Canada Reads·My Life in Books

6 books that inspired Canada Reads panellist George Canyon

The country music star is defending From the Ashes by Jesse Thistle for Canada Reads 2020.
George Canyon is defending From the Ashes by Jesse Thistle on Canada Reads 2020. (CBC)

As country music star George Canyon prepares for Canada Reads 2020, he says that a love of literature has been a constant throughout his life. 

Canyon is defending the memoir From the Ashes by Jesse Thistle.

The debates were scheduled to take place March 16-19, 2020. Given the ongoing developments with COVID-19 and the related travel concerns, Canada Reads has made the difficult decision to postpone next week's event until we can convene our stellar panel of advocates in front of a live audience. 

Canada Reads content will still be featured this week (March 16-20), in a series of one hour programs dedicated to this year's books and authors.

Here are six books that Canyon said he loved reading.

Never Cry Wolf by Farley Mowat

Farley Mowat is the author of Never Cry Wolf. (Fred Phipps, Emblem Editions)

"My Grade 4 teacher read this book to us in class. This was the first time I actually experienced what a book does. It was a different experience from anything else at that point in my life, including music. It took me, in my imagination, somewhere that no one else got to go. 

This was the first time I actually experienced what a book does.- George Canyon


"It might have been the same words on the page for other people, but each person's imagination got to be engaged. For me, being creative — and not knowing at that time what the good Lord had planned for me —  it engaged the creative side of my brain that I couldn't deny.

"I fell in love with books. Books helped me create my 'mini-movie.' With Never Cry Wolf, I had this movie playing in my head. I couldn't wait to go back to school to get to listen to more."

The Old Man and the Sea by Ernest Hemingway

In this 1952 picture, Ernest Hemingway is reading a letter informing him he has won the Pulitzer Prize for his novel The Old Man and the Sea. (AFP/Getty Images)

"Millions of people have read this book. But I guarantee not one of those people have the exact same mini-movie playing in their head because everybody has a different imagination.

It's vital for me, as a reader, to feel like I'm talking with a buddy when I read a book.- George Canyon

"I base what I read on how authors like Mowat and Hemingway put the words.

"It's vital for me, as a reader, to feel like I'm talking with a buddy when I read a book."

The Cross in the Closet by Timothy Kurek

The Cross in the Closet by American author Timothy Kurek is a nonfiction account about his year “undercover” pretending to be a gay man. (timothy-kurek.com, Green Bridge Press)

"I never would've come across this book had he not been my Uber driver in Nashville. Kurek told me he loves being a driver because he gets to talk to people and hear their stories. I think that's brilliant. He's a great guy and told me a lot of the backstory behind this book. It blew my mind. 

I never would've come across this book had he not been my Uber driver in Nashville.- George Canyon

"I couldn't believe that this book is nonfiction and not fiction. I'm not going to spoil it for people, but you've got to read the book." 

Heaven is for Real by Todd Burpo

This 2010 bestseller documents the report of a near-death experience by Burpo's three-year-old son Colton. (Nelson)

"As a Christian man, I love books of faith. Not books of religion, but of faith. Heaven is for Real by Todd Burpo is the account about his son who says he experienced heaven during an emergency surgery.  

As a Christian man, I love books of faith.- George Canyon

"I enjoyed that book. There's only certain books within faith that have touched me." 

I Flew for the Führer by Heinz Knoke

Heinz Knoke was a German fighter pilot during the Second World War. (Frontline)

"I'm big into history, especially military history. I like reading lots of books about the Second World War, Vietnam and Korea. This is a book by Heinz Knoke. He was a German air force pilot with the Luftwaffe. It's fascinating because the Luftwaffe — and actually most of the German army — hated Hitler and the Nazis.

I like reading lots of books about the Second World War, Vietnam and Korea.- George Canyon

"When you read this account from him, it's like, 'Oh my gosh.' In my own world, and with this war that my grandfathers fought in, you assume that all Germans in the army were behind Hitler.

"The Luftwaffe hated him. They flew to protect Germany. It's fascinating. I think the more we learn about things we don't know — especially about others around the world — the more we have in common. The common denominator, in this case, was his love of country and his love of flying."

A Higher Call by Adam Makos & Larry Alexander

Adam Makos is the co-author of bestselling war biography A Higher Calling. (Pawel Sarota, Berkley)

"This is an interesting read about bomber pilots and their crew during the Second World War. It shows what they went through. We watch the war movies, but to actually hear their firsthand experience about flying during that time.

We watch the war movies, but to actually hear their firsthand experience about flying during that time.- George Canyon

"They talk about how cold it was to fly at high altitudes, often for hours doing nothing but sitting in a big tin can that you didn't know if you were going to get shot at."

George Canyon's comments have been edited for length and clarity. 

The Canada Reads 2020 contenders

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