Five great novels to read on the beach

  1. The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo, by Taylor Jenkins Reid

This book spans the decades of the life of Evelyn Hugo, a retired Hollywood icon. After 70 years of silence, she relates the story of her life and her many marriages to a reporter. The sun won’t be the only thing that has you sweating while reading this book. It is a myriad of heartbreakingly tragic moments of loss, love, friendship and family that does not make for the easiest beach read. Jenkins Reid’s raw representation of what it meant to be a member in the LQBTQ+ community, as well as Cuban American, is impossible to be ignored under the harsh spotlight in the 1950’s.

  1. Nevermoor: The Trials of Morrigan Crow, by Jessica Townsend

I actually did have the pleasure of reading this on a beach. I can tell you that this middle-grade novel — which is about an unlucky girl who gets sucked into the most wacky, imaginative fantasy world — is a perfect choice for when you hit the sand. I’ve never read a book that has reminded me of Harry Potter to such an extent, while standing on its own two feet as a fantasy novel: full of giant talking cats, dragon riders, and dangerous trials.

  1. Summer of Salt, by Katrina Leno

Every time I think of summer and the beach, my mind is inadvertently brought back to this book. This is a whimsical tale of a family in which every female member is blessed with a magical ability, crucial to them being able to protect the strange island they live on. It’s a heartwarming tale about finding yourself, and is truly magical realism at its finest.

  1. Persuasion, by Jane Austen

I had to put a classic on this list, and although the latter half of this book takes place in perpetually rainy Bath, I still think it’s a perfect pick for the beach because it’s a lot lighter compared to Austen’s other books, following the story of two young lovers who meet many years later and try to give love a second chance.

  1. The Shades of Magic Trilogy, by V. E. Schwab

This one is for all the fantasy lovers out there. The series follows a man who can travel between four parallel London’s, and the antics that ensue when he smuggles an artifact out of one London to another. It may not be a quintessential beach read, but it is a hilarious, fast paced series with witty dialogue and characters that you will find yourself rooting for till the very end.

Five books to read on the TTC

  1. The Tibetan Book of the Dead

Imagine this. You’re on the subway and you have an exam in fifteen minutes. You’re stressed, and you barely got any sleep. In a panic, you rummage through your backpack for notes to do some last-minute studying, only to discover you left your notebook at home. You cry out to God in anguish just as the robot lady announces, “doors will open on the left.”

But then, what’s this? The Tibetan Book of Dead? It immediately calms you by reaffirming that this life is an allusion and we will all be reincarnated in the end anyways, and you go to your exam in peace.

  1. Catch 22, by Joseph Heller

 You’re waiting on the subway platform, preparing for the commute to UofTears. The train pulls up, and who do you see taking up a blue seat with their backpack? That cutie from your tutorial last semester. You whip out a copy of Catch 22, and they are immediately entranced.

It’s said to be one of the most commonly unfinished book in the world, and they’ll be so impressed that you’re reading it they might even give you an awkward smile. Prepare to catch that honey with Catch-22.

  1. Goosebumps, by R.L. Stine

For the shorter commutes — say, a ten-minute bus ride — you can’t go wrong with the Goosebumps series. My personal favourite is the one where the kid turns out to have been dead all along, but you can pick any one. They’re short, sweet and spooky, and simple enough that you won’t miss your stop because you’re too engaged in reading it.

  1. The October Country, by Ray Bradbury

But wait, you wonder, what if I have to take several different modes of transport? Like a bus followed by a streetcar followed by the subway followed by a bus again? Never fear, because The October Country is here!

A collection of short stories is the best for this type of journey, because you can read one story per trip, and no short story collection is better than Ray Bradbury’s October Country. From “The Scythe,” the story of a farmer who learns each blade of wheat in his field is a human life, to “The Skeleton,” about a man horrified to discover that there is a skeleton inside him (which, I mean, aren’t we all), these stories are wonderful and I highly recommend them.

  1. For Colored Girls who have Considered Suicide / When the Rainbow is Enuf, by Ntozake Shange

I haven’t finished reading this yet, but it’s incredible and I think everyone should read it anytime, anywhere — and that includes the TTC. It’s a series of interconnected poems that can be performed as well as read, and it is the choreopoem that pioneered the form. Detailing the struggles that coincide with themes such as love, abandonment, and trauma, it is a triumph of the written word.

