Canada Reads host Gill Deacon's 8 favourite books

Canada Reads host Gill Deacon wears many hats: broadcaster, bestselling author, musician, environmentalist, mom and - of course - voracious reader. As the countdown continues to this year's Canada Reads, we asked our host to share her favourite books - from the childhood novel she took out from the library every week to the best fiction CanLit has to offer.

You can see her speak at the International Festival of Authors in Toronto on October 26, 2016 at 7:30 PM

This year's Canada Reads debates will take place from March 21 to 24. Find out more about the panellists and their books here

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The book that made her fall in love with reading

Gone is Gone by Wanda Gag was the book that my mother would take out at the library over and over again. I have memories of sitting in the library with my mother and reading that book and I could just never get enough of it. It's very funny and very eventful and it just delighted me to no end. When I was in my early 20s, living in Montreal, I became obsessed with finding that book again. Every book store I went into, I couldn't find it. I went to New York and couldn't find it there, but people told me about this book sleuth. You pay a finder's fee and this woman sources all these used books. She found me a copy in good condition.

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The books she loved sharing with her kids

I always say that J.K. Rowling deserves every penny that she's earned because of the exquisite detail and magical world that children and their parents could delve into. I love doing characters and in that book the characters are so well drawn that you can tell exactly how they sound. Each one has a totally distinct voice and it was so much fun to animate that whole series reading it out loud with my children. It was a glorious ritual every night.

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The book that describes music perfectly

I think of all the books I ever read no one has ever described music as magically and exquisitely and perfectly as Esi Edugyan in Half-Blood Blues. Music takes written form in that book. As a musician, I loved that book and I loved so much how original a take it was on a war story. It made me feel like I was seeing that monolithic beast of the war from a whole other angle.

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The book she treasures for its subtleties

It's set in a teeny town called Juliet in Saskatchewan. A friend who loaned me that book said to me, "I'm warning you - it's kind of about nothing." Yet, that book feels like all of life is contained in the simplicity and the slow reveal of details. I just marvel at how she keeps everything small and understated and manages to knock you over with the emotional impact that comes through.

Everything's subtle and yet hugely impactful, which is probably part of why I appreciated that so much. It's a subtlety that we're not afforded in the kind of broadcasting that I do.

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The book that showcases the power of art

Bel Canto by Ann Patchett tells the story of an opera singer performing in a consulate when a hostage taking occurs in the middle of the event. You know that something devastating will ultimately befall this situation, but until that moment the transcendent power of art and music are so uplifting and transformative that you hold out this hope that that might be enough; that the value and the sheer beauty of artistic expression might be enough to unite us all. In spite of knowing that something devastating must come, it's just really rich with that love of art and almost the purpose and value of art and music.

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The Canadian war story she loved

Three Day Road by Joseph Boyden. I was so pulled along by the story and yet I came away with an understanding of the war and of my country's history in a way that I appreciated and hadn't thought about before. I fell in love with those characters and all their heartbreak.

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The book that made her want to be a better mother

I was warned that Room by Emma Donoghue was so excruciating and difficult. I actually found it to be one of the most joyous celebratory tributes to motherhood. The role of a mother's love and the ability of that love to manifest in any circumstance - I found that so moving. I really feel like that book made me determined to be a better mother.

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The book that inspires her environmentalism

The Road by Cormac McCarthy is so devastating and profound. There were little shards of nature and beauty in that book, set against this post-apocalyptic horror, that I just found to be so moving. Sometimes the description of one single green plant could make me weep because it was a small hymn to nature. They're so rare, just snippets, and therefore they're that much more desirable. You feel starved for those things in that book, and I just found it terribly, emotionally moving. I read those moments as a reaffirmation of what we do have in the natural world and in our common humanity that we have to fight for.

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