We Recommend

David Rider, Journalist

David Rider is the Toronto Star's city hall bureau chief. Prior to joining the Star, where he has also been an editor and feature writer, Rider worked for outlets including Reuters News Service, CBC, the Toronto Sun, the Ottawa Sun, the Winnipeg Sun and the Brandon Sun. During breaks from full-time journalism, he taught high school English and foreign affairs in Osaka Prefecture, Japan, and was a 2013-14 Southam Journalism Fellow at the U of T's Massey College.

Leacock, Stephen, 1869-1944.
I think I was 10 or 11 when I first read this, at a cottage. Leacock's sly humour as he described the characters of fictional Ontario small town Mariposa was a revelation and remains an inspiration.
Bangs, Lester.
Before embracing political journalism, I discovered entertainment writing. Nobody wrote rock better than Lester Bangs. In his deeply personal pieces for seminal '70s rock magazine Creem, Bangs revved words like a motorbike throttle, falling in love with (and often out of) bands including The Clash and MC5.
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Thompson, Hunter S.
The mad joy of Hunter's journalistic adventures with artist Ralph Steadman have inspired a multitude of journalists. Many have tried, but none will match the unhinged brilliance of lines like: "In a closed society where everybody's guilty, the only crime is getting caught. In a world of thieves, the only final sin is stupidity."
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Doolittle, Robyn, author.
I was Robyn's bureau chief and had a front-row seat for the wild Rob Ford mayoralty that shook Toronto to its civic core. After much amazing frontline reporting, she did a fantastic job stepping back and putting the story in context.
Peart, Neil.
I grew up loving (the band) Rush and drumming and reading so, when Rush's drummer started writing books, I was legally obligated to read them. I recommend all of Peart's books but this one reveals a different side of the uber-competent cerebral guy's guy we all know. He digs deep about unimaginable family tragedy and finds salvation atop a BMW R1100GS.
Nickle, David, 1964-
Toronto city hall has many secrets and one is David Nickle, president of the press gallery. Underneath the skin of a mild-mannered columnist lurks a master storyteller with a knack for the weird. I similarly enjoyed a double life as fun-loving cottage dad sneaking off to immerse himself in this haunting tale of post-Cold War dreamwalkers. Nickle's "Eutopia" is equally fantastic.
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Huffington, Arianna Stassinopoulos, 1950-
Long before the Huffington Post, Arianna wrote this excellent biography of the foremost (in my judgment) visual artist of the 20th century. This book is important to me because I love modern art, and have been lucky enough to see Picasso originals in many cities, and also because I inherited it from my best friend who shared that passion and died much too young.
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Kerouac, Jack, 1922-1969.
Yes, I love "On the Road" with all my heart. But before I read Kerouac's acknowledged stream-of-conscious masterwork, I read "Big Sur," and imagined myself holed up in the California wilderness. It is a tale of alcohol-fueled decline with a note of hope. "On soft Spring nights I'll stand in the yard under the stars - Something good will come out of all things yet - And it will be golden and eternal just like that - There's no need to say another word."
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Süskind, Patrick.
Often at the library I will choose a book based solely on the cover, or the title, or a feeling. Long before this slim book became a film, it was my random choice that paid off with a hypnotic tale of Jean-Baptiste Grenouille, a perfume apprentice in 1700s France who murders virgins in pursuit of the perfect scent.
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I am a huge, proud SCTV nerd so this behind-the-curtain chronicle is pure catnip. These comedians are my hometown heroes and my heart swells with pride every time I hear an American comedy giant like Will Ferrell say they were inspired and influenced by this weird, brilliant show from Canada. Also, mad props for Andrea Martin's "Lady Parts" and Martin Short's "I Must Say."
Davies, Robertson, 1913-1995.
Davies' Deptford Trilogy remains one of Canada's greatest literary exports for good reason. As well as the masterful writing, I love how one badly thrown snowball sets so many events in motion. I got to spend the 2013-14 academic year at U of T's Massey College, where Davies was the founding master. His mischievous spirit haunts the place still.
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Murakami, Haruki, 1949-
I was living in Osaka, Japan, and enjoying profound daily culture shock when I read this masterwork about a man searching for his wife's cat and stumbling on a netherworld of bizarre characters living beneath the veneer of bustling Tokyo.
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Kaling, Mindy.
Kaling's account of growing up Indo-American and finding her way into comedy is as much whip-smart fun as her TV show. Follow this up with Lena Dunham's "Not That Kind of Girl," Tina Fey's "Bossypants and Amy Poehler's "Yes Please" and you will know that, so far, 21st century American comedy belongs to women.
Woodward, Bob, 1943-
I am a political reporter so must close with the first political biography I ever read, Newman's definitive account of a flawed politician viewed from all angles, and Woodward's ultimate insider account of George W. Bush preparing to launch attacks on Afghanistan. Both are my touchstones for understanding that daily decisions affecting our lives flow more from personality and power than from any political "science."