Canada Reads issues Top 40 books list

Canada Reads 2011 has issued a list of the Top 40 books in contention for the annual book debate, to be held next February.

The field is narrowing in the race to see which books Canadians consider the "most essential" of the last 10 years.

Canada Reads 2011 has issued a list of the Top 40 books in contention for the annual book debate, to be held next February.

This year the CBC Radio debate has asked readers to help choose the best novels of the 2000s before five are chosen from that list for the book debate.

The list began with more than 400 titles but has been narrowed to 40 books after a hot online discussion and campaigning by both readers and writers.

Margaret Atwood has two books on the list — Oryx and Crake and The Year of the Flood — as does Joseph Boyden with Through Black Spruce and Three Day Road.

Stellarton, N.S., writer Leo McKay Jr. ran a YouTube campaign for his novel, Twenty-Six, about a Nova Scotia mine disaster.

His book made the list after he posted 26 videos, each outlining a reason why Twenty-Six, published in 2003, would be a good choice for Canada Reads.

"The events upon which this book was based, the Westray mine disaster, those events were important in the history of this country, in the industrial history of this country and important events in the history of the working people of Canada," he says in the first of the videos.

"This book is an attempt to write this event onto the literary consciousness of Canada."

Writer and reader Angie Abdou made a YouTube plea for Every Lost Country by Steven Heighton, but it was her own book, The Bone Cage, that made the list.   

The list includes previous Canada Reads contenders such as Yann Martel's Life of Pi, Miriam Toews's A Complicated Kindness, Lawrence Hill's The Book of Negroes and Heather O'Neill's Lullabies for Little Criminals.

Emma Donoghue's Booker-nominated Room, which also has been named for a Governor General's Award and the Writers' Trust Award, is among the choices. Lisa Moore's February, which made the Booker long list, also was chosen.

The list includes Jane Urquhart's The Stone Carvers, CBC journalist Linden MacIntyre's The Bishop's Man and Ann-Marie MacDonald's The Way The Crow Flies.

Less well-known authors such as Zoe Whittall for Bottle Rocket Hearts and Jessica Grant for Come, Thou Tortoise are included. The diverse field extends to graphic novels Essex County by Jeffrey Lemire and Skim by Mariko and Jillian Tamaki.

The list will be winnowed down to 10 books by Nov. 9, and celebrity panelists will choose a book from the list.