CBC Newsworld February 16 to 20, 2004. Bill Richardson was the moderator.

Author Title Advocate
Guy Vanderhaeghe The Last Crossing Jim Cuddy
Thomas King Green Grass, Running Water Glen Murray
Alice Munro The Love of a Good Woman Measha Brueggergosman
Monique Proulx The Heart is an Involuntary Muscle Francine Pelletier
Mordecai Richler Barney's Version Zsuzsi Gartner


Canada Reads 2005 was broadcast from February 21 to 25, 2005. Bill Richardson was again the moderator.

Author Title Advocate
Frank Parker Day Rockbound Donna Morrissey
Margaret Atwood Oryx and Crake Olivia Chow
Leonard Cohen Beautiful Losers Molly Johnson1
Jacques Poulin Volkswagen Blues Roch Carrier
Mairuth Sarsfield No Crystal Stair Sherraine MacKay
1This title had been originally chosen by Rufus Wainwright, but was defended by Molly Johnson when Wainwright was unable to participate.


Canada Reads 2006 was broadcast from April 17 to 21, 2006. Bill Richardson was again the moderator.

Author Title Advocate
Miriam Toews A Complicated Kindness John K. Samson
Joseph Boyden Three Day Road Nelofer Pazira
Frances Itani Deafening Maureen McTeer
Al Purdy Rooms for Rent in the Outer Planets: Selected Poems, 1962-1996 Susan Musgrave
Mordecai Richler Cocksure Scott Thompson


Canada Reads 2007 aired from February 26 to March 2, 2007. Bill Richardson again moderated the competition. For the 2007 competition, each of the five winning advocates from past series returned to champion a new title in an "all-star" edition of the series.

Author Title Advocate
Heather O'Neill Lullabies for Little Criminals John K. Samson
David Bezmozgis Natasha and Other Stories Steven Page
Anosh Irani The Song of Kahunsha Donna Morrissey
Gabrielle Roy Children of My Heart Denise Bombardier
Timothy Taylor Stanley Park Jim Cuddy


Canada Reads 2008 aired from February 25 to 29, 2008. Jian Ghomeshi moderated the competition.

Author Title Advocate
Paul Quarrington King Leary Dave Bidini
Timothy Findley Not Wanted on the Voyage Zaib Shaikh
Mavis Gallant From the Fifteenth District Lisa Moore
Nalo Hopkinson Brown Girl in the Ring Jemini
Thomas Wharton Icefields Steve MacLean


Canada Reads 2009 aired from March 2 to 6, 2009. Jian Ghomeshi moderated the competition.

Author Title Advocate
Lawrence Hill The Book of Negroes Avi Lewis
David Adams Richards Mercy among the Children Sarah Slean
Gil Adamson The Outlander Nicholas Campbell
Brian Francis Fruit: A Novel About a Boy and His Nipples Jen Sookfong Lee
Michel Tremblay The Fat Woman Next Door Is Pregnant Anne-Marie Withenshaw


Canada Reads 2010 aired from March 8 to 12, 2010. Jian Ghomeshi moderated the competition.

Author Title Advocate
Nicolas Dickner, translated by Lazer Lederhendler Nikolski[1] Michel Vézina
Wayson Choy The Jade Peony Samantha Nutt
Douglas Coupland Generation X: Tales for an Accelerated Culture Cadence Weapon
Marina Endicott Good to a Fault Simi Sara
Ann-Marie MacDonald Fall on Your Knees Perdita Felicien


Canada Reads 2011 aired in February 2011.The debates started February 7. The producers announced a slightly different format for the 2011 contest; throughout the month of October 2010, an online vote was held to determine the books that listeners consider the 40 "most essential" Canadian novels of the past decade, and the panelists made their choices from within that list. Only novels, not short story collections, were eligible; however, novels which have previously been included in a Canada Reads competition were still eligible for renomination.[2]

Author Title Advocate
Terry Fallis The Best Laid Plans Ali Velshi
Angie Abdou The Bone Cage Georges Laraque
Jeff Lemire Essex County Sara Quin
Ami McKay The Birth House Debbie Travis
Carol Shields Unless Lorne Cardinal


