Canada Reads is back! This year, the great Canadian book debate is looking for one book to shift your perspective.
The stories we tell, and the way we tell them, can shape how we see ourselves, our communities and the world. This collection of books is an opportunity to broaden our horizons, expand our worldview and think differently about the world around us and our place in it.
The 2023 contenders are:
The debates will take place March 27-30, 2023.
Hassan is an actor, comedian and host of CBC Radio’s Laugh Out Loud and a frequent guest host of As it Happens and Q. He can also be seen in his TV roles on Designated Survivor, Odd Squad and the CBC shows Sort of and Run the Burbs.
He recently became an author as well, publishing his comedic memoir Is There Bacon in Heaven? in fall 2022.
“This year’s theme offers a great opportunity for our panellists, and our audience, to widen their thought process and expand their understanding through a willingness to change their minds, and then change them again,” said Hassan in a statement.
The five panellists were on CBC Radio’s Q to reveal the books they will be championing in the debates.
LISTEN | The Canada Reads 2023 contenders speak with CBC Radio’s Q:
Q12:39Canada Reads 2023: Meet your champions!
The year 2023 marks the 22nd edition of Canada Reads.
Canada Reads premiered in 2002. The first winning book was In the Skin of a Lion by Michael Ondaatje, which was defended by musician Steven Page. In 2021, CBC Books put together a retrospective to look back at the show’s biggest moments and its impact on Canadian literature.
Last year’s winner was fashion journalist Christian Allaire, who championed the novel Five Little Indians by Michelle Good. Five Little Indians would go on to be the No. 1 bestselling Canadian book at independent bookstores in 2022.
Other past Canada Reads winners include Lawrence Hill‘s The Illegal, defended by Olympian Clara Hughes, Kim Thúy‘s Ru, defended by TIFF artistic director Cameron Bailey and Lisa Moore‘s February, defended by comedian Trent McClellan.
LISTEN | Canada Reads celebrates 20 years:
Canada Reads1:37:20Canada Reads 20th anniversary special
Learn more about the Canada Reads 2023 contenders below.
Ducks is an autobiographical graphic novel that recounts author Kate Beaton’s time spent working in the Alberta oil sands. With the goal of paying off her student loans, Beaton leaves her tight-knit seaside Nova Scotia community and heads west, where she encounters harsh realities, including the everyday trauma that no one discusses.
Ducks was named one of CBC Books’ top Canadian comics of 2022 and was also one of two Canadian books on Barack Obama’s list of favourite books of 2022.
Kate Beaton is a cartoonist from Nova Scotia who launched her career by publishing the comic strip Hark! A Vagrant online. The sassy historical webcomic gained a following of 500,000 monthly visitors and was eventually turned into a bestselling book. Beaton‘s success continued with the book Step Aside, Pops! and two children’s books, King Baby and The Princess and the Pony.
“Going out there, I knew that I wasn’t going to have a good time. I knew I wasn’t gonna like it, but I knew that I should be grateful for the job I was going to get. The fact that somebody was going to hire me and give me money was the good thing. Back home, they were calling it things like ‘money jail,'” Beaton told Shelagh Rogers during an interview on The Next Chapter.
Going out there, I knew that I wasn’t going to have a good time. I knew I wasn’t gonna like it, but I knew that I should be grateful for the job I was going to get.– Kate Beaton on working in the Alberta oil sands
“It doesn’t evoke a sense of enjoyment, right? But I didn’t know the details in any way. What I expected was to work for money that I should be grateful to have. And I never expected a corporation to treat me nicely, but I also didn’t know exactly what I was stepping into.”
LISTEN | Kate Beaton talks to Shelagh Rogers about Ducks:
The Next Chapter20:51Kate Beaton on Ducks
Mattea Roach is the most successful Canadian competitor in Jeopardy! history. In the spring of 2022, they won a record-setting 23 games. They appeared in the 2022 edition of Jeopardy!‘s tournament of champions and will star in the Jeopardy! Masters spin-off. They are also a writer and podcast host. They are originally from Halifax, but currently live in Toronto.
