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Thursday, March 30, 2017

Canada Reads 2017: A Major Disappointment

Canada Reads 2017 was a major disappointment.

The books were poorly chosen.    
Including a memoir alongside four novels muddied the discussion.  The qualities and characteristics of fiction and non-fiction are different so I’m reminded of the old adage about comparing apples and oranges.  (Candy actually agreed with me on Day 3.)
The books also deal with different issues (e.g. climate change, lives of Indigenous women, immigration) so the panelists were put in a position where they had to rank one issue as more important than the rest. 
Overall, I found the quality of the books uneven.  I read all four novels and gave 4 stars to only one of them; the others were given 2.5, 3 and 3.5 stars.  In past years, most of the books in contention have earned 4 stars.

The way a tie was broken made no sense.  And Strategic Voting?
On the first day, The Break was eliminated.  A panelist whose book is one of the two tied for elimination gets to cast the deciding vote?!  Even Chantal Kreviazuk, the panelist in question, was skeptical of the fairness of this approach.
On Day Three, Jodi admitted to voting against The Break on the first day because he saw it as his strongest competitor?  Canada Reads is not Survivor!

The debaters didn’t seem to be prepared.
The debate was not of the quality I’ve come to expect from Canada Reads.  It seemed that the debaters kept repeating the same things over and over again about their books.  The panelists were not always able to elucidate the depths they claimed were in their books.
Measha  Brueggergosman, according to the CBC website “eloquently responded” to a criticism that  characters in Company Town aren't three-dimensional.  Her comment that “I think all of the distance that we feel to the characters in the book is created on purpose because we see them through the omniscient perspective of Hwa” explained that distance is created intentionally but doesn’t address the purpose of that distance.
Candy Palmater spoke well and was passionate about her book, but if a book didn’t deal with LGBTQ or Indigenous issues, she was dismissive.
How many times did listeners have to hear that Humble the Poet used to be a grade 3 teacher? 
Jody Mitic seemed not to know his book Nostalgia very well; ethnic and religious wars, famine, economic subjugation, class divides, science versus faith conflicts, immigration anxieties, and concerns about the dehumanizing effects of technological and scientific advances are all found in the novel and in our world, yet he kept repeating only that people can’t run from their pasts. 
Chantal Kreviazuk hijacked the entire event through her emotionalism, understandable though it might be in the circumstances.  She found every question difficult?

The winner is Fifteen Dogs by André Alexis.  In my opinion, it is NOT the book Canadians need to read right now.  See my review at