Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Canadian Readers, Where You At?

Well, you aren't reading my blog, that's for sure. Chances are, you aren't reading much of anything. A recent poll commissioned by Canada Heritage of 1,502 people over the age of 15 revealed Canadians read an average of 17 books a year. 12 percent don't read at all.

I know none of this is surprising. Anyone with a television can tell you that reading is a dying hobby, if he bothered to turn away from the warm glow long enough to do so.

What’s surprising is that fifty percent of the people polled couldn’t name a single Canadian author. At all. Not even Margaret Atwood or Mordechai Richler.

I realize if you poll Canadian readers you'll have much better luck, but this is just shameful. I love CanLit, and there is a lot of it to choose from. You'd be hard pressed to find a genre that Canadians haven't written in. That's what makes CanLit (indeed, Canadian culture even) so inclusive—because we live in such a large country that includes so many different cultures, the nature of CanLit changes with its location. CanLit from B.C. is different from CanLit from Ontario, or Nova Scotia, or Quebec.

Despite this dismal poll, I think Canada has a really healthy reader culture. For instance, we have plenty of well-respected awards like the Giller and the GG's that help promote CanLit at home and abroad.

Plus, the CBC (another wonderful Canadian institution) holds a debate each year called Canada Reads. I started following Canada Reads a couple of years ago. Five books are chosen by five Canadian celebrity panelists, who are then asked to defend their choice. The week-long radio series airs on the CBC this year March 2 to 6, if you're interested.

This year one of my favourite artists, Sarah Slean, is a panelist. Previous panelists include Jim Cuddy (lead singer of Blue Rodeo), Scott Thompson (Kids in the Hall alumnus), Olivia Chow (Liberal MP), and Justin Trudeau (sexiest member of Parliament and son of late Pierre Trudeau, Prime Minister of Canada).

Canada Reads is sort of the ultimate in CanLit selection, in my opinion. It's chosen by well-known Canadians, and presented by the CBC, the Canadian media. I don't always get to read every book on the list in time for the debates, and indeed, sometimes I just don't have an interest in the book, but it's always interesting and engaging.

Despite what the Calgary Herald thinks, CanLit certainly is not dead. The fact of the matter is, people just don't read any more. That doesn't mean that Canadian authors will stop writing, though. And as long as they keep writing, I'll keep reading.

Source: Calgary Herald by way of Book Ninja
Photograph by low.


Kathy said...

Sarah Slean??? You mean Judy's Sarah Slean?

Olga said...

Yes, Judy's Sarah Slean. She's come a long way, baby. :)