What notable Torontonians are watching, reading and listening to this summer

What notable Torontonians are watching, reading and listening to this summer

Pop culture recommendations from Robbie Amell, Ginella Massa, Edward Burtynsky, Lesley Hampton, Daniel Faria, Grant van Gameren and more

Photo by Red Works Photography

Recommended by Lesley Hampton, designer

“On the podcast #NoBlueprint, the Indigenous artist and entrepreneur Justin ‘Jah’kota’ Holness interviews Indigenous artists, entrepreneurs, designers, actors and influencers about how they made it. Many of these people never had any guidance on how to make a living in the arts. I love that Holness does his research and engages with interviewees in a deeper way through cultural references. His questions are often related to Indigenous teachings.”

Photo courtesy of Amazon Prime Video

Recommended by Robbie Amell, actor

“One of my biggest joys in quarantine has been discovering the streaming platform Twitch. I started playing games like Call of Duty: Warzone, Apex Legends and Rocket League, which has been a blast. It’s a great distraction at the end of the day, and it’s so great to find a community. I have a 10-month-old baby, so Disney Junior has also been a lifesaver. I will probably never get the theme songs to Puppy Dog Pals and Mickey Mouse Clubhouse out of my head.”

Photo by David Misener

Rubén Blades
Recommended by Ginella Massa, journalist

“A lot of people don’t know I’m Afro-Latina, born in Panama to Spanish-speaking parents. I created a playlist with all the songs from the mixtape my mother used to play on Saturday mornings during her weekly cleaning frenzy. Marc Anthony, Celia Cruz and Gloria Estefan all make an appearance, alongside Panama’s own Rubén Blades. The frenetic beats of salsa and merengue always lift my mood, and the poetic lyrics give me a chance to practise my Spanish.”

Photo by Daniel Neuhaus

Recommended by Edward Burtynsky, photographer

“I’ve begun a new photo series called Natural Order, revisiting the landscapes from the early days of my career. I spent many hours shooting and travelling alone, and during that time I listened to Ideas. It always makes me think. I particularly enjoyed the episodes with scientific historian Lorraine Daston and theoretical physicist Brian Greene.”

Photo courtesy of Killbeat Music

God Has Nothing to Do With This Leave Him Out of It by Backxwash
Recommended by Sameer Cash, musician

“This record, recently shortlisted for the Polaris Prize, delivers truth the way music should—loudly and honestly. Backxwash is the kind of artist we wish all our rock stars to be. While there are certainly lines about acceptance and growth, there are times when the ominous and gothic lyrics and production feel punk rock and hardcore, and remind me of Marilyn Manson.”

Photo courtesy of Denizens of Design

Recommended by Dyonne Fashina, principal, Denizens of Design

“I grew up on shows like Beverly Hills, 90210 and Melrose Place, never once questioning the all-White cast. But recently, I’ve been hooked on HBO’s Insecure, created by and starring Issa Rae. The show nods to culture and understands Blackness in a relatable way, without stereotypes or tokenism. It’s set in L.A., and the content is funny, a little dark and enlightening at the same time.”

Photo by by Ryan Emberley

Canada’s Drag Race
Recommended by Daniel Faria, gallerist

“I am grateful for the first season of the incredible Canada’s Drag Race. Our queens are stars—I’m especially proud of the Toronto contestants—and they live up to the legacy of the U.S. version. The show is great entertainment, with killer fashion, beauty, lipsyncs and comedic genius. It embodies everything that’s good in the world and reminds me how much I love the Canadian LGBTQ community.”

Photo courtesy of courtesy of Over Budget

Little People, Big Dreams by Maria Isabel Sánchez Vegara and other authors
Recommended by Grant van Gameren, chef

“The momentum of the anti-racism movement has shone a light on the very real problem of systemic oppression in our society. It’s been a much-needed wake-up call, and I’ve had to acknowledge my role in perpetuating this as a restaurant owner and a parent. One of the steps my wife and I are taking is diversifying the cisgender and predominantly White-focused books we read to our kids. We enjoy Little People, Big Dreams, a book series featuring the stories of people like Frida Kahlo and Harriet Tubman. We also like And Tango Makes Three, a story about non-traditional families.”

Photo Courtesy of the ROM

Red Notice by Bill Browder
Recommended by Josh Basseches, director and CEO, Royal Ontario Museum

“I recently moved to the Beaches and was looking for a book to read out by the Leuty Lifeguard Station. Browder worked for the largest foreign portfolio investor in Russia. His book is part autobiography of his roller-coaster ride to wealth, part political thriller—the perfect read for a Saturday afternoon at the lake.”

Photo courtesy of the subject

Nothing is Lost by Ingrid Sischy
Recommended by Christopher Sherman, photographer

“This collection by the late Interview editor and writer Ingrid Sischy is a critical study of a time before all media content had to be approved and sanitized by an army of publicists. It includes blisteringly candid pieces about young Calvin Klein’s drug addiction and the destructive influence of Jeff Koons’s marriage to porn star Cicciolina.”

Photo courtesy of the CBC

24k Magic by Bruno Mars
Recommended by Asha Tomlinson, co-host, Marketplace, and co-creator, CBC’s Being Black in Canada

“I’m constantly on the move and my life can get pretty intense. So I like to shake it all off with a good dance session in my living room. My go-to artist is Bruno Mars. It doesn’t matter what song I play—his energy, liveliness and undeniable groove get me in the zone. I choreographed a Bruno Mars mash-up dance for my wedding three years ago as a way to get our guests onto the dance floor and party the night away. It worked like a charm.”

Photo courtesy of Twitter Canada

The Screwtape Letters by C.S. Lewis
Recommended by Paul Burns, managing director, Twitter Canada

“I had never actually read any of the literary greats, so I decided to take a bag full of classics, from Hemingway to Steinbeck, up to a cabin in the woods for a week to read and reflect. The Screwtape Letters was a particular standout because it helped me find hope in the darkness.
As it turns out, getting lost in a good book is a great way to find your true self again—as well as an incredibly reflective way to hit the reset button.”

Photo courtesy of Metrolinx

The Happiness Lab
Recommended by Annalise Czerny, vice-president of Presto, Metrolinx

“My husband got me onto this podcast from Laurie Santos, a professor of psychology at Yale. She shares surprising and inspiring stories that changed the way I think about happiness. I enjoyed the episode about managing screen time, which was much needed for me and my five-year-old. ‘How to Be a Better Ally’ made me think about my role supporting racialized communities, especially with everything that’s been going on over the past few months.”

Women Who Run With the Wolves by Clarissa Pinkola Estés
Recommended by Jayli Wolf, actor and musician

“This book always hits me in a way nothing else can. It’s wild, spiritual and raw, filled with intuitive wisdom and ancient stories from various cultures. Estés helps me to understand the ‘wild woman’ archetype through these stories. I feel empowered and transformed after every paragraph. With so much fear in the world, it’s nice to feel powerful.”

Photo courtesy of courtesy of Freshbooks

The Golden Spruce by John Vaillant
Recommended by Mike McDerment, CEO, Freshbooks

The Golden Spruce is about a rare tree being cut down as an act of protest, but really it’s an interwoven history of West Coast trade and Indigenous people. Vaillant does a great job of creating empathy for all the human messiness involved, a lesson that’s especially fitting this year.”


August 12, 2020

An earlier version of this story featured an image of Domonique Meeks, host of the podcast "No Blueprint," instead of Justin Holness, host of "#NoBlueprint." Our apologies.