Friday, March 22

Get Ready to Rumble in the Reading World!

Every March, the CBC (Canadian Broadcasting Corporation) hosts Canada Reads on CBC television and radio. In this contest, five Canadian celebrities champion a book they feel most exemplifies the chosen theme of the year; in 2019 the theme is “One Book to Move You.” For four days in March (this year March 25 to 28) the book defenders debate the merits of each novel and try to convince their fellow defenders that their book is most worthy of being this year’s Canada Reads winner. Each day, after this spirited debate, the defenders vote to eliminate one book, until, Survivor-like, only one book remains to claim victory. Even if I haven’t read all the books, I find the debates between the book defenders compelling, and just plain fun.

This year’s crop of books certainly sound like emotional, moving reads. From the CBC Canada Reads website, here are the contenders:

Homes is a memoir of Abu Bakr al Rabeeah's childhood in Iraq and Syria. Just before civil war broke out, the al Rabeeah family left Iraq for safety in Homs, Syria. Al Rabeeah was 10 years old when the violence began in his new home. He remembers attacks on his mosque and school, car bombings and firebombs. Now a high school student in Edmonton, Alta., al Rabeeah shares his story with writer Winnie Yeung in hopes it will bring greater understanding of Syria. 

David Chariandy's Brother takes us inside the lives of the mixed heritage sons of Trinidadian immigrants. Rooted in Chariandy's own experience growing up as a person of colour in the Toronto suburb of Scarborough, the novel is a beautiful meditation on discrimination, agency, grief and the power of human relationships.

When Max Eisen was 15 years old, he and his family were taken from their home to Auschwitz, where Eisen worked as a slave labourer. He survived the Holocaust and emigrated to Canada in 1949. Eisen has toured the world, educating people about the horrors he survived during the Second World War. He has recorded his memories in the deeply moving memoir By Chance Alone.

An English translation of the celebrated 2015 novel, La femme qui fuitSuzanne is Ana├»s Barbeau-Lavalette's imagined account of the life of her estranged grandmother. A novel that blurs the lines between fact and fiction, Suzanne tells the story of more than eight decades of art and political history through its portrait of a conflicted woman and her granddaughter's search for understanding. Suzanne was translated by Rhonda Mullins.

The Woo-Woo is a dark, witty and touching memoir by Vancouver-based writer Lindsay Wong, who gives an honest account of the impact of mental illness on her family. Wong delivers a raw and emotional look at whispered secrets, dysfunctional relationships — and how her grandmother, mother, aunt and even herself initially blamed the mythical "woo-woo," Chinese spirits that plague the living, for their mental health issues.

So, stories of civil war and violence, racial discrimination, the holocaust, family secrets and mental illness. Let the games begin!

Not to be outdone by Canada Reads, Harper Collins Canada has initiated HCC March Madness. Starting with 64 books on March 1, readers vote for their favorites in match-ups throughout the month of March to determine which books advance to the next round. At the end of the month only one book will remain. Readers can win prizes, and best of all, all 64 books are priced at $4.99 (CDN) or less at Kobo, a win in my books!

Who knew reading could turn into a competitive sport! Get ready to rumble!


  1. This is so interesting, and what a great program!

    1. It's a lot of fun, Liz, and all the books sound so interesting. I can't wait for the showdown!