Canada Reads

Last updated
Canada Reads
Other namesLe Combat des livres
Running time30 min.
Country of originCanada
Language(s)English, French
Home station CBC Radio One
Ici Radio-Canada Première
TV adaptations CBC Television
CBC Newsworld
Bold TV
Hosted by Jian Ghomeshi
Bill Richardson
Mary Walsh
Wab Kinew
Gill Deacon
Ali Hassan
Marie-France Bazzo
Christiane Charette
Marie-Louise Arsenault
Created by Talin Vartanian
Peter Kavanagh
Original release2002 – present
No. of series17 (English)
12 (French)
Website Canada Reads

Canada Reads is an annual "battle of the books" competition organized and broadcast by Canada's public broadcaster, the CBC. The program has aired in two distinct editions, the English-language Canada Reads on CBC Radio One, and the French-language Le Combat des livres on Ici Radio-Canada Première.


The English edition has aired each year since 2002, while the French edition aired annually from 2004 to 2014, [1] and was then discontinued until being revived in 2018. [2]


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. [3]

CBC Radio producer, Peter Kavanagh, proposed the general idea of a national radio book campaign during the fall of 2001. [4] Later that year, Talin Vartanian conceived Canada Reads and created the essential structure of the program: an annual campaign to select a book for the nation to read. She proposed the idea of five panelists, each championing a different title in a national on-air debate. Vartanian was producer in the first edition (with Kavanagh), then she became executive producer from 2002 to 2007. In 2007 the program was an "All Star Edition", a reunion of the winning panelists from the first five years. From 2007 to 2017, Ann Jansen produced the program.

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.

Beginning in 2004, Radio-Canada, the French-language service of CBC, produced a French version of Canada Reads entitled Le Combat des livres ("Battle of the books"). It was broadcast on Première Chaîne until 2014, following which it was discontinued for three years until being revived in 2018.

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. Five 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; one novel to date, Lawrence Hill's The Book of Negroes (French title Aminata) has won both competitions.

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.

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.

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.

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.

Frank Parker Day Rockbound Donna Morrissey
Margaret Atwood Oryx and Crake Olivia Chow
Leonard Cohen Beautiful Losers Molly Johnson 1
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.

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.

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.

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.

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 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.

Nicolas Dickner, translated by Lazer Lederhendler Nikolski [5] Michel Vézina
Wayson Choy The Jade Peony Samantha Nutt
Douglas Coupland Generation X: Tales for an Accelerated Culture Cadence Weapon
Marina Endicott Good to a Fault Simi Sara
Ann-Marie MacDonald Fall on Your Knees Perdita Felicien


Canada Reads 2011 aired from February 7 to 10, 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. [6]

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


The books for this edition were all non-fiction. A list of 40 non-fiction books were announced as being the shortlist finalists in October 2011, [7] including And No Birds Sang by Farley Mowat, Shake Hands with the Devil by Romeo Dallaire, The Last Spike by Pierre Berton, The Death and Life of Great American Cities by Jane Jacobs, and Paris 1919 by Margaret MacMillan. Listeners could vote on up to five books they wanted to be shortlisted. [8] The debates aired from February 6 to 9, 2012. Jian Ghomeshi moderated the competition.

Carmen Aguirre Something Fierce: Memoirs of a Revolutionary Daughter Shad
Dave Bidini On a Cold Road Stacey McKenzie
Ken Dryden The Game Alan Thicke
Marina Nemat Prisoner of Tehran Arlene Dickinson
John Vaillant The Tiger Anne-France Goldwater

On the first day of discussions, panelist Anne-France Goldwater "caused shock and outrage among literary types" (according to The Globe and Mail) by calling Carmen Aguirre "a bloody terrorist", and alleging that Marina Nemat "tells a story that's not true". [9] [10] In response, Marina Nemat posted on Facebook, "I hope [Goldwater] can produce evidence to back up her claims. If not, I would like to receive a public apology from her." [11] Nemat's Prisoner of Tehran was the first voted off, with Stacey McKenzie casting a tie-breaking vote. [12] Arlene Dickinson (the panelist defending Prisoner of Tehran) called McKenzie's vote "the wrong choice for the wrong reason". [12]


The theme for 2013 was "Turf Wars", with the advocates and titles chosen to each represent one of Canada's major geographic regions (British Columbia, the Prairies, Ontario, Quebec and the Atlantic provinces). Books and panelists for 2013 were revealed on November 29, 2012 on Q . The debates ran from February 11 to 14, 2013.

