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CMF Mag Avid Reader Deb van der Linde previews Battle of the Books picks

It’s that time of year again! Canada Reads has released their long list for the Battle of the Books, and as usual, it is quite the lineup. There are 15 books, and they run the range from fiction to memoirs. The shortlist, their top five titles, along with their champions, will be announced on Jan. 31, 2019.

For those of you who are new to Canada Reads, it is a very popular event that has been happening for the last 18 years.  CBC describes the Battle of the Books as a literary Survivor. It was created when CBC noticed the popularity around the One Book One Community programs and thought it might be fun to get the whole country doing it. 

The books are chosen by the panellists, with the help of the CBC team. They are all based on the panellists’ interests and reading profiles. The panellists themselves are different every year and are all celebrities. There have been a variety of celebrities over the years, including actors, musicians, and comedians – they’ve even had an astronaut. 

Once the shortlist has been released, the panellists hold the Battle of the Books where they eliminate a book each day until they are down to one book – the winner. The debates are held on air and are now done in front of a live audience. 

The Battle of the Books has been having an impact on book sales since its first run. According to CBC, the first winner, Michael Ondaatje’s In the Skin of a Lion – a title that had been in print a number of years – sold 70,000 copies after the show. Each title since has become a national bestseller.  

So, in no particular order, here is the first half of the long list. The second half will be in the next post, so be sure to stay tuned!

Home, Abu Bakr al Rabeeah, with Winnie Yeung

Al Rabeeah’s family moved to Syria just before the war broke out in Iraq. When he was 10 years old, the violence started in Syria. Al Rabeeah now lives in Edmonton where he attends high school. This is a memoir he wrote, with the help of writer Winnie Yeung, in an effort to grow a greater understanding of Syria.






Suzanne, Anaïs Barbeau-Lavalette, translated by Rhonda Mullins


This story is a blend of fact and fiction, based on the life of the author’s estranged grandmother. Barbeau-Lavalette used both her imagination and what she knew about her grandmother to create this story. It is about a woman’s life, her art, and the politics that happened over the course of her life, including Quebec’s Quiet Revolution and the women’s rights movement.



Brother, David Chariandy


Here is another story that finds its base in the author’s own experience.  Chariandy grew up in a suburb of Toronto, and he has used that experience to enrich the story. The story itself revolves around Trinidadian immigrants, and the impact of discrimination, grief and human relationships.





By Chance Alone, Max Eisen


This compelling true story revolves around the author’s own childhood. At the age of 15, Eisen was taken to Auschwitz, where he became a slave labourer. He survived the war, and in 1949 he emigrated to Canada. He has since toured the world educating people on the Holocaust.



Corvus, Harold R. Johnson 


The story takes place in North America 80 years in the future, after natural disasters, mass migration, and the resulting wars have had their impact. Society is now divided between the rich who spend much of their time in virtual reality and the poor. The story focuses on Lenore, who befriends a fellow war vet who is a political dissenter; and George, who crashes near a First Nations Community. Both Lenore and George are forced to reexamine their views and beliefs after their experiences. 


The Boy on the Beach, Tima Kurdi


Tima Kurdi is the aunt of Alan Kurdi, the toddler who washed up on the shore in Turkey after his family fled Syria. The book revolves around Tima’s childhood in Damascus, her emigration to Canada, and the impact both the Syrian war and Alan Kurdi’s death has had on her and her family.



That Time I Loved You, Carrieanne Leung


This book contains a series of short stories, all linked, about the residents of a small neighbourhood in Scarborough, ON. Each resident takes a turn telling how a series of suicides impacted their community. This story is full of hidden secrets in seemingly ordinary homes.





Happy Reading!

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Deborah van der Linde

Deborah is a librarian who is passionate about books, storytelling, and writing. Thanks to her husband Adam’s military career, they have had the great fortune of living all across Canada. Deborah and Adam have two delightful children and a dog that thinks he’s one of the kids.

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