Jan 31, 2017

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

CBC today announced the 2017 CANADA READS panellists and their chosen books. The celebrity panellists defending this year’s contending titles are: spoken word artist and emcee  Humble The Poet; singer-songwriter Chantal Kreviazuk; politician, author and former sniper Jody Mitic; comedian and broadcast host Candy Palmater; and actor Tamara Taylor.

The panellists and the final five books for CANADA READS 2017 are:

  • Humble The Poet defends Fifteen Dogs by André Alexis (Coach House Books)
  • Chantal Kreviazuk defends The Right to Be Cold by Sheila Watt-Cloutier (Penguin Canada)
  • Jody Mitic defends Nostalgia by M.G. Vassanji (Doubleday Canada)
  • Candy Palmater defends The Break by Katherena Vermette (House of Anansi)
  • Tamara Taylor defends Company Town by Madeline Ashby (Tor Books)

CBC’s 16th edition of CANADA READS will be hosted by CBC Laugh Out Loud’s Ali Hassan. Debating the question, “What is the one book Canadians need now?” this year’s battle of the books is looking at stories that help us explore the diverse perspectives that make this nation what it is today, and to reflect on where we’re heading.  Canada Reads will be marking Canada’s 150th anniversary year with stories that consider the past, the present and the future, including the perspectives of the Indigenous Peoples of Canada, whose history extends far beyond these past 150 years.

The panellists will determine Canada’s must-read title for 2017 during four, hour-long, live CANADA READS debates which will play out in front of audiences in Toronto from March 27-30, 2017. Each day of the competition, one book will be eliminated by the panellists, until the winner is chosen as the must-read book for Canadians in 2017. The debates will be broadcast each day on CBC Radio One at 11 a.m. (1 p.m.  AT/NT), CBC TV at 4 p.m. and live streamed online at at 11 a.m. EST.

CBC Books is pleased to announce that Indigo Books, Canada’s largest bookseller, is returning for a third year as a sponsor of CANADA READS. In addition, this year's winning publisher will continue the CANADA READS tradition of supporting reading by making a financial donation to Frontier College’s Indigenous Summer Literacy Camps for First Nation, Métis, and Inuit children and youth across Canada. The camps offer learning and literacy support, in a fun, and interactive environment, to help prevent summer learning loss.

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 two years, all five shortlisted titles appeared on Canadian bestseller lists in the weeks leading up to the debates.

Notable past winners include: 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-TV in early 2015; and both 2007’s winner Lullabies for Little Criminals by Heather O’Neill, and Ru by Kim Thúy — debut novels that became international bestsellers.

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


About the Books:

Fifteen Dogs by André Alexis (Coach House Books)

And so it begins: a bet between the gods Hermes and Apollo leads them to grant human consciousness and language to a group of dogs overnighting at a Toronto veterinary clinic. Suddenly capable of more complex thought, the pack is torn between those who resist the new ways of thinking, preferring the old “dog” ways, and those who embrace the change. The gods watch from above as the dogs venture into their newly unfamiliar world, as they become divided among themselves, as each struggles with new thoughts and feelings.

The Right to Be Cold by Sheila Watt-Cloutier (Penguin Canada)

The Right to Be Cold explores the parallels between safeguarding the Arctic and the survival of Inuit culture, of which the author’s own background is such an extraordinary example. This is a human story of resilience, commitment and survival told from the unique vantage point of an Inuk woman who, in spite of many obstacles, rose from humble beginnings in the Arctic to become one of the most influential and decorated environmental, cultural and human rights advocates in the world.

Nostalgia by M.G. Vassanji (Doubleday Canada)

In the indeterminate future in an unnamed western city, physical impediments to immortality have been overcome. As society approaches the prospect of eternal life, a new problem must be confronted: with the threat of the brain's storage capacity being overwhelmed, people want to move forward into the future free from redundant, unwanted and interfering memories. Rejuvenated bodies require rejuvenated identities—all traces of a person's past are erased and new, complete fictions are implanted in their stead. On occasion, though, cracks emerge, and reminders of discarded lives seep through. Those afflicted suffer from Leaked Memory Syndrome, or Nostalgia, whereby thoughts from a previous existence burrow in the conscious mind, threatening to pull sufferers into an internal abyss.

The Break by Katherena Vermette (House of Anansi)

When Stella, a young Métis mother, looks out her window one evening and spots someone in trouble on the Break—a barren field on an isolated strip of land outside her house—she calls the police to alert them to a possible crime. In a series of shifting narratives, people who are connected, both directly and indirectly, with the victim — police, family and friends—tell their personal stories leading up to that fateful night. Their varied perspectives expose a larger, more comprehensive story about the lives of these residents in Winnipeg’s North End.

