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LeVar Burton’s dream of hosting ‘Jeopardy’ has been a decade in the making, and it finally came true on Monday with Burton kicking off his run as guest host of the long-running quiz show. From “Reading Rainbow” to “Star Trek: The Next Generation” and now “Jeopardy,” the 64-year-old actor has been educating viewers for years — and he really loves books. No, seriously, he’s a book fanatic.
Besides helping millions of kids fall in love with reading, Burton has written several books of his own, including novels and children’s books such as, “The Rhino That Swallowed the Storm.” He’s also narrated books for other authors, hosted public book readings via the “LeVar Burton Reads” podcast, and recently launched a book club. Below, find a roundup of some of the books that Burton has recommended, as well as one of the novels that he wrote, and others that have been featured on his podcast. For more book recommendations check out celebrity memoirs worth adding to your reading list.
A reading selection from Burton’s podcast, this 2017 debut novel from Leslie Nneka Arimah features a collection of stories that explore the complex ties that bind relationships, whether they’re parent and child, husband and wife, or lovers and friends. One story focuses on a woman’s desperate quest to have a child; another details a father’s journey to protect and empower his daughters, while a third story centers around three generations of women haunted by war.
“Aftermath” could easily be pulled out of present day, which technically makes it ahead of its time. Released in 1997, the story unfolds as economic depression, a major earthquake, and the assassination of a Black President-elect have turned the country into a war zone. Four people, who are as different and troubled as the next, are the nation’s only hope to overcome the devastation and build a new world. Burton’s “Star Trek” co-star Whoopi Goldberg noted that he, “Created a world in which devastation leads to the possibility of redemption.”
“Go Tell It on the Mountain” is a semi-autobiographical debut novel by the late James Baldwin, and one of three books that launched Burton’s new book club. Originally published in 1953, the story centers around a 14-year-old boy named John coming to terms with his identity within a strict and religious family. The story showcases the negative and positive influence that the Pentecostal Church has had on African Americans. Said Burton, “At a time when Black people had very little representation in the publishing industry, Baldwin delivered a debut novel that introduced the world to an essential voice in American literature.”
Octavia Butler, the groundbreaking science fiction novelist who paved a lane for Afro-futurism, is the brilliant mind behind “Parable of the Sower.” This 1993 apocalyptic sci-fi novel takes place in the year 2024 and follows protagonist, Lauren Olamina, on a quest for freedom. The story unfolds as the United States has become unstable due to climate change, wealth inequality, and corporate greed. Garrett Bradley will direct a screen adaptation of “Parable of the Sower,” which is being developed by A24.
Jesmyn War commissions a collection of groundbreaking poems and essays on race in “The First This Time: A New Generation Speaks About Race.” The ‘New York Times’ best-seller, published in 2017, was inspired by Baldwin’s 1963 collection of essays, “The First This Time.” The book features works from Carol Anderson, Jericho Brown, Edwidge Danticat, Kevin Young, Claudia Rankine, and Honoree Jeffers.
Another selection from Burton’s own podcast, “Chivalry” is a charming little tale about an elderly British widow who buys what turns to be the out Holy Grail from a second-hand store. The purchase sets off on an epic visit from an ancient knight who lures her with ancient relics in hope of getting the cup. The story will be adapted into a graphic novel slated for release in September.