Podcast Review: Levar Burton Reads
I credit three people with my love of reading:
- My brother, who gave me a dinosaur book at two-years-old and proudly presented me to family as I recited the names of all the dinosaurs.
- My mom, who not only read to me every night, but also encouraged me to read to her.
- Levar Burton, who introduced me to butterflies in the sky.
It’s no secret that I love Reading Rainbow, growing up with Levar Burton reading to me and introducing me to all sorts of new worlds and adventures. It means the world to me to know that Mr. Burton has continued to promote literacy long after the PBS television series left the air. I threw all the money I could at the Reading Rainbow Kickstarter and was in tears along with Mr. Burton at the response from others who shared my love of his passions and his goal of promoting literacy for every child.
But why should kids have all the fun?
Levar Burton Reads is a new podcast built on a simple concept: Levar Burton reads short stories. For grownups. Many of us grew up with the dulcet tones of his narrations but now, growing up doesn’t mean we have to move aside for the next generation.
As always, the stories are chosen by Mr. Burton himself, spotlighting a particular theme or style that has caught his attention. These particular stories are all of a science fiction lean, which is Mr. Burton’s preference. These are all short stories, the writing of which he rightly identifies as a unique and challenging skill. The ability to encapsulate a whole story with fully developed plot, setting, and characters in so few words is in deed a talent worthy of praise.
I’ve listened to the first three stories so far and love the variation in the themes and styles. A woman who defies the conventions placed upon women to chase her dreams, a boy who hires an alien assassin to protect his sister, and a two-part adventure featuring rogues and wizardry. Each story has its own merit, but Mr. Burton’s narration takes them up several notches. My favourite thus far is the quiet introspection of the deadly alien and his relationship with the young boy in “Kin” by Bruce McAllister.
You can listen through the Apple Listens or Stitcher app, or through the website’s playlist. I did the latter and was initially frustrated because there is no option for speeding up the narration. I normally listen to my audiobooks at 1.5 to 2x speed, but my frustration soon fell away, lulled by Mr. Burton’s eloquent narration and sound effects.
This podcast is sponsored by Audible so you’ll have to endure Mr. Burton promoting the audiobook company before and after the story. Annoyingly, this also occurs halfway through the story. It’s a bit of a jolt, but forgivable. Advertising isn’t the only that that frames the reading. He also talks about the themes the particular story presents and what few him to it and how those themes and characters relate to him personally, adding further depth to the experience.