When George Takei took on the role of Star Trek helmsman Hikaru Sulu back in 1966, he became one of the few Asian-Americans to feature prominently (and positively) on TV at the time. Though the show would be canceled after a short three-season run, his character’s massive popularity in syndication and subsequent films marked a turning point for Asian representation in Hollywood, and pop culture at large.
As a child, Takei’s family were one of the thousands forcefully relocated to Japanese internment camps during World War II – an experience he chronicles in the 2019 graphic memoir They Called Us Enemy. The traumas and indignities he faced would deeply inform his career and public persona, leading him to roles that would profoundly impact the wider perception of Asian-Americans, while becoming a prominent voice in immigrant rights work and Japan-United States relations.
Takei also became a vocal advocate for LGBTQ+ rights after coming out as gay in 2005. A social media superstar, his platform acts as a vessel for political activism, fighting hate with humor while sounding off on a range of social justice issues.
In 2020, the actor and activist discussed the books of his life in an interview with the Los Angeles Public Library. Asked to share his 10 favorite titles “to inspire, entertain or educate readers, young and old,” Takei included work by James Baldwin, E.M. Forster and William Shakespeare. Find his reading list below, then dive into the bookshelves of other famous actors and activists.
Snow Falling on Cedars by David Guterson
Giovanni’s Room by James Baldwin
Hawaii by James A. Michener
Sayonara by James A. Michener
Maurice by E.M. Forster
Memoirs of a Geisha by Arthur Golden
Black Betty by Walter Mosley
Romeo and Juliet by William Shakespeare