Monday, February 21, 2005

Canada Reads?

Well, I’m not sure. The best figures I could find were for 1998 -from StatsCan- . If that holds true now 40 % don't read books! Only 36% read a book a month. Percentage of Canadians who read books :
Total -61.3% Males -54.3% Females -68.2%
At least a book a week T-31.1 M-26.9 F-34.3
At least a book a month T-36.2 M-35.4 F-36.9
At least a book every 3 months T-17.6 M-19.5 F-16.2
At least a book every 6 months T-8.0 M-9.7 F-6.7
At least a book a year T-6.2 M-7.7 F-5.0

I read about a book a week on average.
I did find some more recent book sale figures. Sales of books are going up but I wonder what the per capita figure is.

Net sales of titles ( English books) in $ thousands
1996-1997 1998-1999 2000-2001
1,550,899 1,704,914 1,858,471

Titles published 1996-1997 1998-1999 2000-2001
8,043 10,757 11,452
Textbooks 1,222 1,881 2,011
Children's books 626 1,121 1,421
Tradebooks 3,718 4,677 4,980
Other 2,477 3,078 3,040

I have been asking myself whether I and my book circle members are influenced by the Canada Reads “battle of the books”. I don’t think we have consciously paid much attention to it but perhaps we are influenced indirectly. We have read quite a number of the books on the Canada Reads lists . * = books discussed in our circle # = books I have also read on my own
The Stone Angel by Margaret Laurence.* Whylah Falls by George Elliott Clarke. The Handmaid's Tale by Margaret Atwood # In The Skin of A Lion by Michael Ondaatje* A Fine Balance by Rohinton Mistry.*
Next Episode by Hubert Aquin Translated by Sheila Fischman, Sarah Binks by Paul Hiebert# Life of Pi by Yann Martel*,The Lost Garden by Helen Humphreys,The Colony of Unrequited Dreams by Wayne Johnston*
The Love of a Good Woman by Alice Munro,Green Grass, Running Water by Thomas King, Le coeur est un muscle involontaire (The Heart is an Involuntary Muscle) by Monique Proulx, The Last Crossing by Guy Vanderhaeghe*, Barney's Version by Mordecai Richler#

We chose A Fine Balance in April 2002 just when Canada Reads was on. But we chose Life of Pi for discussion in Jan 2003 well before it was chosen for that year’s contest. We discussed In The Skin of a Lion in Feb. 2003 almost a year after its winning Canada Reads. And we read The Last Crossingin July /Aug 2004 also after Canada Reads chose it as a winner. Perhaps the exposure of Canada Reads did have something to do with those choices. But we read Colony of Unrequited Dreams and The Stone Angel before 2002. And since I joined this book group some years ago (6 ?) we have read over 44 books. We've been at it longer than Canada Reads has. My favorite of all those listed above that I have read was A Fine Balance. Sarah Binks which I read years ago would have to be second- a very good and funny book but one I doubt very many people have read. Life of Pi would have to be my third choice. But then Atonement was excellent also. Hard to choose between them.

The Canada Reads Choices for 2005 - in case you have been, like away, are:
Beautiful Losers by Leonard Cohen, Rockbound by Frank Parker Day,Volkswagen Blues by Jacques Poulin, No Crystal Stair by Mairuth Sarsfield,Oryx and Crake by Margaret Atwood

Why not suggest your favorite Canadian book for the Canada Reads list.
I am not sure what my choice would be. I 'll have to think about it.

and then take a look at A how-to manual for future Canada Reads panellists
(or, 5 simple rules to make sure your book isn't KO'd in Round 2)

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Oh, life is a glorious cycle of song,
A medley of extemporanea;
And love is a thing that can never go wrong;
And I am Marie of Romania.
Dorothy Parker, Not So Deep as a Well (1937)