Canada Reads 2019 panellists compete in a book jenga Q&A challenge

Before the debates — March 25 to 28 — the Canada Reads panellists faced off with a tower of the books and some tough questions.

Before the debates — March 25 to 28 — the Canada Reads panellists faced off with a tower of the books. Each book had questions inside about the upcoming battle of the books and the panellists' own reading backgrounds.

The Canada Reads 2019 contenders are:

The Canada Reads 2019 debates take place March 25-28, 2019. They will air on CBC Radio One at 11 a.m. (1 p.m. AT/1:30 p.m. NT), on CBC at 4 p.m. (4:30 NT), be live streamed online at CBC Books at 11 a.m. ET and will be available on the free CBC Gem streaming service.

Watch the video above or read a transcript of the panellists' full conversation below.

What is the most beautiful word in any language?

Ray: Serendipity, which comes originally from Ceylon.

Zee: I love the word happy and I have no idea where it comes from.

Comeau: Hope for me. It's short. It looks good. And it's just the best thing.

Tong: I love the word orenda and it's the spiritual force within people that allows them to affect change in the world. It's Iroquois.

Truesdale: You are all so fancy. I love love. How about that?

Tong: That's a beautiful word.

Who are you most intimidated by so far?

Ray: So far, no one.

Truesdale: Maybe it's a bad thing I'm not scared of anyone. Everyone is nice!

Zee: Name a name! We want names!

Comeau: I'm scared of all of you because you're all experts in TV and talking. I'm just the guy in the back. I'm the drummer. Also, I'm scared of Joe because his style [is amazing].

How will you celebrate winning Canada Reads?

Truesdale: I don't know. Champagne?

Ray: I will take you all out and you guys can treat me.

Comeau: I would take my two authors out to a hockey game. Abu Bakr is a young Syrian who just came to Canada a few years ago. He's never been to a hockey game. He's a big soccer fan. And they live in Edmonton, so I will take them to see Connor McDavid, the best player in the world.

How did you become a book nerd?

Truesdale: I am not a book nerd.

Tong: My mom used to read me bedtime stories every single night and it was wonderful. When you grow up as a child, as a reader, I think it just stays with you for a lifetime. Now, Lisa and I are authors for the first time too.

Ray: I'm an introvert. Introverts can appear to have extroverted qualities but you need to withdraw. You need to fill up your cup. You get drained when you're around people all the time. When I need to fill up my cup, I turn to books. Also, I think writers are hot. I have a lot of writer crushes.

Describe the book you are defending in one word.

Tong: Holocaust.

Zee: Acceptance — of so many different things; finally embracing something instead of pushing it away.

Truesdale: Forgiveness.

Comeau: Important. In this era where U.S. President Donald Trump is going around and making racism normal and everyday, this is a chance to actually look at what it's like to immigrate and have to leave everything you care about behind. It's on the news, but this makes it real.

Ray: If I have to boil it down, my book is love because it encompasses the healing power of love. It's redemption. Redemption! 

In terms of debate week, what are you most excited for?

Ray: Snacks.

Zee: Winning.

Truesdale: For a new experience. I like trying new things.

Tong: This is, by definition, a reality show. There's no other country in the world that is going to have a group of people get together and promote the best book so that the entire country gets reading. I just think that's awesome.

Ray: Inspiring people to read. Reading should never die out.

Zee: I'm excited for the audience. I can't wait to sit there and feed off the audience.

What do you feel is the importance of literature in the world today?

Ray: For me, when you say literature, I hear "words and storytelling." That will always remain the most important thing to keep us connected with each other's stories.

Zee: I just think we live in a society now where we are on sensory overload. Imagery is thrown at you all the time. Literature is the one thing where you actually get to read words and make your own movie in your mind. We have lost the ability to make our own movies because we are constantly being told what that movie should be. I think this is the one last standing vestige of how we can all be our own director.

Tong: The other thing too about books is that, unlike any other medium whether it's radio or TV or the internet, is there's no advertising.

Comeau: To add to what Joe and Ziya just said, I think in our era, everything is so short. The whole attention span is so small. Books are a chance to go deep and to take the time.

Do you believe in partnerships or alliances in this debate?

Comeau: I look forward to convincing a few of you guys to jump on board with my book, or to jump on board with you.

Truesdale: If your book is voted off, you will obviously go to the other book that you loved.

Zee: I am fighting passionately for my book, but I also love the stories you are all defending as well.

Ray: There's a bigger picture here. It is about moving Canada through one book. If the impossible happens and our book is voted off, ultimately there's a much bigger picture and we want to move you Canada.

The panellists' comments have been edited for length and clarity.

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