Canada Reads is back! This year, the great Canadian book debate is looking for one book to carry us forward.
When we are at a crossroads, when uncertainty is upon us, when we have faced challenges and are ready for the future, how do we know where to go next? This collection of books is about finding the resilience and the hope needed to carry on and keep moving forward.
The 2024 contenders are:
The debates will take place March 4-7, 2024.
If you’d like the Canada Reads books in an accessible format, you can find them here.
They will be hosted by Ali Hassan and will be broadcast on CBC Radio One, CBC TV, CBC Gem, CBC Listen and on CBC Books.
“More than ever, Canada Reads fans and avid readers across the country have popular reads and genres to cheer for, discover and fall in love with… bring on the top-notch romance! Or horror or beautifully illustrated books or short stories or speculative futures, if that’s more your thing. There’s something for everyone this year,” said Hassan. “I’ve been getting to know the books and their champions while guest hosting The Next Chapter and I can’t wait for a week of lively, thoughtful debate.”
Hassan has been the host of Canada Reads since 2017. He is an actor, comedian and host of CBC Radio’s Laugh Out Loud and a frequent guest host of The Next Chapter, As it Happens and Q. He can also be seen in his TV roles on Designated Survivor, Odd Squad and the CBC shows Sort of and Run the Burbs.
He recently became an author as well, publishing his comedic memoir Is There Bacon in Heaven? in fall 2022.
2024 marks the 23rd edition of Canada Reads.
Canada Reads premiered in 2002. The first winning book was In the Skin of a Lion by Michael Ondaatje, which was defended by musician Steven Page. In 2021, CBC Books put together a retrospective to look back at the show’s biggest moments and its impact on Canadian literature.
Canada Reads1:37:20Canada Reads 20th anniversary special
Last year’s winner was Jeopardy! star Mattea Roach, who championed Kate Beaton’s memoir Ducks.
Becoming a Canada Reads finalist has a big impact. Ducks was the number one bestselling Canadian title of the year, as determined by book sales from close to 300 independent Canadian bookstores, courtesy of Bookmanager. Canada Reads 2023 finalist Greenwood, championed by actor Keegan Connor Tracy was number two on that list.
Station Eleven, championed by Michael Greyeyes on Canada Reads 2023 was adapted into a TV series for HBO Max. Watch it now on CBC Gem!
Other past Canada Reads winners include Five Little Indians by Michelle Good, championed by fashion journalist Christian Allaire, Lawrence Hill’s The Illegal, championed by Olympian Clara Hughes, Kim Thúy’s Ru, championed by TIFF artistic director Cameron Bailey and Lisa Moore’s February, championed by comedian Trent McClellan.
You can see a complete list of past winners and contenders here.
CBC Books launched a Facebook group for those who want to read the Canada Reads 2024 books together. You can join the conversation here.
Teachers, bookstores, community groups and librarians can order a Canada Reads poster here. Teachers will be able to check out the resources at Curio.ca to bring Canada Reads into classrooms.
Learn more about the Canada Reads 2024 contenders below.
Bad Cree is a horror-infused novel that centres around a young woman named Mackenzie, who is haunted by terrifying nightmares and wracked with guilt about her sister Sabrina’s untimely death. The lines between her dreams and reality start to blur when she begins seeing a murder of crows following her around the city — and starts getting threatening text messages from someone claiming to be her dead sister.
Looking to escape, Mackenzie heads back to her hometown in rural Alberta where she finds her family still entrenched in their grief. With her dreams intensifying and getting more dangerous, Mackenzie must confront a violent family legacy and reconcile with the land and her community.
“I really wanted to represent, in this novel, the important relationships that aunties have had in my life,” Jessica Johns said on The Next Chapter.
I really wanted to represent, in this novel, the important relationships that aunties have had in my life.– Jessica Johns
“And the aunties in the novel are a mishmash of all of my aunties in small ways and one of the things that I wanted to do was also kind of subvert this idea of the ‘all-knowing’ native person.
“That’s kind of funny to me because all of the brilliant people in my life, all of the Indigenous people who are so, so brilliant are also very human and flawed and complex.”
Jessica Johns is a queer nehiyaw aunty with English-Irish ancestry and a member of Sucker Creek First Nation. Johns won the 2020 Writers’ Trust Journey Prize for the short story Bad Cree, which evolved into the novel of the same name. Bad Cree also won the MacEwan Book of the Year prize. Johns is currently based in Edmonton.
