Morgan Murray’s debut novel Dirty Birds, which begins in Saskatchewan, has been longlisted for the 20th season of CBC’s popular show Canada Reads.

Canada Reads, CBC’s annual “battle of the books,” has been getting people excited about books for the past 18 years. Every book that has won Canada Reads has become a national bestseller.

“I’ve been blown away by the response Dirty Birds has gotten since it came out, mid-pandemic,” says Murray, who was born and raised in rural Alberta. “I’ve been getting a lot of really kind messages from people who have gotten a laugh, and maybe more out of the book, and now to be longlisted for something as big as Canada Reads! I’m flabbergasted!”

Each year, a longlist of 15 Canadian books is chosen by celebrity panelists, with the help of the CBC Books team. These books are ones the panelists feel the nation needs to read. And at a time when we could all use a laugh, it’s Dirty Birdsto the rescue.

Hilariously ironic and irreverent, Dirty Birds is a quest novel for the twenty-first century—a coming-of-age, rom-com, crime-farce thriller—where the hero, Milton Ontario (not to be confused with Milton, Ontario) of the fictional hamlet Bellybutton, Saskatchewan, battles his greatest foes: his own crippling mediocrity, and getting out of bed before noon, as he pursues fame, fortune, and his hero: Leonard Cohen.

Dirty Birds has been turning heads nation-wide since its release this past August. Lisa Moore, Canada Reads 2013 winner, praised Dirty Birds as “a brilliant, antic, absurd and cut-to-the-quick satire of millennial life.” She said, “there’s a laugh and beautifully conjured insight on every page of this joyful extravaganza. [It’s] a very, very funny and boldly imagined novel.”

And Scotiabank Giller Prize winner and former Canada Reads celebrity guest, Will Ferguson, proclaimed, “Canadians rejoice! Our Vonnegut has finally arrived! Morgan Murray’s debut is a great, brawling, sprawling, muscular glory of a story. Funny, dark, and wholly original.”

This is big news for Atlantic Canadian books. Several NL authors have graced the Canada Reads Longlist, including most recently Megan Gail Coles (2020) and Sharon Bala (2018). However, Murray’s 2021 longlisting marks one of the few, and first since 2014, Atlantic Canadian published books to be selected.

Murray has previously appeared at the THIN AIR Winnipeg International Writers’ Festival, Word on the Street Toronto, and the Cabot Trail Literary Festival. He is scheduled to appear at the ImagiNation Writers’ Festival in April 2021. A full list of reviews and press appearances can be found on his website at morganmurray.ca.

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