Canada Reads 2012 aired from February 6 to 9, 2012. The books in the 2012 edition were all non-fiction. A list of 40 non-fiction books were announced as being the shortlist finalists in October 2011,[3] including And No Birds Sang by Farley Mowat, Shake Hands with the Devil by Romeo Dallaire, The Last Spike by Pierre Berton, The Death and Life of Great American Cities by Jane Jacobs, and Paris 1919 by Margaret MacMillan. Listeners could vote on up to five books they wanted to be shortlisted.[4]

Author Title Advocate
Carmen Aguirre Something Fierce: Memoirs of a Revolutionary Daughter Shad
Dave Bidini On a Cold Road Stacey McKenzie
Ken Dryden The Game Alan Thicke
Marina Nemat Prisoner of Tehran Arlene Dickinson
John Vaillant The Tiger Anne-France Goldwater

On the first day of discussions, panelist Anne-France Goldwater “caused shock and outrage among literary types” (according to The Globe and Mail) by calling Carmen Aguirre “a bloody terrorist”, and alleging that Marina Nemat “tells a story that's not true”.[5][6] In response, Marina Nemat posted on Facebook, “I hope [Goldwater] can produce evidence to back up her claims. If not, I would like to receive a public apology from her.”[7] Nemat's Prisoner of Tehran was the first voted off, with Stacey McKenzie casting a tie-breaking vote.[8] Arlene Dickinson (the panelist defending Prisoner of Tehran) called McKenzie's vote “the wrong choice for the wrong reason”.[8]


Books and panelists for 2013 were revealed on November 29, 2012 on Q. The theme for 2013 was "Turf Wars", with the advocates and titles chosen to each represent one of Canada's major geographic regions (British Columbia, the Prairies, Ontario, Quebec and the Atlantic provinces). The debates ran from February 11 to 14, 2013.

Author Title Advocate
Lisa Moore February Trent McClellan
David Bergen The Age of Hope Ron MacLean
Hugh MacLennan Two Solitudes Jay Baruchel
Jane Urquhart Away Charlotte Gray
Richard Wagamese Indian Horse Carol Huynh


Books and panelists for 2014 were revealed on November 27, 2013 on Q. The theme for 2014 is "A Novel to Change Our Nation." Jian Ghomeshi moderated the competition.[9]

Author Title Advocate
Joseph Boyden The Orenda, debated theme: First Nations, environment Wab Kinew
Margaret Atwood The Year of the Flood, debated theme: environment Stephen Lewis
Esi Edugyan Half-Blood Blues, debated theme: racial inequality Donovan Bailey
Rawi Hage Cockroach, debated theme: immigrant experience Samantha Bee
Kathleen Winter Annabel, debated theme: gender equality Sarah Gadon


The 2015 edition of Canada Reads was moderated by Wab Kinew, with the theme of the discussions being "One Book to Break Barriers".[10] Panelists and titles were announced on January 20, 2015, with the debates taking place from March 16 to 19.

Author Title Advocate
Kim Thúy Ru Cameron Bailey
Kamal Al-Solaylee Intolerable: A Memoir of Extremes Kristin Kreuk
Thomas King The Inconvenient Indian Craig Kielburger
Raziel Reid When Everything Feels Like the Movies Elaine Lui
Jocelyne Saucier And the Birds Rained Down Martha Wainwright

Le Combat des livres


Radio-Canada, the French-language service of CBC, aired a French version of Canada Reads, entitled Le combat des livres ("Battle of the Books"), from March 29 to April 2, 2004. It was moderated by Marie-France Bazzo.

Author Title Advocate
Gil Courtemanche Un dimanche à la piscine à Kigali Laure Waridel
Margaret Atwood La servante écarlate Julius Grey
Jacques Godbout Une histoire américaine Gérald Larose
Yann Martel L'histoire de Pi Louise Forestier
Gaétan Soucy La petite fille qui aimait trop les allumettes Micheline Lanctôt


The 2005 edition of Le Combat des livres aired from March 14 to March 18, 2005. It was moderated by Marie-France Bazzo.

