Talking about the Top 10 lists: Steph VanderMeulen


CBC Books asked a few publishing insiders -- booksellers, authors and editors -- to reflect on and respond to the Canada Reads: Turf Wars Top 10 lists. Today, we present the thoughts of blogger, bookseller and freelance editor Steph VanderMeulen.

We've seen Canada Reads drastically change over the years in an attempt to widen not only the audience but also knowledge of Canadian personalities and books and authors. Unfortunately, the lists for the most part continue to reflect a reluctance to follow suit. The Ontario list is particularly narrow in scope. The other lists do offer a better mix of canonical or typical CanLit and contemporary choices; B.C. and Yukon is an especially diverse blend, and that's exciting to see. But given the overwhelming choice of fantastic Ontarian writers, that list is rather disheartening. Trevor Cole's Practical Jean, Emily Schultz's Heaven Is Small, Stuart Ross's Snowball, Dragonfly, Jew, Mark Sinnett's The Carnivore...these are but the tiniest sample of CanLit that could be discussed and promoted to widen the scope of Ontario's reading! I could mention so many newer titles for each region that would make great discussion and are enjoyable reads. Why do we keep seeing the same ones?

If the main point of Canada Reads is to get people reading more CanLit, I'd like for the program to discuss more contemporary books by the newer generation of CanLit, in order to alter the typical definition of our literature. Otherwise, if we're going to promote backlist, let's see the great books that are not already widely known, read, and taught.

The books I'd like to see make the cut are:

  • Atlantic: Glass Boys by Nicole Lundrigan OR The Town That Drowned by Riel Nason;
  • Ontario: Helpless by Barbara Gowdy;
  • Quebec: How to Make Love to a Negro Without Getting Tired by Dany Laferrière;
  • Prairies and North: The Garneau Block by Todd Babiak;
  • B.C. and Yukon: any one of these three: The Canterbury Trail by Angie Abdou, Bow Grip by Ivan E. Coyote, Monkey Beach by Eden Robinson.

Very curious to see where the program goes from here!

Steph VanderMeulen is a freelance copy editor and proofreader for Canadian publishers and writers. She's a book blogger and stalwart promoter of authors, publishers, indie bookshops, and Canadian literature in particular.

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