I've been suspect of this enterprise since the start. Actually, I find it quite silly, but it's hard to outright hate anything that may bring attention to good books. And that's been one of my problems; the picks. They tend to be either humdrum or predictable, no daring-do, no adventure. What else can you expect from members of a "panel" chosen for reasons that are hard to fathom, their knowledge of books and ability to articulate intelligent opinions, with few exceptions, seeming not to be a major consideration. So ultimately the "debate" ends up being a real yawner.
But this year, I must say, there's much to like about the selections. They're surprising, even inspired. A little of the 'what's good for you' variety together with some fun stuff too.
Here's the link to the list http://www.cbc.ca/canadareads/
There's something old (Mavis Gallant) and oldish (Timothy Findley), something new (Nalo Hopkinson will probably be new to most people), something borrowed (Paul Quarrington - you'll have to borrow it from a friend since it's been out of print for a while, although I understand it's being re-printed as we speak for this occasion) and something blue (in this case, the blue icefield of Thomas Wharton.) As I say these are delightfully unexpected selections, a nice mix of stalwarts and younger writers, guys and gals, the famous and the not-so-famous.
I'm partial to Quarrington, not that I know his work well, but he's widely regarded as one of the good guys of Canadian letters and particularly generous to up-and-comers (personal experience here, he didn't know me from a hole in the ground but agreed to blurb my debut novel.) I still don't suppose I'll tune in to the week of chatter, and won't care about the "ultimate survivor." Nonetheless, the choice of the Wharton book has me interested in a writer I had previously never heard of. This Canada Reads nonsense seems to be working.