Lisa Moore February Trent McClellan
David Bergen The Age of Hope Ron MacLean
Hugh MacLennan Two Solitudes Jay Baruchel
Jane Urquhart Away Charlotte Gray
Richard Wagamese Indian Horse Carol Huynh


The theme for this year was "A Novel to Change Our Nation." Books and panelists were revealed on November 27, 2013 on Q . Jian Ghomeshi moderated the competition. [13]

Joseph Boyden The Orenda, debated theme: First Nations, environment Wab Kinew
Margaret Atwood The Year of the Flood, debated theme: environment Stephen Lewis
Esi Edugyan Half-Blood Blues, debated theme: racial inequality Donovan Bailey
Rawi Hage Cockroach, debated theme: immigrant experience Samantha Bee
Kathleen Winter Annabel, debated theme: gender equality Sarah Gadon


The 2015 edition of Canada Reads was moderated by Wab Kinew, with the theme of the discussions being "One Book to Break Barriers". [14] Panelists and titles were announced on January 20, 2015, with the debates taking place from March 16 to 19.

Kim Thúy Ru Cameron Bailey
Kamal Al-Solaylee Intolerable: A Memoir of Extremes Kristin Kreuk
Thomas King The Inconvenient Indian Craig Kielburger
Raziel Reid When Everything Feels Like the Movies Elaine Lui
Jocelyne Saucier And the Birds Rained Down Martha Wainwright


The 2016 edition of Canada Reads was moderated by Gill Deacon, and conducted on theme of "Starting Over". Panelists and titles were announced on January 20, 2016, with the debates taking place from March 21 to 24.

Lawrence Hill The Illegal Clara Hughes
Anita Rau Badami The Hero's Walk Vinay Virmani
Tracey Lindberg Birdie Bruce Poon Tip
Saleema Nawaz Bone and Bread Farah Mohamed
Michael Winter Minister without Portfolio Adam Copeland


The 2017 edition of Canada Reads was moderated by Ali Hassan, on the theme of "The Book Canadians Need Now". Panelists and titles were announced on January 31, 2017, and the debates took place from March 27 to 30.

André Alexis Fifteen Dogs Humble The Poet
Madeline Ashby Company Town Measha Brueggergosman
M. G. Vassanji Nostalgia Jody Mitic
Katherena Vermette The Break Candy Palmater
Sheila Watt-Cloutier The Right to Be Cold Chantal Kreviazuk

Note: Tamara Taylor was originally announced as advocate for Company Town but had to withdraw due to a conflict with the filming schedule of her Netflix series Altered Carbon . Measha Brueggergosman was announced as Taylor's replacement on March 9, 2017. [15]


The 2018 edition of Canada Reads was moderated by Ali Hassan, on the theme of "One Book to Open Your Eyes". Panelists and titles were announced on January 30, 2018, and the debates took place from March 26 to 29.

Mark Sakamoto Forgiveness: A Gift from My Grandparents Jeanne Beker
Sharon Bala The Boat People Mozhdah Jamalzadah
Craig Davidson Precious Cargo: My Year of Driving the Kids on School Bus 3077 Greg Johnson
Cherie Dimaline The Marrow Thieves Jully Black
Omar El Akkad American War Tahmoh Penikett


The 2019 edition of Canada Reads was moderated by Ali Hassan on the theme "One Book to Move You". The books and panelists were announced on January 31, 2019, with the debates taking place from March 25 to 28. [16]

Max Eisen By Chance Alone Ziya Tong
Abu Bakr Al-Rabeeah and Winnie Yeung Homes Chuck Comeau
David Chariandy Brother Lisa Ray
Anaïs Barbeau-Lavalette, translated by Rhonda Mullins Suzanne Yanic Truesdale
Lindsay Wong The Woo-Woo Joe Zee


The 2020 edition of Canada Reads will be moderated by Ali Hassan on the theme "One Book to Bring Canada into Focus". The books and panelists were announced on January 22, 2020, with the debates taking place from March 16 to 19.

