Jan 30, 2018

CBC today announced the 2018 CANADA READS panellists and their chosen books. The celebrity panellists defending this year’s contending titles are: media personality Jeanne Beker; singer and songwriter Jully Black; activist and singer Mozhdah Jamalzadah; storm chaser Greg Johnson; and actor Tahmoh Penikett.

The final five books the CANADA READS 2018 panellists will be defending are:

Jeanne Beker defends Forgiveness by Mark Sakamoto (HarperCollins)
Jully Black defends The Marrow Thieves by Cherie Dimaline (DCB/Cormorant Books)
Mozhdah Jamalzadah defends The Boat People by Sharon Bala (McClelland & Stewart)
Greg Johnson defends Precious Cargo by Craig Davidson (Knopf Canada)
Tahmoh Penikett defends American War by Omar El Akkad (McClelland & Stewart)

Ali Hassan of CBC’s Laugh Out Loud returns for a second year to host CBC’s 17th edition of CANADA READS. Debating the question “What is the one book to open your eyes?” this year’s battle of the books will challenge readers to look differently at themselves, their neighbours and the world around them.

The panellists will fight for their books to become Canada’s must-read title for 2018 during four, hour-long, live CANADA READS debates which will play out in front of audiences in Toronto from March 26–29, 2018. Each day of the competition, one book will be eliminated, until the winner is chosen on March 29. The debates will be broadcast each day on CBC Radio One at 11 a.m. (1 p.m.  AT/NT), on CBC at 4 p.m. (4:30 NT) and live streamed online at at 11 a.m. EST.

CBC Books is proud to announce Rakuten Kobo as the exclusive reading sponsor of CANADA READS 2018. Created in Canada in 2009 to give book lovers the option of reading digitally, Kobo enables readers to enjoy their favourite books whenever they wish and wherever they go.

This year’s winning publisher will continue the CANADA READS tradition of supporting reading by making a financial and/or an in-kind donation to Frontier College, a national charitable literacy organization.  The contribution will help to support student-centered literacy programs for new Canadians, Indigenous Peoples, and vulnerable populations across Canada.

Each year, the shortlisted CANADA READS books see a significant rise in sales, and the winning book stays on bestseller lists for months. For the past three years, all five shortlisted titles have appeared on Canadian bestseller lists in the weeks leading up to the debates.

Notable past winners include Fifteen Dogs by André Alexis, which was defended by spoken word artist and emcee Humble The Poet in 2017;  The Best Laid Plans by Terry Fallis, which began as a self-published book and won Canada Reads in 2011; The Book of Negroes by Lawrence Hill, the 2009 winner, which was broadcast as a mini-series on CBC in early 2015; and 2007’s winner Lullabies for Little Criminals by Heather O’Neill, which became an international bestseller.

For videos, interviews and all the latest on CBC’s annual title fight, visit, and follow @CBCbooks on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram using #CanadaReads.


About the Books:

Forgiveness by Mark Sakamoto (HarperCollins)
When the Second World War broke out, Ralph MacLean traded his quiet yet troubled life on the Magdalen Islands in eastern Canada for the ravages of war overseas. On the other side of the country, Mitsue Sakamoto and her family felt their pleasant life in Vancouver starting to fade away after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor. Ralph found himself one of the many Canadians captured by the Japanese in December 1941. He would live out his war in a prison camp, enduring beatings, starvation, electric feet and a journey on a hell ship to Japan, watching his friends and countrymen die all around him. Mitsue and her family were ordered out of their home and were packed off to a work farm in rural Alberta, leaving many of their possessions behind. But somehow, despite facing such enormous transgressions against them, the two families learned to forgive.

The Marrow Thieves by Cherie Dimaline (DCB/Cormorant Books)
Humanity has nearly destroyed its world through global warming, but now an even greater evil lurks. The Indigenous people of North America are being hunted and harvested for their bone marrow, which carries the key to recovering something the rest of the population has lost: the ability to dream. In this dark world, Frenchie and his companions struggle to survive as they make their way up north to the old lands. For now, survival means staying hidden. But what they don't know is that one of them holds the secret to defeating the marrow thieves.

The Boat People by Sharon Bala (McClelland & Stewart)
Inspired by a real incident, The Boat People is a gripping and morally complex novel about a group of refugees who survive a perilous ocean voyage to reach Canada – only to face the threat of deportation and accusations of terrorism in their new land. When the rusty cargo ship carrying Mahindan and 500 fellow refugees reaches the shores of British Columbia, the young father is overcome with relief: he and his six-year-old son can finally put Sri Lanka's bloody civil war behind them and begin new lives. Instead, the group is thrown into prison, with government officials and news headlines speculating that hidden among the "boat people" are members of a terrorist militia infamous for suicide attacks. As suspicion swirls and interrogation mounts, Mahindan fears the desperate actions he took to survive and escape Sri Lanka now jeopardize his and his son's chances for asylum.

Precious Cargo by Craig Davidson (Knopf Canada)
One morning in 2008, desperate and impoverished while trying unsuccessfully to write, Craig Davidson plucked a flyer out of his mailbox that read, "Bus Drivers Wanted." That was the first step towards an unlikely new career: driving a school bus full of special-needs kids for a year. Davidson shows us how his evolving relationship with the kids on that bus, each of them struggling physically as well as emotionally and socially, slowly but surely changed his life along with the lives of the "precious cargo" in his care. This is the extraordinary story of that year and those relationships. It is also a moving, important and universal story about how we see and treat people with special needs in our society.

