Reader Spotlight: Juan Williams of NPR

Juan Williams's eyes light up when he says he's a booklover. "It started at the public library for me and I read a cross-section of books constantly," he says. Now a news analyst for National Public Radio, a political analyst for Fox News and author of six books, Williams was born in Panama and his family moved to Brooklyn, New York, in 1958 when he was four years old.

"The Brooklyn Public Library's main branch at Grand Army Plaza was my field of dreams. I met Pippi Longstocking by Astrid Lindgren there, Studs Lonigan by James T. Farrell, and Invisible Man by Ralph Ellison. That library introduced me to Chaim Potok's book The Chosen, as well as to Richard Wright's Native Son.


Juan Williams

"In a tough neighborhood the library can be a refuge, a safe place. But it is also a place to dream of fitting in and understanding others who don't fit in. And for me it was also a place to dream of being a writer."

"I read in different places for different purposes. As a journalist I read new books constantly - in the office, on airplanes and trains and at home. But when it comes to fiction I tend to read at home or late at night in hotels."

Currently, he says, "It is the start of baseball season and I am celebrating by reading books on baseball. I just finished reading Slugging it Out in Japan: An American Major Leaguer in the Tokyo Outfield by Warren Cromartie and Robert Whiting. I've been to Japan three times and this book is just terrific as a story about Japan and a story about being a big league player. The Complete Game by former Nationals announcer and big-league pitcher Ron Darling is sitting on my nightstand.

"Recently, I was in Springfield, Massachusetts and went to the Basketball Hall of Fame where I came across a book on Michael Jordan's time as a Washington Wizard. The book, When Nothing Else Matters, by Michael Leahy is particularly rich for anyone who lived through those years as a Wizards fan.

"I look for books that are a natural fit for my curiosity at any moment. When I went to the Olympics in Beijing last year I read books on China including The Land of Dragons and Emperors by Adeline Yen Mah and a book of stories, A Thousand Years of Good Prayers by Yiyun Li.

"Last year I was thinking a lot about getting older and I read Philip Roth's Everyman as well as Richard Ford's Lay of the Land and Gabriel Garcia Marquez's Memories of My Melancholy Whores. I mentioned this line-up to a friend who suggested I also read Disgrace by J.M. Coetzee.

"Recently John Hope Franklin, the esteemed historian, died. He was a friend and he long ago asked me to read his book George Washington Williams: A Biography. I plan to do it soon as my personal tribute to a great man."

Williams's books include Eyes on the Prize: America's Civil Rights Years; Thurgood Marshall: American Revolutionary; This Far by Faith: Stories from the African American Religious Experience; I'll Find a Way or Make One: A Tribute to Historically Black Colleges and Universities; My Soul Looks Back in Wonder: Voices of the Civil Rights Movement (with David Halberstam), and Enough: The Phony Leaders, Dead-End Movements and Culture of Failure that is Undermining Black America and What We Can Do About It.

By Mary Ishimoto Morris |  April 14, 2009; 11:32 AM ET Mary Morris
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