In 2017, actor LeVar Burton launched his podcast, LeVar Burton Reads. Similar to his famous tenure as the host of Reading Rainbow, Burton reads a story in each episode, although the podcast is geared more towards adults.
In every installment, listeners hear interesting short stories from various genres, many of them little-known gems from famous authors. As Burton describes, the only thing that really connects the stories is the fact that he enjoys them.
Five years later, the series is still going strong. If you’re looking to get into LeVar Burton Reads now, there’s no bad place to start. But why not begin with the best of the best? Here are the seven best episodes of LeVar Burton Reads. But you don't have to take our word for it! Take a listen below.
“The Paper Menagerie” by Ken Liu
This episode—or really, this story—is so beloved by fans that Burton has revisited it not once, but twice!
First published in 2011, “The Paper Menagerie” is the first piece of fiction to win both the Nebula, Hugo, and World Fantasy Awards.
The story follows Jack, the son of Chinese immigrants. Jack spends his childhood playing with origami animals his mother makes that come to life when she blows on them. As Jack grows up, he distances himself from his mother in an attempt to seem more American, but a family tragedy will bring them closer together.
“Chivalry” by Neil Gaiman
Neil Gaiman always delivers with his stories, and “Chivalry” is no different. Recently adapted into a graphic novel, it follows an elderly widow in England who, on a shopping trip, buys what turns out to be the Holy Grail.
Soon, she is visited by a medieval knight on his own quest for the relic.
“What It Means When A Man Falls From the Sky” by Lesly Nneka Arimah
In this fan-favorite episode, Burton reads “What It Means When A Man Falls From the Sky," the story of a mathematician who has solved the inner workings of the universe. It all boils down to a formula that allows him to control other people and their emotions.
The story shares its name with author Lesly Nneka Arimah’s debut story collection, which was released in 2017 to wide critical acclaim.
“Childfinder” by Octavia Butler
You can never go wrong with some Octavia Butler!
“Childfinder” follows Barbara, a woman who can recognize the potential for psychic abilities in children.
For many years, Barbara worked with “the organization”, finding psychic children to recruit into their ranks. But now, she has set up her own group, especially for Black pre-telepaths.
“The Flyers of Gy” by Ursula K. Le Guin
This episode was recorded live in Portland during the podcast’s tour. Beloved Portland author Ursula K. Le Guin’s story takes readers into a society of feathered creatures who have lost their ability to fly. Only in rare circumstances does a child grow wings and take to the sky.
In addition to the story, the episode also features music by Marisa Anderson and a conversation between Burton and writer/activist Walidah Imarisha about the story, social justice, and Le Guin’s legacy.
“The Merchant and the Alchemist’s Gate” by Ted Chiang
You might recognize Ted Chiang as the author of the short story, “Story of Your Life," which served as the basis for the movie Arrival.
In this episode, Burton reads Chiang's 2007 novelette, “The Merchant and the Alchemist’s Gate."
While searching for a gift in a shop in Baghdad, fabric merchant Fuwaad ibn Abbas is shown a strange arch in the back of the store. The owner claims the arch is a portal to the future. When Fuwaad also learns the owner has a gateway to the past in Cairo, he eagerly takes the opportunity to fix a mistake from his history.
“The Second Bakery Attack” by Haruki Murakami
Originally published in Marie Claire Japan, Haruki Murakami’s “The Second Bakery Attack” is actually a sequel to another short story.
While lying in bed with his wife, a man recounts when he and his friend tried to rob a bakery, only for the owner to willingly give them the bread if they listened to music with him. Amused by the story, the girlfriend suggests they attempt a robbery of their own.
Featured image via Wikimedia Commons.