CBC's annual book brawl features five Canadians, each defending a home-grown book - not necessarily published this year - that they believe all Canadians should read if we want our lives to be complete. Listeners get to vote on who they think should win in a Survivor-type set-up. As the week progresses March 2 to March 6, at 7:30 am and pm, you can listen to the panelists do their thing and then vote a book off the island - er, roster - every day
This year, TV personality Avi Lewis defends The Book of Negroes by Lawrence Hill, singer Sarah Slean goes to bat for Mercy Among the Children by David Adams Richards, actor Nicholas Campbell champions The Outlander by Gil Adamson, TV host Anne-Marie Withenshaw goes for The Fat Woman Next Door is Pregnant (La grosse femme d'à côté est enceinte ) by Michel Tremblay, translated by Sheila Fischman and author Jen Sookfong Lee gives it up for NOW's former promotions guy Brian Francis's Fruit.
Canada reads is a terrific CBC feature because it puts books front and centre and encourages the participants to say exactly what they think about the books on the list. And things do get nasty. Former nominated authors have almost regretted their presence on the list because of the awful things panelists say about them - all in an effort to make their fave book the one that gets chosen.
I love the concept because it means that listeners get to hear about great books they might not know too much about and great authors, like Michel Tremblay, who are better known for other writings, theatre in Tremblay's case, than for novels. I love the fact that two queer authors made the list, Tremblay, whose story in this case isn't gay-centred, and Francis whose novel is queer fiction to the max, about a fat gay teen whose nipples talk to him - honest.
I fear that Gil Adamson's Outlander is included because of Canuck literary juries' dreary tendency to love historical fiction, though that's not, in my view why Lawrence Hill's The Book Of Negroes made the cut. It's one of the most important books ever published in this country, though it did take the Writers Trust Prize so has been feted pretty significantly. In fact, Giller winners like David Adams' Richards' book shouldn't even be allowed on the list - the Giller win gave that book a big enough spike in my view.
But what a coup for Francis. Fruit is not only a funny, poignant book, it'll give you a whole new view of Sarnia, Ontario. Read it now.