About Canada Reads

What is Canada Reads?

Five books, five champions, one winner: CBC's annual Battle of the Books has been getting people listening, watching and, of course, reading, for the past 17 years.

Canada Reads is a "literary Survivor," with celebrities championing books. Books are  voted "off the bookshelf," one each day, until one book is chosen as the title the whole country should read this year.

In 2001, CBC producers noticed the popularity of One Book One Community programs, where everyone in a city or town is invited to read and talk about one book. It was also the early days of reality TV shows. The producers thought it would be cool to get a whole country to read together. And to make it interesting, the focus would be about choosing the one book very publicly, in an on-air debate.

The final ingredient was inviting celebrities who were avid readers but not the "usual suspects" when it came to talking about books on the CBC. Athletes and musicians, humanitarians and comedians, a hip hop artist and an astronaut have defended books in the Canada Reads no-holds-barred debates.

Canada Reads first aired as a radio show in 2002. In 2010, the program shifted to live shows in studio with audiences. Today, Canada Reads is broadcast on CBC Radio, CBC-TV and cbcbooks.ca.

Canada Reads also gets people buying books. The first winner, Michael Ondaatje's In the Skin of a Lion, sold 70,000 copies after the show, years after the novel was first published. Since then, every winning book has become a national bestseller, and in recent years, all five books have become bestsellers.

How are the books chosen? 

Each year's Canada Reads books are chosen by participating panellists, through a kind of matchmaking process. The CBC Books team works with each panellist directly, suggesting books to them based on their preferences and profiles as readers. The annual longlist is comprised of titles that are either on the shortlist, or were under serious consideration as potential matches for panellists. Both the longlist and the eventual shortlist are therefore determined by the Canada Reads panellists and their passions — first and foremost. Being on the longlist does not preclude a book from being on the shortlist in the future. 

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