Former President Barack Obama released his 2023 summer reading list on Thursday. Photo: AP Photo/Brynn Anderson/Canadian Press
Barack Obama Releases His 2023 Summer Reading List
The list includes the latest novel by Canadian-born New Zealand author Eleanor Catton. / BY Mike Crisolago / July 20th, 2023
Barack Obama released his summer reading list on Thursday, no doubt delighting many bibliophiles who look forward to learning what books have been populating the former president’s nightstand.
“Here’s some books that I’m reading this summer. Check them out and let me know what I should be reading next,” the 61-year-old wrote on Instagram alongside the list of nine titles.
One of the titles, the novel Birnam Wood — described by publisher Penguin Random House as “an electrifying eco-thriller grounded in a provocative and sly exploration of some of the most pressing issues of our times” — was written by London, Ont.-born writer Eleanor Catton. Raised in New Zealand, Catton’s second novel, The Luminaries, won both the 2013 Booker Prize and Governor General’s Literary Award for Fiction. Birnam Wood, her third novel, had previously been touted as one of the most anticipated books of the year by numerous publications, including The Globe and Mail, Oprah Daily and the Guardian.
The full list of nine titles, including brief notes from their publishers, includes:
Birnam Wood, by Eleanor Catton: “…an electrifying eco-thriller grounded in a provocative and sly exploration of some of the most pressing issues of our times.”
All the Sinners Bleed, by S.A. Cosby: “The first Black sheriff in a small Southern town faces a questionable shooting, a Confederate pride march, and a serial killer.”
Poverty, By America, by Matthew Desmond: “In this landmark book, acclaimed sociologist Matthew Desmond draws on history, research, and original reporting to show how affluent Americans knowingly and unknowingly keep poor people poor.”
King: A Life, by Jonathan Eig: “…the first major biography in decades of the civil rights icon Martin Luther King Jr.—and the first to include recently declassified FBI files.”
The Wager: A Tale of Shipwreck, Mutiny and Murder, by David Grann: “…a page-turning story of shipwreck, survival, and savagery, culminating in a court martial that reveals a shocking truth.”
Blue Hour, by Tiffany Clarke Harrison: “What is motherhood in the midst of uncertainty, buried trauma, and an unraveling America? What it’s always been—a love song.”
Small Mercies, by Dennis Lehane: “…a masterpiece to rival Mystic River—an all-consuming tale of revenge, family love, festering hate, and insidious power, set against one of the most tumultuous episodes in Boston’s history.”
Hello Beautiful, by Ann Napolitano: “From the author of Dear Edward comes a ‘powerfully affecting’ (People) family story that asks: Can love make a broken person whole?”
What Napoleon Could Not Do, by DK Nnuro: “America is seen through the eyes and ambitions of three characters with ties to Africa in this gripping novel.”
Some of the authors mentioned on Obama’s reading list took to social media to share the news. S.A. Cosby retweeted the list, with his All the Sinners Bleed novel on it, and added the caption, “All Things are Possible!!!!”
The Wager author David Grann also retweeted the list and added, “So honored that The Wager is included on @BarackObama’s summer reading list, and to be among such remarkable company.”
And King: A Life scribe Johnathan Eig shared the list on Twitter along with a simple “Oh wow.”
In sharing his summer reading list, Obama also voiced his support for the Banned Books Book Club, which “is dedicated to promoting literacy and free expression through the celebration of banned books.” An initiative by the Digital Public Library of America, the Banned Books Book Club is a response to increased literary censorship and book bans being enacted across the United States at the behest of Republican politicians and conservative groups.