Barack Obama's list of favourite reads has something for everyone, from the non-fiction fan to sci-fi enthusiast. Photo: Saul Loeb/AFP via Getty Images
Barack Obama Shares His Favourite Books From 2020
/ BY Judy Gerstel / December 21st, 2020
Former U.S. president Barack Obama knows about great books. His third best-selling memoir, The Promised Land, was published last month and immediately topped the New York Times non-fiction bestseller list. “He is a polished writer, with a novelist’s skill in describing a place or a person and framing a scene,” The LA Times noted in its 1995 review of his first memoir, Dreams From My Father.
Obama’s 2020 list of 17 favourite books includes non-fiction, literary fiction and even a sci-fi novel, The Ministry For The Future by Kim Stanley Robinson, about climate change.
“Setting aside being president, and the most important set of understandings that I bring to that position of citizen, the most important stuff I’ve learned I think I’ve learned from novels,” he said in an interview published in The New York Review of Books in 2015.
Among his 2020 picks:
The Splendid and the Vile, Erik Larson’s portrait of Winston Churchill;
Memorial Drive, Natasha Trethewey’s memoir about her mother’s murder;
Hidden Valley Road, Robert Kolker’s biography of a Colorado family dealing schizophrenia;
Caste: The Origins of our Discontents, Isabel Wilkerson’s observations on an America divided by race;
Luster, Raven Leilani’s debut novel about a young Black woman’s affair with an older white man;
Twilight of Democracy: The Seductive Lure of Authoritarianism, Anne Applebaum’s discussion of democratic decline and the rise of right-wing populist politics with authoritarian tendencies;
Long Bright River, Liz Moore’s suspense novel about sisters, addiction and family estrangement;
Obama also shared the titles of his favourite movies, TV shows, streaming features and music of the year. On the list: Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom, Lovers Rock, David Fincher’s Mank, The Queen’s Gambit and The Good Place.