Cast Your Vote: Publishing Insiders' Picks


UPDATE: These polls are now closed. Check out our other polls on our featured polls page!

There are a lot of great Canadian true stories out there. How is the regular reader going to sift through all of them? Recall the non-fiction classics? Unearth the much-loved but overlooked small press memoir? It's a difficult task. Which is why we aren't going to let you do it alone. We asked people from all across the publishing spectrum -- booksellers, bloggers, publishers and more -- to build their dream Canada Reads: True Stories list. We will roll these lists out through the Top 40 campaign. They can be a source of inspiration, a fantastic reading list and an extra notch for these books to make it to the next round in this year's debates. But you also get to have your say.

You will get a chance to vote on each of the dream Canada Reads: True Stories lists below.

Below the jump, you will find seven polls, each submitted by groups or individuals from across Canada's publishing industry, including their reasons why.

In each poll, vote for the book you'd most like to see on the Canada Reads: True Stories list. You can vote once in each poll and the polls below will close on Sunday, October 16, at midnight ET.

Each vote counts as one point. Books accumulate points based on polls and recommendations. The 40 books with the most support will be named the Canada Reads: True Stories Top 40.



The Canadian Book Professionals' Association (CanBPA) is an organization and meeting ground for professionals throughout the Canadian book industry. CanBPA offers timely and informative sessions, panels and social gatherings for anyone who seeks to expand their network, knowledge and expertise within the field.

When we asked CanBPA for their Canada Reads True Stories picks, here's what they had to say:

"The Film Club is a poignant memoir and a father's love letter to his son. David Gilmour allows his son Jesse to drop out of high school if they watch three films together each week. Through their time together, David observes (and occasionally participates in) Jesse's journey into adulthood.

Shake Hands with the Devil has implications well beyond the failure of the United Nations to prevent mass genocide in Rwanda. What is peacekeeping? What are the continued effects of racism and colonization? Almost two decades after Rwanda, our failures to protect and support one another are still relevant.

Have Not Been the Same chronicles Canada's musical golden age, the indie rock scene from 1985-1995. This is the bible of any Canadian now in their 30s, and in about ten years will be required reading for high-schoolers wanting to understand why their dad dresses like a lumberjack hobo.

Meet Raven: trickster, self-indulgent troublemaker who loves to eat and drink. (Maybe a mythological Charlie Sheen?) Raven coaxed the first men out of a clam shell and then things got crazy. This gorgeous book recounts ten episodes from Haida mythology with beautiful drawings by Bill Reid and an introduction by super-smart structural anthropologist Claude Levi-Strauss.

On the Outside Looking Indian was hilarious and poignant. It's about trying to figure out how to be happy by looking at what we were, and were not, in our youth. Readers will laugh with Rupinder, but will recognize the desire to return to ideals of childhood in a practical adult way."


The Dewey Divas


The Dewey Divas are a group of Canadian publishers's reps -- all passionate readers -- who have been giving book talk presentations of our favourite reads to librarians and school teachers. In 2009, they received the Ontario Public Library Association's Leadership in Adult Readers Advisory Award. The Dewey Divas are Ann Ledden, Janet Murie, Rosalyn Steele, Saffron Beckwith and Susan Wallace.

When we asked the Dewey Divas for their Canada Reads True Stories picks, here's what they had to say:

Ann Ledden's pick: Sixtyfive Roses by Heather Summerhayes Cariou

"A compelling and unflinchingly honest memoir of a family in crisis as it falls apart and puts itself together again. The story explores the relationship between two sisters -- one devastatingly ill, the other healthy but burdened with guilt."

Susan Wallace's pick: Reluctant Genius: The Passionate Life and Inventive Mind of Alexander Graham Bell by Charlotte Gray

"This fascinating biography of the eccentric inventor of the telephone looks at his scientific endeavours as well as his personal life, including his long marriage to his remarkable wife, Mabel Hubbard Bell."

Janet Murie's pick: The Tiger: A True Story of Vengeance and Survival by John Vaillant

"An elegant, passionate and intelligent non-fiction thriller about a world you didn't know existed."

Saffron Beckwith's pick: Louis Riel by Chester Brown

"This is a fabulous read about a Canadian historical icon that reveals his life, warts and all."

Rosalyn Steele's pick: Gold Diggers by Charlotte Gray

"Gray makes these characters from history come alive and leaves you knowing why their lives and accomplishments made an important contribution to Canada as is it today."


