Awards: ‘Canada Reads’ Announces its 2022 Books and Their ‘Champions’

In Feature Articles, Opinion & Commentary by Porter Anderson

The 21st season of CBCBooks’ ‘Canada Reads’ will air its live debates March 28 to 31, choosing ‘One Book To Connect Us.’

The 2022 ‘champions’ of the books chosen for ‘Canada Reads.’ From left, Christian Allaire, Suzanne Simard, Malia Baker, Tareq Hadhad, and Mark Tewksbury. Image: CBCBooks

By Porter Anderson, Editor-in-Chief | @Porter_Anderson

Issue-Driven Book Debate
Our regular readers of Publishing Perspectives know that the CBC program Canada Reads may be the show that every national book market needs. It focuses on serious, socially impactful literature. It communicates the value of that literature through attractive, popular personalities. And its vehicle is articulate, meaningful, committed debate about books that bear on issues of the day: critical thinking.

The 21st season has been announced by CBCBooks today (January 26), the four days of broadcast and streamed book debates being set for March 28 to 31.

  • Broadcast each day is set for 11 a.m. ET / 15:00 GMT / 16:00 BST on CBC Radio One and at 1 p.m. ET / 17:00 GMT / 18:00 BST on CBC TV and CBC Gem.
  • Live streaming of each day’s show is set for 11 a.m. ET / 15:00 GMT / 16:00 BST on CBC Listen and

If you’re new to Canada Reads, here’s a quick rundown of how it works.

  • Five books are put into competition for what this year is pointedly being called “One Book To Connect Us.”
  • Each of those five books has a high-profile “champion,” who normally is known for accomplishments in fields other than literature.
  • Each champion will argue why her or his book should be chosen as this year’s “One Book To Connect Us.”
  • The debates take place in four one-hour round-table live sessions broadcast and streamed from Toronto, one session per day.
  • On each of the four days, one of the five books is voted out.
  • That leaves, at the end of the debates, “One Book To Connect Us,” the winner in what viewers come to know is actually a cohort of five powerful reads, each book valiantly defended by its “champion.”
The 2020 ‘Canada Reads’ Selections

On the set of ‘Canada Reads’ on its fourth day of debate broadcast from Toronto. Image: CBC Books

While our usual practice is to link a book’s title to its publisher page (not to a retailer), in this case our title links go to CBCBooks’ preparatory material for Canada Reads, so our readership of industry professionals can see how the show positions its content. The five books chosen for this year are:

As you can see four of the five books are from Big Five houses’ Canadian installations, two each from Penguin Random House Canada and HarperCollins Canada. One is from Arsenal Pulp Press, a Vancouver-based independent house.

For a sixth year, the moderator of the show will be Ali Hassan, best known to Canadians as an actor in the sitcom Run the Burbs and host of CBC Radio’s stand-up comedy show Laugh Out Loud. Hassan is an interesting choice, not least because on Canada Reads, his comedy background is not in play. He functions as a host, a moderator, and a sometimes-provocateur.

‘Canada Reads’ Books Become Bestsellers

Image: CBCBooks

In the 15-title longlist for 2022, as released on January 12, our links are to the program’s contextual material rather than to the publishers’ promotional pages, so you can see how CBCBooks sets up each book:

One of the most interesting features of Canada Reads is that while it classifies as a publishing award program, it doesn’t work in traditional longlist-shortlist-winner format, and—most significantly—it doesn’t use a handful of publishing-industry jurors operating out of sight in cloistered discussions.

A longlist is announced early in January, followed just two weeks later by the shortlist of five books assigned to the show. After that, the program’s selective framework appears in real time onstage with the participation of a live audience in years in which coronavirus COVID-19 pandemic conditions permit. (In a non-pandemic year, the champions’ debates are ringed by audience members at close range, following and reacting to the discussion.)

The result is that Canada Reads doesn’t hand consumers the verdict of an unseen jury. It prompts readers to decide for themselves as they watch the five champions argue, often vehemently, for their respective books. The show uses strong on-air production, bolstered by extensive contextual material throughout.

Book marketing shops will want to know that for the past six years, every one of the five books in annual contention has gone to the Canadian bestseller charts as citizens read and discussed the titles. So those who think value book awards for sales and shiny stickers on dust jackets will be pleased to know that there’s revenue value here. Numbers do go up, yes.

Those who place equivalent or higher value on what literature means to a culture will quickly recognize the soft power of this approach. In its 20 years, the program has “influenced the way Canadians talk about and consume books,” as the network modestly puts it. Perhaps the way to say that in world publishing is that Canada Reads captures a national market’s attention with reliable and bankable intelligence.

On the set of ‘Canada Reads’ on its final day of 2020 broadcasts from Toronto. Image: CBC Books

More from Publishing Perspectives on book awards is here. More on ‘Canada Reads is here, and more on the Canadian publishing market is here.

More from us on the coronavirus COVID-19 pandemic and its impact on international book publishing is here

About the Author

Porter Anderson

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Porter Anderson has been named International Trade Press Journalist of the Year in London Book Fair's International Excellence Awards. He is Editor-in-Chief of Publishing Perspectives. He formerly was Associate Editor for The FutureBook at London's The Bookseller. Anderson was for more than a decade a senior producer and anchor with, CNN International, and CNN USA. As an arts critic (Fellow, National Critics Institute), he was with The Village Voice, the Dallas Times Herald, and the Tampa Tribune, now the Tampa Bay Times. He co-founded The Hot Sheet, a newsletter for authors, which now is owned and operated by Jane Friedman.