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

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Pop culture recommendations from Aurora James, Cheryl Hickey, Afrim Pristine, Dani Reiss, Richard Florida and more

Photo courtesy of Brother Vellies

Feminist Theory by bell hooks
Recommended by Aurora James, designer

“I have a few books by bell hooks on my nightstand right now. I love introducing her writing to people. It feels like I’m letting them in on a secret—a secret that, when uncovered, can make them feel like they’re coming up for air for the first time in a long while. That’s how it was for me when I first discovered her. It was as if I was discovering who I was, and that who I am is incredibly valuable. If there is one Black author everyone—including men—should be reading right now, it’s bell hooks.”


Photo courtesy of courtesy of ET Canada

Watchmen
Recommended by Cheryl Hickey, host, ET Canada

“My husband, Kevin, and I are hooked on the HBO series Watchmen. Based on the graphic novel of the same name, it’s a superhero drama that takes place years after the events of the book. We were blown away by everything from the writing to the cinematography to the incredible performances from Regina King and Jeremy Irons.”


Photo courtesy of Canada Goose

One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel García Márquez
Recommended by Dani Reiss, CEO, Canada Goose

“Gabriel García Márquez’s feat of magical realism is a multigenerational story set in a fictional town in Colombia. It’s the epitome of a dream reality. It reminds us that the more things change, the more they stay the same, and the decisions we make often set us on unexpected paths. It parallels the reality we’re in. No one’s sure how this will turn out, but we continue to move forward, albeit a little differently than before. I find hope in that.”


Photo courtesy of Cheese Boutique

Cirque du Soleil
Recommended by Afrim Pristine, owner, Cheese Boutique

“My fiancée, Courtney, and I love going to live Cirque du Soleil shows. I recently discovered that you can watch recorded shows via Bell Fibe. They are amazing. I have a 75-inch TV and surround sound. When we watch the shows, it’s almost like being there live. We make Aperol spritzes, a nice cheese board and a few other snacks. It’s such a fun night.”


Photo courtesy of RC Music

Two Hands by Leon Fleisher
Recommended by Peter Simon, president and CEO, the Royal Conservatory

“As one might expect, I listen to a lot of music, and this has increased during the pandemic. It allows for moments of escape and entry to a more noble realm. Recently the great pianist Leon Fleisher passed away. If you want to restore your faith in the capacity of human beings, I suggest listening to the Chopin Nocturne in D Flat on this album or on YouTube.”


Photo by Daria Malysheva

The Grifter’s Club by Sarah Blaskey, Nicholas Nehamas, Caitlin Ostroff and Jay Weaver
Recommended by Richard Florida, urbanist

“My daily therapy is a long walk in Toronto’s ravines. During that time I listen to nothing. I turn off my devices and wander through the city’s glorious woodlands. Late at night, after everybody’s gone to bed, I’ve been reading The Grifter’s Club, an eye-opening account about how Donald Trump holds court at his Winter White House, Mar-a-Lago.”


Photo by Aly Manji

Ripley’s Aquarium
Recommended by Henry Kim, director and CEO, Aga Khan Museum

“I headed to Ripley’s within days of its reopening to see how the fish, sharks, crustaceans and invertebrates had fared during the four months without their normal crowds. Fortunately, in-tank cannibalism had not taken over. It was as I remembered, albeit with fewer people and social-distancing measures that made the trip far more comfortable. Even the cuttlefish seemed to enjoy having people around.”


Photo courtesy of the Gardiner Museum

Turner Classic Movies
Recommended by Kelvin Browne, executive director and CEO, Gardiner Museum

“I’ve been exploring Turner Classic Movies’ library. It was fun to watch Some Like It Hot for the 14th or 15th time. And without TCM I never would have seen the 1932 film Bird of Paradise with Dolores del Río. It’s kind of awful but still compelling, and surprisingly sexy given its vintage.”


Photo by Teaunna Gray

Daisy Jones & The Six by Taylor Jenkins Reid
Recommended by Tea Mutonji, writer

“Before bed, I listen to novels. It’s the adult version of bedtime stories. Daisy Jones & the Six is about the rise and sudden fall of a legendary (fictional) rock band. It’s written as an oral history and recorded by an ensemble cast, with each actor taking on a different role—you get used to their voices, their signatures and the way Daisy’s voice is smoky and cool, exactly as it’s described.”


