Canada Reads

Canada Reads
Canada Reads
Other names Le Combat des livres
Running time 30 min.
Country  Canada
Languages English, French
Home station CBC Radio One
Première Chaîne
TV adaptations CBC Television
CBC Newsworld
Bold TV
Hosts Jian Ghomeshi
Bill Richardson
Mary Walsh
Hannah Sung
Marie-France Bazzo
Christiane Charette
Creators Peter Kavanagh
Air dates since 2002
No. of series 8 (English)
5 (French)
No. of episodes 40 (English)
25 (French)
Website Canada Reads

Canada Reads is an annual "battle of the books" competition organized and broadcast by Canada's public broadcaster, the CBC.



During Canada Reads, five personalities champion five different books, each champion extolling the merits of one of the titles. The debate is broadcast over a series of five programs. At the end of each episode, the panelists vote one title out of the competition until only one book remains. This book is then billed as the book that all of Canada should read.

Following the announcement of the winning title, the CBC opens an online forum where readers can discuss the book. The forum's current moderator is Hannah Sung.[1]

Canada Reads was created by CBC Radio producer, Peter Kavanagh during the fall of 2001. Talin Vartanian became Executive Producer in 2002 to 2007. In 2007 the program was an "All Star Edition", a reunion of the winning panelists from the first five years.

Canada Reads was first broadcast on CBC's Radio One in 2002, and has aired annually on radio since then. The third and fourth editions also were broadcast on television, on CBC Newsworld. Broadcast dates were February 16 to February 20, 2004, and February 21 to February 25, 2005, respectively. The seventh edition was also broadcast on Bold TV, broadcasting from February 25 to February 29. Beginning with the third edition, the daily debates could be heard online as well as on Radio One. The fifth edition was broadcast from April 17 to April 21, 2006; the sixth edition aired February 25 to March 2, 2007. The seventh edition of Canada Reads was broadcast on February 25 to February 29, 2008 and for the first time it was available as a podcast.

The books in the running for each edition of Canada Reads are announced several months before the programs are broadcast. Titles must be Canadian fiction, poetry or plays. They are promoted in bookstores, in the hope that the Canada Reads audience will purchase and read them all before the programs air. In some cases, publishers have published special editions of the nominated titles.

The publisher of the winning Canada Reads title donates a portion of sales proceeds from the winning book to a charitable organization working in the field of literacy. Recipients have included Frontier College, the Movement for Canadian Literacy, ABC Life Literacy Canada (formerly ABC CANADA Literacy Foundation) and Laubach Literacy of Canada.

Since 2004, Radio-Canada, the French-language service of CBC, has annually produced a French version of Canada Reads entitled Le Combat des livres ("Battle of the books"). It is broadcast on Première Chaîne.

Both the English and French programs sometimes, but not always, include one personality more commonly associated with the other language community, who champions a translated work. One advocate, Maureen McTeer, appeared on both programs in the same year, championing the same novel in both its original English and translated French editions. Three other novels have also been chosen for both programs, although their English and French versions were not chosen by the same advocate or in the same year.

Canada Reads


Canada Reads 2002 aired from April 16 to 19, 2002. The winning title was announced on April 23, 2002, Canada Book Day. Mary Walsh was the moderator.

Author Title Advocate
Michael Ondaatje In the Skin of a Lion Steven Page
Margaret Atwood The Handmaid's Tale Kim Campbell
George Elliott Clarke Whylah Falls Nalo Hopkinson
Margaret Laurence The Stone Angel Leon Rooke
Rohinton Mistry A Fine Balance Megan Follows


Canada Reads 2003 aired from April 21 to 25, 2003. Bill Richardson was the moderator.

Author Title Advocate
Hubert Aquin Next Episode Denise Bombardier
Paul Hiebert Sarah Binks Will Ferguson
Helen Humphreys The Lost Garden Mag Ruffman
Wayne Johnston The Colony of Unrequited Dreams Justin Trudeau
Yann Martel Life of Pi Nancy Lee


Canada Reads 2004 aired on both CBC Radio and CBC Newsworld February 16 to 20, 2004. Bill Richardson was the moderator.

Author Title Advocate
Guy Vanderhaeghe The Last Crossing Jim Cuddy
Thomas King Green Grass, Running Water Glen Murray
Alice Munro The Love of a Good Woman Measha Brueggergosman
Monique Proulx The Heart is an Involuntary Muscle Francine Pelletier
Mordecai Richler Barney's Version Zsuzsi Gartner


Canada Reads 2005 was broadcast from February 21 to 25, 2005. Bill Richardson was again the moderator.

