I have nothing against Canada Reads, nothing at all. I am all for anything that gets people interested in reading, and very often the list yields some interesting candidates worth discussion. Brown Girl in the Ring? Volkswagen Blues? The Fat Woman Next Door Is Pregnant? Fruit? Some real interesting stuff. The great thing about such competitions is that there is room for genuine surprise. The sad thing is, such surprises are invariably few.
As is the case with almost all similar contests, very often the popular trumps all. I don't mean to argue that the winners of Canada Reads are not worthy of merit, not at all. But the nebulous point of Canada Reads was to get all Canadians to read the same book. That worthy ideal becomes diluted when the choices are novels that everyone has already read.
Canadians already read Margaret Atwood. Was there any person actually interested in Canada Reads who hadn't read The Handmaid's Tale? Ditto Life of Pi, ditto The Stone Angel, ditto A Fine Balance, ditto A Complicated Kindness. Again, I do not mean to disparage these novels; I unreservedly love Handmaid and Life of Pi, I dig Complicated, I've never even read Balance, and my views on Stone Angel are likely distorted by the overall unhappiness of my high school years and cannot be trusted.
But most every reader (every Canadian reader, anyway) has already read these novels. These are bestsellers, Canadian classics discussed in college courses, and sometimes international sensations.
What I'm saying is, be a little more creative. There was no need at all to argue over The Book of Negroes, a bestseller many times over. Fall on Your Knees has Oprah's stamp. Generation X is so popular it actually changed the way we talk. Let's look into the nooks and crannies for the books that fell behind the couch.
These are not new arguments, I know, and they have been made repeatedly over the years by persons far more knowledgeable than myself. And maybe next year, I'll follow the example of others and have my own mini-Canada Reads.
But for now, all I'll do is offer up a list of Canadian novels that I wish more people would read so that we could discuss their merits. I have decided not to list authors who have already had a novel on Canada Reads, even though I may desire their inclusion, as they have had their chance.
These are not all 'perfect' books. Some have sold fairly well, some have not, but I don't think anyone will argue that they are overexposed. Some are 'literary,' some are just plain fun. But they all, in unique ways, affected me deeply, and need more love. And if you've already read them, and dislike them, or actively hate them? We can talk about that too, if you want.
And no, I did not include Shelf Monkey, as I figured that went without saying.
- 4x4, by Wayne Tefs
- All My Friends are Superheroes, by Andrew Kaufman
- Amphibian, by Carla Gunn
- Angry Young Spaceman, by Jim Munroe
- The Big Why, by Michael Winter
- The Culprits, by Robert Hough
- Entitlement, by Jonathan Bennett
- From the Notebooks of Dr. Brain, by Minister Faust
- The Incident Report, by Martha Baillie
- Inside, by Kenneth J. Harvey
- ManBug, by George K. Ilsley
- The Mysterium, by Eric McCormack
- Planet Reese, by Cordelia Strube
- Shining at the Bottom of the Sea, by Stephen Marche
- Someone Comes to Town, Someone Leaves Town, by Cory Doctorow