Time to read something that’s not on your syllabus

It’s summer and there’s finally time to read something that’s not on your syllabus. But what to pick when you both want to unwind and catch up on the titles you’ve missed in the last year?

Whether you’re looking for quick reads or something longer, whether you’re longing for advice or mythology or horror, The Squirrel has you covered!

1. A Thousand Beginnings and Endingsedited by Ellen Oh and Elsie Chapman

In this new take on East and South Asian mythology and folklore, 16 bestselling writers have their short stories span across fantasy, sci-fi, romance and more. Along with each contemporary version of a myth, you also get a summary of the original.

Available at Toronto Public Library.

2. Creative Questby Questlove

Drummer, DJ and creative all-rounder Questlove’s inspirational Creative Quest was called the most anticipated book by many last year. Drawing from both his own experience and what he’s learned from others around him, and blending this with philosophies of creativity, Questlove guides us how to best lead a creative life.

Available at John M. Kelly Library, Hart House Library and Toronto Public Library.

3. The Princess Saves Herself in This Oneby Amanda Lovelace

This is poetry that makes sense even if you’re not used to reading poems. In all its simplicity, the book shows in beautiful and painful words the process of resilience.

Available at UTS Library Information Centre, Hart House Library and Toronto Public Library.

4. The Marrow Thieves, by Cherie Dimaline

Looking for a novel-length dystopia to sink into on your day off? In Cherie Dimaline’s near future, Indigenous people are hunted for their bone marrow because it will help humanity recover the ability to dream. Frenchie and a group of others travel north and try to stay hidden — but the enemy may be closer than they realize.

Available at U of T Libraries, Hart House Library and Toronto Public Library.

5. When I Arrived at the Castle, by Emily Carroll

Emily Carroll’s gothic horror graphic novel starts off with an eerie Edgar Allan Poe-feeling, but then goes somewhere completely different. The fairy-tale-like story weaves several threads together to raise questions about what evil is and who is whom. This is a quick read that stays with you.

Available at New College Library and Toronto Public Library.

Do it for the insta! No wait! The ICE CREAM

With summer finally here, it’s officially time for ice cream. From Toronto staples like Summer’s to newer additions to the city, here are five of the best ice cream places close to campus — for ice cream that tastes as good as it looks.

1. iHalo Krunch (831 Queen St W)

Serving Toronto’s best black charcoal ice cream, this queen street joint offers four signature soft serves —  ube, matcha, vanilla and charcoal-coconut — in their freshly made, charcoal-infused cones. IHalo Krunch is definitely the perfect place for one of the most unique ice cream experiences.

2. Summer’s Ice Cream (101 Yorkville Ave)

Definitely a Toronto staple, Summers is ideal for a good old-fashioned cone of ice cream. Their birthday cake flavour is perfectly paired with sitting in the Village of Yorkville Park.

3. Fugo Desserts (205 Dundas St W)

Fugo is the perfect one-stop ice cream stop for a wide choice of flavours influenced by a range of cultures. A favourite is definitely the Cookie Monster Ice Cream.

4. Taiyaki NYC Toronto (128 Dundas St W)

Serving soft serve in cakes shaped like fish, this little store front is the perfect spot to try something new while you take pictures in front of their pink rose wall. Their taro slush in a unicorn floatie is definitely a highlight.

4. Milk Bar (190 University Ave)

Part of Momofuku, this New York staple definitely lives up to its hype. Started by chef Christina Tosi, Milk bar is known for its Cereal Milk Soft Serve. The birthday cake truffles and cookies, especially the blueberry cookie, sold here are also definitely worth a try.

The best five places to go swimming near you (outside of U of T)

Temperatures have finally gone up. Instead of suffering from Toronto’s cold climate, we’re all suffering from the heat! Thus, time for a dip. But where’s the best place to go? That all depends on your preferences. 