Photo by Calm Elliott-Armstrong

Calm
Recommended by Menno Versteeg, founder, Royal Mountain Records

“The relaxation app Calm has a feature where voice actors read stories designed to lull your brain into a restful sleep. My favourites are the ones that involve long, cross-country train trips on real train lines complete with the clickity-clack of the tracks and the sound of raindrops on the window. Some are even about historical journeys, like the Orient Express. Harry Styles narrates one—my oh my. Get ready for bedtime, ladies and gentlepersons!”


Photo by Mike Oksman

Highway of Tears by Jessica McDiarmid
Recommended by Jeremy Drury, musician

“I’ve been taking time to learn about the struggles faced by my fellow Canadians, so I appreciate the work Jessica McDiarmid dedicated to this book, which investigates the disappearances of Indigenous girls and women along a stretch of Highway 16 between Prince Rupert and Prince George. It’s eye-opening and heartbreaking to read about the experiences of these young women and their families in our own communities, and how the media and law enforcement seemingly turned a blind eye.”


Photo courtesy of the subject

Mad Men
Recommended by Charles Foran, writer and executive director, Writers’ Trust of Canada

“Matthew Weiner’s monumental ode to 1960s white America ran for 92 episodes. During isolation with my wife and two adult daughters, we got through 88 of them. Mad Men is as complex as a Tolstoy novel. Though almost free of violence, the series is violent to its core. The treatment of women is repulsive. The behaviour is obscene. The characters are callow and brutal. And we were a family obsessed. We talked endlessly–and happily—about these messy people and their messy lives.”


Photo courtesy of the subject

Cherfitness: A New Attitude
Recommended by Jasmyn Burke, musician

“Over the past few months, I’ve been navigating how to stay centred. I found some hilarious vintage workout videos from Cher on YouTube that get you exercising, early-’90s style. They’re funny to watch, so you’ll laugh and sweat. Shake that energy out! I also picked up Vibrate Higher Daily: Live Your Power by Lalah Delia. She writes about tuning in to your body and creating a foundation through mindfulness and daily habits.”


Photo by Gary Gould

Man Like Mobeen
Recommended by Kamal Al-Solaylee, writer

“This BBC comedy, available on Netflix, is a revelation. It stars Guz Khan as Mobeen, a reformed Muslim drug dealer who takes care of his younger sister and protects his two friends. Over three seasons, the show has allowed Mobeen to be Muslim, funny, sexual and, when needed, violent. This kind of unfiltered brownness remains too rare on screen. Almost everyone here is capable of supreme love and criminal recklessness, and the result is a gallery of lovable, flawed jerks.”


Photo by Melissa Richards

My neighbour Totoro
Recommended by Luka Kuplowsky, musician

“Ever since I saw Totoro as a child, the films of Studio Ghibli have remained a constant source of inspiration. Revisiting them over the last few months has allowed me to appreciate their profound attunement to the natural world. So much care is placed on the colouring of a flower, the traces of wind on a field, the morning light before dawn. These gentle meditations can often be overlooked within the spectacle of spirits and fantasy, but they are exactly what animates the liveliness and energy of these films.”


Photo by Ali Eisner

You’re Wrong About
Recommended by Miranda Mulholland, musician

“I don’t know how I missed this podcast, but I’m glad I did because it meant I had years of episodes to binge while making my bread, tending my garden and washing my hands. The concept is simple: one host asks the other what they remember about a person or event—from O.J. Simpson to Tonya Harding to stranger dange —and then mythbusts those narratives. It’s given me a healthy skepticism regarding how events are portrayed to the public, which I think we could all use more of right now.”


Photo by Yotam Baum

I May Destroy You
Recommended by Storry, musician

“I’m officially obsessed with this HBO series created by the brilliant Michaela Coel. It’s about rape culture, about how the lines of consent can be blurry, and it leaves me shaken and in tears after every episode. I know that sounds terrible, but it’s also super relatable and filled with humour. It inspired me to write a 14-part Twitter thread about my own experience as a stripper who was sexually assaulted. Everyone needs to watch this show, so they can be both entertained and informed.”