Past Canada Reads contenders and winners
Here are the past books, panellists and authors of CBC's annual battle of the books.
2002 | 2003 | 2004 | 2005 | 2006 | 2007 | 2008 | 2009 | 2010 | 2011 | 2012 | 2013 | 2014 | 2015 | 2016 | 2017 | 2018 | 2019 | 2020 | 2021
Whitehead's novel Jonny Appleseed is about Jonny, a Two-Spirit Indigiqueer young man who has left the reserve and becomes a cybersex worker in the big city to make ends meet. But he must reckon with his past when he returns home to attend his stepfather's funeral.
The other 2021 contenders were:
- The Midnight Bargain by C.L. Polk, championed by Rosey Edeh
- Two Trees Make a Forest by Jessica J. Lee, championed by Scott Helman
- Butter Honey Pig Bread by Francesca Ekwuyasi, championed by Roger Mooking
- Hench by Natalie Zina Walschots, championed by Paul Sun-Hyung Lee
Habib's memoir We Have Always Been Here is an exploration of the ways we disguise and minimize ourselves for the sake of survival. As a child, Habib hid her faith from Islamic extremists in Pakistan and later, as a refugee in Canada, endured racist bullying and the threat of an arranged marriage. In travelling the world and exploring art and sexuality, Habib searches for the truth of her identity.
The other 2020 contenders were:
- Small Game Hunting at the Local Coward Gun Club by Megan Gail Coles, defended by Alayna Fender
- Radicalized by Cory Doctorow, defended by Akil Augustine
- Son of a Trickster by Eden Robinson, defended by Kaniehtiio Horn
- From the Ashes by Jesse Thistle, defended by George Canyon
When Eisen was 15 years old, he and his family were taken from their home to Auschwitz, where Eisen worked as a slave labourer. He survived the Holocaust and emigrated to Canada in 1949. Eisen has toured the world, educating people about the horrors he survived during the Second World War. He has recorded his memories in the deeply moving memoir By Chance Alone.
The other 2019 contenders were:
- Homes by Abu Bakr al Rabeeah with Winnie Yeung, defended by Chuck Comeau
- Brother by David Chariandy, defended by Lisa Ray
- Suzanne by Anaïs Barbeau-Lavalette, translated by Rhonda Mullins, defended by Yanic Truesdale
- The Woo-Woo by Lindsay Wong, defended by Joe Zee
Sakamoto's memoir Forgiveness tells the true story of how his grandparents survived two very different experiences of the war. His paternal grandmother was one of many Japanese Canadians forced into internment camps during World War II, while his maternal grandfather was a prisoner of war in Japan. These stories of survival and reconciliation shaped him as a Canadian, a man and a father.
The other 2018 contenders were:
- The Boat People by Sharon Bala, defended by Mozhdah Jamalzadah
- American War by Omar El Akkad, defended by Tahmoh Penikett
- Precious Cargo by Craig Davidson, defended by Greg Johnson
- The Marrow Thieves by Cherie Dimaline, defended by Jully Black
In the novel Fifteen Dogs, the gods Hermes and Apollo place a wager over pints in Toronto's Wheat Sheaf Tavern and 15 dogs are given the "gift" of human intelligence. It's the first book to win both Canada Reads and the Scotiabank Giller Prize.
The other 2017 contenders were:
- Company Town by Madeline Ashby, defended by Measha Brueggergosman
- The Right to Be Cold by Sheila Watt-Cloutier, defended by Chantal Kreviazuk
- Nostalgia by M.G. Vassanji, defended by Jody Mitic
- The Break by Katherena Vermette, defended by Candy Palmater
The Illegal is a novel that centres on a marathon runner, as it examines the struggle of undocumented refugees in a dystopian future, with themes of race, discrimination and politics woven throughout.
The other 2016 contenders were:
- The Hero's Walk by Anita Rau Badami, defended by Vinay Virmani
- Birdie by Tracey Lindberg, defended by Bruce Poon Tip
- Bone and Bread by Saleema Nawaz, defended by Farah Mohamed
- Minister Without Portfolio by Michael Winter, defended by Adam Copeland
In vignettes that shift back and forth between past and present, Ru tells the story of a young woman forced to leave her Saigon home during the Vietnam War and follows the woman's journey from childhood in an affluent Saigon neighbourhood to youth in a crowded Malaysian refugee camp and then to Quebec, where she struggles to fit in.
