Jan 29, 2019

CBC Books announces the five shortlisted titles in this year’s battle of the books

January 31, 2019 – CBC today announced the CANADA READS 2019 panellists and their chosen books. The celebrity panellists defending this year’s contending titles are: Simple Plan drummer Chuck Comeau; model, actor, TV host and philanthropist Lisa Ray; TV host and science journalist Ziya Tong (Daily Planet); actor Yanic Truesdale (Gilmore Girls); and stylist, creative director, producer and media personality Joe Zee.

The final five books the CANADA READS 2019 panellists will be defending are:

  • Chuck Comeau defends Homes by Abu Bakr al Rabeeah and Winnie Yeung (Freehand Books)
  • Lisa Ray defends Brother by David Chariandy (McClelland & Stewart)
  • Ziya Tong defends By Chance Alone by Max Eisen (HarperCollins)
  • Yanic Truesdale defends Suzanne by Anaïs Barbeau-Lavalette, translated by Rhonda Mullins (Coach House Books)
  • Joe Zee defends The Woo-Woo by Lindsay Wong (Arsenal Pulp Press)

Ali Hassan of CBC’s Laugh Out Loud returns for a third year to host CBC’s 19th edition of CANADA READS. The panellists for this year’s battle of the books will debate how these titles inspire and incite, and move readers to feel, think and act. The debates will ultimately decide which will be the “one book to move you.”

The panellists will fight for their books to become Canada’s must-read title for 2019, during four live, hour-long CANADA READS debates which will play out in front of audiences in Toronto from March 25–28, 2019. Each day of the competition, one book will be eliminated until the winner is chosen on March 28. The debates will be broadcast each day on CBC Radio One at 11 a.m. (1 p.m. AT/1:30 p.m. NT), on CBC at 3 p.m. (3:30 NT), live-streamed online at at 11 a.m. ET and available both live and on demand on the free CBC Gem streaming service.

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

Notable past CANADA READS winners include Forgiveness by Mark Sakamoto, in 2018; Fifteen Dogs by André Alexis, in 2017; The Best Laid Plans by Terry Fallis, which began as a self-published book and won Canada Reads in 2011; and The Book of Negroes by Lawrence Hill, which won CANADA READS in 2009 and was broadcast as a mini-series on CBC in early 2015.

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


About the Books:

Homes: A Refugee Story by Abu Bakr al Rabeeah with Winnie Yeung (Freehand Books)
In 2010, the al Rabeeah family left their home in Iraq in hope of a safer life. They moved to Homs, in Syria — just before the Syrian civil war broke out. Abu Bakr, one of eight children, was 10 years old when the violence began on the streets around him: car bombings, attacks on his mosque and school, firebombs late at night. Homes tells of the strange juxtapositions of growing up in a war zone: horrific, unimaginable events punctuated by normalcy — soccer, cousins, video games, friends. Homes is the remarkable true story of how a young boy emerged from a war zone — and found safety in Canada — with a passion for sharing his story and telling the world what is truly happening in Syria.

Suzanne by Anaïs Barbeau-Lavalette, translated by Rhonda Mullins (Coach House Books)
Anaïs Barbeau-Lavalette never knew her mother's mother. Curious to understand why her grandmother, a sometime painter and poet associated with Les Automatistes, abandoned her husband and young family, Barbeau-Lavalette hired a private detective to piece together Suzanne's life. Suzanne is a fictionalized account of Suzanne's life over 85 years, from Montreal to New York to Brussels, from lover to lover, through an abortion, alcoholism, Buddhism, and an asylum. It takes readers through the Great Depression, Québec's Quiet Revolution, women's liberation and the American civil rights movement. And it's a granddaughter's search for a past, for understanding and forgiveness.

Brother by David Chariandy (McClelland & Stewart)
Brother takes us inside the lives of Michael and Francis, sons of Trinidadian immigrants. Their father has disappeared and their mother works double, sometimes triple, shifts. Coming of age in The Park, Michael and Francis battle against the careless prejudices and low expectations that confront them as young men of black and brown ancestry. Propelled by the pulsing beats and styles of hip hop, Francis, the older of the two brothers, dreams of a future in music. Michael's dreams are of Aisha, the smartest girl in their high school, whose own eyes are firmly set on a life elsewhere. But the bright hopes of all three are violently, irrevocably thwarted by a tragic shooting, and the police crackdown and suffocating suspicion that follow.

By Chance Alone: A Remarkable True Story of Courage and Survival at Auschwitz by Max Eisen (HarperCollins Canada)
Tibor "Max" Eisen was born in Moldava nad Bodvou, Czechoslovakia into an Orthodox Jewish family. But in the spring of 1944 gendarmes forcibly removed Eisen and his family from their home. They were brought to a brickyard and eventually loaded onto crowded cattle cars bound for Auschwitz-Birkenau. At 15 years of age, Eisen survived the selection process and was inducted into the camp as a slave labourer. One day, Eisen received a terrible blow from an SS guard. Severely injured, he was dumped at the hospital where a Polish political prisoner and physician, Tadeusz Orzeszko, operated on him. Despite his significant injury, Orzeszko saved Eisen from certain death in the gas chambers by giving him a job as a cleaner in the operating room.

