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The Canada Reads team offers advice

The Canada Reads team has stepped up to the plate to defend their chosen title every week. They're now experts on the subtleties of strategy, how to dodge punches (both metaphorical and physical) and what it takes to give it all for a book you love. So this week, as the panelists gear up for the competition, we asked our in-house defenders to offer their celebrity compatriot advice on what to do once they enter the Canada Reads ring.


David Carroll defends: The Best Laid Plans by Terry Fallis

David Carroll The Best Laid Plans

Dear Ali,

Three words of advice: DON'T TRUST ANYONE.

Don't be fooled by the smiles and bear hugs and convivial chats over coffee in the final minutes before the show. Your competitors are watching, and they're out for blood. Don't reveal anything.

Keep an eye on the quiet one. Lorne Cardinal. He's up to something.

When the show begins, be forthright and honest about the fact that reading is a personal experience, and that it's impossible to quantify the emotional experience one gets from a great book. Then, whilst maintaining a dignified compassion for your fellow panelists' lamentable taste in books, be cruelly honest about the multitude of failings that plague each and every one of their novels. Go for the throat. It's not pleasant, but it needs to be done. The broadcast only lasts three days.

Whatever you do, don't feel sorry for the authors. They're resilient; trust me. They toil in the arts.

Besides, let's be honest, there's no real question about the quality of these books. Thousands of Canadians voted for them. They're all pretty great.

Still, it takes something very special to be named the essential Canadian novel of the last decade. So present your best case, find the chinks in their armour and then have at them with your basilard.

Discuss The Best Laid Plans here >>


Kimberly Walsh defends: The Birth House by Ami McKay

Thumbnail image for kimberly-walsh-aliasgrace-birth-house-CR.jpg

Dear Debbie,

I can call you Debbie, right? Even though we haven't met in person — I'm the only team member who works in Halifax — I feel like we can be on a first name basis because we treasure the same book so dearly.

Here's my humble advice to you, framed by my degree in public relations. Take 3-5 key messages and just keep driving them home during the debates. You're the dream defender for The Birth House what with all the women's issues tied into the main themes, so definitely stay true to that. But, remember, there are a lot of Y chromosomes out there listening to the show too and several of them are on the panel. If you can illustrate the more universal appeal of the book you'll be on your path to victory.

Also, I think you need to seriously consider delivering key messages against your opponents and their books. At the same time, you want to build allies because Canada Reads is kind of like Survivor in that the losers become your jury. So tread carefully. Here are some things to consider:

  • Whatever you do, don't call Essex County a comic book. It's a graphic novel. You can earn points with Sara Quin by calling out any of the panelists who try to belittle the book's merits because it's "a comic book."
  • Watch out for Ali Velshi and The Best Laid Plans. The book has the potential to be the King Leary of the 2011 debates.
  • Lorne Cardinal is a funny man. It wouldn't hurt to have a few jokes on hand to set up a nice repartee with him. You can't out-funny him but that's OK because your goal is simply to get him on your side when Unless is defeated.
  • Find a way to deke Laraque. I can't say how here because he might be reading this post but I know you'll find a way.

Finally, have fun. I'll be rooting for you here in Nova Scotia.

Your online BFF, Kimberly.

Discuss The Birth House here >>


Barb Carey defends: The Bone Cage by Angie Abdou

Barb Carey The Bone Cage

Georges, mon ami,

In the cut and thrust of the Canada Reads debates, anything can happen and nothing is a sure thing. (That's part of the fun, isn't it?)

But if I have to give you one piece of advice for defending The Bone Cage, it would be somewhat antithetical to the enforcer role that you played for years in the NHL, when you were expected to be intimidating: play nice, at least at the start. Size up the competition, don't wade in with the haymakers. If you come out swinging hard at the other books, you risk alienating your fellow panelists and having them, in retaliation, gang up on The Bone Cage.

Oh, and remember to keep your elbows up at all times — you never know when someone's going to lash out with a cheap shot.

I know you've got game — so go out and give it all you've got!

Discuss The Bone Cage here >>


Andrea Chiu defends: Essex County by Jeff Lemire

Andrea Chiu Essex County

Dear Sara,

Before the final rap battle in 8 Mile, Eminem's character is asked how he will defend himself against the taunts of his opponent. He already knows he'll be made fun of for his skin colour, his alcoholic mom and his unfaithful girlfriend. So what does Eminem do? He takes the stage and admits all these things and then challenges his opponent to "tell these people something they don't know about me."

Essex County's biggest obstacle is overcoming the prejudice against its format: the graphic novel.

My advice to you is to follow Eminem's lead: address the book's comic status early on and force the conversation to be about the quality of Essex County, not its format. Everyone who has read Essex County agrees it has complex characters, fantastic scenery and a relatable story. If you steer the debate to focus on the quality of characters and story of the book, Essex County has a very good shot at winning Canada Reads this year.

Discuss Essex County here >>


Hannah Classen defends: Unless by Carol Shields

Hannah Classen Unless

Dear Lorne,

They don't call Canada Reads "the battle of the books" for no reason. This is reality-style radio. You'll need to present your arguments in clear, punchy bites that resonate with the other panelists and are memorable. But the key to Canada Reads success is to not get too caught up in the cut-throat action. The most successful panelists are those who don't come out swinging, but instead take a more thoughtful, measured approach. This year's list is stacked with books that could breeze through the first and second vote by virtue of hitting a niche or being a bit flashy, so the key to success for Unless is to come from behind. If you can make it past the first two votes, there is no doubt in my mind that you can go all the way. Head to head, none of the other books can hold a candle to Unless. If you can make it out of the pack, it'll be a clear line to the finish.

Discuss Unless here >>


What advice would you give the Canada Reads 2011 panelists?

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