- Intolerable by Kamal Al-Solaylee, defended by Kristin Kreuk
- The Inconvenient Indian by Thomas King, defended by Craig Kielburger
- When Everything Feels like the Movies by Raziel Reid, defended by Elaine "Lainey" Lui
- And the Birds Rained Down by Jocelyne Saucier, translated by Rhonda Mullins, defended by Martha Wainwright
The Orenda is a novel about the early contact between a Jesuit missionary named Christophe and the First Nations people in what is now northern Ontario in the 17th century. The novel is told from the perspective of Christophe, a young Iroquois girl named Snow Falls and a Huron elder named Bird, who kidnapped Snow Falls, as the three cultures clash and a new world emerges.
The other 2014 contenders were:
- The Year of the Flood by Margaret Atwood, defended by Stephen Lewis
- Half-Blood Blues by Esi Edugyan, defended by Donovan Bailey
- Cockroach by Rawi Hage, defended by Samantha Bee
- Annabel by Kathleen Winter, defended by Sarah Gadon
February was inspired by the true story of the sinking of an Ocean Ranger oil rig off the coast of Newfoundland on Valentine's Day in 1982. February is the story of Helen O'Mara, whose husband Cal was one of the crew members who died, and how the accident impacted her life and the Newfoundland community in the years that followed.
The other 2013 contenders were:
- The Age of Hope by David Bergen, defended by Ron MacLean
- Two Solitudes by Hugh MacLennan, defended by Jay Baruchel
- Away by Jane Urquhart, defended by Charlotte Gray
- Indian Horse by Richard Wagamese, defended by Carol Huynh
Something Fierce is Aguirre's memoir. Her family fled Chile after the rise of General Augusto Pinochet. Her mother later returned to Chile to set up a safe house for members of the resistance, and when Carmen grew up, she too joined the revolution.
The other 2012 contenders were:
- On a Cold Road by Dave Bidini, defended by Stacey McKenzie
- The Game by Ken Dryden, defended by Alan Thicke
- Prisoner of Tehran by Marina Nemat, defended by Arlene Dickinson
- The Tiger by John Vaillant, defended by Anne-France Goldwater
The Best Laid Plans is a humorous novel about engineering professor Angus McLintock, who agrees to run in a federal election because he knows he will lose. When he unexpectedly wins, he must navigate Canadian politics and his idealism and pragmatism makes him a unique character on Parliament Hill. The Best Laid Plans also won the 2008 Stephen Leacock Medal for humour.
The other 2011 contenders were:
- The Bone Cage by Angie Abdou, defended by Georges Laraque
- Essex County by Jeff Lemire, defended by Sara Quin
- The Birth House by Ami McKay, defended by Debbie Travis
- Unless by Carol Shields, defended by Lorne Cardinal
Nikolski is a playful novel about all the invisible and unexpected ways we are connected. It follows three people living in Montreal in the 1980s: a 20-something Acadian named Joyce, a traveller named Noah who is fascinated with garbage, and the unnamed narrator who is guided by a mysterious compass. Nikolski also won the Governor General's Literary Award for translation in 2008.
The other 2010 contenders were:
- The Jade Peony by Wayson Choy, defended by Samantha Nutt
- Generation X by Douglas Coupland, defended by Cadence Weapon
- Good to a Fault by Marina Endicott, defended by Simi Sara
- Fall on Your Knees by Ann-Marie MacDonald, defended by Perdita Felicien
The Book of Negroes is a portrayal of the brutal realities of the slave trade told through one woman's life. Aminata Diallo is kidnapped from her village in Niger and brought to South Carolina to work as a slave at the age of 11. After eventually winning her freedom, Diallo goes on to face decades of struggle and adversity, but later becomes a driving force in the abolitionist movement in Britain. Its French translation version, Aminata, also won the French-language show Le combat national des livres in 2013.
The other 2009 contenders were:
- Mercy Among the Children by David Adams Richards, defended by Sarah Slean
- The Outlander by Gil Adamson, defended by Nicholas Campbell
- Fruit by Brian Francis, defended by Jen Sookfong Lee
- The Fat Woman Next Door Is Pregnant by Michel Tremblay, translated by Sheila Fischman, defended by Anne-Marie Withenshaw
King Leary is the humorous story of Percival Leary, who was once a great hockey player but is now largely forgotten. Living in a nursing home and reflecting on his career as a professional hockey player, he decides to have one last go at being the "King of the Ice."
