As a dedicated, if not obsessive, podcast listener, I am constantly on the hunt for any and all recommendations to add to my never ending list. Between a long commute to work and sitting at a desk for too many daylight hours, podcasts are part of my life. The constant undulations of various podcasts to keep me company in my long car rides and achingly quiet office. Everything from horror stories to NPR news hours, I have every genre possible. Imagine, then, my overjoyed screech when I was told of a very new podcast: LeVar Burton Reads.
You may know of this man from two things: Star Trek: The Next Generation or the brilliant 90’s show, Reading Rainbow. As a child, before the birth of the podcast, my after school hours consisted of reading whatever books I could get my greedy little hands on. That and watching with wide-eyed awe the newest episode of Reading Rainbow with LeVar Burton and his books for that week. I eagerly listened to various celebrities read books that I then begged my parents to find at the library. Desperately, I wanted to read them myself. It started my lifelong love of anything bookish and then quickly lead to the library I have amassed at home now as an adult.
When the magical happened I immediately downloaded the first episode of this new podcast, and I felt that childhood joy spark inside me once again. Currently, four episodes each telling a different story about forty minutes long, are available for download. It mimics the organization of the Reading Rainbow TV show. LeVar introduces the story he will read with a quick note on the author and brief synopsis of the story itself and why the story struck a chord with him. Then to conclude the podcast, he gently reassures us with that nostalgic motto: “But you don’t have to take my word for.” This is what I adore so much about the podcast; it mixes the nostalgia of my childhood and adds in new, more mature elements. I can listen to a comforting and familiar voice reading me new stories that fit into my older, more adult world.
He chooses stories that speak to him on some level, but also stories that are fun, engaging, and active. Sometimes weird, but his stories are complicated enough to match the oddity of the adult world. That’s what I love about each of the stories he’s read so far. I can sit and listen for a short period of time, and I am whisked away into the words, but I also get to relive those childhood hours where I listened to someone read stories to me.
My favorite so far has been the two-parter, “Empty Spaces” by Richard Parks. As a fan of fantasy this story specifically stuck out to me, the two characters were given such life and pathos from the reading that, even at work, I paused and became entirely engrossed in this story. I loved the dynamic of the two main characters, a wizard and a thief, and the small twist at the end that leaves you feeling better about the two anti-heroes presented to you. The characters struggle with trusting one another well enough to work together, and unbeknownst to our narrator, Jayn the Thief, he desires to know the nature of his benefactor the wizard and the true purpose of their quest together. The ending is not what you expect, and I think that is precisely why this story is chosen. It shifts the perspective of the reader on relationships and human nature.
For anyone who wants some time away from the world and to listen to an emotional storyteller, I cannot recommend this podcast enough. For anyone who wants to be productive but not distracted by amazing stories then maybe this isn’t quite the right podcast for you. With both the the nostalgia of childhood and exciting new stories, LeVar Burton Reads is the quality we need in our lives, giving us the best of both worlds.
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