Dallas Soonias is a former star player on the Canadian national men’s volleyball team and a current contributor for CBC Sports. Hailing from Saskatoon, he is Cree/Anishinaabe and registered with the the Chippewas of Nawash. Soonias made history as the first Indigenous male to represent Canada in volleyball and actively promotes a more inclusive environment for Indigenous athletes and students. He’s also part of CBC Sports’ broadcast team for the 2024 Paris Olympics. In 2023, Soonias wrote, directed and produced the short film, Frank Gets the Job Done, which was commissioned by the ImagineNATIVE Film Festival.
The Next Chapter2:52Jessica Johns on Bad Cree
Set in Toronto’s Chinatown and Kensington Market, Denison Avenue is a moving portrait of a city undergoing mass gentrification and a Chinese Canadian elder experiencing the existential challenges of getting old and being Asian in North America. Recently widowed, Wong Cho Sum takes long walks through the city, collecting bottles and cans and meeting people on her journeys in a bid to ease her grief.
Christina Wong is a Toronto writer, playwright and multidisciplinary artist who also works in sound installation, audio documentaries and photography.
Daniel Innes is a multidisciplinary artist from Toronto. He works in painting, installation, graphic and textile design, illustration, sign painting and tattooing.
“[Chinatown/Kensington Market is] a neighborhood that I’ve pretty much grown up with,” said Wong in an interview that will soon air on The Next Chapter. “My parents and my grandparents, our family, we would just go there on Sundays and go for dim sum and go grocery shopping. So it’s a place that’s like home for me.
It’s a place that’s like home for me.– Christina Wong
“It’s also where my family association is, the Wong Association, and it’s also considered like another home where I would go and talk to the elders and learn things. So I felt like myself, in a sense, like I could learn more about my culture.”
Naheed Nenshi is a community builder. He was Calgary’s mayor for three terms between 2010 and 2021. He was awarded the World Mayor Prize in 2014 and is recognized internationally as a voice on urban issues. He is a proud first-generation Canadian of Indian ancestry and of Ismaili Muslim faith, which instilled in him the ethic of “seva,” which means “service to the community.”
Before becoming mayor, Nenshi was Canada’s first tenured professor of nonprofit management at the Bissett School of Business at Mount Royal University and worked in consulting.
Ideas53:59In Defence of Democracy: Naheed Nenshi
Meet Me at the Lake finds 32-year-old Fern Brookbanks stuck — she can’t quite stop thinking about one perfect day she spent in her 20s. By chance, she met a man named Will Baxter and the two spent a romantic 24 hours in Toronto, after which they promised to meet up one year later. But Will never showed up.
Now, instead of living in the city like she thought she would, Fern manages her mother’s Muskoka resort by the lake, a role she promised herself she’d never take on. Disillusioned with her life, Fern is shocked when Will shows up at her door, suitcase in hand, asking to help.
Why is he here after all this time and more importantly, can she trust him to stay? It’s clear Will has a secret but Fern isn’t sure if she’s ready to hear it all these years later.
“What I love as a romance reader is watching two people who can feel very real going through real problems and trying to figure themselves out, trying to figure another person out and ultimately there is this happy ending,” Carley Fortune said in an interview on The Next Chapter.
I want people to feel like they’ve snooped on a real relationship and I want to give people an escape.– Carley Fortune
“So you go on this very emotional journey but you feel safe. I needed that when I was reading in 2020, and I needed that as a writer.
“I think my books do look at tough subjects. Meet Me at the Lake deals with mental health, with grief and loss. But ultimately, I want to give people hope. I want people to feel like they’ve snooped on a real relationship and I want to give people an escape.”
Carley Fortune is a Toronto-based journalist and writer who has worked as an editor for Refinery29, The Globe and Mail, Chatelaine and Toronto Life. She is also the author of Every Summer After.
Mirian Njoh is a self-described creative multi-hyphenate and an avid reader. She combines her love of photography, fashion, storytelling and modelling in her everyday life as a content creator and model. Working with labels like Valentino, Uniqlo, Nordstrom, Fenty Beauty, Njoh cultivated a following online of over 235,000 followers who look to her for inspiration. A West African immigrant, she currently lives in Toronto.
The Next Chapter18:20Blockbuster Canadian romance writer Carley Fortune dives into summer love at the lake.
