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Get out and vote: Defining 'essential' and adding past Canada Reads contenders to the mix

As you may know by now (and if you don't, you can catch up by reading yesterday's post), Canada Reads is looking for the essential Canadian novels of the past decade. But what makes a novel essential? Is it the best novel? Your favourite novel? Your go-to desert island read? The novel of greatest historical significance? The novel with the greatest cultural impact?

I think all these definitions play a role in defining essential. It's too easy and too limiting to ask for "the best" or the "most important." These are excellent qualifiers, but as a reader, I can live without award winners and bestsellers. These are figures that point me towards potentially great reads, but they don't define them for me. What's important to me are books I come back to over and over, the books I read more than once and recommend to friends. The most "essential" novels in my life are those I press others to read and share with others, regardless of award nominations and sales figures.

But that's just my opinion. And that's what's so great about the word "essential." How you define it is completely up to you.

I'm really excited to start exploring everyone's recommendations. Canada is a diverse country with plenty of diverse reading tastes and we've already had some wide-ranging reactions to the twist in the Canada Reads formula, from the deflated (could crowd-sourcing result in a list overflowing with already over-hyped reads?) to the elated (finally, Canada gets a say in what Canada Reads!) and everything in between.

I'm sure the choices for the Top 40 list will range from the very obscure to the biggest sellers this country's ever seen. Considering that the field of eligible titles includes every Canadian novel published since January 1, 2000, getting the list down to 40 is going to be tough, but I hope you're up for it. We've got a long road ahead and I'm going to need your help every step of the way. I'm not making these decisions after all -- you are.

First up: the past Canada Reads contenders. In order to make this quest for 40 a fair fight, we're allowing all the past Canada Reads nominees (providing they were published after January 1, 2000, of course!) another chance to rumble. They have ranged from iconic to idiosyncratic. They all, however, have one thing in common: someone thought they were worthy of national attention and thought, "This is the book I want the rest of Canada to read."

So why not give them a second chance?

The poll below lists every eligible former Canada Read contender. A vote for your favourite will be worth one point to the title. The books with the most points on October 26 will make the cut.

Cast your vote below. And don't forget, you can submit your own recommendation -- and possibly win a prize in the process!

Erin Balser is an associate producer of Canada Reads.

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