To put it in terms he himself would not use, reading is LeVar Burton‘s brand. It’s been almost 40 years since he started introducing young viewers to the joys of books as the host of Reading Rainbow, and he’s still reading aloud to anyone who will listen (including many who grew up on the PBS show). When the pandemic shutdown began, he hosted thrice-weekly livestreams reading stories to his Twitter followers and has done the same on his podcast LeVar Burton Reads since 2017. To talk to him about reading is, in many ways, to talk to him about himself. So perhaps the most surprising thing about his new book club is that it hasn’t existed until now.
The LeVar Burton Book Club launches Tuesday via the “social reading app” Fable, with selections handpicked by the actor. To start off, he’s chosen three books that “represent how my identity as a reader has been shaped,” he says: James Baldwin‘s semi-autobiographical novel Go Tell It on the Mountain, Octavia Butler‘s modern sci-fi classic Parable of the Sower, and the essay and poetry collection The Fire This Time, edited by Jesmyn Ward. (Baldwin’s book will serve as the first month’s pick, with three new titles being revealed every three months.)
“For me, if I’m going to start a book club, I’m going to begin with who I am and my story as a reader,” Burton tells EW. “Obviously, there are hundreds of books that have shaped my identity as a reader, and these three are really representative of an important aspect of that journey for me.”
And while all three are by Black authors, Burton takes care to emphasize that to view his book club as an exclusively Black book club “does me and the literature that I promote a great disservice.”
“I know I have demonstrated over time that my attitude towards literature is ecumenical,” he says. “As it happens, the first three books are by people who look like me, and if one wants to pigeonhole that, then that would be, in my estimation, their shortcoming. It’s nothing more than a starting point that reflects who I am.”
Ahead of the launch, the former Star Trek actor and future Jeopardy guest host spoke to EW about starting the book club, why reading has always meant so much to him, and why it made sense to kick off the club with James Baldwin’s “origin story.”
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SOURCE: Entertainment Weekly, Tyler Aquilina