The other 2008 contenders were:
- Not Wanted on the Voyage by Timothy Findley, defended by Zaib Shaikh
- From the Fifteenth District by Mavis Gallant, defended by Lisa Moore
- Brown Girl in the Ring by Nalo Hopkinson, defended by Jemeni
- Icefields by Thomas Wharton, defended by Steve MacLean
Lullabies for Little Criminals is a novel about a 13-year-old girl named Baby, who lives in Montreal. Baby's mother is gone and her father is a drug addict who pays little attention to his daughter. Baby catches the eye of a local pimp and ends up caught up in his seedy world. Baby soon realizes that if she wants to get out and build a better life, it's up to her — she has no one else to rely on and no one else to trust.
2007 was the "all-star" edition of Canada Reads, the five defenders were the previous champions.
The other 2007 contenders were:
- Natasha and Other Stories by David Bezmozgis, defended by Steven Page
- The Song of Kahunsha by Anosh Irani, defended by Donna Morrissey
- Children of My Heart by Gabrielle Roy, translated by Alan Brown, defended by Denise Bombardier
- Stanley Park by Timothy Taylor, defended by Jim Cuddy
A Complicated Kindness is a novel about a 16-year-old named Nomi Nickel. Nomi wants nothing more than to live in New York, hanging out with her idols like Marianne Faithfull. Instead, she's stuck in a small town in Manitoba, where nothing ever happens and no fun is allowed — thanks to Nomi's uncle Hans, who runs the town.
A Complicated Kindness also won the Governor General's Literary Award for fiction.
The other 2006 contenders were:
- Three Day Road by Joseph Boyden, defended by Nelofer Pazira
- Deafening by Frances Itani, defended by Maureen McTeer
- Rooms for Rent in the Outer Planets by Al Purdy, defended by Susan Musgrave
- Cocksure by Mordecai Richler, defended by Scott Thompson
Rockbound is a novel that was first published in 1928. Rockbound is the story of an island off the coast of Nova Scotia. The island is isolated, the weather is difficult and harsh, but the surrounding fishing is rich. Two families, the Jungs and the Krauses, live on the island but have been feuding for years. When David Jung returns to the island to claim his inheritance, the many conflicts that define the island clash fiercely.
The other 2005 contenders were:
- Oryx and Crake by Margaret Atwood, defended by Olivia Chow
- Beautiful Losers by Leonard Cohen, defended by Molly Johnson
- Volkswagen Blues by Jacques Poulin, translated by Sheila Fischman, defended by Roch Carrier
- No Crystal Stair by Mairuth Sarsfield, defended by Sherraine MacKay
The Last Crossing is about two brothers, Charles and Addington Gaunt, who set out to find their third brother, Simon. Simon has gone missing in the American West. Along the way, Charles and Addington must navigate a wild and unknown landscape, and encounter several unforgettable characters who join their quest.
The other 2004 contenders were:
- Green Grass, Running Water by Thomas King, defended by Glen Murray
- The Love of a Good Woman by Alice Munro, defended by Measha Brueggergosman
- The Heart Is an Involuntary Muscle by Monique Proulx, translated by David Homel and Fred A. Reed, defended by Francine Pelletier
- Barney's Version by Mordecai Richler, defended by Zsuzsi Gartner
Next Episode is a novel that explores the politics of contemporary Quebec. A young separatist has been detained for months in the psychiatric ward of a Montreal prison, passing his time by writing a story of espionage. Next Episode was first published in 1965.
The other 2003 contenders were:
- Sarah Binks by Paul Hiebert, defended by Will Ferguson
- The Lost Garden by Helen Humphreys, defended by Mag Ruffman
- The Colony of Unrequited Dreams by Wayne Johnston, defended by Justin Trudeau
- Life of Pi by Yann Martel, defended by Nancy Lee
In the Skin of a Lion brings together adventure, romance and history in a story about the immigrants that built Toronto in the 1920s and 1930s, working on projects like the R.C. Harris water treatment plant and the Prince Edward viaduct. In the Skin of a Lion weaves together true stories from Toronto's past with fictional ones to paint a compelling portrait of people who are often forgotten by history books.
The other 2002 contenders were: