Saturday, February 11, 2012

Canada Reads 2012 – and the winner is …

One of the weeks I most look forward to each year is the one featuring Canada's own battle of the books, also known as Canada Reads. This year's competition hasn't left me disappointed. For the first time in its 11 years, the books selected were all works of non-fiction. This year's competition has included tears, jabs at the opponents, and much great debate about what makes a book or a writer Canadian.

And the winner is.

Something Fierce: memoirs of a revolutionary daughter (M)
by Carmen Aguirre

When Carmen Aguirre was six, she and her family were among the many Chileans who fled to Canada as refugees from the military dictatorship of General Augusto Pinochet, which overthrew Chile's democratically elected government of Salvador Allende in 1973. Five years later, her mother decided to join the Chilean resistance movement in South America, and she moved back to Bolivia, bringing her Carmen and her younger sister along with her. Something Fierce is Aguirre's memoir of growing up living a double life, torn between her dedication to the cause and a teenage girl's normal preoccupations of boys and pop music. There's both drama and humour in the stories of her harrowing adolescence and young adulthood. Something Fierce, which was published just last spring, has garnered rave reviews and been named to the longlist of the B.C. National Award for Canadian Non-Fiction. - Canada Reads 2012 website. The book was championed on Canada Reads 2012 by Canadian rapper Shad.

The runners up were.

The Game (M)
by Ken Dryden

This 1983 insider's look at Canada's favourite sport is still widely regarded as the best book about hockey ever written, and one of the best sports books of all time. Legendary Montreal Canadiens goaltender Ken Dryden, who led the team to six Stanley Cup championships, chronicles his 1979 season with the team in this Canadian classic. Along the way, he offers vivid portraits of hockey greats such as Guy Lafleur, Larry Robinson, Guy Lapointe and Scotty Bowman, and offers a of the life of a hockey player both on and off the ice. The Game was nominated for a Governor General's Award when it was first published in 1983. - Canada Reads 2012 website. The book was championed on Canada Reads 2012 by actor/comedian Alan Thicke.

On a Cold Road: tales of adventure in Canadian rock (M)
by Dave Bidini

Former Rheostatics guitarist Dave Bidini made the leap from music to the writing world with the publication of this book, his first, in 1998. The band caught a major break when they were asked by The Tragically Hip to open for them on a cross-Canada tour in 1996. Bidini kept a thorough tour diary, and his notes eventually became On a Cold Road, which chronicles the touring experience province by province. In addition to his own stories, Bidini includes tales of life on tour from a slew of well-known Canadian musicians including Randy Bachman (who relates an amusing story about the mutual resentment between The Guess Who and The Who), "Rompin'" Ronnie Hawkins and Trooper's Ra McGuire, among many others. On a Cold Road marked a turning point in Bidini's career, and he has since published nine other books on topics ranging from music to writing to sports (soccer, baseball and, his favourite, hockey). - Canada Reads 2012 website. The book was championed on Canada Reads 2012 by supermodel Stacey Mckenzie.

The Tiger: a true story of vengeance and survival (M)
by John Vaillant

A man-eating tiger is on the prowl in Russia. John Vaillant's nature thriller has the myth and mystery of a spooky fairy tale, but this account of a Siberian tiger terrorizing the residents of a remote Russian village is no fiction. Primorye (also known as the Maritime Territory) is a sparsely populated region of Russia that borders on China, and a locale where illegal tiger poaching and trading is a common source of income. Vaillant recounts the struggle between man and nature as a team of tiger trackers, including a man who usually works to study and protect the local tiger population, hunts down the powerful feline killer so vindictive that Valliant calls it a "weretiger." Inspired by Sasha Snow's documentary Conflict Tiger, Vaillant's book has been acclaimed nationally and internationally, and won a clutch of awards, including the B.C. National Book Award for Non-Fiction, the Hubert Evans Non-Fiction Award, a Banff Mountain Festival Special Jury Prize, the CBA Libris Award for non-fiction, and the Sigurd Olson Nature Writing Award. The feature film rights were purchased this year by Brad Pitt. Canada Reads 2012 website. The book was championed on Canada Reads 2012 by Quebec TV personality and lawyer Anne-France Goldwater.

Prisoner of Tehran: a memoir (M)
by Marina Nemat

Marina Nemat grew up a Russian Orthodox Christian in mainly Muslim Iran. She was a high school student in Tehran when the Islamic Revolution took power, in 1979. Three years later, at the age of 16, she was arrested for speaking out against the regime and thrown into the country's most notorious political prison, where she was tortured and narrowly escaped execution. Prisoner of Tehran is Nemat's candid account of her ordeal.

Through the intervention of a prison guard who fell in love with her, Nemat's death sentence was commuted to life in prison. He pressured her to convert to Islam and marry him, threatening to harm her family if she refused. He also worked for her release, and Nemat was eventually freed -- but delivered into forced marriage to the guard. Soon after he was assassinated, and Nemat was once again imprisoned. She was finally released for once and for all because of the efforts of the guard's family. Nemat subsequently married the man who had been her teenage sweetheart, and they escaped to Canada in 1991. Nemat's extraordinary tale of survival and recovery catapulted her from working at a local Swiss Chalet to touring the world as a renowned writer and sought-after speaker on human rights. An international bestseller, Prisoner of Tehran was longlisted for the B.C. National Award for Canadian Non-Fiction, and won the prestigious Italian literary prize the Grinzane Award. - Canada Reads 2012 website. The book was championed on Canada Reads 2012 by Arlene Dickinson, CEO of Venture Communications and a panelist on CBC-TV's popular series Dragons' Den.


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