  1. The Easy Pick: Alex Duff Memorial Pool

This outdoor pool in Christie Pits Park has a little bit for everyone, including a spring board and deep pool for diving, a water slide as well as a separate 25-metre lap pool. Good to know: this is one of the city’s pools that’s usually open late during heat waves.

Get there: TTC to Christie Station

How much: Like all City of Toronto outdoor pools, it’s free

  1. The Olympic: Donald D. Summerville Pools

If you’re not about playing around but want to get right down to it, this pool complex right on the beach at Woodbine Park is for you. There’s a 50-metre Olympic size pool, a 25-metre training pool, and even a separate pool for diving with both 5- and 10-metre diving platforms.

Get there: Bus 92 to 1816 Lake Shore Boulevard East

How much: Like all City of Toronto outdoor pools, it’s free

  1. The Adventure: The Elora Quarry

For those of you who want to get out of the city, the Elora Quarry is just an hour’s drive from downtown Toronto. This place used to be a limestone quarry, but it is now a park that offers amazing scenery. There’s a beach on the south side of the quarry that’s otherwise surrounded by cliffs.

Get there: An hour’s drive from downtown Toronto

How much: Park entry is 10 dollars

  1. The Splurge: Sheraton Centre Toronto Hotel

Just want to have a good, luxurious time while pretending to be a visitor in this city? The financial district is where you find this indoor/outdoor swimming pool. It’s best to check ahead, as guest passes sometimes sell out, especially on hot summer days.

 Get there: Streetcar 301, 501 or 502 to York Street & Queen Street West

How much: 30 happy dollars

  1. The Beach: Ward’s Island

Do you long to get out of the city but want to skip the drive? Toronto Islands is the place to go. On the eastern-most tip is an area called Ward’s Island with a nice and relaxed atmosphere. The beach, located on the southern part of Ward’s Island, is sandy with some rocks as you enter the water and the water quality is generally good here. 

Get there: Take the ferry from the Jack Layton Ferry Terminal between Bay & Yonge on Queens Quay. You can either go straight to Ward’s Island, or to Centre Island and then walk or rent a bike.

How much: Like the air, the water here is free to enjoy

The five kids you meet in summer school

The Person who needs one more course to graduate

You know who you are. You’ve likely finished your program and need one last pesky credit to get your diploma marking you as an educated person. Whether it’s breadth or just a random class, you know the finish line is right in front of you.

The Keener

Ah, the keener. Regardless of why they’re taking the course, you know what they’re going to do. They’re going to go to every single class, take notes on every single reading there is, raise their hand to get that participation grade, or worse, out of actual curiosity. Teach me your ways.

The Re-Do

It happens. For one reason or another we don’t pass a course and have to retake it in the summer. I mean, it’s the perfect solution. Smaller class sizes, warmer weather, twice the speed of a normal course — no pressure, right?

The One-Who-Skips-Every-Class-But-Makes-The-Final

I mean, I get it? It’s summer, it’s hot not cold out, you’re commuting downtown anyway, so you might as well enjoy the outdoor patios and the park and the chill atmosphere. Who even has time for class? Just go to the final and hand in your assignments and you’re good.

Dora The Explorer

While not necessarily named Dora, this student seeks to explore the endless classes that are held at U of T. Going from obscure class to obscure class, they seek to find the most unique classes available to us. Whether it’s a course on movies, classic rock, or graphic novels, they’ll try anything. Although no Dora, I recently took a course on the intersection of graphic novels and religion.

Next time you’re in a summer course, remember these five students. And know that one of these is definitely you.

Five out-of-the-box travel destinations — for students

Being a student is tough. Between balancing classes, jobs, and an ever-limited budget, finding the time to actually see and explore the city is tough. Even when you do find the time, Toronto is expensive. So here are five budget-friendly travel destinations for students:

  1. Art Gallery of Ontario (AGO)

Under a new pricing model that began on May 25, 2019, admission to the AGO for those aged 25 and under will now be free. So go on, see various pieces of Canadian, Indigenous, and international art, including exhibits like Yayoi Kusama’s Infinity Mirrored Room.

  1. High Park

Like nature? Like picnics? Like zoos? Like free things? Well, High Park is the place for you! A spacious park in the West End, it’s known for its annual cherry blossom bloom, but also has a free zoo open all year from 7:00 am to dusk.

