Canada Reads 2018: Jeanne Beker, Jully Black join CBC's battle of the books

Thought-provoking books that run the gamut from family history to dystopian fiction will compete in the latest edition of Canada Reads, CBC's annual literary debate to determine the one novel the entire country should read.

2018 theme is One Book to Open Your Eyes

The 2018 Canada Reads panellists share a few strategies and discuss their competition style. 2:09
Thought-provoking books that run the gamut from family history to dystopian fiction will compete in the latest edition of Canada Reads, CBC's annual literary debate to determine the one novel the entire country should read.

CBC Books unveiled early on Tuesday the five titles selected for this year's theme — One Book to Open Your Eyes — as well as the respective panellists set to defend each one.

This year's contenders are: 

  • Fashion journalist Jeanne Beker, defending Forgiveness by Alberta-born, Toronto-based writer Mark Sakamoto.
  • Storm-chaser Greg Johnson, defending  Precious Cargo by Toronto writer Craig Davidson.
  • Actor Tahmoh Penikett, defending American War by Egyptian-Canadian journalist Omar El Akkad.
  • TV personality and singer Mozhdah Jamalzadah, defending The Boat Peopleby St. John's writer Sharon Bala.
  • Singer-songwriter Jully Black, defending The Marrow Thieves by Toronto writer and editor Cherie Dimaline, a member of the Georgian Bay Métis community.

"People might make assumptions in the beginning about who might do the best, but it comes down to the book, it comes down to the debate and things change over the course of the debate," Penikett told CBC News.

"You never know what's going to happen. I'm looking forward to it."

Hosted for a second consecutive year by comedian Ali Hassan, the 2018 Canada Reads debates take place March 26-29.

The debates will be livestreamed on CBC Books and broadcast on CBC Radio and CBC-TV.

A popular competition that has even spawned imitators abroad, Canada Reads sparks vigorous literary debate each year and has also inspired a namesake phenomenon dubbed "the Canada Reads effect," in which all five books in contention see a spike in sales, with the biggest bump going to the eventual winner.

Past Canada Reads champions have included Ru by Kim Thuy, The Book of Negroes by Lawrence Hill, February by Lisa Moore and The Best Laid Plans by Terry Fallis.

Notable Canadians who have participated in Canada Reads over the years include Justin Trudeau, Donovan Bailey, Samantha Bee, Stephen Lewis, Measha Brueggergosman, Jay Baruchel and Roch Carrier.

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