Designated Survivor’s Jake Epstein gives us his five favourite books

The Broadway star returns home to take part in the annual UnCovered production at Koerner Hall


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Jake Epstein has strutted across many a stage both in Toronto and in New York City where he starred in Beautiful: The Carole King Musical on Broadway. But recently, people are getting to know him as a member of the cast of the hit TV show Designated Survivor starring another Toronto native, Keifer Sutherland. 

Epstein grew up in North York where he attended Claude Watson School of the Arts and Earl Haig Secondary School. Then Degrassi happened, and his star was on the rise. Since then, he’s worked mostly onstage, in such productions as the Green Day project American Idiot and the Broadway production of Spider-Man:Turn Off the Dark.

This month, Epstein is back in Toronto as one of the many stage stars in UnCovered: Dylan & Springsteen alongside the likes of Brent Carver, Divine Brown and Melissa O’Neil. The show runs Nov. 14 to 16 at Koerner Hall. Here, Jake shares thoughts on his five favourite books, including one written by his mother.

All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr
This book tells two parallel Second World War stories about a blind girl, able to survive because of the life lessons her father taught her, and a gifted German boy, who gets selected to join a training school for the Nazi military elite. I love this book not only because of the unique perspective on the war, but because the language is so beautifully poetic.

The Catcher in the Rye by J. D. Salinger
This is my favourite novel to reread at different stages of my life. Probably the greatest character study in modern literature, everyone can identify with Holden Caulfield's raw angst, alienation and struggle with authenticity. It gets sadder to read as the years go on, but no less riveting.

Born to Run by Bruce Springsteen
Told with humour, raw honesty and a poetic working man’s soul, I couldn't put it down. In particular, what I found so moving about Springsteen's story is that he admits he was never a naturally talented singer or guitar player or even songwriter. Through the book, we witness young Bruce struggle to learn and eventually find his place in the rock ’n’ roll pantheon. 

To Look a Nazi in the Eye by Kathy Kacer
As a child of Holocaust survivors, my mom has made it her life goal to educate younger generations about the war. She is constantly searching for new ways to make the history relevant. She absolutely nails it with her latest book, based on a true story about Jordana Lebowitz and her trip to Germany to witness the trial of Oskar Gröning.

Sick in the Head by Judd Apatow
I keep this book with me whenever I'm in need of a life pick-me-up. Written from the point of view of a student and fan, Apatow has published his life's interviews with the world's most famous comic minds — some of them before they hit it big, some of them during the height of their fame and some after retirement. A must-read for any performer.

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Ron Johnson is the editor of Post City Magazines. Follow him on Twitter @TheRonJohnson.

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