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President Obama's Reader in Chief Reading List

Throughout Barack Obama's two terms as President of the United States, he was as an avid leader and reader of books in our country. On January 16th, 2017 the New York Times published an interview with President Obama about how books helped him get through the presidency. 

Please find below the books President Obama mentioned as helping him, as well as a selection of other titles from his eight years in office, including WIRED magazine's list of Obama's essential readings. For a complete list of the books that Obama recommended during his presidency, see this article in Entertainment Weekly.

We will miss you, Reader-in-Chief!

 

"The role of stories to unify — as opposed to divide, to engage rather than to marginalize — is more important than ever.”

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The Underground Railroad (Pulitzer Prize Winner) (National Book Award Winner) (Oprah's Book Club): A Novel Cover Image
$27.95
ISBN: 9780385542364
Availability: Usually Ships in 1-5 Days
Published: Doubleday - August 2nd, 2016

"Well, the last novel I read was Colson Whitehead’s “The Underground Railroad.” And the reminder of the ways in which the pain of slavery transmits itself across generations, not just in overt ways, but how it changes minds and hearts." - President Barack Obama


Gilead: A Novel Cover Image
$17.00
ISBN: 9780312424404
Availability: On Our Shelves Now
Published: Picador - January 10th, 2006

"I struck up a friendship with [the novelist] Marilynne Robinson, who has become a good friend. And we’ve become sort of pen pals. I started reading her in Iowa, where “Gilead” and some of her best novels are set. And I loved her writing in part because I saw those people every day. And the interior life she was describing that connected them — the people I was shaking hands with and making speeches to — it connected them with my grandparents, who were from Kansas and ended up journeying all the way to Hawaii, but whose foundation had been set in a very similar setting." - President Barack Obama


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The Three-Body Problem (Remembrance of Earth's Past #1) Cover Image
By Cixin Liu, Ken Liu (Translated by)
$17.99
ISBN: 9780765382030
Availability: On Our Shelves Now
Published: Tor Books - January 12th, 2016

"It’s interesting, the stuff I read just to escape ends up being a mix of things — some science fiction. For a while, there was a three-volume science-fiction novel, the “Three-Body Problem” series —

Oh, Liu Cixin, who won the Hugo Award.

— which was just wildly imaginative, really interesting. It wasn’t so much sort of character studies as it was just this sweeping —

It’s really about the fate of the universe.

Exactly. 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." -President Barack Obama


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Gone Girl: A Novel Cover Image
$16.00
ISBN: 9780307588371
Availability: On Our Shelves Now
Published: Broadway Books - April 22nd, 2014

"There were books that would blend, I think, really good writing with thriller genres. I mean, I thought “Gone Girl” was a well-constructed, well-written book." - President Barack Obama


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Fates and Furies: A Novel Cover Image
$16.00
ISBN: 9781594634482
Availability: On Our Shelves Now
Published: Riverhead Books - September 13th, 2016

"And a similar structure, that I thought was a really powerful novel: “Fates and Furies,” by Lauren Groff." - President Barack Obama. President Obama also named "Fates and Furies" as his favorite book of 2015.


The Tempest (Folger Shakespeare Library) Cover Image
$9.95
ISBN: 9781501130014
Availability: On Our Shelves Now
Published: Simon & Schuster - December 2015

"I would say Shakespeare continues to be a touchstone. Like most teenagers in high school, when we were assigned, I don’t know, “The Tempest” or something, I thought, ‘My God, this is boring.’ And I took this wonderful Shakespeare class in college where I just started to read the tragedies and dig into them. And that, I think, is foundational for me in understanding how certain patterns repeat themselves and play themselves out between human beings." - President Barack Obama


Song of Solomon (Vintage International) Cover Image
$16.00
ISBN: 9781400033423
Availability: On Our Shelves Now
Published: Vintage - June 8th, 2004

"I think Toni Morrison’s writings — particularly “Song of Solomon” is a book I think of when I imagine people going through hardship. That it’s not just pain, but there’s joy and glory and mystery." - President Barack Obama


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A Bend in the River (Vintage International) Cover Image
$16.95
ISBN: 9780679722021
Availability: On Our Shelves Now
Published: Vintage - March 13th, 1989

"I think that there are writers who I don’t necessarily agree with in terms of their politics, but whose writings are sort of a baseline for how to think about certain things — V. S. Naipaul, for example. His “A Bend in the River,” which 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." - President Barack Obama


Lincoln's Gettysburg Address Cover Image
By Abraham Lincoln, Gabor S. Boritt (Introduction by), James Daugherty (Illustrator)
$19.99
ISBN: 9780807545508
Availability: Backordered
Published: Albert Whitman & Company - February 2013

"I’d put the Second Inaugural up against any piece of American writing — as good as anything. One of the great treats of being president is, in the Lincoln Bedroom, there’s a copy of the Gettysburg Address handwritten by him, one of five copies he did for charity. And there have been times in the evening when I’d just walk over, because it’s right next to my office, my home office, and I just read it." - President Barack Obama


The Annotated Lincoln Cover Image
$39.95
ISBN: 9780674504837
Availability: Usually Ships in 1-5 Days
Published: Belknap Press - February 15th, 2016

Abraham Lincoln's collected works was listed at the top of President Obama's essential reading's list, as reported by WIRED magazine.

