On Thursday, April 19 The County Reads returns to Prince Edward County for its ninth year. In 2010 Anne Preston and her husband were travelling and listening to Canada Reads on their car radio. It was great entertainment and inspired Anne to organize a similar event in Prince Edward County.
Though, as Anne would say, the county event is “fashioned after Canada Reads, but better”. I don’t think Anne is incorrect in this assertion. Every year the audience gets bigger and every year the five contenders defend a Canadian literary work of their choosing and the audience comes away with new books on their “to-read” lists.
A good book gets you thinking and you find yourself reflecting on passages, examining them for meaning, long after you have read the final chapter. It is clear that the participants are passionate about their choices as the defense is always lively and energized. “I don’t think this book will change the world. But it might change you.” said Doug Parker, winner of the 2014 County Reads. He was defending Margaret MacMillan’s Paris 1919.
Canada Reads was first broadcast on CBC’s Radio One in 2002. Some notable defenders have been in 2002, Kim Campbell defending Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale, Justin Trudeau in 2003 defending the Wayne Johnston novel The Colony of Unrequited Dreams, Roch Carrier in 2005 advocating Jacques Poulin’s Volkswagen Blues and in 2012 Alan Thicke, his choice, The Game by Ken Dryden.
Over the years of Canada Reads 80 books have been selected for prominence and the winning title every year is proposed as the one book that all Canadians should read. All of the selections enjoy a heightened popularity once announced as a Canada Read’s book. The year that Carrier defended Volkswagen Blues sales sky rocketed from 200 copies a year to 7,500 copies post Canada Reads.
Library patrons wait anxiously to hear the year’s selections for both Canada Reads and The County Reads. A couple of years the library has been in trouble when the chosen book happened to be out of print at the publishers and we could not obtain a copy prior to the big night.
Some of The County Reads history: In 2010 Sandy Latchford defended a biography of Nelly McClung, Jill Hill, The Bedside Book of Birds by Graeme Gibson, Josh Colby chose The Brain that Changes Itself by Norman Doidge, and Wynne Thomas defended The Frozen Thames by Helen Humphreys. The great success of the event that year ensured its return. The first defenders must be given a lot of credit. They set a tone and ensured that Anne’s idea for the County Reads would live on and deliver future years of great reading suggestions.
We are already working to get this year’s event organized. Our moderator from last year, Ken Murray, will be back to keep things on track and pose some thought provoking questions to the defenders. The five presenter have been chosen, but their identities will remain a closely guarded secret until the press event on March 6. Tune into the local news media for the names of the five panelists and the books they have chosen to defend.
County Reads has traditionally been the kickoff for the Authors Festival weekend. This year while the festival is on hiatus the library, The County Reads Committee, County Kids Read, and the Milford French group are joining forces to keep the weekend a celebration of books and reading. New this year local writers and publishers can reserve a table to display their books at the event.
Visit peclibrary.org/countyreads for details or call Liz at 399-2023 to book your spot.