Author Title Advocate
Réjean Ducharme L'Avalée des avalés Sophie Cadieux
Nancy Huston Dolce agonia Réjean Thomas
Jean-Jacques Pelletier La Chair disparue Alain Lefèvre
Elizabeth Smart À la hauteur de Grand Central Station, je me suis assise et j'ai pleuré Dennis Trudeau
Michel Tremblay Thérèse et Pierrette à l'école des Saints-Anges Monique Simard


The 2006 edition of Le Combat des livres aired from January 30 to February 3. It was moderated by Marie-France Bazzo.

Author Title Advocate
Francine Noël La Femme de ma vie Françoise Guénette
Hubert Aquin Prochain épisode Pierre Lebeau
Jean Barbe Comment devenir un monstre Lucie Laurier
Stéphane Dompierre Un petit pas pour l'homme Louis-José Houde
Frances Itani Une coquille de silence Maureen McTeer


The 2007 edition of Le Combat des livres aired from February 26 to March 2, and was moderated by Christiane Charette.

Author Title Advocate
Denis Thériault L'Iguane Dominique Lévesque
Marie Laberge Le poids des ombres Pauline Marois
Mathyas Lefebure D'où viens-tu berger? Robert Frosi
Yann Martel Self Sheila Copps
Christian Mistral Vamp Biz


The 2008 edition of Le Combat des livres aired from February 25 to February 29, and was once again chaired by Christiane Charette.

Author Title Advocate
Éric Dupont La Logeuse Nicolas Langelier
Marie-Claire Blais Une saison dans la vie d'Emmanuel Serge Denoncourt
Jacques Godbout La concierge du Panthéon Bernard Landry
Mordecai Richler Le Monde de Barney Anne Lagacé Dowson
Gabrielle Roy La Détresse et l'enchantement Sophie Faucher


The 2009 edition of Le Combat des livres aired from March 23 to 27, and was once again chaired by Christiane Charette.

Author Title Advocate
Rawi Hage Parfum de poussière Brendan Kelly
Gérard Bouchard Mistouk Raymond Gravel
Jean-François Beauchemin La fabrication de l'aube Emmanuel Bilodeau
D. Y. Béchard Vandal Love Esther Bégin
Marie-Sissi Labrèche Borderline Janette Bertrand


The 2010 edition of Le Combat des livres aired from March 22 to 26. Christiane Charette moderated.

Author Title Advocate
Dany Laferrière L'énigme du retour Françoise David
Jean Barbe Comment devenir un ange Marie-Soleil Michon
Patrice Desbiens L'Homme invisible Thomas Hellman
Germaine Guèvremont Le survenant Christian Dufour
Nancy Huston Cantique des plaines Christopher Hall


The 2011 edition of Le Combat des livres aired from March 14 to 18. Christiane Charette moderated.

Author Title Advocate
Perrine Leblanc L'homme blanc Geneviève Guérard
David Gilmour L'École des films Anne-France Goldwater
Dany Laferrière Comment faire l'amour avec un nègre sans se fatiguer Patrick Lagacé
Émile Ollivier Mère-Solitude Jici Lauzon
Danielle Trussart Le train pour Samarcande Djemila Benhabib


Beginning in 2012, the production and broadcast of Le Combat des livres was transferred from Charette's program to the network's new literature show Plus on est de fous, plus on lit!, hosted by Marie-Louise Arsenault.

Author Title Advocate
Marie-Renée Lavoie La petite et le vieux Yves Lamontagne
Margaret Atwood La voleuse d'hommes Tasha Kheiriddin
Guy Delisle Chroniques de Jérusalem Gildor Roy
Abla Farhoud Le sourire de la petite juive Nabila Ben Youssef


The 2013 edition of Le Combat des livres aired from March 18 to 22. Marie-Louise Arsenault moderated. It was an all star season featuring previous winners.[11]

Author Title Advocate
Lawrence Hill Aminata Thomas Hellman
Jocelyne Saucier Il pleuvait des oiseaux Geneviève Guérard
Heather O'Neill La Ballade de Baby Brendan Kelly
Samuel Archibald Arvida Bernard Landry
Éric Dupont La fiancée américaine Dominique Levesque


The 2014 edition of Le Combat des livres aired from March 31 to April 3. Marie-Louise Arsenault moderated.

Author Title Advocate
Marie-Claire Blais La Belle Bête Paul Cargnello
François Gravel Adieu, Betty Crocker Pauline Martin
Rohinton Mistry L'Équilibre du monde Azeb Wolde-Giorghis
Kim Thúy Ru Jean-François Chicoine


As a vehicle to promote interest in reading and books and to increase sales, Canada Reads has been a signal success. Even already successful titles see increases in sales driven by their inclusion in the contest: sales of Michael Ondaatje's In the Skin of a Lion increased by 80,000 in 2002, the year of its appearance on Canada Reads. Its publisher, Random House of Canada attributed much of this increase to Canada Reads.

The success for lesser known titles can be as marked. Hubert Aquin's Next Episode sold 18,500 copies in the year when it won Canada Reads.

For the 2005 edition, sales of Jacques Poulin's Volkswagen Blues, which usually are about 200 copies a year, increased to 7,500 between the time the nominations were announced and the shows began airing. During the same period, 7,000 copies of Frank Parker Day's Rockbound were shipped by its publisher, the University of Toronto Press.


There has been some criticism of Canada Reads. First, criticism has been made of the use of "celebrity" panelists. In 2007, a listener named John Mutford unsuccessfully attempted to become the first non-celebrity panelist.[12] Critics have also taken issue with the game show format, and have contended that discussion of the books has often remained on a superficial level.[13]

The choice of books has also been criticized. Originally each panelist provided a list of five books, from which the producers chose the final contenders. In 2005, this process changed, and the panelists submitted only one choice. Due to scheduling problems, Rufus Wainwright was not able to appear after selecting his choice, and singer Molly Johnson was chosen to defend his chosen book.[14]


  1. ^  
  2. ^ "Canada Reads aims to find book of decade"., October 5, 2010.
  3. ^ "40 non-fiction books suggested for Canada Reads".  
  4. ^ "The Canada Reads: True Stories Top 40 revealed!".  
  5. ^ Marsha Lederman (2012-02-06). "Canada Reads judge accuses authors of terrorism, lying on popular CBC contest".  
  6. ^ Raju Mudhar (2012-02-07). "Canada Reads: Controversy as panelist calls author Carmen Aguirre a "terrorist" and Marina Nemat a liar".  
  7. ^ Sue Carter Flinn (2012-02-06). "Marina Nemat demands public apology from Anne-France Goldwater". Quillblog.  
  8. ^ a b Melody Lau (2012-02-06). "Canada Reads votes off first book: Marina Nemat’s Prisoner of Tehran".  
  9. ^ "Canada Reads crowns Joseph Boyden's The Orenda 2014 winner".  
  10. ^ "Canada Reads 2015: One book to break barriers". CBC Books, November 19, 2014.
  11. ^ "Le Combat des livres kicks off with talk of independence and throwing books". The Gazette, March 18, 2013.
  12. ^ "Iqaluimmiut for Canada Reads 2008"
  13. ^ "The Great Canadian Book Brawl". The Globe and Mail, February 19, 2005, Page R7.
  14. ^ "IN BRIEF: Molly Johnson replaces Rufus Wainwright for Canada Reads". CBC News, January 5, 2005.

External links

  • web siteCanada Reads
  • Le combat des livres 2004 at Radio-Canada (in French)
  • Le combat des livres 2005 at Radio-Canada (in French)
  • Le combat des livres 2006 at Radio-Canada (in French)
  • Le combat des livres 2007 at Radio-Canada (in French)
  • Le combat des livres 2008 at Radio-Canada (in French)
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