Saturday, February 18, 2012

Canada Calling: Canada Reads

It all started in 2001. The Canadian Broadcasting Company (also known as the CBC or the Mothership) had this idea that everyone in Canada reading the same 5 books, discussing them, defending them, and picking their favorite would be a good thing not only for reading, but for the country in general. And so, Canada Reads was born.

This year marks the Canada Reads eleventh anniversary and, my, how the infant has grown. Here’s a summary of how Canada Reads works.

In the fall of the previous year (2011 for the awards given last week) Canadians were asked for recommendations of books by Canadian authors, currently in print, and written or translated into English. Previous years have all focused on fiction, but for the first time, in 2012, competition was for non-fiction books. A book could have been published in any year, as long as it was still in print.

Each recommendation garnered one point for that book. The 40 books with the most points at the end of the 18-day voting period made the cut.

A second round of public voting narrowed the list to 10 and that list was made public on two CBC radio programs at the beginning of 2011 November.

Each “read” involves five well-known Canadians selected to act as book defenders. This year they were a TV star, model, high-profile CEO, musician, and lawyer. Each of them picked one book from the top ten list, and those five, defended by their advocate, went into the final competition.

During one-hour debates, broadcast daily from 2012 February 6 to 9, the five defenders debated the merits of their chosen books. These programs were broadcast on CBC radio and television, and were live-streamed on the Internet.

Canadians have a reputation for being nice, so it was a surprise for a lot of people when on Day 1, one of the debaters—the lawyer—made comments that were somewhere between inflammatory and downright rude. Her book was voted off on Day 2. Controversies continued throughout the week.

The spin out this year reached incredible proportions: blogs, tweets, discussion on regional and local CBC programs, library and book store displays, discussions in coffee shops. Keep in mind this was about reading, a topic that rarely generates a yawn.

After four exhausting days, here’s how the results turned out:

Prisoner of Tehran by Marina Nemat, defended by Arlene Dickinson (eliminated on day 1)

The Tiger by John Vaillant, defended by Anne-France Goldwater (eliminated on day 2)

On a Cold Road by Dave Bidini, defended by Stacey McKenzie (eliminated on day 3)

The Game by Ken Dryden, defended by Alan Thicke (eliminated in a tough tie-breaker on day 4)

Something Fierce by Carmen Aguirre, defended by Shad (The winner)

There was one other winner. Each year the publisher of the winning book makes a financial donation to a national adult literacy organization. This year's recipient was Frontier College's Aboriginal Literacy Program. For over 100 years, Frontier College has used volunteers to deliver literacy programs across Canada. Their Aboriginal Literacy Programs operate in more than 60 First Nation and M├ętis communities; many are in the most isolated communities in Canada. Additionally, Frontier College contributes books into these communities.


Kathy Waller said...

I KNEW there's a reason I like Canada. Aside from all the other reasons.

Anonymous said...

Hi, Kathy,
Canada likes you, too (grin)

Richard Goutal said...

That sounds so awesome! I belong to a library mystery book club. We (most of us) rank each book to compare the monthly selections all year long. Sometimes there are raucous conversations between those of us ranking a book high (in the 90s) versus low (60s). This month the average rank from ten of us was "44" for one mystery book written in 1980. (I refrain from saying what it was....) By the way, the way we rank them is using a form with ten question about the book - each question is worth 10 points.