Each year I await the announcement of the Canada Reads nominees and the Lambda Literary Awards list of finalists to inform my reading list for the year and beyond.
For those unfamiliar, Canada Reads was launched in 2001 by the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC) as an annual battle of books where, through a process of direct reader participation, forty books by Canadian authors are initially selected and then eliminated by vote until five books remain. These books are then championed by a panel of five prominent Canadians. Each of the panelists selects a book to defend as their chosen in a series of debates, and the books are eliminated one by one until a winner is declared.
The novels selected each year are chosen in accordance with a specific theme. The theme for 2014 was: What is the one novel that could change Canada? The goal was to find a book that could change the hearts, minds and lives of readers across the nation, with the ultimate goal of inspiring social change. The five 2014 contenders for Canada Reads were: Margaret Atwood’s The Year of the Flood, The Orenda by Joseph Boyden, Half-Blood Blues by Esi Edugyan, Cockroach by Rawi Hage and Kathleen Winter’s Annabel.
All week I watched the daily debates between the defenders of the five Canada Reads nominations moderated by Jian Ghomeshi of Q on CBC-TV, as one book was eliminated each day. Each day’s debate was compelling and I was quite impressed with the depth and eloquence of the panellists in championing their book. From the onset, Joseph Boyden’s The Orenda was the favourite and Wab Kinew was outstanding in his defence the book. At the same time, however, each of the five books represents an important social issue facing Canadian society, whether Aboriginal-settler relations, the environment, gender identity, immigrant experiences or issues of race and colour, and each book in its own right can contribute to the dialogue on social justice and change.
On Thursday, March 6, Joseph Boyden’s The Orenda was chosen over Cockroach by Rawi Hage as the Canada Reads winner for 2014. I plan on reading all five books over the course of this year and have already started with The Orenda. For those interested, all four Canada Reads debates can be viewed here.
On the same day, Lambda Literary announced the list of finalists for its 26th Annual Lambda Literary Awards for the best in LBGT literature. I was thrilled to see that a number of my favourite authors are finalists, including: ‘Nathan Burgoine for Light (Bold Strokes Books) and Marshall Thornton for Boystown 5: Murder Book (MLR Press), both of which made the list of my Best in LGBTQ Fiction for 2013; as well as Alex Jeffers for both Deprivation; or, Benedetto furioso: an oneiromancy and The Padisah’s Son and the Fox: an erotic novella (Lethe Press), Lee Thomas for Like Light for Flies (Lethe Press) and Aleksandr Voinov (in collaboration with L.A. Witt) for Capture & Surrender (Riptide Publishing). A big congratulations to these authors and best of luck to all the finalists. The winners will be announced on June 2, 2014 at a gala event in New York City.
All in all it was a great week for literature and in a matter of one day my reading list has grown exponentially!