American War by Omar El Akkad (McClelland & Stewart)
Sarat Chestnut, born in Louisiana, is only six when the Second American Civil War breaks out in 2074. But even she knows that oil is outlawed, that Louisiana is half underwater, that unmanned drones fill the sky. When her father is killed and her family is forced into Camp Patience for displaced persons, she quickly begins to be shaped by her particular time and place until finally, through the influence of a mysterious functionary, she is turned into a deadly instrument of war. Telling her story is her nephew, Benjamin Chestnut, born during war as one of the Miraculous Generation and now an old man confronting the dark secret of his past — his family's role in the conflict and, in particular, that of his aunt, a woman who saved his life while destroying untold others.

About the Panellists:

Best known for her work as the host of Fashion Television, which aired for 27 years and had viewers in more than 130 countries, Jeanne Beker is the former editor-in-chief of FQ and SIR magazines, and author of five books, including her 2010 autobiography, Finding Myself in Fashion. Jeanne was a contributing editor of The Toronto Star, The Kit, and a columnist for Metro, and is currently a featured style columnist for The Globe and Mail and Post City magazine. Her contributions have been recognized with the Order of Canada (2014), a star on Canada’s Walk of Fame (2016), a Canadian Screen Achievement Award (2013), and the Canadian Award of Distinction from the Banff World Media Festival (2012).

With her powerhouse vocals, hilarious personality and love of people, Jully Black has been dubbed “Canada’s Queen of R&B” by fans and peers. She has shared the stage with superstars such as The Black Eyed Peas, Kanye West, Celine Dion, Elton John and Etta James. Her passion for philanthropy has taken her from the shantytowns of Bangladesh to the villages of South Africa, and all across Canada. As a woman of faith, she champions important causes and believes in using her career as a platform to inspire others to celebrate the greatness that lies within each of us.

Dubbed the “Oprah of Afghanistan," Kabul-born, Vancouver-raised Mozhdah Jamalzadah came to Canada when she was just five years old. When Mozhdah’s father wrote a protest poem inspired by an acid attack on a group of Kandahar schoolgirls, Mozhdah set it to music and turned it into a hit. “Afghan Girl” was 2009’s song of the year in Afghanistan, and in 2010 Mozhdah was invited to the White House to perform it for Michelle and Barack Obama. The attention led to a hosting gig at a start-up TV station in Afghanistan. The Mozhdah Show focused on families, tackling taboo subjects from child labour to divorce. These bold conversations led to death threats, and Mozhdah was advised to return to Canada. Today, Mozhdah continues to release new music, and contributes to charitable work benefiting orphans supported by the Azizi foundation.

Greg Johnson is one of North America’s top professional storm-chasers and severe weather experts. Selected as one of Canada’s Top 100 Explorers by Canadian Geographic Magazine, he is also an accomplished photographer, speaker and workshop leader. A graduate of Acadia University, he has turned his passion for capturing nature’s most beautiful and deadly displays of severe weather into a full-time career, and is perhaps best known for his work on the show, Tornado Hunters. 

Born in Whitehorse, Yukon, Tahmoh Penikett is the son of former Yukon premier Tony Penikett and Lulla Sierra Johns of the White River First Nation. Best known for playing Karl "Helo" Agathon on SyFy's television series Battlestar Galactica, Tahmoh has also starred in TV series Supernatural, Joss Whedon's Dollhouse, the Showcase time travel show, Continuum and — most recently — the Netflix series, Altered Carbon and NBC's Taken.

About Ali Hassan
Ali Hassan is an actor, stand-up comedian, host of CBC Radio's Laugh Out Loud and frequent guest-host of q. CBC viewers may remember him from his season as the lead comedy panellist on George Stroumboulopoulos Tonight. He can currently be seen in his recurring roles on Designated Survivor (ABC), Odd Squad (PBS Kids) and Cardinal (CTV). He is currently touring his solo show Muslim Interrupted, having made 16 stops (and counting!) across Canada.

About CBC Books
Home to Canada Reads, Writers & Company with Eleanor Wachtel, The Next Chapter with Shelagh Rogers, Canada Writes and the CBC Literary Prizes, CBC Books connects Canadians with books, encouraging a shared love of reading and writing. For book news, writing challenges, reading lists, book recommendations and more, visit

About CBC/Radio-Canada
CBC/Radio-Canada is Canada’s national public broadcaster. Through our mandate to inform, enlighten and entertain, we play a central role in strengthening Canadian culture. As Canada’s trusted news source, we offer a uniquely Canadian perspective on news, current affairs and world affairs. Our distinctively homegrown entertainment programming draws audiences from across the country. Deeply rooted in communities, CBC/Radio-Canada offers diverse content in English, French and eight Indigenous languages. We are leading the transformation to meet the needs of Canadians in a digital world.

About Rakuten Kobo Inc.
Owned by Tokyo-based Rakuten and headquartered in Toronto, Rakuten Kobo Inc. is one of the world’s most innovative eReading services offering more than 5 million eBooks and audiobooks to millions of customers in 190 countries. Kobo offers a family of E Ink eReaders, including Kobo Aura, Kobo Aura H2O, and Kobo Aura ONE, as well as free top-ranking eReading apps for the most popular iOS and Android smartphones and tablets. For more information, visit

For further information, contact:
Nicola Makoway
Publicist, CBC Radio