It's one of the first signs for book lovers in Canada that spring is around the corner – CBC Books has announced its line up of celebrity panelists and the books they've chosen to defend in the upcoming annual Canada Reads debates.
Dubbed "the battle of the books" by CBC, the annual competition features four mornings of lively (and sometimes spicy) debates about what makes a great book, the importance of its subject matter, and more, with one title knocked out each day by the panelists themselves voting. The last book standing is crowned the winner of Canada Reads and traditionally, victory in the competition is enough to catapult a book to the upper reaches of the bestseller list. The 2023 theme centres on finding a book that can help Canadians shift their perspectives.
The 15-book longlist was announced in mid-January and featured an eclectic mix of massive hits, like Emily St. John Mandel's literary smash Station Eleven (which made it through to the final five) and Marvel star Simu Liu's memoir We Were Dreamers; buzzy debuts like Dandelion by Jamie Chai Yun Liew and Blood Scion by Deborah Falaye; and fascinating memoirs like beloved cartoonist Kate Beaton's Ducks (also chosen as a contender) and Jenna Butler's ecologically-engaged Revery: A Year of Bees.
Each of the five panelists could only choose one title though; no doubt a tough decision, as they'll spend hours doing everything they can to defend and hype their book in a public setting.
The 2023 CBC Books Canada Reads Panelists and Books:
- Jeopardy! super-champ Mattea Roach champions Ducks by Kate Beaton
- Actor Keegan Connor Tracy champions Greenwood by Michael Christie
- Bhangra dancer Gurdeep Pandher champions Hotline by Dimitri Nasrallah
- TikTok creator Tasnim Geedi champions Mexican Gothic by Silvia Moreno-Garcia
- Actor Michael Greyeyes champions Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel
Each panelist is high profile in their respective space, with Geedi and Pandher racking up millions of likes and shares as beloved social media creators (with Geedi having a huge following in the online literary community dubbed BookTok on TikTok and Pandher famous for his Bhangra dance videos filmed in unusual locations), and Tracy and Greyeyes earning acclaim for their work in several high profile film and television roles. The final panelist, Roach, was cheered on by the entire world when they set a Canadian record with a run of 23 straight wins on Jeopardy! in 2022 (which also captured them the sixth most consecutive wins in the history of the show).
With five savvy, bright, and media-friendly panelists, the debates promise to be fast-paced and intense this year.
In terms of the books chosen, it's an interesting mix, with four novels and a graphic memoir in contention for the crown.
Mandel's decorated dystopian novel Station Eleven is by far the most well-known of the bunch, having been an international bestseller already for several years.
Ducks is the genre outlier, a graphic memoir, and the first full length personal narrative from internationally acclaimed cartoonist Kate Beaton. The book details her two years working in the Alberta oil sands.
Greenwood is the latest offering from award-winning Victoria-based fiction writer Michael Christie, covering over 100 years of multigenerational family story, including a near future environmental disaster.
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Vancouver based Silvia Moreno-Garcia is a multi-genre writer who has published and won numerous awards in fantasy, horror, noir, and historical fiction. Her novel Mexican Gothic deals with a once-powerful family whose dark past is discovered by a young woman intent on rescuing her cousin from their clutches.
Hotline by Dimitri Nasrallah follows a Lebanese immigrant to Montreal who works at a weight-loss call centre in the mid-80s. It's the fourth novel from Montreal-based Nasrallah and was already nominated for the prestigious Scotiabank Giller Prize.
The debates will take place March 27-30, 2023, hosted by comedian and CBC personality Ali Hassan, who has served as the Canada Reads host since 2017. CBC offers plenty of ways to tune in come March, including CBC Radio One, CBC TV, CBC Gem and on CBC Books.
In March, you can read our coverage of the debates on Open Book, and stay tuned for an exclusive upcoming conversation with the 2023 Canada Reads panelists. In the meantime, check out a refresher from last year's debates (and the big winner) and our conversation with the 2022 panelists to get in the Canada Reads spirit.