As a fan, I'm thrilled to learn that I share something in common with actor/author/director/producer/all-around-cool-guy LeVar Burton: We're both Neil Gaiman fans.
I know this because when I interviewed him for a story for the Colorado Springs Independent that ran in yesterday's issue — he'll be speaking in the Springs on April 27 — we not only talked about his acting (from Roots to Star Trek: The Next Generation), Reading Rainbow and how he became a literacy advocate, but we also talked about what we were both reading.
Top of his list? Gaiman's newest, Trigger Warning.
And it is a list he runs through. Because also, like me, he reads more than one title at a time.
"I picked up that habit from my mother," LeVar says. "I blame her."
So what else is he reading then?
"Wild Child, by T.C. Boyle. He and I are both being honored by the L.A. Times Book Awards this year, and so I want to make sure that I've boned up on T.C. When I meet him, I want to be able to talk T.C. Boyle with T.C. Boyle."
Also on the list: The Essential Martin Luther King Jr., and works by Octavia Butler (his favorite sci-fi author) and Joyce Carol Oates. He also says that science fiction is "the one that is my genre" and so The Year's Best Science Fiction, an anthology edited by Gardner Dozois, is something else he's always got going — for both the sci-fi and the short fiction elements.
"I like reading short fiction at night before I go to sleep," he explains. "In one or two nights I can get through a story, and sometimes, depending on their length, two in a night before I drop off to sleep.
"Short fiction for me is, like, wow. You've really got to be a master of the craft to write short fiction well because there are no wasted words. You really have to be relevant and concisely precise. In any genre."
If you've been following LeVar's career (and/or have kids), you'll know that he just published his first children's book in the fall, The Rhino Who Swallowed a Storm. Between that and his Reading Rainbow work, I asked him if he could recommend any books for kids.
"There are two that I tend to recommend in terms of picture book, which is the literature that we promote ... on the show because we are all about reaching the entry-level reader. Turning that child into a reader for life. Encouraging them to make that decision, self-select if you will, as a reader for life," he says.
"One is Derek Munson’s Enemy Pie. It's a story about a young boy who has an enemy move into the neighborhood, and his father vows to help him resolve it by making enemy pie for the boy and it has a surprise twist ending. I won't spoil it for you if you haven't read it. ... And then I also love Mary Hoffman's Amazing Grace. I recommend that book liberally. It's about a young girl Grace who wants to play Peter Pan in her school play but she gets resistance from her classmates because she is neither a boy and she is black as well. And it is Grace's journey of awakening as to the power of her imagination, and why she is uniquely suited in the end to play the character of Peter Pan."
I don't know about you, but I've just added, oh, five or six books to my to-reads. Thanks LeVar!
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