Tuesday, January 29, 2008
How About Some Good News About Canadian Books?
You don’t have to look far these days for signs that Canadian book publishers and bookstores are facing challenging times. For example:
- Pundits and researchers are warning that the practice of reading for pleasure is under siege (see Caleb Crain’s New Yorker article Twilight of the Books or the recent Ipsos-Reid/CanWest reading poll).
- Canadian booksellers and publishers are watching already razor-slim margins dwindle further due to industry consolidation, consumers’ price sensitivity, and exchange rates.
- Bestsellers are crowding out niche and literary titles in an intensely competitive book retail landscape. (For more on the last two bullets, see The Book Retail Sector in Canada study we just completed for Canadian Heritage.)
In times like these, it’s all the more important to support Canadian literature and those who make it available to us. The BC Award for Canadian Non-Fiction is doing just that—and it’s coming up soon: February 7, 2008. We work on the award program, which is now in its fourth year, and as usual, we’re anticipating a thrilling event that reminds us of all the reasons we chose to make publishing one of our core focuses.
What’s So Exciting About the BC Award?
- It’s happening in Vancouver. Vancouver, BC. This makes it the first major national award to originate outside of Ontario. Until the BC Award was established four years ago, every one of the big national awards—the Giller, the GGs, the Charles Taylor, and the Griffin—came out of Toronto or Ottawa. The BC Award reflects the strengthening of literary culture across Canada.
- It’s worth $40,000. That makes it the richest non-fiction prize in the country, and one of the most valuable literary prizes in Canada, period. Contrary to some popular opinion, money isn’t immaterial to writers, as much as they will continue to write in the absence of it.
- It’s all about literary non-fiction. This is a genre in which authors write passionately and personally about the real world around them—a genre that at its best, makes Canadian readers more aware of the issues and events shaping our lives and country.
- The shortlist is riveting. The finalists are Donald Harman Akenson’s Some Family: The Mormons and How Humanity Keeps Track of Itself, a brilliant examination of the Mormon genealogical project; Lorna Goodison’s From Harvey River: A Memoir of My Mother and Her People, a lyrical exploration of family; and Jacques Poitras’s Beaverbrook: A Shattered Legacy, a journalistic investigation of art, ego, and ambition.
- The presentation ceremony is a forum for ideas about Canadian literature. Each year, a distinguished and eloquent individual introduces each finalist—and why the finalist’s work matters. These introductions have been highlights of the event in years past, and doubtlessly will be again for the 2008 ceremony. As soon as possible after the ceremony, the introductions will be posted at The BC Achievement Foundation website. And right now, you can check out videos of last year’s introductions and remarks from the 2007 finalists.
Here’s a list of things you can do to participate in the BC Award for Canadian Non-Fiction celebration:
- Find out more about the BC Award for Canadian Non-Fiction
- Check out the BC Award finalists’ books: Some Family: The Mormons and How Humanity Keeps Track of Itself; From Harvey River: A Memoir of My Mother and Her People; and Beaverbrook: A Shattered Legacy
- Tune in to CBC Radio 1’s Almanac at noon to 1:00 pm PST February 4, 5, and 6 for interviews with the finalists, and to North by Northwest the following weekend for their interview with the award winner
And keep buying Canadian books!