Obama Names the Books of His Presidency

By January 18, 2017 Discussion and Recommendations

As Obama’s eight-year presidency comes to an end we’re seeing quite a bit from the whole family as in one way or another, they sum up the last eight years. One thing that we note about Obama’s presidency is that he’s released reading lists, and we do love a reader.

And now Obama has chatted with the New York Times about how being a reader has shaped his presidency, the books he’s read and loved while he’s been in office and his relationship with books as a reader. He even goes so far as to say that books are his secret to surviving the White House years.

We’re not going to repeat the entire transcript, you can read it here , and whatever you feel about his presidency, as a reader you’re bound to find yourself nodding along. He may be the president, but he reads for the same reason as we do, for escape, to build empathy, and to widen his world viewpoint and these are the books he says shaped his presidency.

The Underground Railroad – Colson Whitehead

National Book Award winner, The Underground Railroad was the last book Obama read while in office and he spoke highly of it, saying it had changed his outlook on the world.

The Underground Railroad US
The Underground Railroad UK

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A Bend in the River – V. S Naipaul

Obama said that A Bend in the River was able to serve as “a kind of foil”. Obama said “[It] starts with the line ‘The world is what it is; men who are nothing, who allow themselves to become nothing, have no place in it.’ And I always think about that line and I think about his novels when I’m thinking about the hardness of the world sometimes, particularly in foreign policy, and I resist and fight against sometimes that very cynical, more realistic view of the world. And yet, there are times where it feels as if that may be true.

A Manual for Cleaning Women US
A Manual for Cleaning Women UK

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The Three-Body Problem – Liu Cixin

Obama doesn’t only read historical novels though, The Three-Body Problem is apocalyptic sci-fi and of it Obama says “The scope of it was immense. So that was fun to read, partly because my day-to-day problems with Congress seem fairly petty — not something to worry about. Aliens are about to invade!

The Three-Body Problem US
The Three-Body Problem UK

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One Hundred Years of Solitude – Gabriel Garcia Marquez

The President also talked about books he’s been reading with his daughters Malia and Sasha and that list includes One Hundred Years of Solitude, the classic work of magical realism.

One Hundred Years of Solitude US
One Hundred Years of Solitude UK

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The Golden Notebook – Doris Lessing

Another one of Obama’s reads with his daughters is feminist novel The Golden Notebook. We definitely approve of this choice.

The Golden Notebook US
The Golden Notebook UK

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The Woman Warrior – Maxine Hong

Along the same theme is The Woman Warrior, a tale of growing up female and Chinese-American in a California laundry that has added to the daddy/daughter reading list.

The Woman Warrior US
The Woman Warrior UK

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Thinking, Fast and Slow – Daniel Khaneman

Obama is also a fan of nonfiction and listed two books as recent reads. Thinking, Fast and Slow is an international bestseller and looks at how our minds are gripped up by error and prejudice, teaching us better thinking.

Thinking, Fast and Slow US
Thinking, Fast and Slow UK

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The Sixth Extinction – Elizabeth Kolbert

The second nonfiction book recommended by Obama is The Sixth Extinction, that suggests that the earth is in the midst of a modern, man-made sixth extinction.

The Sixth Extinction US
The Sixth Extinction UK

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Barack Obama has released a book list for every year of his Presidency and they have produced some fantastic suggestions and books I may not have read otherwise.

We hope that the President Elect is just as keen to continue this tradition because we love a good reading list!



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