Tuesday, March 16, 2021

Canada Reads Book List 2021

Canada Reads Book List 2021

Every year Canada's Broadcasting Corporation or CBC as it is more commonly known, releases a short list of five Canadian books. It's a battle of the books competition in which the five books are brought forward by five Canadian celebrities and in March they come together over five days to debate the merits of the books eliminating one each day. On the final day, a winner is proclaimed the book that we should all read. 

I thought I would give you a brief review of the Canada Reads program and the books that were nominated this year. It was interesting to learn a bit about each of the books and consider adding them to my reading list. Obviously since I have not read them, I cannot personally vouch for them though I can give you a brief description, share the official Canada Reads book trailers, and, at the end, tell you the name of this year's winner.  I might help to know that these books have often been nominated for other literary awards.

Here we go, the nominated books for 2021 under the theme 'One Book to Transport Us'.


Butter Honey Pig Bread by Francesca Ekwuyasi

Butter Honey Pig Bread transports the reader from Lagos to London to Halifax. It is the story of three generations of women from Nigeria, a mother and her estranged twin daughters. The mother "believes that she is an Ogbanje, or an Abiku, a non-human spirit that plagues a family with misfortune by being born and then dying in childhood to cause a human mother misery. She has made the unnatural choice of staying alive to love her human family but lives in fear of the consequences of her decision." This book is about food and family and forgiveness, about choices and consequences, and about friendship and faith. 

Rated 4.3 out of 5 by Amazon readers and 4.4 out of 5 by Goodreads readers. 

Writing on The Suburban author Meredith says that this book "ended up being her personal favourite to win the 2021 competition. It was a book that she simply didn’t want to put down and a story that she didn’t want to end."

Here's the official Canada Reads book trailer:


Two Trees Make a Forest: In Search of My Family's Past Among Taiwan's Mountains and Coasts

Two Trees Make a Forest transports the reader to Taiwan and is a book about memory, love, and landscape, about finding a home, about the distance between people and places and how they meet. 

The author uncovers letters written by her immigrant grandfather that take her from Canada to her ancestral home in Taiwan where she searches for her grandfather's story while learning about the land that he grew up on. She hikes and bikes and swims. She learns about the mountains and the flatlands, the flora and the fauna. She discovers the similarities between natural stories and human stories that created her family and this island. The book is about the world of nature but it also looks at the colonial exploration of Taiwan. It "encompasses history, travel, nature, and memoir."

Rated 4.1 out of 5 by Amazon readers and 3.6 out of 5 by Goodreads readers.

The reviewer on Bomb says, that this book is "A remarkable exercise in careful attention, be it to the nuances of language, the turns of colonial history, or a grandfather’s difficult-to-read handwriting, Two Trees Makes A Forest is a moving treatise on how to look closely and see truthfully, even as the fog rolls in."

Here's the official Canada Reads book trailer:


The Midnight Bargain by C.L. Polk

The Midnight Bargain transports the reader to Regency England. It is a fantasy novel set in a world that looks like Regency England where women must give up their ability to perform magic when they get married. Obviously, this means that you have something else to think about when you are a mighty sorceress and aspire to be the best female magician. In this book the main character wants to be come a full Magus and continue pursuing magic like men do but her family needs her to be a debutante during Bargaining Season and marry to save them financially. She finds the key to becoming a Magus but it is twisted up with the brother of a handsome, compassionate, wealthy man. The question becomes, will she become a Magus and ruin her family or will she marry the man she loves and give up her magic and identity? 

Rated 4.3 out of 5 by Amazon readers and 4.2 out of 5 by Goodreads readers.

Colleen Mondor on Locus says, "The witty exchanges are indeed sparkling and the verbal cuts are of the sharpest varieties. Polk is so clearly in her element that readers will be carried away by the sheer radiance of her smartly crafted prose and, like me, sorely miss Beatrice when they make that final and satisfying turn of the page."

Here's the official Canada Reads trailer for The Midnight Bargain:


Hench by Natalie Zina Walschots

Hench transports the reader to the world of superheroes and villains. As a young woman working as a temporary office employee, she finds a great job as a hench. Howver, things go wrong, the hero leaves her injured and she gets laid off. Using her internet prowess, she finds out that what happened to her is not unique and when she shares her story, she no longer feels powerless. She discovers that the differences between good and evil may boil down to marketing, which she knows how to manipulate. When she is once again employed, albeit this time to one of the worst villains out there, she discovers she could save the world. 

This book is a novel of love and betrayal and revenge and redemption. It is a look at the cost of justice via "a fascinating mix of Millennial office politics, heroism measured through data science, body horror, and a profound misunderstanding of quantum mechanics." 

The readers on Amazon gave this book a 4.5 out of 5 and the readers at Goodreads gave it a 4.15 out of 5.

In the promotional information about the book, Seanan McGuire says "Hench is fast, furious, compelling and angry as hell." On NPR, Jessica P. Wick says, "Although the author tackles serious issues like how women are treated in the workplace, or how friendships might splinter under the weight of fear, Hench is steeped in the glorious campiness of Golden and Silver Age superheroes. There are lava guns! Mind control devices! Costumes! Lairs! Supercars! Awe! Names like Doc Proton, the Accelerator, the Tidal Four, Electric Eel, the Cassowary, the Auditor. It's fun. It's emotional. It feels like a friend. But it's not comforting. I think it might be terribly honest, and I honestly can't wait to see what Natalie Zina Walschots does next with the genre."