Author Title Advocate
Frank Parker Day Rockbound Donna Morrissey
Margaret Atwood Oryx and Crake Olivia Chow
Leonard Cohen Beautiful Losers Molly Johnson1
Jacques Poulin Volkswagen Blues Roch Carrier
Mairuth Sarsfield No Crystal Stair Sherraine MacKay
1This title had been originally chosen by Rufus Wainwright, but was defended by Molly Johnson when Wainwright was unable to participate.


Canada Reads 2006 was broadcast from April 17 to 21, 2006. Bill Richardson was again the moderator.

Author Title Advocate
Miriam Toews A Complicated Kindness John K. Samson
Joseph Boyden Three Day Road Nelofer Pazira
Frances Itani Deafening Maureen McTeer
Al Purdy Rooms for Rent in the Outer Planets: Selected Poems, 1962-1996 Susan Musgrave
Mordecai Richler Cocksure Scott Thompson


Canada Reads 2007 aired from February 26 to March 2, 2007. Bill Richardson again moderated the competition. For the 2007 competition, each of the five winning advocates from past series returned to champion a new title in an "all-star" edition of the series.

Author Title Advocate
Heather O'Neill Lullabies for Little Criminals John K. Samson
David Bezmozgis Natasha and Other Stories Steven Page
Anosh Irani The Song of Kahunsha Donna Morrissey
Gabrielle Roy Children of My Heart Denise Bombardier
Timothy Taylor Stanley Park Jim Cuddy


Canada Reads 2008 aired from February 25 to 29, 2008. Jian Ghomeshi moderated the competition.

Author Title Advocate
Paul Quarrington King Leary Dave Bidini
Timothy Findley Not Wanted on the Voyage Zaib Shaikh
Mavis Gallant From the Fifteenth District Lisa Moore
Nalo Hopkinson Brown Girl in the Ring Jemini
Thomas Wharton Icefields Steve MacLean


Canada Reads 2009 aired from March 2 to 6, 2009. Jian Ghomeshi moderated the competition.

Author Title Advocate
Lawrence Hill The Book of Negroes Avi Lewis
David Adams Richards Mercy among the Children Sarah Slean
Gil Adamson The Outlander Nicholas Campbell
Brian Francis Fruit: A Novel About a Boy and His Nipples Jen Sookfong Lee
Michel Tremblay The Fat Woman Next Door is Pregnant Anne-Marie Withenshaw


Canada Reads 2010 aired from March 8 to 12, 2010. Jian Ghomeshi moderated the competition.

Author Title Advocate
Nicolas Dickner, translated by Lazer Lederhendler Nikolski Michel Vézina
Wayson Choy The Jade Peony Samantha Nutt
Marina Endicott Good to a Fault Simi Sara
Ann-Marie MacDonald Fall on Your Knees Perdita Felicien
Douglas Coupland Generation X: Tales for an Accelerated Culture Cadence Weapon


Canada Reads 2011 aired in February 2011. The producers announced a slightly different format for the 2011 contest; throughout the month of October 2010, an online vote was held to determine the books that listeners consider the 40 "most essential" Canadian novels of the past decade, and the panelists made their choices from within that list. Only novels, not short story collections, were eligible; however, novels which have previously been included in a Canada Reads competition were still eligible for renomination.[2]

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


Canada Reads 2012 will air in February 2012. The books in the 2012 edition will all be non-fiction. A list of 40 non-fiction books were announced as being the shortlist finalists in October 2011. [3] The 40 books include 'And No Birds Sang' by Farley Mowat, Shake Hands with the Devil by Romeo Dallaire, The Last Spike by Pierre Berton, and The Death and Life of Great American Cities by Jane Jacobs. Listeners could vote on up to five books they wanted to be the finalists. [4]The finalists were announced November 2nd. They are:

Le Combat des livres


Radio-Canada, the French-language service of CBC, aired a French version of Canada Reads, entitled Le combat des livres ("Battle of the Books"), from March 29 to April 2, 2004. It was moderated by Marie-France Bazzo.