"Yeah, Abe authored the Gettysburg Address—but he also wrote plenty beyond his speeches, including personal letters, pardons, and orders for war supplies. If you’re a fan of one of the 21st-century’s best orators, spend some time with the great words of his predecessor."


Parting the Waters: America in the King Years 1954-63 Cover Image
$25.00
ISBN: 9780671687427
Availability: Usually Ships in 1-5 Days
Published: Simon & Schuster - November 15th, 1989

Part of President Obama's essential readings list, as reported by WIRED magazine in October, 2016.

In the first of his Pulitzer Prize-winning trilogy, Taylor Branch covers the early years of Martin Luther King, Jr.’s entry into the political fray and the civil rights movement, including the Montgomery bus boycott, the 1961 Freedom Rides, the 1963 March on Washington, and the Kennedy brothers vs. J. Edgar Hoover. Required reading for understanding an era shaping how all Americans have grown up in the past half-century.


The Power Broker: Robert Moses and the Fall of New York Cover Image
$26.00
ISBN: 9780394720241
Availability: Backordered
Published: Vintage - July 12th, 1975

Part of President Obama's essential readings list, as reported by WIRED magazine in October, 2016.

Modern New York City was largely shaped by one man: Robert Moses. Power Broker is the definitive biography of Moses, who dictated much of the structure of the city, creating $27 billion in public works projects, persuading the UN to build headquarters in Manhattan, and investing in highways instead of public transit. For better or for worse—many point to his work as cause for urban decline in the late 20th century—he’s one of the greats of American industry.


The Fire Next Time (Vintage International) Cover Image
$13.95
ISBN: 9780679744726
Availability: On Our Shelves Now
Published: Vintage - December 1992

Part of President Obama's essential readings, as reported by WIRED magazine in October, 2016.

The Fire Next Time comprises two essays by James Baldwin: “Down At The Cross,” which addresses his experiences with the Christian church as a young man, and “My Dungeon Shook,” a letter to Baldwin’s 14-year-old nephew. Paid homage in form by Ta-Nehisi Coates’ Between the World and Me, “My Dungeon Shook” addresses racial tensions and inequalities in the early 1960s from Baldwin’s personal experiences.


Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind Cover Image
$37.50
ISBN: 9780062316097
Availability: Usually Ships in 1-5 Days
Published: Harper - February 10th, 2015

Part of President Obama's essential readings, as reported by WIRED magazine October, 2016.

In Sapiens, Yuval Noah Harari writes about disruptors of a different sort. Long before computer chips, our homo sapiens ancestors experienced a cognitive revolution, expanding and colonizing across the world. Harari tracks the significant moments of change, from revolutions scientific and industrial to our modern experiments with bioengineering, which may signify the end of homo sapiens as we’ve existed for 150,000 years. A must-read for any human—or aspiring bot.


Thinking, Fast and Slow Cover Image
$17.00
ISBN: 9780374533557
Availability: On Our Shelves Now
Published: Farrar, Straus and Giroux - April 2nd, 2013

Part of President Obama's essential readings, as reported by WIRED magazine October, 2016.

Homo sapiens may have been around for a long time, but in Thinking, Fast and Slow, psychologist Daniel Kahneman debunks the myth of homo economicus. As anyone who has ever gone grocery shopping hungry knows, human beings are irrational creatures. Kahneman recounts his career studying cognitive biases, prospect theory (for which Kahneman won the Nobel in economic science), and hedonic psychology.


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The Sixth Extinction: An Unnatural History Cover Image
$18.00
ISBN: 9781250062185
Availability: On Our Shelves Now
Published: Picador - January 6th, 2015

Part of President Obama's essential readings, as reported by WIRED magazine, October 2016.

Within this century, man-made climate change may eliminate half of all living species on Earth. Elizabeth Kolbert examines the sixth mass extinction from the front lines: the Amazonian rainforest, the Great Barrier Reef, the Arctic ice cap. It’s a sobering read about the magnitude of our impact—and the catastrophic consequences that we, unlike the asteroid that caused the last mass extinction (of the dinosaurs), have the ability to alter.


In Dubious Battle Cover Image
By John Steinbeck, Warren French (Introduction by), Warren French (Notes by)
$17.00
ISBN: 9780143039631
Availability: On Our Shelves Now
Published: Penguin Classics - May 30th, 2006

Part of President Obama's essential reads, as reported by WIRED magazine, October, 2016.

Young Jim Nolan finds his purpose in “the Party,” helping to organize a strike of fruit pickers in California. In Dubious Battle offers Steinbeck’s signature lyrical prose on early 20th century daily life in a novel beyond the big ones you already read in high school.


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Behind the Beautiful Forevers: Life, death, and hope in a Mumbai undercity Cover Image
$18.00
ISBN: 9780812979329
Availability: Usually Ships in 1-5 Days
Published: Random House Trade Paperbacks - April 8th, 2014

Part of President Obama's essential readings, as reported by WIRED magazine, October 2016.

With her precise descriptions of relationships and the tragic lives of her characters, Katherine Boo’s Behind the Beautiful Forevers reads like expertly crafted fiction. Instead, Boo meticulously reports the lives of a family in Annawadi, a Mumbai slum, focusing on Abdul, a boy who supports his family as a garbage trader, until he’s wrongfully arrested for murder. Boo spent three years researching her story, and it shows.