Here's the official book trailer for Hench:


Johnny Appleseed by Joshua Whitehead

Johnny Appleseed takes us to the world of an Indian glitter princess. Our main character is trying to forge a life off of the reserve in the big city and becomes a cybersex worker in order to survive. He has to go back to the 'rez' and his former world for the funeral of his stepfather. What follows are seven days. Seven days full of stories that include "love, trauma, sex, kinship, ambition and heartbreaking recollection of his beloved grandmother." As he readies to return home, he figures out how to put together his life in this look at "First Nations life which is full of grit, glitter, and dreams."

Amazon reviewers give Johnny Appleseed a 4.3 out of 5 and reviewers on Goodreads, a 4.1 out of 5.

The Globe and Mail says, "Despite its often serious subject matter, Jonny Appleseed is a very funny book, in the same way that Indigenous people themselves are often very funny despite our traumas. In that way, reading this book felt to me like home. Every line felt like being back on Six Nations, laughing with my family, even though I was in my apartment in Brantford. With its fluid structure and timelines, Jonny Appleseed creates a dream-like reading experience – and with a narrator as wise, funny and loveable as Jonny, it’s the sort of dream you don’t want to wake up from."

Here's the official book trailer for Johnny Appleseed:


After five sessions of debate that you can watch on CBC by clicking right here, the panel voted Johnny Appleseed as the winner. In my mind, though I have yet to read any of these books and they may not all appeal to everyone, these books are all winners in their own ways.  

Here is the highlights reel from the five debates. It gives a further insight into each of the books, into the passion behind the individual presenting the book and into the varied and interesting stories written within.

That's it. The 2021 Canada Reads book list. There are a bunch of books here that I would never have picked randomly but some of the storylines and some of the reviews from other individuals have left me thinking that I might read them. How about you? Are there any books on this list that you find intriguing? Any that you have read?

See you
at the bookstore!
Treasures By Brenda


CBC's Canada Reads Book List 2021

Note: The author may receive a commission from purchases made using links found in this article. “As an Amazon Associate, Ebay (EPN) and/or Esty (Awin) Affiliate, I (we) earn from qualifying purchases.”


  1. Brenda, how fascinating to read reviews/excerpts from the list of books in the Canada Reads Program. From your brief synopsis of each, every book sounds like it has merit and a story to tell. Thanks so much for this interesting overview of both the books and the program which are new to me. After reading each blurb, I would like to read "Johhny Appleseed", not because it was the winner, but because I've always found stories of First Nations people captivating.

    1. Interesting, Elf. As I think I said, they're not books that would have been on my radar originally but I may give them a go!

  2. Brenda, what a fascinating group of candidates for this literary competition! I can see why each one might have been chosen by the celebrity who put it forward. For my own taste, Midnight Bargain may be going on my Audible wish list. Thanks so much for introducing us to the Canada Reads program and providing such helpful information about each of the contenders.

    1. You are welcome, Margaret. I take it you are a fantasy reader. Let us know what you think of Midnight Bargain when and if you do read it.

  3. This is a very interesting review. Thank you for the introduction to the Canada Reads program and the fascinating reviews on the books. You will have to let us know if you end up reading any of them.

    1. Hi Mary Beth and yes, I will be sure to report back when I have read any of these books!

  4. Okay Brenda, you have just increased the number of books on my "To Read" list by another 5! I think I just need to stop sleeping and get more reading time in. These books all sound wonderful in their own particular way. Now which one do I get first? That is the question. Thanks for this review.

    1. Hi Olivia. I am always glad to increase the number of books on our To Read lists. Be sure to report back if you read any of them.

  5. It would be really hard to choose only 5 of the best books in a year of published books! I can't even imagine the challenges and time commitment to even examining the submitted books for consideration. I think it is a great idea & way to get adults reading again (out of school required reading). I find myself curious about the other books they eliminated and why they eliminated them :)

    1. Hi Mouse. I believe they each came forward with their own pick - so they did not actually eliminate others other than when they picked the book they came forward with, LOL.

    2. Oh! Well, of course that makes sense!!! I must have been reading too fast, because I misunderstood. I was thinking they had a lot of books and eliminated one a day until they got to five, then selected a favorite from there. Now, I get it. They started with the five only.

    3. Still a hard job picking that first book because, like you said, there are constantly new books out there!

  6. What an interesting and world wide list of books for the year! I agree with Sylvestermouse - it would be so difficult to pick just 5 books! I know all the writers have worked double time during the pandemic.

  7. There are simply SO many great books out there, which is why I never read a book twice though I did. Read one twice once. Sometimes a list is helpful.

    1. Brenda, Re: re-reading, I have a comment. I have a select number of books by favorite authors in my home library which I DO re-read about once a year. Some I've read/re-read 6-7 times. I never tire of them as they are my very favorites! I suppose the re-reading takes away from time to read new, never-read, books, but since I read on the average 3-4 books per week, my old friends on my home library shelves are always there when needed between library books or while waiting for a newly purchased book to arrive. Since I only read 'books in hand' (never on a kindle), I need a bunch of books available at any given time. Just my thoughts on reading. :)

    2. Oh yes, Elf. I totally understand. My sister-in-law for one reads and rereads books all the time. Maybe if you read more books it is more likely that you reread books. We have an excellent library, which means I have more books to read than I have time to read but you know, I don't watch movies or shows twice either so maybe it is a personality thing.

  8. Thank you for this great review and introduction for me to the Canada Reads program! I had not heard of this book competition before. How difficult it must have been to choose just the 5 books and then to select an overall winner!

    1. Definitely a difficult challenge, Annie! Thanks for your visit.

  9. I had no idea about the Canada Reads Book List. ReviewthisReviews never fails - I'm always sure to learn something new here. I'll be paying attention to this list from now on. I read the summary for each book and found all of them intriguing. Midnight Bargain and Hench have peaked my interest. Great review.

  10. There are definitely people who anticipate the list and the discussions every year, Barbara. Let us know if you read either of those books.


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