Trent McClellan on the pressure panelists will face next week


Trent McClellan and Jay Baruchel, the final two contenders in Canada Reads 2013.

Last year's champ returns! Trent McClellan will be our guide to the Canada Reads experience. Follow along as he blogs and tweets about the 2014 edition of CBC's battle of the books. His blog posts will appear on the Canada Reads website every Tuesday. Follow him on Twitter @Trent McClellan for his complete Canada Reads 2014 coverage.

It's almost here folks! The Canada Reads 2014 debates are as close as the US women's hockey team to a gold medal. (I shouldn't have POSTed that.)

Canada Reads seems to get bigger and bigger each year with more people having a vested interest in who comes out on top. I learned last year that folks really take their favourite books to heart. When they find a book that touches them they want it to win. It kind of validates their connection to it as they want the world to feel what they felt when they read it. I learned this, not just through the panelists, but by talking to audience members in the studio and on social media. People really do care and they faithfully support their favourite book and consequently its defender.

My prep for day one was to rehearse and time my opening and closing statements. I treated my defense of February as a lawyer would his defense of his client. It was important for me to get those two components sorted so it removed some of the unknowns. The debates themselves can go in any direction, and any book can be under fire or sneak under the radar. I was also a little superstitious so I would make sure I got a coffee on my way each morning as a kind of good luck charm and then just stayed quietly in my dressing room until show time. That time allowed me to focus, picture what my fellow panelists may say, and polish what I planned to say.

More from our Canada Reads correspondent:

The books this year have such varied themes and characters which should generate some amazing debates. In the past, panelists have brought notes, charts, etc. I think it is best with just open dialogue between Jian and the panelists. Good conversation is a bit of a lost art these days so an engaging and passionate debate is a pretty rare thing for most people. The panelists will find themselves in plenty of those to the point of forgetting the studio audience and cameras. It simply becomes an adrenalized conversation that Canada Reads fans get to be a fly on the wall for.

Panelists will be surprised at how fatiguing the show is. It's a ton of fun, but I found the mental concentration needed to prep and debate exhausting. Also, I wasn't sleeping great because my mind would race with the possible situations I may face the next day. None of the panelists are going to want to see their book go, so just that level of caring and concern will also wear them down a little. Canada Reads is truly a unique situation one of the many strengths of the show is there are no tricks.

Good luck to this year's contenders! I am looking forward to following the debates next week.

Trent is on tour! Check out his Live Once Comedy Tour in Ottawa, Toronto, Fort McMurray, Lethbridge and Edmonton during the month of March. Tickets are available through

Find out why these books could change Canada:


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