Canada Reads 2021 was a week of milestones. As the show celebrated its 20th edition, actor and filmmaker Devery Jacobs championed the novel Jonny Appleseed by two-spirit, Oji-nêhiyaw Indigiqueer scholar Joshua Whitehead to victory, making it the first book by an Indigenous writer to win Canada Reads.
The debut novel went head-to-head with another debut novel in the finale. Chef, TV host and recording artist Roger Mooking brought his all to Francesca Ekwuyasi's Butter Honey Pig Bread, a magical novel he described as "blinding hope."
On the third day, panellists parted ways with Hench, a science fiction novel by Natalie Zina Walschots and championed by actor Paul Sun-Hyung Lee. The pairing of Hench and Sun-Hyung Lee, star of Kim's Convenience, was considered a match made in nerd heaven. It was a gut-wrenching tie-breaker of a vote that led to its elimination.
The second day of debates also ended in a dramatic tie-breaking vote. The Midnight Bargain by C.L. Polk, a sweeping fantasy novel about a woman choosing between magic and love, was eliminated despite its champion's rousing efforts. Three-time Olympian and broadcaster Rosey Edeh described it as a novel that transports readers to a world of "beauty grace and magic and love and adventure."
The first elimination is always the toughest. With five strong books, the first to be voted off was the sole nonfiction book of the bunch: Two Trees Make a Forest by Jessica J. Lee. Its champion, singer-songwriter Scott Helman, argued that it was a memoir that shows us that "the stories of our lives and the stories of this Earth are intertwined."