At a recent Reading Together book discussion, I was asked, “Why Kareem Abdul-Jabbar? What’s so special about this book when there are so many good books to choose from?” As I responded to the question, I was reminded that not everyone shares my librarian’s perspective about this author.
Author, you say? Isn’t Kareem Abdul-Jabbar best known for being the NBA’s all-time leading scorer and six-time NBA champion? And of course, he is known for those achievements on the basketball court.
You might be surprised to know, however, that he is also the author of at least twelve books, including Black Profiles in Courage: A Legacy of African-American Achievement (1996); Brothers in Arms: The Epic Story of the 761st Tank Battalion, WWII’s Forgotten Heroes (2005); and What Color is My World?: The Lost History of African-American Inventors(2013). His fiction titles include Mycroft Holmes for adults, as well as Streetball Crew for middle graders. Writings on the Wall was published in 2016 and a new book, Coach Wooden and Me: Our 50-Year Friendship On and Off the Court will be released this May.
In addition to his books, Abdul-Jabbar has also become a regular contributor to the Washington Post and Time Magazine, where he shares his views on modern-day topics, from the parallels between Game of Thrones and the 2016 presidential election to patriotism in sports. He is the chairman of his Skyhook Foundation whose mission is to “give kids a shot that can’t be blocked,” by bringing educational STEM opportunities to underserved communities through innovative outdoor environmental learning. He was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom by President Barack Obama in 2016.
In other words, not only is Kareem Abdul-Jabbar a national sports hero, he is also a respected cultural commentator, with a lot to say about social and political concerns facing our world today. In Writings on the Wall, he offers his views about a number of potentially divisive issues, and most importantly, offers suggestions for how we might resolve them. That is precisely what makes the book ideal for a “common read” initiative like Reading Together: It provides a built-in springboard for discussion that we believe can help bring people together from a common point of reference.
We hope you’ll join the conversation!
Karen Trout, Reading Together Coordinator