ECW Press


Though it started in 1974 as Essays on Canadian Writing, ECW has come to represent their company's diverse passions: "Entertainment. Culture. Writing." According to ECW, they "publish a heady mix of commercial and literary works that strive for a uniform standard of excellence: the best writing; the most exciting, controversial and insightful takes on the hottest subject matters; and groundbreaking design and high production values."

When we asked the crew at ECW for their Canada Reads True Stories picks, here's what they had to say:

"At ECW we wanted to come up with a list of books as diverse as the books we publish, and so we've included a variety of subjects and narrative styles. From a great historical figure to a precocious girl in a small town, from an epic battle to circumnavigate the globe to the daily struggles of parenting a disabled child, these are evocative, courageous and beautifully written stories that as Canadians, we should be proud to call our own."


Samantha Haywood


Samantha Haywood is a literary agent with the Transatlantic Literary Agency, which represents professional adult trade writers and graphic novelists of various genres. While she loves all the authors and books she represents, she narrowed her dream Canada Reads: True stories panel to the final five you find below.

Writing Gordon Lightfoot: The Man, the Music and the World in 1972 by Dave Bidini

"Dave Bidini hits all the top literary notes for a Canada Reads audience - besides, his twin passions are our nation's twin passions: hockey and music, or put more basically, sports and arts. Canada Reads needs a Dave Bidini book and this fabulous new book happens to be devoted to another Canadian icon, Gordon Lightfoot. I say no more!"

Hot Art: Chasing Thieves and Detectives through the Secret World of Stolen Art by Joshua Knelman

"Knelman exposes a massive black market underworld and explains how it works, thriving just underneath the surface of Canada's genteel art market of auction houses and galleries. Anyone with a few pieces of art at home should be a reader of this book because we are already involved. Besides, it's written like the best episode of Law & Order and is totally unputdownable!"

Tangles: A Story About Alzheimer's, My Mother and Me by Sarah Leavitt

"I've never had a family member suffer from Alzheimer's but I now know practically first-hand what it's like to experience this phenomenal tragedy that so many Canadians are living with on a daily basis. Leavitt's graphic memoir is that rarest of accounts: heart-felt, searingly honest and yet never melodramatic. It's legacy to her mother is a triumph."

Adventures in Solitude: What Not to Wear to a Nude Potluck and Other Stories from Desolation Sound by Grant Lawrence

"To me this is the ultimate "Canadian" non-fiction read because it's a smart and very funny cottage memoir. And what could be more Canadian than the idea of spending all year waiting for summer to arrive to get back into the landscape and hang out with friends and family at a cottage (with a case of beer)?! But better yet, it's more than just fun to read because Adventures in Solitude captures the folklore and legends around the term "going bush" and the joys that can be found in the abject solitude of pitching camp at the very end of the road."

Why Not? Fifteen Reasons to Live by Ray Robertson

"I'm pitching this book because we need more dazzling essay collections like this in our lives. Robertson selects his top 15 reasons to live after suffering a serious depression and the lucky reader goes on a literary joy ride through the top pleasures this world has to offer in chapters singularly devoted to describing the best aspects of friendship, individuality, home, humour, intoxication and more. This is the Book of Awesome for Canadians with taste!"




Bookclub-in-a-Box was founded by Marilyn Herbert, a former teacher and school librarian, in 2002. Since then, they have published nearly 60 comprehensive discussion guides on popular fiction books, including Cutting for Stone, Life of Pi, and The Help.

When we asked Bookclub-in-a-Box for their Canada Reads True Stories picks, here's what they had to say:

"Non-fiction is very often ignored in deference to its more popular sibling the novel, but there's something extra-gripping about a well-told story that also just happens to be true. One of our favourites is Morley Callaghan's 1920s-era memoir That Summer in Paris, which starts in the Toronto Star newsroom and quickly moves to a surreal literary Paris setting, where Callaghan has made friends with the likes of Ernest Hemingway and F. Scott Fitzgerald -- seeing these cultural giants brought to life from such an intimate perspective will have you considering the classics you've already read in a whole new light. And we already know of Carol Shields's acclaimed novels, but her slim biography of Jane Austen offers insight into what little is known about the personal life of another literary legend, and what influenced Austen's views on social class.

