Canada Reads·CBC Books

Humble The Poet, championing Fifteen Dogs, wins Canada Reads 2017

Fifteen Dogs by André Alexis is the first book to win both Canada Reads and the Scotiabank Giller Prize.
Humble The Poet championed Fifteen Dogs by André Alexis over four days of debate on Canada Reads. (Craig Cooper/CBC)

Writer and rapper Humble The Poet has emerged victorious in this year's Canada Reads, with the book he defended, Fifteen Dogs by André Alexis, surviving the final elimination vote Thursday, March 30, 2017.

The former schoolteacher successfully navigated his book — a thought-provoking novel that uses canine characters to explore human nature — through the week's debates, eventually topping runner-up Company TownMadeline Ashby's dystopian thriller championed by opera star Measha Brueggergosman.

Fifteen Dogs wins Canada Reads 2017

6 years ago
Duration 6:31
Andre Alexis's book about a group of dogs that are granted human consciousness was defended by Toronto MC and spoken word artist Humble the Poet

Throughout the week, Humble The Poet argued that Fifteen Dogs offered universal lessons about the human condition. Alexis' modern-day parable follows the fates of 15 dogs that have been gifted human consciousness by a pair of Greek gods.

"I didn't pick a book that looks like me, sounds like me, represents any type of minority that I might check off the box," Humble The Poet said on Day Two of the debates.

"I picked the book that represents me to my core. Everybody in this room has regrets, anxieties. Everybody in this room is struggling with the thoughts in their head, which ones they should believe [and] which ones they should not. Everybody in this room struggles with jealousy, irrespective of their race, their gender, their orientation, their economic background. This is the only book that talks about that over and over again."

Humble The Poet comes out swinging for Fifteen Dogs

6 years ago
Duration 1:33
Humble The Poet defends Fifteen Dogs against criticisms of accessibility and misogyny.

Humble The Poet consistently won over his fellow panellists with his poetic eloquence and layered defence of Fifteen Dogs. Up until the final day of debating, only one vote had been cast against it. In the finale, Brueggergosman was the only panellist who voted to eliminate it.

This year's debates were centered on the question: what book does Canada need to read now? For Humble The Poet, the answer to that question changed throughout the week.

"First it was: 'Canada needs a harsh lesson. Canada needs a wake-up call.' Then it was like, 'Canada needs a hug. Canada needs a laugh. Canada needs a pat on the back. Canada needs a spank in the butt,'" Humble The Poet said in the Q&A after Day Three of debating.

"I think the real debate, at the end of the day, is what does Canada need? And Canada is one of the most diverse countries in the world. Those needs are going to be extremely diverse."

Fifteen Dogs won the Scotiabank Giller Prize in 2015, making it the first Giller recipient to also win Canada Reads. Alexis was recently honoured with the Windham-Campbell Prize, which recognizes an author's body of work and is one of the world's richest literary awards.

André Alexis (left) and Humble The Poet, Canada Reads champions, will be on q March 31, 2017. (Craig Cooper/CBC)

The other three books were eliminated earlier in the week. The Break by Katherena Vermette was the first to go, followed by M.G. Vassanji's Nostalgia and then The Right to be Cold by Sheila Watt-Cloutier.

All three were cast off in tight votes, after being passionately defended by their respective panellists: broadcaster Candy Palmater, author and politician Jody Mitic and singer-songwriter Chantal Kreviazuk.

It was a week full of high-praise for all the contending books, but also featured some sharp exchanges and criticisms.

This year's show was hosted by Laugh Out Loud's Ali Hassan.

Humble The Poet will appear on q with Alexis on Friday, March 31.

Fifteen Dogs: Book trailer for Canada Reads 2017

6 years ago
Duration 0:39
Fifteen Dogs, written by André Alexis, follows a group of dogs that have been gifted with human consciousness.