Canada Reads 2011: My Take

Canada Reads was quite the battle this year. Blogs and Twitter were afire with opinions. With 5 different books- The Best Laid Plans, The Birth House, The Bone Cage, Essex County, and Unless- there were favorites all around the country and lines were drawn. To use a Canadian metaphor, people were either Leafs or Canadiens fans. Here are the books and defenders:

*Ali Velshi: The Best Laid Plans by Terry Fallis
*Debbie Travis: The Birth House by Ami McKay
*Georges Laraque: The Bone Cage by Angie Abdou
*Sara Quin: Essex County by Jeff Lemire
*Lorne Cardinal: Unless by Carol Shields

Canada Reads Day1: I know a lot of people were disappointed that Essex County was the first to get voted out but I wasn't surprised. It tends to be a strategy of the panelists to go after the book that is different from the others: short stories, poetry, bestsellers. It's like baby chicks pecking to death the weakest among them. It's an easy target. Still, I thought Sara did a good job defending it and even Jian (the host) tried to get the panelists to not discount it completely.

Canada Reads Day 2: The personalities of the panelists really came out. Especially aggressive were Ali and Debbie. They were in it to win it. Soft spoken Lorne and Georges had their work cut out for them. I was disappointed when Debbie admitted she didn't finish The Best Laid Plans. I think as a panelist you have a responsibility to read all 5 books even if you have to suffer through it. In the end The Bone Cage was voted out. Georges was not happy about it.

Canada Reads Day 3: The last day. The first to go was Unless, after a tie breaking vote by Debbie. She  actually finished The Best Laid Plans the night before. She then tried to explain why she voted against Essex County on Day 1 when she disliked The Best Laid Plans so much she didn't read it. I didn't get her reasoning. I think she was saying it was strategic. In the end, she would have been better off keeping Essex County around because The Birth House lost to The Best Laid Plans.

I didn't have any violent feelings for any book in particular. I enjoyed The Birth House and Unless (the only two I read). If I had to choose between the two, I would pick Unless. I'm a Shields fangirl but Unless isn't my fave. My fear that the panelists wouldn't be invested in a book they didn't hand pick themselves (because of a change in the rules this year) was unnecessary. The panelists weren't afraid to bite, kick and scratch for their book. At times they even contradicted themselves. It makes for great entertainment and gets people talking about those books at least. Now I really want to read the three books I didn't read!


  1. The Best Laid Plans was the only one I have read and I loved it. I do hope to get to the other contenders at some point.

  2. Like you I have only read Unless and The Birth House, so I can't really say anything about the other three. Hopefully I will get a chance to read them at some point, though.

  3. I'm just glad Essex County won the reader's poll-- by a landslide. In your face, every panelist except Sara Quin.

  4. When reading the other three, start with "The Best Laid Plans" - it was AMAZING and very witty. Then read "Essex County"... finish off with "The Bone Cage". They were all great books, but my personal fave out of the 5 was "The Birth House"

  5. I've been following CR since 2002, so I'm well and truly hooked. This year wasn't my favourite year (I did enjoy the mix of panelists overall, but I do think it's horribly disrespectful to not have carefully read the other panelists' books) but there are some really good books here and I'm glad they'll find new readers for having been included in this event!


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