Megan Gail Coles Small Game Hunting at the Local Coward Gun Club Alayna Fender
Cory Doctorow Radicalized Akil Augustine
Samra Habib We Have Always Been Here Amanda Brugel
Eden Robinson Son of a Trickster Kaniehtiio Horn
Jesse Thistle From the Ashes George Canyon

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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 aired from March 22 to 26. Christiane Charette moderated.

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


The 2011 edition of Le Combat des livres aired from March 14 to 18. Christiane Charette moderated.

Perrine Leblanc L'homme blanc Geneviève Guérard
David Gilmour L'École des films Anne-France Goldwater
Dany Laferrière Comment faire l'amour avec un nègre sans se fatiguer Patrick Lagacé
Émile Ollivier Mère-Solitude JiCi Lauzon
Danielle Trussart Le train pour Samarcande Djemila Benhabib


Beginning in 2012, the production and broadcast of Le Combat des livres was transferred from Charette's program to the network's new literature show Plus on est de fous, plus on lit!, hosted by Marie-Louise Arsenault.

Marie-Renée Lavoie La petite et le vieux Yves Lamontagne
Margaret Atwood La voleuse d'hommes Tasha Kheiriddin
Guy Delisle Chroniques de Jérusalem Gildor Roy
Abla Farhoud Le sourire de la petite juive Nabila Ben Youssef


The 2013 edition of Le Combat des livres aired from March 18 to 22. Marie-Louise Arsenault moderated. It was an all star season featuring previous winners. [17]

Lawrence Hill Aminata Thomas Hellman
Jocelyne Saucier Il pleuvait des oiseaux Geneviève Guérard
Heather O'Neill La Ballade de Baby Brendan Kelly
Samuel Archibald Arvida Bernard Landry
Éric Dupont La fiancée américaine Dominique Levesque


The 2014 edition of Le Combat des livres aired from March 31 to April 3. Marie-Louise Arsenault moderated.

Marie-Claire Blais La Belle Bête Paul Cargnello
François Gravel Adieu, Betty Crocker Pauline Martin
Rohinton Mistry L'Équilibre du monde Azeb Wolde-Giorghis
Kim Thúy Ru Jean-François Chicoine


The 2018 edition of Le Combat des livres, the first time the show has aired since 2014, ran from May 7 to 11, 2018. [2] Marie-Louise Arsenault moderated. The books were selected to represent the regions of Canada, with one book representing each of Atlantic Canada, Quebec, Ontario, Western Canada and the Indigenous peoples of Canada. [2]

Katherena Vermette Ligne brisée Naomi Fontaine
Margaret Atwood C'est le coeur qui lâche en dernier Russell Smith
Stéfanie Clermont Le jeu de la musique Philippe-Audrey Larrue-St-Jacques
Nancy Huston Le club des miracles relatifs Ibrahima Diallo
Sara Tilley Écorchée Antonine Maillet


The 2019 edition of Le Combat des livres aired from May 6 to 10, 2019, with Marie-Louise Arsenault moderating. The books were selected on the same theme of regional representation as the 2018 edition, with one book selected to represent each of Canada's four major geographic regions and one book selected to represent indigenous literature.

Blaise Ndala Sans capote ni kalachnikov Marie-Maude Denis
France Daigle Pour sûr Édith Butler
Naomi Fontaine Manikanetish Stanley Vollant
Karoline Georges De synthèse Manal Drissi
Miriam Toews Pauvres petits chagrins Deni Ellis Béchard


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. [18]

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. [18]

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. [18]


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. [19] 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. [18]

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. [20]

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