Canada Reads 2017 asks: What's the one book Canadians need now?

CBC's annual battle of the books gets underway this week, with comedian Ali Hassan leading a diverse group of prominent Canadians in spirited debate over the one book all Canadians should read now.

Comedian Ali Hassan debuts as moderator of literary debate

The Canada Reads debates will take place March 27–30, 2017. This year's literary defenders are, clockwise from top left, Candy Palmater, Jody Mitic, Measha Brueggergosman, Chantal Kreviazuk and Humble the Poet. (CBC)

CBC's annual battle of the books gets underway this week, with the 2017 edition of Canada Reads asking: What's the one book Canadians need now?

This year's edition begins Monday, with Ali Hassan of CBC's Laugh Out Loud hosting four days of vibrant literary debate.

Five prominent Canadian panellists — a diverse group that includes a soprano singer, a musician, a comedian, a performer and a veteran — have signed on to vigorously champion their chosen books: 

Since 2002, Canada Reads annually has enlisted five notable Canadians to champion five different books, with each panellist debating the merits of his or her chosen title in a series of spirited debates. Being featured typically offers each year's book selections a modest sales bump, with the winner ultimately seeing a dramatic boost in sales and recognition — something that's been dubbed the "Canada Reads effect." 

Ali Hassan is the host of this year's Canada Reads competition. (Melody Lau/CBC)

Recent winners have included Kim Thuy's Ru and Lawrence Hill's The Illegal — which marked the second time Hill had captured Canada Reads title. His bestselling The Book of Negroes had previously won in 2009.

Over the years, the annual competition has featured a wide range of famous figures as the defenders, including Samantha Bee, Justin Trudeau, Perdita Felicien, Lorne Cardinal, Elaine Lui, Ali Velshi, Jim Cuddy, Stephen Lewis and Sara Quin.

Canada Reads 2017 will be livestreamed at 11 a.m. ET each day, on CBCbooks.ca. 

The debates will air on CBC Radio One at 11:05 a.m. ET, CT, MT, PT. They will air at 1:30 p.m. in Atlantic Canada and 1:35 p.m. in Newfoundland and Labrador. CBC Television will broadcast the shows at 4 p.m. local time.