The Obama reading list

Former President Obama has continued his practice of sharing his summer reading list with us. It's always fun to compare his reading habits with my own to see where they overlap. His reading material tends more to nonfiction than my own, but it is refreshing to realize that he is also an enthusiastic consumer of great fiction.

His list last summer included only five books, three fiction and two nonfiction, and I had read (or planned to read) and enjoyed the three fiction and one of the nonfiction. I was gratified that we were so in sync.

This year's list contains works by eleven different writers, including, at the top of the list, the collected works of Toni Morrison, and our reading tastes are somewhat less in sync this year. I can only claim to have read one of Morrison's books, Beloved, which I read eleven years ago. I feel that I did not fully appreciate that book at the time and that I need to read it again. I would also like to read her other works.

Second on his list is The Nickel Boys by Colson Whitehead. Perhaps I will read Whitehead's works someday, but frankly, I'm just not up for it at this point. I've read the reviews of this and of Underground Railroad and I find that I just can't face the bleakness of either. That's my failing and weakness.

I'm not a big fan of short stories so it's not too likely that I will pick up Exhalation by Ted Chiang. As for Wolf Hall by Hilary Mantel, I read it YEARS ago, as well as Bring Up the Bodies, and I'm still waiting impatiently for her third book in the sequence. Haruki Murakami's Men Without Women is on my r(e)adar and I hope to get to it someday.

American Spy by Lauren Wilkinson intrigues me and I've put it on my reading list and The Shallows by Nicholas Carr, a nonfiction book about what the internet is doing to our brains, seems like a book I need to read.  So does Lab Girl, a memoir by Hope Jahren about becoming a scientist and about her work with plants.

I'm currently reading Inland by Tea Obreht, but I'm not sure I'll ever read How to Read the Air by Dinaw Mengestu or Maid by Stephanie Land.

So, there are six of the 11 on his list that I have read, am reading, or will likely read, plus possibly rereading Beloved and reading the other Toni Morrison books.

It makes me happy to know that President Obama still makes time in his schedule for reading and for sharing that reading with us, and it makes me long for a day when we can once again have a reader as president. 


  1. When you see the class, the dignity and the intellectual capacity of Barak Obama it makes you weep to contemplate the moron in the White House now, duly elected by the voters of the United States. In my wildest and worst dreams I never thought it could come to this.

    1. We do miss having a literate president, in so many ways.

  2. To think, someone who reads. America had its chance to appreciate him and look what happened. Right now, none of his books are on my reading list, not because they aren't good (and I'm especially interested in Wolf Hall) but because right now I read for relaxation - mind pudding, if you will.

    1. I think that is why I can't face reading Colson Whitehead. Perhaps when times are a bit less tense and racism isn't smacking us in the face every day with our morning coffee.

  3. Great post, Dorothy. I too plan to read (or rather reread, because I have read them all) Toni Morrison's books in the coming year, after I finish Richard Powers.


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