Sonya Davidson may be the busiest person we know. She’s an active mom who attends as many as ten events a week as a culture writer for various publications.

Of course, “busy” isn’t the word she’d use. As a curious reader of the Dalai Lama’s books, she’s come to understand the importance of continually doing the things we love—no matter how hectic life can get—to help us grow and appreciate what’s around us.

We spent a day with Sonya (aka The Culture Pearl) at one her favourite places, the Art Gallery of Ontario, followed by an incredible meal in nearby Chinatown, to find out more about how reading has influenced her life.

Sonya Davidson at the Art Gallery of Ontario with Kobo

10 am: The gallery isn’t open to the public for another hour, but I’ve come early—on invitation from the AGO’s publicity team—to check out the current Song Dong’s Communal Courtyard exhibition as well as some other great collections for a few stories I’m researching. 

Sandra Davidson (aka The Culture Pearl) checking out a sculpture at the Art Gallery of Ontario

When I need a change of scenery, I actually can spend a day at the Art Gallery of Ontario or Royal Ontario Museum when my kids are at school. It’s so peaceful! I may find an interesting exhibit that inspires more reading. Over the past couple of years, I’ve looked up books on Basquiat, Ai Weiwei, and J.M.W. Turner. Today though, I’m reading the book that made Anthony Bourdain famous, Kitchen Confidential, on a recommendation from my husband.


If I have a bit of time, I’ll often take a break at a café, restaurant, or café.

11:00 am: After hitting a few excellent exhibitions, it’s time for a quick coffee break. I love the natural light in this spacious hall and can spend hours just being here.

Sandra Davidson reading on her Kobo Glo HD with a coffee at the Art Gallery of Ontario
I’m a binge reader. What does that mean? I’m a pretty passionate person so usually when I start something and it grabs me, I can’t let go. I’ll be a little obsessive and then I’ll sneak every moment I can. Like many aspects of my life, I allow myself to get lost and enjoy what I do, see, eat and yes, read.
Enjoying the beautiful architecture of the Art Gallery of Ontario

11:30 am: With a bit of caffeine in my system, I head to another nearby gallery filled with fierce and fantastic modern pieces. A little secret about me… I also paint so I’m constantly in awe of the creativity of artists.

Sandra Davidson checking out a fierce Canadian painting at a Gallery on Dundas West in Toronto

12:30 pm: The art is enthralling, but lunch is calling. The AGO just a five-minute walk from the heart of Chinatown (where I spent my childhood years!) so I’ll head to one of my favourite dim sum joints in the area.

Walking through Chinatown in Toronto with Sandra Davidson

If you’ve never walked around old Chinatown during the day, I highly recommend it! Playing tourist in your own city is always fun!

Looking at  trinkets with Sonya Davidson

On the way to the restaurant, I pass by the place my father used to work. He retired 25 years ago, but the sign for his accounting business (the blue and white INCOME TAX sign) is still up!

Kobo's My Reading Life with Sandra Davidson: Walking through Toronto's Chinatown
I love anything to do with travel, food and culture as well as the people who tell the stories about them. But lately I’ve discovered that I also love a bit of fiction as an escape.  I would be lying if I didn’t say that Crazy Rich Asians and China Rich Girlfriend by Kevin Kwan weren’t top of my indulgent reading list. Think the Kardashians are over the top? They don’t even compare to the Asia-rich socialites as portrayed here!


1:00 pm: We’re here! My family is originally from the Southern parts of China and Hong Kong so Dim Sum has been a staple in my life for as long as I can remember.

My recommendation: Everybody should stop what they’re doing and read Daydreams of Angels by Heather O’Neill. The collection of short stories is beautifully twisted. I found her stories so unpredictable but I can tell you that each one has left me breathless. She also wrote Lullabies for Little Criminals which is next on my list.
Sandra Davidson at a Dim Sum restaurant with Kobo
I usually read on public transit en route to events or appointments. Otherwise I plan my week out and pinpoint days that are designated “me time” when I’m not writing. Usually I’ll write three days and the other two are saved for meeting with friends and just making sure I do something that doesn’t involve me thinking about my next story pitch to my editors. Although that’s very hard for me to turn off. There are so many great opportunities for sharing stories.
The Culture Pearl Sandra Davidson reading her Kobo Glo HD on the streetcar

2:00 pm: Today was so inspiring and relaxing, but now it’s back to the real world. I’ll jump on the streetcar and head back home to pick up my kids from school. Then it’s off to another big event later tonight.


Sonya Davidson's Reading List:

Sonyas books