Shut Up You’re Pretty is a short fiction collection that tells stories of a young woman coming of age in the 21st century in Scarborough, Ont. The disarming, punchy and observant stories follow her as she watches someone decide to shave her head in an abortion clinic waiting room, bonds with her mother over fish and contemplates her Congolese traditions at a wedding.
Shut Up You’re Pretty was on the 2019 Rogers Writers’ Trust Fiction Prize shortlist and won the 2020 Edmund White Award for debut fiction.
“I was first writing these stories independently and I realized that I was writing the same character for the protagonist,” Téa Mutonji said in an interview with CBC Books.
“I wanted to explore why I was doing that. I didn’t want to write a collection of short stories about a young Black woman living her life and have it be suggested that it was the experience of all Black women. I did understand, however, that it would probably be regarded as such because we don’t have enough young women of colour writing.
I didn’t want to write a collection of short stories about a young Black woman living her life and have it be suggested that it was the experience of all Black women.– Téa Mutonji
“I decided to keep it to one character so this could be viewed as one experience. That was important to me, to show that this is one woman experiencing different women in multiple ways and experiencing different experiences in multiple ways.
“This is not at all the experience of every person of colour, of every woman, of every immigrant and of every person from that Galloway neighbourhood.”
Téa Mutonji was named a writer to watch in 2019 by CBC Books. Born in Congo-Kinshasa, Mutonji is also the editor of the anthology Feel Ways: A Scarborough Anthology. She currently lives in Toronto.
Kudakwashe Rutendo is an actor to watch who fell in love with the stage by performing live poetry. Since then she’s starred in feature films Giving Hope: The Ni’cola Mitchell Story and, most recently, Backspot, a queer cheer drama directed by D.W. Waterson and produced by Elliot Page and Page Boy Productions.
She’s not just a film star — her theatre credits include roles in the Lost Heroes of Oro at Theatre by the Bay and Vierge at Factory Theatre — and she does it all while juggling her coursework as an undergrad at the University of Toronto.
The Next Chapter17:00Téa Mutonji on Shut Up You’re Pretty
The Future is set in an alternate history of Detroit where the French never surrendered the city to the U.S. Its residents deal with poverty, pollution and a legacy of racism. When Gloria, a woman looking for answers about her missing granddaughters, arrives in the city, she finds a kingdom of orphaned and abandoned children who have created their own society.
“There’s still a huge French community in that area, in southern Ontario, the area of Windsor and also in the Michigan area — so the French never left in reality — but my idea was that it never became American,” Catherine Leroux said on The Next Chapter.
“And so basically in my world, Detroit or Fort Détroit is the second biggest francophone city in North America after Montreal. So that’s the setting. I think that as soon as I started being interested in the history of Detroit, it went without saying that I would have to delve into that.
It was a nice way to rewrite history and rewrite the history of language at the same time.– Catherine Leroux
“And then it was also for novelistic reasons because I wanted to be able to write dialogue that felt closer to the dialects and the French that I hear around me.
“And if I’m writing about English characters, but I’m writing their dialogue into French, then it can’t really take that shape. So it was a nice way to rewrite history and rewrite the history of language at the same time.”
The Future won the Jacques-Brossard Award for speculative fiction.
Catherine Leroux is a writer, translator and journalist from Montreal. She was shortlisted for the 2016 Scotiabank Giller Prize for The Party Wall, which is an English translation of her French-language short story collection Le mur mitoyen. Leroux won the 2019 Governor General’s Literary Award for English to French translation for her translation of Do Not Say We Have Nothing by Madeleine Thien.
Susan Ouriou is a French and Spanish to English translator, a fiction writer and a playwright. She has previously won the Governor General’s Literary Award for translation for her work. She lives in Calgary.
Heather O’Neill is novelist, short-story writer and essayist based in Montreal. Her debut novel Lullabies for Little Criminals won Canada Reads 2007 and was a Giller finalist. She was the first back-to-back finalist for the Scotiabank Giller Prize for The Girl Who Was Saturday Night in 2014 and her short story collection Daydreams of Angels in 2015.
Her novel The Lonely Hearts Hotel won the Paragraphe Hugh MacLennan Prize for Fiction and was longlisted for Canada Reads 2021. When We Lost Our Heads is her most recent novel that follows two extraordinary young women — Marie Antoine and Sadie Arnett — 19th century aristocrats living in Montreal’s wealthiest neighbourhood, the Golden Mile.
The Next Chapter12:23Catherine Leroux imagines an alternate history of Detroit in her book, The Future