Company Town by Madeline Ashby (Tor Books)

New Arcadia is a city-sized oil rig off the coast of the Canadian Maritimes, now owned by one very wealthy, powerful, byzantine family. Hwa is of the few people in her community (which constitutes the whole rig) to forgo bio-engineered enhancements. As such, she’s the last truly organic person left on the rig–making her doubly an outsider, as well as a neglected daughter and bodyguard extraordinaire. Still, her expertise in the arts of self-defense and her record as a fighter mean that her services are yet in high demand. A brilliant, twisted mystery, where one woman must evaluate whether she can save the people of a town that can’t be saved, or save herself.

About the Panellists

Tattoos, beard, head wrap and a silly smile, Humble The Poet commands attention. His appearance is only overshadowed by his presence and delivery; stimulating audiences with ideas that challenge conventional wisdom and go against the grain. In his words: "My name is Kanwer Singh aka Humble The Poet, and my goal is to shake your ass, shake your heart and shake your mind all at the same time." Humble is Lilly “Superwoman” Singh's cousin. Here's a Buzzfeed piece on that time he met Kanye West.

Since releasing her platinum-selling debut album, Under these Rocks and Stones in 1997, Chantal Kreviazuk has become one of Canada’s most beloved artists. Her rise to fame was solidified in 1998 when international audiences heard the Winnipeg native’s now-iconic rendition of “Leaving On a Jet Plane” on the Armageddon soundtrack. After a string of distinguished albums, Chantal spent the past several years raising her three sons while simultaneously collaborating with superstars such as Drake, Pitbull, Christina Aguilera, Carrie Underwood, Kendrick Lamar and Pink. In 2012, Chantal was part of the CBC project, Who Do You Think You Are?, which helped her trace her First Nations ancestry (her great-grandmother was Métis). She was appointed a member of the Order of Canada in 2014.  In the summer of 2016, the Juno Award-winner released the much-anticipated Hard Sail, her first album in 7 years.

A 20-year veteran of the Canadian Armed Forces, Jody Mitic served as a Master Corporal and Sniper Team Leader on three active tours of duty over the course of seven years. One day in 2007, while on a mission in a small Afghan village, he stepped on a landmine and lost both of his legs below the knees. Within three years he was not only walking again, he was running. By 2013, he was a star on the blockbuster reality TV show Amazing Race. In 2014, Jody reinvented himself yet again, winning a seat as a city councillor for Ottawa. His memoir, Unflinching: the Making of a Canadian Sniper (2015), was a bestseller.

In her own words: "I’m a gay native recovered lawyer turned feminist comic, who was raised by bikers in the wilds of northern New Brunswick.” Candy Palmater attended the Schulich School of Law at Dalhousie University, and is said to have been the first Aboriginal law student in Canada to be valedictorian of her graduating class. After a brief stint practicing Labour and Aboriginal law, Candy left for a job with the Nova Scotia government, which left her evenings free to pursue her comic ambitions. She created and wrote her own national TV show for APTN, The Candy Show, and hosted the daily interview series The Candy Palmater Show on CBC Radio One in 2016. 

Born in Toronto to an African-Canadian father and a Scottish-Canadian mother, Tamara Taylor dropped out of high school to pursue modelling, which soon led to acting. Her big break came when she landed a regular role on Party of Five. Her most notable role is that of Dr. Camille Saroyan, head of the Forensic Division, on the crime drama Bones, which is based on the life and work of American-Canadian forensic scientist and writer Kathy Reichs. Recently, Tamara was also the voice of Wonder Woman in the Justice League: Gods and Monsters film.

About The Host

Ali Hassan is an actor, stand-up comedian and host of CBC Radio's Laugh Out Loud. He was the lead comedy panellist on CBC-TV’s George Stroumboulopoulos Tonight. He can currently be seen in his recurring roles on Man Seeking Woman (FXX), Odd Squad (PBS Kids) and Cardinal (CTV).  Ali took his solo show Muslim Interrupted to  the Edinburgh Fringe Festival in 2016 for a month-long run, and he will continue touring this show around Canada in 2017.

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 brings together literary enthusiasts to find books they want to read and to connect with other Canadians who love to read and write. 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 and one of its largest cultural institutions. We are Canada’s trusted source of news, information and Canadian entertainment. Deeply rooted in communities all across the country, CBC/Radio-Canada offers diverse content in English, French and eight Indigenous languages. We also provide international news and information from a uniquely Canadian perspective. In 2017, CBC/Radio-Canada will be at the heart of the celebrations and conversations with special 2017-themed multiplatform programming and events across Canada.

About Indigo

Indigo (TSX: IDG) is a Canadian company, founded in 1996, and has evolved into Canada’s largest book retailer operating in all provinces under different banners including Indigo, Indigospirit, Chapters, Coles, and

For further information, contact:

Nicola Makoway
Publicist, CBC Radio