In quite a turnaround, Terry Fallis' novel The Best Laid Plans won this year's Canada Reads, beating The Birth House by Ami McKay in the final round, 4-1. I have to say, I'm pretty surprised, but after a rather predictable start I'm glad to see that Canada Reads can still keep things interesting.
On the other hand, I am not convinced that The Best Laid Plans is the "essential book" of the last decade. I'm not entirely sure we're quite removed enough from the past decade to go about declaring what the essential book was (it seems like the sort of thing some serious hindsight is needed for). However, I do think it's telling that the debates became about which novels would promote societal change and how they presented the role of women. If this is how we see the legacy of the last decade, then I think I'm okay with that.
In the past, Canada Reads has been about recommending a novel to the country, but the form was spiced up this year and I'm not sure I totally agree with this format (I mentioned this earlier). But, that isn't to take about from Fallis' win. He self-published the novel, won the Stephen Leacock Award for Humour, got a publishing deal from McLelland & Stewart, and has now won Canada Reads. Any way you look at it, that's a spectacular run and it says a lot of good things about Canadian literature.
So, congratulations to Terry Fallis – and Ali Velshi, who did a great job defending the novel – and all the other novelists and defenders on the panel this year. These were the most interesting Canada Reads debates in quite some time, a trend that I sure hope will continue.