The Woo-Woo: How I Survived Ice Hockey, Drug Raids, Demons, and My Crazy Chinese Family by Lindsay Wong (Arsenal Pulp Press)
In this jaw-dropping, darkly comedic memoir, a young woman comes of age in a dysfunctional Asian family. Lindsay Wong grew up with a paranoid schizophrenic grandmother and a mother who was deeply afraid of the "woo-woo" — Chinese ghosts who come to visit in times of personal turmoil. From a young age, she witnessed the woo-woo's sinister effects. The eccentricities take a dark turn, however, when her aunt, suffering from a psychotic breakdown, holds the city hostage for eight hours when she threatens to jump off a bridge. And when Lindsay starts to experience symptoms of the woo-woo herself, she wonders whether she will suffer the same fate as her family.

About the Panellists:

Chuck Comeau and his bandmates formed Simple Plan in 1999. The band has sold over 15 million albums and performed in more than 70 countries around the world. Early on they started the Simple Plan Foundation, which raises money for charitable causes devoted to helping young people in need — from suicide prevention, to poverty, mental health awareness, musical education and drug addiction. The band has donated over 2.5 million dollars to various charitable organizations and has received the Governor General’s Meritorious Service Cross for their philanthropic work. Chuck lives in Los Angeles with his wife Jacquelin Napal and their 3-and-a-half year old son London and continues to tour with Simple Plan. He’s currently writing new material for the band’s sixth full-length album to be released later this year.

Raised in Canada by an Indian father and Polish mother, Lisa Ray was discovered while on vacation in India and went onto a high profile career as one of India’s most successful cover models and an award-winning actress whose work spans multiple countries in film (the Oscar-nominated Water) television (Top Chef Canada), theatre (John Murrels’s Taj) and modelling. Her entrepreneurial activities include starting her own yoga studio and launching a capsule collection of designer saris and a line of ethical perfumes. When diagnosed with the rare blood cancer multiplemyeloma in 2009, Lisa chose to announce her diagnosis from the red carpet at the Toronto International Film Festival. Her courageous approach to navigating her experiences with this incurable blood cancer resulted in a blog called The Yellow Diaries. Her first book, Close to the Bone is a memoir to be published by HarperCollins India in 2019. Lisa has become a high-profile global advocate for cancer and stem cell awareness and was honoured with a Diamond Jubilee Medal for service to Canada. Her poetry explores themes derived from identity-bending, nomadic experiences — the culmination of a life with no fixed address. Her Amazon Prime series Four Shots More Please debuted in January 2019 and her next film release is A. R. Rahman's 99 Songs. Lisa and her husband, Jason, recently welcomed twin daughters Sufi and Soleil.

Ziya Tong is the Vice Chair of WWF Canada and is best known as the longtime co-host of the Discovery Channel’s Daily Planet, which she anchored from 2008-2018. Before Daily Planet, Ziya hosted ZeD on CBC Television, earning a Gemini Award for Viewer's Choice for Lifestyle Host. In 2007 she hosted and produced Wired Science on PBS and The Leading Edge on The Knowledge Network. She also served as a correspondent on Nova ScienceNOW alongside Neil deGrasse Tyson. An avid traveller, Ziya has visited more than 70 countries. Her book The Reality Bubble: Blind Spots, Hidden Truths, and the Dangerous Illusions that Shape Our World is forthcoming in May, 2019 from Allen Lane.

Yanic Truesdale is a Montreal-born actor best known for his portrayal of Michel Gerard in the much-loved television series Gilmore Girls. Yanic auditioned for his first acting role at the age of seventeen and went on to study at the National Theatre School of Canada. He began his television career in the long-running Canadian series He Shoots, He Scores and was nominated for a Gemini Award for his role on the Québécois sitcom Majeurs et Vaccinés. In 2016, Yanic returned to the small screen for the much-anticipated revival of the Gilmore Girls series. Yanic lives part-time in Los Angeles and part-time in his native Montreal, where he opened a spin studio called Spin Énergie in 2011.

An alumnus of New York City’s Fashion Institute of Technology, Joe Zee is a resident judge on the television show Stitched in Canada, has appeared on ABC’s Good Morning America and their annual Oscars Pre-Show, NBC’s TODAY show, CNN, The Oprah Winfrey Show, and was previously the special fashion correspondent for Entertainment Tonight. He’s also known for the seven-plus years he spent as creative director at Elle Magazine. In 2018 he launched the original Netflix documentary series 7 Days Out, as its executive producer, which documents the week leading up to some of the world’s biggest events, from the Westminster Dog Show to the Kentucky Derby. In 2015 he published his career memoir, That’s What Fashion Is: Lessons and Stories from My Nonstop, Mostly Glamorous Life in Style. Joe recently married his partner, designer Rob Younkers.

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. In 2019, you'll also see Ali in Blood & Treasure (CBS), Cardinal (CTV) and the films My Spy and Tammy's Always Dying. He is currently touring two comedy shows: his solo show Muslim Interrupted, which has made 25 stops (and counting!) across Canada, and a new tour with Dave Merheje, titled We Ain’t Terrorists.

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.

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