The National Book Foundation, presenter of the National Book Awards, today announced LeVar Burton, renowned actor, director, and author, will host the 74th National Book Awards Ceremony & Benefit Dinner on November 15, 2023 at Cipriani Wall Street in New York City.
“LeVar Burton has introduced multiple generations of young people to the joys of reading, and is a fearless advocate for book access, especially amidst the alarming rise in book banning across the country,” said David Steinberger, Chair of the Board of Directors of the National Book Foundation. “We are delighted to welcome LeVar back onto the National Book Awards stage, alongside special guest Oprah Winfrey, to champion the power of literature as the host this year’s Ceremony & Benefit Dinner.”
“I’m a big believer in the power of the written word, and am proud to stand alongside the National Book Foundation to celebrate exceptional storytelling and the Foundation’s mission to make books accessible to everyone, everywhere,” said LeVar Burton. “It’s an honor to return as host of the biggest night for books, especially in a moment when the freedom to read is at risk and literature both needs and deserves our recognition and support.”
Actor, director, producer, writer, and podcaster LeVar Burton is recognized globally for his role as Chief Engineer Geordi La Forge in the iconic Star Trek: The Next Generation television and film series; his breakout role as Kunta Kinte in the ABC miniseries Roots; and as the host and executive producer of the PBS children’s television series, Reading Rainbow. Burton continues to inspire new generations of readers with his podcast, LeVar Burton Reads, in which he reads and discusses a work of short fiction in every episode. He is also the award-winning author of Aftermath, The Rhino Who Swallowed a Storm, and A Kids Book About Imagination. In 2019, Burton hosted the 70th National Book Awards Ceremony & Benefit Dinner. Most recently, Burton served as the Honorary Chair of Banned Books Week 2023, an annual week-long series of events that draws attention to the rising movement of book censorship in the United States and highlights the importance of free and open access to information for readers of all ages. The National Book Foundation is a Banned Books Week coalition member.
“We are honored to have LeVar Burton—a longtime friend and ally of the National Book Foundation—join us to celebrate the power of stories,” said Ruth Dickey, Executive Director of the National Book Foundation. “From his role as the beloved host of Reading Rainbow to his new documentary The Right to Read, Burton’s unique and contagious passion for books has inspired countless readers. This year—more than ever before—books are at risk, and we are tremendously proud to have a champion like Burton celebrate authors, translators, and readers everywhere as the host of the 2023 National Book Awards.”
The National Book Award Winners in the categories of Fiction, Nonfiction, Poetry, Translated Literature, and Young People’s Literature will be announced live on Wednesday, November 15. The five Finalists in each category were selected by a distinguished panel of judges, and were announced earlier this month by the New York Times. The invitation-only 74th National Book Awards Ceremony & Benefit Dinner, featuring special guest Oprah Winfrey, will also include the presentation of two lifetime achievement awards. Rita Dove, National Book Award Finalist and Pulitzer Prize winning poet, will be recognized with the National Book Foundation’s Medal for Distinguished Contribution to American Letters, presented by National Book Award Finalist Jericho Brown, and Paul Yamazaki, principal buyer at City Lights Booksellers & Publishers, will receive the Foundation’s Literarian Award for Outstanding Service to the American Literary Community, presented by Books & Books owner Mitchell Kaplan. Readers everywhere can register for the National Book Awards Ceremony broadcast at nationalbook.org/awards.
In addition to announcing the National Book Award Winners, the Benefit Dinner drives funding for the Foundation’s year-round educational and public programming to connect readers of all ages, in every corner of the country, with books and authors. For more information about the 74th National Book Awards Ceremony & Benefit Dinner, including sponsorship opportunities, please visit the National Book Foundation website.
LeVar Burton is an actor, director, producer, and podcaster whose decades-long body of work includes Roots, Star Trek: The Next Generation, and Reading Rainbow. He is the honored recipient of seven NAACP Awards, a Peabody Award, a Grammy Award, and 15 Emmy Awards, including a Lifetime Achievement Award at the Inaugural Children’s & Family Emmys.
As a lifelong literacy advocate, Burton has dedicated decades to encouraging children to read. In 2023, Burton premiered his first documentary, The Right to Read, a film that positions the literacy crisis in America as a civil rights issue. The Right to Read was an official selection at the Santa Barbara International Film Festival and SXSW EDU.
Burton continues to exercise his passion for storytelling as the award-winning author of Aftermath, The Rhino Who Swallowed a Storm, and A Kids Book About Imagination. He launched his first book club with Fable, a digital book club community, and partnered with Masterclass, to share the power of storytelling.
His production company, LeVar Burton Entertainment (LBE), develops projects in the film, television, podcasting, and publishing space with the mission to share stories that fosters empathy, champions diversity, and builds community.
Now in its 12th season, the enormously popular LeVar Burton Reads podcast has over 175 episodes in its catalog, boasting 25 million downloads. LBE’s first Kids & Family podcast, Sound Detectives, will debut on Stitcher in July of 2023.
As a pop culture icon, Burton has the unique ability to reach across all ages, ethnicities, and socioeconomic groups–communicating to a large fan base that is highly engaged and motivated to embrace his message.
Image: LeVar Burton. (Photo credit: Sarah Coulter for Paramount+)