WATCH | Mattea Roach on life after Jeopardy!:
In the novel Greenwood, it’s the year 2038 and most of the world has suffered from an environmental collapse. But there is a remote island with 1,000-year-old trees and that’s where Jake Greenwood works as a tour guide. The novel takes you back in time as you learn more about Jake, her family and how secrets and lies can have an impact for generations.
Michael Christie is a novelist currently living in Victoria. His 2011 short story collection The Beggar’s Garden won the Vancouver Book Award and was a finalist for the Rogers Writers’ Trust Fiction Prize. His 2015 novel If I Fall, If I Die won the Northern Lit Award and was longlisted for the Scotiabank Giller Prize.
“I was thinking of the idea of a bloodline and wanted to complicate the idea of a family tree. The whole book is an extended metaphor of a family tree,” Christie told CBC Books in 2019.
The whole book is an extended metaphor of a family tree.– Michael Christie on Greenwood
“Genealogy isn’t a simple story. In my own personal life and experience, families are built much more than they are born. Looking back into your ancestry, all those people have a name and story of their own. There are so many stories to be told in family history so the narrative in the book is structured in that way.”
LISTEN | Michael Christie reacts to being on the Canada Reads longlist:
Up North6:05Thunder Bay-born author longlisted for Canada Reads
Keegan Connor Tracy is an actor, director and writer from British Columbia. She has starred in the TV show Once Upon a Time as the Blue Fairy and as Belle in Disney’s popular Descendents film franchise. She has also appeared in the TV series The Magicians, Bates Motel, Supernatural and the horror film Z. She is the author of the children’s book This is a Job for Mommy! Her first short film, the bilingual The Girl/La Fille won the Jury President Award at the Galactic Imaginarium Festival and the Best Indie Short at the Las Vegas Movie Awards.
WATCH | What’s it like working with Keegan Connor Tracy?
The novel Hotline is about Muna Heddad, a widow and mother who has left behind a civil war in Lebanon and is living in Montreal in the 1980s. The only work she can find is as a hotline operator at a weight-loss centre where she fields calls from people responding to ads in magazines or on TV. These strangers have so much to say about their challenges, from marriages gone bad to personal inadequacies. Although her life in Canada is filled with invisible barriers, Muna is privy to her clients’ deepest secrets.
Hotline was longlisted for the 2022 Scotiabank Giller Prize and was named one of the best works of Canadian fiction in 2022 by CBC Books.
“Hotline is loosely inspired by my mother’s own story. My parents applied for immigration to Canada. One of the things that ended up moving them further up the list was my parents’ French skills, specifically my mother being a French teacher by profession,” Nasrallah told CBC Radio’s Let’s Go.
But now I see just how profoundly complicated it is for someone who just arrived in Canada — and in Quebec specifically — to navigate their way through this society in the first year or two.– Dimitri Nasrallah on how his mother inspired Hotline
“I’m in my mid-40s now, and I find myself in roughly the same space that she was in when she first arrived here. Obviously, I have a much bigger head start because of how long I’ve lived here, but I understand better now what she had to go through. At the time, I don’t think I saw that as clearly. I saw it more from the perspective of this child who was maybe being ignored, who was left to the side. But now I see just how profoundly complicated it is for someone who just arrived in Canada — and in Quebec specifically — to navigate their way through this society in the first year or two.”
LISTEN | Dimitri Nasrallah reacts to being on the Canada Reads longlist:
Daybreak Montreal7:57CBC’s annual battle of the books: Meet the Montreal author who made it on Canada Reads’ longlist
Gurdeep Pandher is a bhangra dancer, artist and educator who currently lives in an off-grid cabin in Yukon. He is known for creating joyful videos of him dancing in unusual locations, such as in nature and in the winter cold and on the CN Tower. He also uses dance to bring people together and spread the message of joy, positivity and hope. His videos have been seen by millions of people around the world and he has toured Canada, bringing his dancing and inspiring message to communities coast to coast.
WATCH | Gurdeep Pandher dances on a frozen lake:
Mexican Gothic is a gothic horror novel set in 1950s Mexico. It tells the story of a young woman named Noemí who is called by her cousin to save her from doom in her countryside home, the mysterious and alluring High Place. Noemí doesn’t know much about the house, the region or her cousin’s mysterious new husband, but she’s determined to solve this mystery and save her cousin — whatever it takes.
