Resident blogger Flannery answers a reader's question about how the Canada Reads books are chosen

Hello, readers.

It's the end of another week here at Canada Reads, and what a week it's been. I'm starting to feel downright festive. My good mood has a lot to do with the fact that I spent most of the last few days reading The Jade Peony, eating homemade chocolate bark and tying up what remains of my Christmas shopping (hallelujah, I'm finally done).

Now that the hard work of the holidays is behind me, I fully intend to sit back and relax with my books and my bark. (I won't stop until both have been utterly consumed.) The chocolate dust is scattered throughout the first 20 pages of Generation X: Tales for an Accelerated Culture and the glorious scent of cocoa will emanate from its spine for years to come.

On the sofa, reading, and under a warm blanket: I can't think of any other way I'd rather spend the holidays. Only a surprise visit from Josh Holloway (bearing even more choco bark and season five of Lost on DVD) could render it perfect.

It was Marina Endicott week on the site. If you haven't yet had a chance to get to know this author, I suggest you do, and soon. She has one or two surprises on her C.V., including a stint as a freak in a sideshow at the CNE. Her Good to a Fault-inspired playlist also indicates she's a pretty big Ron Sexsmith fan.

I don't think there's anything more revealing than a playlist, except maybe a personalized reading list. Music is so personal to me, and there are so many reasons why I love certain songs and certain artists, almost all of them embarrassing. I think I'd rather share my PIN number with a stranger than offer them a look at my iTunes library.

A week or two ago, a reader wrote in asking how the books are selected. It's a good question and one I intend to answer today. Carlos Beca, this blog is for you.

Here's the short answer: the panelists select the books. Distilled to its essence, Canada Reads is really a competition for readers by readers. It's an opportunity for reader response on a large scale. Our readers just happen to be some pretty fascinating people. This year, Dr. Samantha Nutt, Perdita Felicien, Roland Pemberton, Simi Sara and Michel V├ęzina chose their own books and it's their individual passion for the books they chose that's going to energize the debates.

But who selects the panelists? That's where the Canada Reads team comes in. In May, the producers begin to draw up a short list of possible panelists. Qualities they look for in a panelist include a passion for reading, tenacity, determination and familiarity with Morris dancing. (Just kidding about the last item — but a sense of humour is also a worthwhile attribute!)

Once a shortlist has been drawn up, the chase begins. I don't think we can overestimate the challenge here. Nailing down some of the nation's most respected persons for such a lengthy period of time is no simple feat. Rest assured, you can e-mail me at midnight and receive a reply by 11.58 p.m. (my clock is two minutes slow). But Perdita Felicien, or Dr. Samantha Nutt? These women have lives. It takes time to clear their schedules. The Olympic committee doesn't give out medals for jumping over these kinds of seemingly impossible hurdles — press reps, publicists, competing schedules — but they may want to consider it (maybe in 2012?).

Once the panelists have been determined, they're asked to submit a list of three books. The only criteria: they have to love the books they suggest and they have to feel convinced that those choices stand a chance of winning over the most hearts and minds. The reason we ask them for three choices is to avoid having books with similar themes or tones, to make sure there's a real variety of stories and styles on the shortlist.

Carlos Beca, I hope I've answered your question about the selection process. I like getting questions, so keep them coming. And keep an eye on the site. Next week, we're celebrating Nicolas Dickner. Check in daily for insights into his novel, Nikolski, and find out what five books Dickner calls his favourites.

Until then,

Flannery

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