My CanLit Journey: Canada Reads

If you’ve been following this blog for a while, you know that I’ve struggled with liking CanLit. This might not sound like a big deal for those of you that aren’t Canadian, but if you tell Canadians that you don’t really like Canadian Literature, it’s a thing.

Canada has a long, proud history of literature. We’re a bookish country. But I never really connected with CanLit. Not on purpose anyway.

But, one of the great things about having started this blog and connecting with other bookish people (I’m thinking especially of Naomi at Consumed by Ink and Tania and Kurt at WriteReads), is that I’ve been challenged to re-evaluate my position on CanLit. And I’m making progress. So much so that this year for the first time ever I tuned in to Canada Reads.

Oh yeah, I wasn’t kidding when I said Canada was a bookish country. We have a national reality show to choose a book that the whole country should read. Past winners include The Book of Negroes, The Orenda, and A Complicated Kindness. Finalists have included Life of Pi, A Fine Balance, The Prisoner of Tehran and The Birth House. Notable Canadians pick the books and then argue for why their book should win.

And actually if I’m being honest, of the ones I just listed, I’ve read and enjoyed four. Not too shabby for a CanLit snob.

Anyway, I tuned in this year and was blown away by the debate. It was passionate, it was intelligent, it was what I wish book club was actually like – at times it was emotional. The panelists argued about what it meant to be Canadian, which book broke the most barriers, writing quality etc.

Let me be honest – the reason I actually tuned in this year was because Elaine Lui (aka Lainey Gossip) was one of the panelists, defending When Everything Feels Like the Movies, the first YA book included in the competition. She was brilliant and really made me want to read the book.

I ended up reading the book that won over the weekend (I don’t want to ruin it for you, but really, you’re not going to get very far not knowing if you look at anything related to books and Canada). It was beautifully written, lyrical and poetic but honestly? I’m not sure it’s the kind of book that people are going to be clamouring to read. I think it’s one of those books that book critics love, but regular people are going to have a hard time with. The kind of book that most people are going to go “oh yeah, I’ve been meaning to read that…”

Still, actually tuning in to the competition feels like a watershed moment in my CanLit journey. If you’re looking for something to listen to, I really recommend it. It’s available as a podcast, or here.  Four sessions, four hours of fabulous bookish debate – what’s not to love?

17 thoughts on “My CanLit Journey: Canada Reads

  1. So, I’ve heard people talking about Canada Reads but never realized it was actually a televised thing. Now I’m so jealous and really, really hate America because it’s something we’ll never have.

  2. Yay for Canada Reads! Now that you’ve watched it, you should go back and watch last year’s. It was even better. But, maybe that’s just me. I loved The Orenda.
    When it’s over, I am always impatient to hear about next year’s theme.
    Also, while it’s going on, my kids make fun of me. But, I let them. 🙂
    Thanks for the shout-out!

      • Haha! I know! In fact, my son kept wanting to know which book was voted off, and which book I was “hoping for”. 🙂
        The Orenda is so good!! It’s not difficult in the sense that it’s hard to follow. Some people think it’s too violent, but I think the violence was appropriate and it didn’t bother me. And, of course, the whole history of First Nations in this country is heart-breaking. But, that’s just another good reason to read it. I learned so much from it.

  3. So great that you decided to give some CanLit a try by following Canada Reads this year. I didn’t follow the debate because I was away, but plan to read some of the books. I’m not surprised that Ru won, but I won’t be rushing to read it especially since I heard it’s very similar to Man by Kim Thuy which I read last year.

    • It’s a beautiful little book but I’m not sure it’s the barrier breaking book it was supposed to be. I picked up When Everything Feels Like the Movies yesterday though. I’m hopeful that that one will be bigger for me.
      I definitely enjoyed the debate though!

      • I am still waiting (not so patiently) for a copy of When Everything Feels Like the Movies from the library. Let us know what you think! I still go back and forth in my mind about which type of book is better for breaking barriers. I mostly agree with Cameron Bailey that something quiet and artistic will speak to more people for a longer period of time, but WEFLtM is definitely getting a lot of attention and people are talking about it.

      • I think sometimes people need to be shocked to change. What Kim Thuy went through is obviously so horrific but I felt like I was barely touched by it because I was so distracted by the beautiful prose.

    • I’m always surprised when Americans explain their pop culture to Canadians but then I check myself because you have no idea that basically everything you guys have on TV, we have too. All of our networks air your shows, we get ABC, NBC, CBS, HBO, Fox, Showtime etc. We watch your late night shows and we all stream American Netflix because it has more available than the Canadian version (except the US version doesn’t have The Good Wife! What is that about!?). So we get all that AND our own Canadian stuff that I don’t really watch that much of because there’s so much that I already want to watch. But we do get Canada Reads, which is a win.
      I actually try really hard NOT to read Oprah book club books. But that’s a whole other discussion…

  4. Thanks for the shout out, Princess! I’m glad CanLit is becoming less of a problem for you. I do love the Canada Reads debate as it gets so many people talking passionately about books.
    And it’s interesting to hear the debate and to see who ends up being the strongest debater (which is not always the strongest book). I think Lainey’s book should have won as well, but Cameron was the better debater so…
    Also, I love Lainey, too 🙂 -Tania

    • I actually think that Lainey was the better debater but Cameron made the case for the safer choice. He did do a good job of attacking her book for having offensive language and I think that’s what ultimately swayed it. But hey, Lainey was able to give this book a massive platform so it’s a winner too.

      • Oh, I think the book will gain a huge audience thanks to her, which is awesome. It needs a large readership! Though it’s too bad it probably will never make it onto a school reading list for books to be discussed in class 🙂 -Tania

  5. Pingback: Packing Bookish Essentials | The Paperback Princess

  6. Pingback: When Everything Feels Like the Movies | The Paperback Princess

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