Mexican Gothic is in development to become a TV series for Hulu.
Silvia Moreno-Garcia is a Canadian author, who was born and raised in Mexico. She is also the author of the novels Signal to Noise, Gods of Jade and Shadow, The Beautiful Ones, Velvet Was the Night, Untamed Shore and The Daughter of Doctor Moreau.
“The year 1950 seemed just about right, in a Goldilocks kind of way, because women were going to get to vote in 1953 Mexico. So this is just before women get the vote, but it’s after the Mexican Revolution. It’s this interim period where some things have changed in terms of how women are perceived, and the rights and freedoms that they have,” Moreno-Garcia told Shelagh Rogers on The Next Chapter in 2020.
The year 1950 seemed just about right, in a Goldilocks kind of way, because women were going to get to vote in 1953 Mexico.– Silvia Moreno-Garcia on setting Mexican Gothic in 1950s Mexico
“But there are still many constraints — the view at the time was that the woman, while she may ‘waste’ her time engaging academic pursuits, ultimately, the final goal is to get married and to have children.”
LISTEN | Silvia Moreno-Garcia talks to Shelagh Rogers about Mexican Gothic:
The Next Chapter18:03Silvia Moreno-Garcia on Mexican Gothic
Tasnim Geedi is a Somali Canadian nursing student who is best known as @groovytas on TikTok, where she posts about her favourite books. She’s one of the biggest “BookTok” creators in Canada, with over 100,000 followers, and her content has been liked more than five million times. Geedi lives in Toronto and plans to pursue a career in women’s health once she completes her nursing degree.
WATCH | Tasnim Geedi shares her top 10 books of 2022:
Station Eleven is a dystopian novel that takes place on an Earth undone by disease, following the interconnected lives of several characters — actors, artists and those closest to them — before and after the plague. One travels the wasteland performing Shakespearean plays with a troupe, while another attempts to build community at an abandoned airport and another amasses followers for a dangerous cause.
Emily St. John Mandel is a bestselling Canadian author currently living in New York and Los Angeles. Her other novels include The Glass Hotel, which was a finalist for the Scotiabank Giller Prize, and Sea of Tranquility which was one of two Canadian books on Barack Obama’s list of favourite books of 2022.
“I thought that it would be a book set in the present day. I knew I wanted to write about the life of an actor. I was interested in the idea of what it means to devote your life to your art. I thought it would be a quiet, literary novel about an actor in present-day Canada … but there was something else that I have really been wanting to write about for a while. And that was the awe that I feel at this world in which we find ourselves. You read the headlines and, of course, a lot of things about this world are absolutely unspeakable and appalling,” St. John Mandel said in an interview with The Next Chapter in 2015.
I wanted to write about this extraordinary place and time in which we find ourselves. One way to write about something is to write about its absence.– Emily St. John Mandel on writing Station Eleven
“We are surrounded by a level of infrastructure and technology that at any other point in human history would have seemed absolutely miraculous. I wanted to write about this extraordinary place and time in which we find ourselves. One way to write about something is to write about its absence. I was thinking about Station Eleven as a love letter to the modern world, written in the form of a requiem.”
LISTEN | Emily St. John Mandel on the TV adaptation of Station Eleven:
Q21:47Station Eleven author Emily St. John Mandel on the TV adaptation of her hit post-apocalyptic novel
Michael Greyeyes is a Nêhiyaw actor, choreographer and director from Muskeg Lake Cree Nation. He can be seen in the films Woman Walks Ahead, Wild Indian and Blood Quantum and the TV shows True Detective, I Know This Much Is True and Rutherford Falls. He won the Canadian Screen Award for best actor in 2021 for his work in Blood Quantum. In 2010, he founded the transdisciplinary and intercultural performance company Signal Theatre.
LISTEN | Michael Greyeyes reflects on his prolific career:
Unreserved41:47From ballet dancer to zombie slayer: Cree actor Michael Greyeyes on his prolific career