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CBC Canada Reads 2013: Thoughts on the Top Fives

So the people’s voting is over. As CBC put it, our “hard work is done.” I wish I could agree that it was indeed hard work for us to choose the books we wanted to be discussed from the plethora of fine examples of CanLit, but because many of the choices seemed to me rather cliché, I’d say it wasn’t so hard for most people. Falling back on tried and true, on old favourites: meh! The real challenge, the real work (or joy, as I see it), is in exploring CanLit outside the normal boundaries and then trying to pick what would be great for discussion and expanding our literature’s definition.

I’ve said as much several times. I also weighed in on the Top Ten regional lists on CBC’s site: you can read that brief post here.

So now we’re down to the Top Five choices for each region, and from these, the panelists will choose which book to champion. Fingers crossed! Because I am still pretty excited about this year’s debate. My initial reaction on seeing Ontario and Quebec was some disappointment, but overall, I see hope for the discussion: we may yet convince Canadians to read more contemporary literature or younger authors or backlist that hasn’t been previously studied or extrapolated.

Here are the regions’ Top Five choices.




Prairies and the North

BC and Yukon

And of these choices, these are my picks (below), bearing in mind what I hope to see from Canada Reads. Please understand that my choices are not necessarily my favourite books; nor do they reflect my relationships with the authors. I chose based on what I feel would make the best discussion and on what I think Canadians could best read to sample CanLit different from what they’re used to. It’s my wish the panelists do the same!

Atlantic: The Town that Drowned, by Reil Nason

Quebec: Ru, by Kim Thúy

Ontario: The Day the Falls Stood Still, by Cathy Buchanan

Prairies and the North: The Garneau Block, by Todd Babiak

BC and Yukon: Bow Grip, by Ivan E. Coyote

Get ready for what I hope will be an exciting celebration of CanLit!


  1. I’m heartened by the fact that you could even make a lost that diverse out of the top-5 offerings! I’m a bit disappointed that some of my picks vanished – How to Make Love to a Negro Without Getting Tired & Clara Callan in particular – but there’s some great stuff left. I’d like to see at least one older book end up on the list, but I don’t think the final list could possibly disappoint.

    1. Steph Author

      Yes, that was my pick, too, for Quebec. Neither Quebec nor Ontario had my choices left. But yes! I was still able to get a nice list out of there. I remain hopeful!

      PS. I loved Clara Callan.

  2. Agree about the rather cliche picks for some of the books. Would love to see Ru make it, and rather fear some of the ‘old standards” – which have already been proven in many cases – may be picked over some of the new and exciting novels that really showcase the diversity of our literary traditions. #hope


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