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LeVar Burton to replace Drew Barrymore as host of National Book Awards

LeVar Burton hosted the National Book Awards in 2019. He'll host again this year, replacing Drew Barrymore.
Dimitrios Kambouris
Getty Images
LeVar Burton hosted the National Book Awards in 2019. He'll host again this year, replacing Drew Barrymore.

Actor, podcaster, and reading advocate LeVar Burton will be the host of this year's National Book Awards ceremony.

In a statement Friday, Burton, who also hosted the ceremony in 2019, said, "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."

Drew Barrymore was originally slated to host the awards show – commonly referred to as the Academy Awards for literature. That offer was rescinded by the National Book Foundation after she announced she'd return to doing her talk show during the Writers Guild of America's strike. She eventually reversed that position after strike supporters picketed her show, but not before losing out on the hosting job.

"The National Book Awards is an evening dedicated to celebrating the power of literature, and the incomparable contributions of writers to our culture," read the National Book Foundation statement announcing it was parting ways with Barrymore. "Our commitment is to ensure that the focus of the Awards remains on celebrating writers and books, and we are grateful to Ms. Barrymore and her team for their understanding in this situation."

Burton is known for his role as Geordi La Forge in Star Trek: The Next GEneration, as well as for his time hosting the PBS children's show Reading Rainbow. His breakout role was as Kunta Kinte in the 1977 television miniseries Roots, based on the 1976 novel written by Alex Haley.

He's also the host of the podcast "LeVar Burton Reads," where he reads short fiction by various authors.

The National Book Awards finalists were announced earlier this month. The winners will be revealed at the ceremony, scheduled for November 15.

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Andrew Limbong is a reporter for NPR's Arts Desk, where he does pieces on anything remotely related to arts or culture, from streamers looking for mental health on Twitch to Britney Spears' fight over her conservatorship. He's also covered the near collapse of the live music industry during the coronavirus pandemic. He's the host of NPR's Book of the Day podcast and a frequent host on Life Kit.
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