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Meet the Canada Reads 2011 contenders

Canada Reads Final Five

Ali Velshi defends: The Best Laid Plans by Terry Fallis

Ali Velshi defends The Best Laid Plans

The book: The peccadilloes of Parliament Hill's political animals are the subject of The Best Laid Plans, Terry Fallis's hilarious first novel, which won the 2008 Stephen Leacock Medal for Humour. Read more >>

The author: No stranger to the worlds of public affairs and government, Terry Fallis has worked in public relations for more than two decades — and his insider knowledge in both arenas shines through in his irreverent, award-winning satire of national politics, The Best Laid Plans. Read more >>

The panelist: An award-winning CNN anchor and the news network's chief business correspondent, Ali Velshi has covered every major news story from the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico earlier this year to the financial collapse of Fannie Mae and Lehman Brothers in 2008. Read more >>

Debbie Travis defends: The Birth House by Ami McKay

Debbie Travis defends The Birth House by Ami McKay

The book: The miracle of birth and the struggle to live a good life; the miracle of a good life and the struggle to be born — these are just a few of the themes explored in Ami McKay's poignant debut novel, The Birth House. Read more >>

The author: Born and raised in the U.S. Midwest, Ami McKay moved to Nova Scotia a decade ago and embraced Canadian history in writing her debut novel The Birth House. She and her family moved into a home that was once known as the local "birth house" — it was there that she began writing fiction in earnest. Read more >>

The panelist: A pioneering force and major star in the now popular TV makeover genre, Debbie Travis is a household name — for good reason. The design maven is a best-selling author and the CEO of a growing housewares empire, Travis's Home Collection, which boasts nearly $100 million in annual sales. Read more >>

Georges Laraque defends: The Bone Cage by Angie Abdou

Georges Laraque defends The Bone Cage by Angie Abdou

The book: Angie Abdou's remarkable debut novel The Bone Cage takes readers deep into the gruelling, often solitary world of amateur athletics. Neither a classic sports novel, nor a simple coming-of-age story, The Bone Cage offers a unique spin on both beloved genres. Read more >>

The author: The fierce drive of a former competitive swimmer and the imagination of a gifted fiction writer: these are the qualities that author and creative writing instructor Angie Abdou brought to her compelling first novel, The Bone Cage. Read more >>

The panelist: During his 11-year career in the National Hockey League, Georges Laraque was one of the most feared enforcers in the game. But off-ice, this talented tough guy has put his muscle behind a wide range of social causes, from relief efforts in Haiti to animal welfare. Read more >>

Sara Quin defends: Essex County by Jeff Lemire

Sara Quin defends Essex County by Jeff Lemire

The book: Jeff Lemire's Essex County is composed of three interconnected graphic novels — Tales from the Farm, Ghost Stories and The Country Nurse. The minimalistic though intensely emotional trilogy gives form to the author's inspired vision of what it means to live, work, dream and even die in a Southwestern Ontario rural community. Read more >>

The author: A graphic novelist and comics illustrator who has garnered international acclaim, Jeff Lemire paid tribute to his rural roots in his remarkable trilogy, Essex County (Top Shelf Productions), and the world of comics responded with a plethora of major prizes and rave reviews. Read more >>

The panelist: She's a musician who has been in the limelight for more than a decade, though she's only 30. Calgary native Sara Quin, one half of the indie music sensation known as Tegan & Sara, has been singing and writing songs with her twin sister, Tegan, since she was 15. Read more >>

Lorne Cardinal defends: Unless by Carol Shields

Lorne Cardinal defends Unless by Carol Shields

The book: Most people want to be happy. But how many have what it takes to be good? Can self-realization and morality share the same space in our lives? Or can we only have one and not the other? These are the questions that underlie Carol Shields's 2002 profoundly moving novel Unless, which explores the "problem of goodness" and how it squares with the very human desire for happiness. Read more >>

The author: One of Canada's most beloved and prolific literary figures, Carol Shields influenced a generation of writers both in this country and abroad. She wrote her first novel, Small Ceremonies, in 1976; over the following three decades, she went on to publish more than 20 other books in an array of genres, including fiction, poetry, plays and criticism. Read more >>

The panelist: One of Canada's most recognizable actors, with numerous television, film and stage credits, Lorne Cardinal is best known for his role as police officer Davis Quinton on the hit TV series Corner Gas. The role garnered him (and the rest of the cast) a Gemini Award for ensemble acting in 2007. Read more >>

The hour-long debates will air on CBC Radio One on February 7, 8 and 9 at 11 a.m. and again at 8 p.m., except in Newfoundland, where they will air at 2:30 p.m. and 8:30 p.m. NT.)

What do you think of the defenders and their choices? Who will take home the Canada Reads 2011 title?

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