A more recent memoir, Ian Brown's The Boy in the Moon, deserves all the attention in the world for its unflinching, sometimes painfully honest account of what it's like to raise a severely disabled son, searching for answers that may never come. And as a country that prides itself on our multicultural DNA, there's no shortage of immigrant family histories, either. One that we think is worth checking out is Denise Chong's The Concubine's Children, which tells the story of a family long-divided between China and Canada.

But of course, non-fiction isn't all memoirs and biographies. As anyone currently living in Toronto can attest, there is heated unrest within City Hall, as politicians and citizens debate city services and budget woes. Who better than the late urban planning activist Jane Jacobs to inspire public interest in making positive change? Hopefully, her 2004 book Dark Age Ahead can prove itself useful and not just portentous."


Coach House Books


Tucked away on Toronto's historic bpNichol Lane, Coach House Books has been publishing and printing high-quality and innovative fiction and poetry since 1965. Coach House has, during the past forty years, published books by Michael Ondaatje, George Bowering, bpNichol, Nicole Brossard, Christian Bök, Guy Maddin, Steve McCaffery, Gail Scott, Jonathan Goldstein, Anne Michaels, Michael Redhill and hundreds of others. Coach House recently won the Canadian Booksellers's Association Libris Award for Small Press Publisher of the Year (2011).

When we asked Coach House Books for their Canada Reads: True Stories picks, here's what they had to say:

"Coach House Books doesn't publish a whole lot of general non-fiction. Though that's slowly changing (we're publishing the book Five Good Ideas: Practical Strategies for Non-Profit Success later this fall), our non-fiction has mainly focused on Toronto in particular. And while we (obviously) think titles like uTOpia, Stroll and Local Motion are must-reads, we also understand that they may be longshots in a Canada-wide competition.

But just because we don't publish a great deal of non-fiction, doesn't mean we don't read non-fiction. The titles we selected cover a wide (maybe too wide?) variety of topics: the music of Celine Dion (something that becomes a vehicle for discussing cultural theory and the notion of 'taste'), snapshots of a wintry London over several centuries and the failure of the UN's humanitarian mission in Rwanda. We even threw in a non-fiction comic book in there (Pyongyang, about Guy Delisle's experience working in North Korea), because we like how that puts CBC panelists into a tizzy. Then we added one of our own titles, Lisa Robertson's Occasional Work and Seven Walks from the Office for Soft Architecture, because (a) we're self-aggrandizing (ha!), and (b) it's so darn good: thought-provoking essays about Value Village, the history of scaffolding, colour and more. (Plus, at least one of these non-fiction books is James-Franco-approved!) "




LitFest is Canada's only non-fiction literary festival. The successor to the Alberta Book Fair, this annual celebration of non-fiction became a staple of the Edmonton literary community in 2002.

When we asked LitFest's organizers to share their picks for Canada Reads: True Stories, here's what they had to say:

Beyond Belfast: A 560-Mile Walk Across Northern Ireland on Sore Feet by Will Ferguson

"If Canada has made self-deprecatory humour an art form, then this is our Mona Lisa. Ferguson's account of a self-imposed cursing-all-the-way jaunt through the bogs, mountains and tension-filled streets of Ulster is a masterpiece. Ferguson's keen insights into the character of this wounded land, and our own failings, are easy to miss because you're too busy wiping away tears of laughter."

Mordecai: The Life and Times by Charles Foran

"It's easy to see why Charles Foran is getting nominations for major awards all across the country. His examination of Mordecai Richler, as a writer and an individual, is vivid and empathetic without sanding down any of the spiky bits."

Gold Diggers: Striking It Rich in the Klondike by Charlotte Gray

"After fifteen years in western Canada, the Klondike is imprinted in my personal mythology, but aside from vague stories and images, gussied-up recreations and anecdotes, I had no clear image of what it was actually like. By following through the lives and aspirations of five specific individuals, Charlotte Gray cuts through this veneer of preconception to get at the guts of the time...which is, of course, much more interesting."

Bad Medicine: A Judge's Struggle for Justice in a First Nations Community by John Reilly

"Judge John Reilly's fury and grief at the corruption and death on Stony reserve is clear on every page -- and it's contagious. Many of us feel we want to help struggling First Nations communities, but don't know where to begin. Bad Medicine does a great job of replacing a wash of generalities with clear, specific information."


Don't forget you can recommend a book for Canada Reads: True Stories. If you do, you could win a trip to Toronto to see the final Canada Reads debate live in February. All the details are here.

Which books did you vote for? Let us know in the comments below.

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