  1. Bike Share Toronto

Although not a destination, Bike Share Toronto offers a $7 Day Pass to bike as much as you’d like for 24 hours, from Humber Bay Park in the west to the Beaches in the east. Good for exercise, the environment, and sightseeing, the only downside is you have to dock your bike every 30 minutes or face overage charges.

  1. Allan Gardens

Located at 160 Gerrard Street East, close to Carlton Street and Jarvis Street, Allan Gardens is a mixed-use park and an indoor botanical garden, featuring beautiful plants and flowers from around the world. Open all year from 10 am to 5 am, admission is free and wheelchair-accessible as part of the Toronto Parks system.

  1. Hamilton

If you’re looking to leave the city and not break the bank, spend a weekend in Steeltown! Take a bus from downtown Toronto to Hamilton for as low as $10, and take a day or weekend exploring the burgeoning food, bar, and café scenes while exploring its natural beauty — whether the lake or its various waterfalls!

Music to listen to when you’ve graduated

School is out and you’re now free from U of T’s embrace for good. Whether you have your whole life planned out or are just taking it one day at a time, here are some songs to listen to while staring at your very expensive diploma.

“Sure Don’t Miss You” by The Dip

Freedom definitely tastes sweet, even if we all know that it’s a fleeting feeling. That’s okay, I’ll revel in this post-graduation high for as long as I can. It’s just as the chorus suggests: “someday, I might miss you, but I sure don’t miss you right now,” U of T.

“Emotions and Math” by Margaret Glaspy

Honestly, I mostly like this song for its name. It never fails to make me think that, at the end of the day, undergrad is just a combination of emotions and math.

“Beautiful Escape feat. Zak Abel” by Tom Misch

This song just makes you want to dance in pure bliss while all your friends are panicking as ACORN continues to crash during course registration. Seriously, I will not miss ACORN even a little bit.

“Is This It?” By the Greeting Committee

Now that a few months have passed since the end of undergrad, and convocation is over, the reality of the fact that you will not be returning to campus in September might be sinking in. What even is a life without studying all day and night at Robarts? I don’t know and now the post-graduation panic is starting to sink in.

“Are You Bored Yet? feat. Clairo” By Wallows 

Taking the summer off seemed like a really good idea, until I realized that I have no money to travel or take aesthetic Instagram pictures at trendy places.

“No Plan” by Hozier

Really reach your peak existential crisis phase with this next song. What is the point of doing anything? The earth is going to go up in flames soon anyways so my diploma and I will just listen to Hozier’s haunting voice until that happens.

“Sanity” by Nick Murphy/Chet Faker

The existential crisis might start to make you feel as though you’re losing your mind, a little bit. This upbeat tune might help you unwind from your downward spiral.

“Why Do You Feel So Down?” By Declan McKenna

For talking about being down, this is one upbeat song. And that about sums up the post-graduation experience: you may be stressed about what happens next, but this is also the start of a new chapter with almost endless possibilities. So don’t feel so down about it.

“Coming Home” by Leon Bridges

Graduating for many, including me, might mean having to go back home, whether it be just for the summer or indefinitely. Embrace being able to have your parents cook for you again, or not ruining every load of laundry because you’re too lazy or too broke to separate your whites from your colours.

“Postcard” by First Aid Kit

The line, “I wasn’t looking to change, I’ll never be the same,” defines my undergrad experience. So, thanks for the good and the bad, U of T. I’ll send you a postcard when I get to where I’m going.

The Squirrel’s guide to surviving summer school

I have more summer terms under my belt than I imagine the average U of T student does. Even so, I still couldn’t tell you whether I consider the session to be better or equal to the fall and winter sessions —academically of course. Still, the experience is different and also bears the ability to set a new ‘norm’ that will carry you through the session, and the rest of your degree as a whole.  Here are my tips:

  1. Take courses you LIKE

I know you’ve heard that the shortness of the summer session make it the perfect time to take the courses you want to get over with. Wrong! I’d bet that the courses you hate are not the courses you’re the best at. For the sake of your GPA — and a pleasant summer — pick courses that you enjoy.

