CBC Canada Reads 2016 Recap


It’s that time of year again. Canadian bookworms, rejoice! This week Canada Reads took the spotlight, and I was so excited to watch the debates each day! This year, Canada Reads was all about “starting over,” and five amazing books were chosen to represent that theme. But if you happened to miss it, don’t worry! I’ve got you covered. Here is a recap of Canada Reads 2016!


  • Adam Copeland for Minister Without Portfolio by Michael Winter
  • Clara Hughes for The Illegal by Lawrence Hill
  • Vinay Virmani for The Hero’s Walk by Anita Rau Badami
  • Bruce Poon Tip for Birdie by Tracey Lindberg
  • Farah Mohamed for Bone and Bread by Saleema Nawaz

DAY 1 (March 21, 2016)

The first day of debates started off with a bang. All five panelists came ready to defend their books until the bitter end. It was evident from the beginning of the show that these five panelists truly stood behind the books they were defending, and they all gave strong opening remarks about the importance of each book. As the debates moved forward, each champion was asked questions about the relevance of their book to Canada today, which book surprised them, and which book they thought least represented the themes of this year’s Canada Reads.

While all the champions did a wonderful job, elimination came down between The Hero’s Walk and Minister Without Portfolio. Bruce Poon Tip and Adam Copeland both voted to eliminate The Hero’s Walk. Vinay Virami and Farah Mohamed both voted to eliminate Minister Without Portfolio. Clara Hughes, who had originally voted for Bone and Bread, had to make the final tie-breaking vote, and voted to eliminate Minister Without Portfolio. Though he was eliminated from the competition, Adam would remain on the panel for the rest of the week.

Favourite Moment: Clara Hughes defending The Illegal was definitely amazing. She was poised and prepared throughout the entire debate. She stopped me in my tracks when she stated, “we need to give a face to the faceless and voices to the voiceless.” It was truly a powerful moment when discussing Canada and the refugee crisis currently happening in many countries.

DAY 2 (March 22, 2016)

Things got heated as day two kicked off! All five panelists returned ready to debate the remaining four novels. To start, the four remaining champions were given one minute to answer the question, “What makes the novel you are defending a great book.” Highlights included Clara’s statement that, “The Illegal is not just Keita’s story; it’s the story of all people,” and Bruce’s claim that, “An indigenous woman has finally been captured and put on the page by another indigenous woman. No holds barred, bruises and all, and it’s beautiful.”

For the next portion of the day, each champion was asked to defend one question about their book. Clara was up first, where she was asked if the imaginary world presented in The Illegal take away or added value to the novel. Next Vinay was asked to defend whether or not a Canadian setting was necessary for a Canada Reads novel. Bruce came under fire next when he was asked whether Birdie was accessible enough of a read to truly be a path to reconciliation. And finally, Farah, the defender of the longest book in the competition, was asked whether or not the impact of the story was lost amongst the many details included in the novel. This section of the debates was filled with some incredible back and forth discussions amongst the champions, and it was definitely the section in which the debate became incredibly heated.

Unlike day one, the votes were much more consistent on day two. Farah’s vote was for Birdie, while Vinay, Bruce, Clara, and Adam all voted to eliminate Bone and Bread. Again, Adam and Farah returned for the remainder of the debates, but their books were no longer up for the Canada Reads title.

Favourite Moment: The entire discussion surrounding whether or not a Canada Reads book must take place in Canada was particularly poignant. It was definitely the most fascinating and heated debate of the day. The back and forth between Bruce Poon Tip and Vinay Virmani was intense, but certainly generated some great discussion over what constitutes a Canadian novel.

DAY 3 (March 23, 2016)

Day three began with three books left in the debate. The format was slightly different for this day. Rather than each champion having to answer to specific questions about the format or plot of their book, the table was asked a broad question about all the books, and then had to answer which book best fit the requirements.

Which of these books is the most beautifully written?

The Hero’s Walk was undoubtedly the favourite in this question. All of the champions (eliminated and remaining) argued that The Hero’s Walk had the most beautiful writing out of all of the books.

What book has the strongest storyline?

The answers became a little more varied as the champions discussed this question. While The Illegal was a popular choice amongst the panelists, there were also strong messages for Birdie. Adam Copeland, specifically, said that he believed Birdie to be the most important storyline.

What novel taught you the most?

The unity that most of the panelists had at the beginning of the debate was completely gone by this point. Before hearing this question, the remaining champions were given a short clip of encouragement from the authors of the books they were championing. It seemed to light a fire in each of the champions, who came back with a vengeance defending their titles.

What book most convinces you that people can change?

Again, the champions stood firmly behind their books during this question. It became apparent, however, that Adam was adamantly behind Birdie. Very powerfully, he said that, “Birdie has to go through the most transformations, and I was pained at her journey. It felt like that was the most important journey and the most important change.”

By the time is came down to voting, I had no idea which way the panel was going to go! Adam voted to eliminate The Illegal, Bruce voted to eliminate The Hero’s Walk, but Farah, Vinay, and Clara all voted to eliminate Birdie. Which means that the final two would be between The Hero’s Walk and The Illegal!

Favourite Moment: Without a doubt, Lawrence Hill’s message to Clara Hughes: “Respect your opponents. Treat them kindly. But obliterate them.”

DAY 4 (March 24, 2016)

We reached the final two! Clara Hughes and Vinay Virmani went head to head, arguing why their title deserved to win Canada Reads. First the panelists were all asked which character they thought showed the most courage, and what moment in either book did they find to be the most powerful. All the panelists amiably discussed these questions, with both Clara and Vinay giving credit to both books.

Next, the panelists were asked individually what they liked most about The Hero’s Walk and The Illegal. For The Hero’s Walk, the answers seem to overwhelmingly be about the quality of writing that Anita Rau Badami displayed. For The Illegal, the answers were largely about the fast-paced, action-packed readability of the book.

After a short message of encouragement from Anita Rau Badami and Lawrence Hill, the panelists were all asked which book they thought best represented the Canada that they want to live in. Clara, unsurprisingly, said that she believed that The Illegal was that book, while Vinay, Farah, and Bruce all stated that they believed The Hero’s Walk best fit that description. Adam remained firmly in the middle, saying that he thought both books had great components to offer on the topic.

Finally, after each of the remaining champions given 30 seconds to give one final speech, the champions voted.

So who won?

Vinay and Farah both voted to eliminate The Illegal from the shelf. Bruce and Clara both voted to eliminate The Hero’s Walk. Coming full circle, Adam was the one to cast the final vote in the series. Though he looked pained by it, his vote was to eliminate The Hero’s Walk, meaning that Lawrence Hill’s The Illegal won Canada Reads 2016! This is Hill’s second win, having won in 2009 with The Book of Negroes.


Congratulations to Clara Hughes and Lawrence Hill!

If you missed this year’s Canada Reads and you want to watch for yourself, you can catch the replays here!


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