The Canada Reads team offers advice to the 2012 panel

Congratulations to Joy Walker, the latest winner of a Canada Reads prize pack, which consists of copies of all five books and an always fashionable and extremely practical Canada Reads tote bag. We're giving away another set this week. Keep reading to find out how you can win!

Our celebrity panelists will be standing up for their favourite read in the February debates, but the Canada Reads team is on the case right now. Five of our producers have chosen to go to bat for their favourite Canada Reads 2012 title. Each week, they will make an argument for their book as the best.

But why should we have all the fun? You can get involved too -- and just by jumping into the fray, you get a chance to win a Canada Reads prize pack. We're giving one away every week. To enter, see what our team has to say about their book of choice, then answer the question at the bottom of the post for a chance to win.

Since the books were revealed in November, our team has been discussing, debating and defending their favourite titles. As we pass the baton over to the 2012 defenders next week, our team offers up a piece of advice they believe will be key to their celebrity counterparts.

Adrian defends The Game by Ken Dryden


OK, the big debates are finally here, so let's talk a little pre-match strategy.

First, having actor Alan Thicke to defend Ken Dryden's The Game was a great pick-up this season. This year's top five books are all strong contenders for the Canada Reads championship, but Thicke brings veteran savvy and smooth communication skills honed from years of interviews, acting performances, and hosting his own talk and game shows. He knows the entertainment game better than anyone else.

He also has a solid plan of attack. He's talked about how he's going to focus on how The Game is about more than hockey. "It really defines the Canadian spirit and the Canadian soul," he told CBC. "It's about Canadian passion."

My only advice to Thicke is to really study his scouting report. He's got some formidable opponents out there with some unique skill sets. Rapper Shad (defending Something Fierce) is highly literate and very quick on his feet. Try to block his passing lanes to keep the puck away from him. Dragons' Den's Arlene Dickinson (defending Prisoner of Tehran) has made millions in marketing, so she definitely knows how to sell. Use a neutral zone trap to force turnovers. Supermodel Stacey McKenzie (defending On a Cold Road) is no shrinking violet and won't succumb to the pressure as the debates rage on. Keep her on the boards and disrupt her game plan. And Anne-France Goldwater (defending The Tiger), the Quebec litigator and reality show star, will bring an aggressive "best defence is good offence" style of play into the mix, daring you to go toe-to-toe with her. Take the battle to her. Don't give her a chance to score first. Look to build a quick lead and then defend, defend, defend to come out with the win.

Nicole defends On a Cold Road by Dave Bidini

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The one piece of advice I want to give to Stacey McKenzie when she debates On a Cold Road by Dave Bidini next week is: make it personal.

Now, I don't mean Stacey should attack her fellow panelists, though she is fierce enough to do so and it would make for great radio. No, I mean she should find the themes of On a Cold Road that ring truest to her own life.

As far as I know, Stacey's never played in a Canadian rock band, but whenever she struts her stuff on a runway or poses in front of a camera, she is performing. Stacey is the first one to tell you that it's not easy to climb to the top of the modelling chain. It takes as much hard work and determination as it does good looks and talent.

That same hard work and determination is evident in the Rheostatics, Bachman-Turner Overdrive and every musician Bidini talks to in On a Cold Road. All of the musicians in the book overcame challenges to fulfill their dreams.

As I've said in my previous posts, we all faces similar challenges in our own lives, which is why this book is an essential Canadian read.

And, if all else fails, Stacey: strike a pose. Alan Thicke's mug's got nothing on you.

Barb defends Prisoner of Tehran by Marina Nemat


I think Dragons' Den star Arlene Dickinson already knows the key to defending Prisoner of Tehran in the debates. After all, she just wrote a book called Persuasion.

And that's ultimately what Canada Reads is all about. To come out on top, Arlene has to win over her fellow panelists. Let's face it: they all start out thinking their book is the best and deserves to triumph. And they have a sense of which of the other books they like, and which they are least keen on. (For that matter, they're sizing up the competition and figuring which book is the greatest threat to their own chances -- and given how much Prisoner of Tehran has going for it, I wouldn't be surprised if it's a target.) But ideally, the other panelists also come into the debates open to having their opinion swayed. That's where Arlene's powers of persuasion and marketing savvy come in.

I have faith! Besides, it's the Year of the Dragon in Chinese astrology -- why not in Canada Reads, too?

Debbie defends Something Fierce by Carmen Aguirre


Carmen Aguirre's Something Fierce is one of this competition's many memoirs, but if defender Shad focuses on Aguirre's dark sense of humour, her passion and her honesty, he should be fine and the book he is defending will stand out for the vibrant story it is. It's an original and unusual take on the memoir.

Also, Shad: use your low-key nature to your advantage. Let the others battle it out and let emotions take over. Go with the flow, don't make any enemies and let the others exhaust themselves with their battles. This strategy has proven successful for many musicians before you. Why mess with a good thing?

Alison defends The Tiger by John Vaillant


It's not like outspoken litigator Anne-France Goldwater needs much advice on how to best position The Tiger in the Canada Reads debates next week, but I would suggest that she focus on author John Vaillant's compassion and environmentalism in her arguments. The Tiger is the only non-memoir in this competition, which can be either an advantage or a drawback. Ms. Goldwater should focus on Vaillant's objective journalistic approach and the complex breadth he finds in a story that, in a lesser writer's hands, could be reduced to a simple good vs. evil dichotomy.

Well, that's a wrap for the Canada Reads team! Be sure to tune into the Canada Reads debates February 6-9. You can watch and chat online on CBC Books at 10 a.m. ET, listen on the radio on CBC Radio One at 11 a.m. (11:30 in Nfld.), or tune in on television on CBC's documentary channel at 7 p.m. ET.

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