Author Title Advocate
Gil Courtemanche Un dimanche à la piscine à Kigali Laure Waridel
Margaret Atwood La servante écarlate Julius Grey
Jacques Godbout Une histoire américaine Gérald Larose
Yann Martel L'histoire de Pi Louise Forestier
Gaétan Soucy La petite fille qui aimait trop les allumettes Micheline Lanctôt


The 2005 edition of Le Combat des livres aired from March 14 to March 18, 2005. It was moderated by Marie-France Bazzo.

Author Title Advocate
Réjean Ducharme L'Avalée des avalés Sophie Cadieux
Nancy Huston Dolce agonia Réjean Thomas
Jean-Jacques Pelletier La Chair disparue Alain Lefèvre
Elizabeth Smart À la hauteur de Grand Central Station, je me suis assise et j'ai pleuré Dennis Trudeau
Michel Tremblay Thérèse et Pierrette à l'école des Saints-Anges Monique Simard


The 2006 edition of Le Combat des livres aired from January 30 to February 3. It was moderated by Marie-France Bazzo.

Author Title Advocate
Francine Noël La Femme de ma vie Françoise Guénette
Hubert Aquin Prochain épisode Pierre Lebeau
Jean Barbe Comment devenir un monstre Lucie Laurier
Stéphane Dompierre Un petit pas pour l'homme Louis-José Houde
Frances Itani Une coquille de silence Maureen McTeer


The 2007 edition of Le Combat des livres aired from February 26 to March 2, and was moderated by Christiane Charette.

Author Title Advocate
Denis Thériault L'Iguane Dominique Lévesque
Marie Laberge Le poids des ombres Pauline Marois
Mathyas Lefebure D'où viens-tu berger? Robert Frosi
Yann Martel Self Sheila Copps
Christian Mistral Vamp Biz


The 2008 edition of Le Combat des livres aired from February 25 to February 29, and was once again chaired by Christiane Charette.

Author Title Advocate
Éric Dupont La Logeuse Nicolas Langelier
Marie-Claire Blais Une saison dans la vie d'Emmanuel Serge Denoncourt
Jacques Godbout La concierge du Panthéon Bernard Landry
Mordecai Richler Le Monde de Barney Anne Lagacé Dowson
Gabrielle Roy La Détresse et l'enchantement Sophie Faucher


The 2009 edition of Le Combat des livres aired from March 23 to 27, and was once again chaired by Christiane Charette.

Author Title Advocate
Rawi Hage Parfum de poussière Brendan Kelly
Gérard Bouchard Mistouk Raymond Gravel
Jean-François Beauchemin La fabrication de l'aube Emmanuel Bilodeau
D. Y. Béchard Vandal Love Esther Bégin
Marie-Sissi Labrèche Borderline Janette Bertrand


The 2010 edition of Le Combat des livres will air from March 22 to 26. Christiane Charette will moderate.

Author Title Advocate
Dany Laferrière L'énigme du retour Françoise David
Jean Barbe Comment devenir un ange Marie-Soleil Michon
Patrice Desbiens L'Homme invisible Thomas Hellman
Germaine Guèvremont Le survenant Christian Dufour
Nancy Huston Cantique des plaines Christopher Hall


As a vehicle to promote interest in reading and books and to increase sales, Canada Reads has been a signal success. Even already successful titles see increases in sales driven by their inclusion in the contest: sales of Michael Ondaatje's In the Skin of a Lion increased by 80,000 in 2002, the year of its appearance on Canada Reads. Its publisher, Random House of Canada attributed much of this increase to Canada Reads.

The success for lesser known titles can be as marked. Hubert Aquin's Next Episode sold 18,500 copies in the year when it won Canada Reads.

For the 2005 edition, sales of Jacques Poulin's Volkswagen Blues, which usually are about 200 copies a year, increased to 7,500 between the time the nominations were announced and the shows began airing. During the same period, 7,000 copies of Frank Parker Day's Rockbound were shipped by its publisher, the University of Toronto Press.


There has been some criticism of Canada Reads. First, criticism has been made of the use of "celebrity" panelists. In 2007, a listener named John Mutford unsuccessfully attempted to become the first non-celebrity panelist.[5] Critics have also taken issue with the game show format, and have contended that discussion of the books has often remained on a superficial level.[6]

The choice of books has also been criticized. Originally each panelist provided a list of five books, from which the producers chose the final contenders.[citation needed] In 2005, this process changed, and the panelists submitted only one choice. Due to scheduling problems, Rufus Wainwright was not able to appear after selecting his choice, and singer Molly Johnson was chosen to defend his chosen book.[7]


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