Canada Reads: Who should win, who could win

It’s that time of year again! No, not spring. This is Canada. It’s beautiful in Edmonton today, but the forecast for later this week includes a low of -18 (that’s about zero degrees for you Americans) and snow. No, friends, it is time for Canada Reads.

The drama! The bickering! The relatively-high production values! The distinctly early-aughts reality show vibe!

If you need a primer about what Canada Reads is all about, please visit my YouTube channel where I break it down (short version: Canada Reads = Survivor + Who Wants to be a Millionaire + books)

Here are my picks for who should and could win, based on my previous experience with this show, and this year’s theme: one book to open your eyes.


My pick to win: The Marrow Thieves by Cherie Dimaline

The Marrow Thieves is a YA science fiction novel set in a near-future Canada. All point-of-view characters are Indigenous. It also contains a coming of age story, a couple of love stories, a sex scene (non-graphic, this is YA, but still) believable teenage behaviour and dialogue, and, oh yeah, is a scarily-relevant way to look at both settler-Indigenous relationships and relationships within various Indigenous communities in Canada today. My eyes are open and the book is actually good. Plus, Dimaline overcomes several of the objections I’ve heard tossed at books about Indigenous peoples over the years: it’s accessible (YA, afterall), it’s hopeful (…seriously, someone complained that Birdie was too much of a downer) and it’s not too graphic (the YA thing again).


One to watch: The Boat People by Sharon Bala

The Boat People started out a bit shaky, but found its footing and really nailed the landing. Based on real-life events (which usually goes over well), I think it could go all the way – depending how well it’s defended, and if the panelists decide that this is a year we want to open our eyes to refugees. As an aside, I am fascinated by Sharon Bala’s analysis of the gender gap in Canada Reads over the years. I could quibble with the methodology a bit, but this tidbit speaks for itself: Of the 80 books debated on Canada Reads over the years, not ONCE has a female-authored book defended by a female panelist won. A handful of female-authored books defended by men have won, yes. But not once has a woman defending a book by a woman taken the prize. Do read the whole post, it’s quite the eye-opener

My pick to go out in the first round: American War by Omar 

If you want to hear my full rant on this one, please watch my video. But this book doesn’t stand a chance. It’s a book about America, written by a guy who lives in America, and the word “American” is in the title. It’s also not very good, despite a timely and fascinating premise – a second American Civil War in our lifetime. Well – your mileage may vary on whether you think you’ll be alive in fifty years.

And the rest

I didn’t care to read Forgiveness (memoir about the author’s grandparents, sounds a bit too safe) or Precious Cargo (unemployed writer learns life lessons from disabled kids: gag me).

I will direct you to Reading in Winter, who should post a full round up of all five books sometime on Monday. As for me, I have a crazy-busy week, so watching the livestreams at 9:00 am MT each day is not likely to happened. I’ll probably follow along on Twitter during the day and try to tune in at night.


  1. annelogan17

    hahaha Craig Davidson’s book-“gag me”. I laughed out loud at that. And I agree that American War shouldn’t win. Although I really enjoyed the book, I found it a strange pick for Canada Reads. My fingers are crossed for The Boat People, but Marrow Thieves sounds deserving too.

  2. Rebecca Foster

    I’m glad you ended up appreciating The Boat People. It’s the only one of the nominees that I’ve read, but I’d agree that the refugee theme would fit with the “open your eyes” criteria. And I’m fascinated by the idea of a public debate about literature! I can’t think of anything similar in the USA or UK.

  3. Kristilyn

    I was thinking it would come down to The Boat People, The Marrow Thieves, and maybe Precious Cargo? At least, to me, those ones seem to have the most merit when it comes to opening your eyes (even though the last one is waaaaay different than the other ones). I dunno. If American War wins I’m throwing something across the room. Or giving the book to the cat to shred.

  4. Naomi

    Sharon Bala’s analysis was so interesting!
    That’s exactly what I was thinking when The Boat People was voted off – one less chance for a female/female win. Now The Marrow Thieves has to win. (If it wins, though, it will be based on the merits of the book – not because of the great defense.) And, I hate to say it, but American War has a good defender. It even made it past Jeanne Beker when she had an easy chance to get it voted out!!

  5. buriedinprint

    I thought Cherie Dimaline’s book had a good chance, too, but, then, I am terrible at predicting this event, because I have watched it from the beginning and I think my ideas about the event are actually about some completely different (non-celebrity-soaked) event which just happened to have the same name. Hope you had fun watching/listening even if you were gagging and yelling most of the time!

  6. Pingback: Frankenstein in Baghdad by Ahmed Saadawi: Man Booker International Prize Review | Reading in Bed

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