  1. Switch things up! 

Do not study at home! I can’t stress this enough. The most intelligent people I’ve met at U of T will tell you not to study in your room. It’s nice out, so be smart and take advantage of the weather to explore new coffee shops and study spaces.

  1. Set a routine

When speaking to first-time summer school attendees, the speed of the courses seems to entice more people than it scares away. Don’t get me wrong; I was the same.  I remember asking myself, “But will they really make us cover all the same topics as the fall and winter sessions?”

The answer? I don’t know, but I’ll tell you that it’s no walk in the park. You’ll have a lot to balance in a very short amount of time, including the obligatory summer fun activities. You’re going to need a routine and learn to budget your time effectively.

  1. Get enough sleep

In the age of self-love, care, and help, it surprises me that sleep consistently gets the short end of the stick in our attempts to balance wellness, school, and a social life. With the livelihood of the Toronto summer nights, the temptation to cut down on sleep to keep up with school and friends is amplified. Sleep is not optional. Caffeine is not ‘sleep.’

  1. Make friends

Missing a lecture in the summer does not equate to missing a lecture in during the regular year — courses are covering more and going a lot faster in each lecture. You will need someone to fill you in, even if the slides are posted on Quercus. So get to know people in your lecture, because they will save you in your time of need.

Also, I’ve found making new friends in summer school is easier because, well, you’re all in the same boat, and there are fewer faces in lecture and campus as a whole.

  1. Get ALL of your textbooks

I know, I know — why spend hundreds of dollars on a 6-week course? You guessed my answer to this one: everything rushed. Not everything will be covered in lecture in depth in lecture, and you’re expected to come out of these courses with a knowledge comparable to those having taken the course in the fall and winter sessions. This means that instruction is brief, but exams are just as thick, and just as challenging.

My final tip doubles as the conclusion and the most important of them all: have fun. I don’t mean like the Canada Wonderland type of fun, but I mean contentment — not even a 4.0 GPA at U of T is worth your mental health. My final tip for survival is to promise to be good to yourself. It is the summer, after all.

Course enrolment in six easy steps

Aside from sabotage, there are a few things you can do to ensure that you get into all the courses you want— or desperately need. 

  1. Plan for the future

The last thing you want to think about in your first year is your final year, but planning ahead reduces the course enrolment panic. It also prevents you from taking more courses than you can handle — which induces more stress than necessary. 

Plan backwards. Take note of the courses you want and need to take in your fourth year, and work down. What prerequisites do you need? What distribution credits do you need? Take those and the rest will work itself out. 

Also, Degree Explorer is your friend. Don’t take more courses than you have to.

  1. Explore your options

Educate yourself on current course offerings by using the timetable planner. The planner shows all the courses offered in the fall, winter, and summer sessions, so you can map out your schedule and avoid any conflicts. There’s nothing worse than having two courses you want to take overlap with other.

  1. Always have a ‘plan B’ 

Popular and mandatory courses fill up quickly. Try to get into those first, but if they’re full make sure you have backups ready. Pick courses that fulfil some kind of requirement, or self-satisfaction, so that it isn’t a waste of time.

  1. Add courses to your enrolment cart early

ACORN graciously offers students the ability to add courses before the enrolment time. Add all your courses beforehand and just click “enrol” once it is your start time. No more scrambling to remember the course code. It’s almost as therapeutic as online shopping. 

Just make sure you have that timetable handy, so that you don’t add your alternative courses first.

  1. Set your alarm 

If you have everything in your enrolment cart, wake up 15 minutes before. You won’t have access to ACORN until your start time, so don’t waste precious sleeping time.

  1. Be a fourth-year

This probably sounds like the least helpful item on the list if you are entering your first year, but trust me, if you can just find a time machine and skip ahead about three years, it will be so much easier. Since your fourth year is usually the final year of your undergraduate life, you’re given priority by the registrar— you get to choose your courses first.

However, if you don’t have access to a time machine, there is still hope: the waiting list. You just need to be in the top 10 per cent and you’ll probably get in. Just attend the lectures and pray that everyone before you drops out.