Barack Obama’s Reading List

Barack Obama’s Reading List

He is frequently seen with a book in hands, likes to talks about favorite books, and has penned two worldwide bestsellers himself. Here is Obama’s Reading List.

USA Presidents Favorite Books

Not that there is much competition. Even JFK, who won a Pulitzer for his Profiles in Courage, reportedly didn’t range far beyond the works of Ian Fleming.

Except maybe former president Bill Clinton (favrite books: One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel Garcia Marquez and The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho) that was known for reading 3-10 books concurrently.

What is Barack Obama reading?

Where George W Bush once peevishly retorted that his favorite philosopher was “Jesus Christ” (and his favorite book seams to be youngsters The Very Hungry Caterpillar), Obama devours Friedrich Nietzsche and Reinhold Niebuhr.

He talks about books at the drop of a hat, is frequently seen with a book in his hand and has penned two worldwide bestsellers himself: Dreams from My Father and The Audacity of Hope.

What Books are on Obama’s Reading List ?

For Whom the Bell Tolls: The Hemingway Library Edition - book cover
Literature & FictionGenre Fiction

For Whom the Bell Tolls: The Hemingway Library Edition

Presented by Hemingway's grandson Seán Hemingway, with a personal foreword by the author's son Patrick Hemingway, this new enhanced Library Edition of Ernest Hemingway's masterpiece about an ...

Obama, in a just-published interview with Rolling Stone co-founder and publisher Jann Wenner, names “For Whom the Bell Tolls” as one of the three books that have inspired him.

The best selling of all Hemingway’s books, “For Whom the Bell Tolls” tells the story of Robert Jordan, a young American in the International Brigades attached to an anti-fascist guerilla unit in the mountains during the Spanish Civil War. As an expert in the use of explosives, he is given an assignment to blow up a bridge to accompany a simultaneous attack on the city of Segovia.

Invisible Man (Modern Library 100 Best Novels) - book cover
Literature & FictionHistory & Criticism

Invisible Man (Modern Library 100 Best Novels)

Selected by the Modern Library as one of the 100 best novels of all time • Nominated as one of America's best-loved novels by PBS's The Great American ReadInvisible Man is a milestone in American ...

Although Obama has mentioned Ralph Ellison only in passing, it’s difficult not to see “Dreams From My Father” as a variation on Ellison’s 1952 modernist classic, “Invisible Man.” The nameless narrator of that novel is thrust into a series of roles imposed on him by both white and black society, until he finally retreats from the world entirely.

Obama’s own story ends on a much more hopeful note, but as he considers and critiques post-colonial theory, black nationalism, Afrocentrism, tribalism and so on, his restless search for the truth echoes that of the Invisible Man.

Moby Dick (Wordsworth Classics) - book cover
Literature & FictionAction & Adventure

Moby Dick (Wordsworth Classics)

Moby Dick is the story of Captain Ahab's quest to avenge the whale that 'reaped' his leg. The quest is an obsession and the novel is a diabolical study of how a man becomes a fanatic. But it is ...

According to a statement on his homepage at Facebook, as well as in various interviews and profiles, after Toni Morrison’s Song of Solomon this Herman Melville’s classic is a President’s favorite book.

One would hardly associate Obama with Captain Ahab, a man of furious passion bent on revenge. One possible answer may appear again in “Dreams from My Father”. In contemplating an early failure when working as a community organizer in Chicago, Obama describes himself as like “the first mate on a sinking ship”.

  • Where the Wild Things Are by Maurice Sendak

You may find this video all over YouTube where Obama is saying that this is (was) his favorite book. You can also watch him talking about his mom, her influence on him through books, and how he loves Sendak’s book.

Indeed, Where the Wild Things Are is one of those truly rare books that can be enjoyed equally by a child and a grown-up. Max dons his wolf suit in pursuit of some mischief and gets sent to bed without supper. Fortuitously, a forest grows in his room, allowing his wild rampage to continue unimpaired…

A Kind and Just Parent: The Children of Juvenile Court - book cover
LawFamily Law

A Kind and Just Parent: The Children of Juvenile Court

The author traces his five years as a teacher and observer of Chicago's Juvenile Court prison, the nation's first and largest institution of juvenile justice, and offers real-life portraits of its ...

Apparently, Obama’s childhood was not particularly bookish. His love of literature was sparked at Occidental College in California where he admitted to reading “tons of books”. In December 1997, he even reviewed this William Ayers’ book for the Chicago Tribune.

This is a story of children, real children, still soft inside, and yet with a force field that can put off both the kindest and the most brutal attacks one can inflict. It is a story of a justice system long gone amuck, but often with good intentions, and some surprisingly good people lighting up the corners.

The Autobiography of Malcolm X - book cover
Politics & Social SciencesSocial Sciences

The Autobiography of Malcolm X

The Autobiography of Malcolm X was intended to be a true autobiography, with the name of Alex Haley appearing not at all or as a ghost writer or as a mere contributor or assistant.

Among the characters in African-American literature, the adolescent Obama felt closest to Malcolm X, whose discipline and “repeated acts of self-creation” impressed him. Yet, when Malcolm wrote of the desire to “expunge” the white blood in his veins, Obama “was left to wonder what else I would be severing if and when I left my mother and my grandparents on some uncharted border.”

The Autobiography of Malcolm X is the life story of Malcolm Little: son of a Baptist minister, wide-eyed teenager in Boston, street hustler and prison inmate in New York, faithful member of the Nation of Islam, and, finally, Muslim pilgrim determined to create an organization for all blacks regardless of their religion.

  • Philosophy & Literature

    - by Peter S Thompson

In his first postgraduate years, while working as a community organizer in Chicago, Obama lived so much like a retiring writer — spending many hours holed up in a spartan apartment with volumes of “philosophy and literature”. Some of his colleagues assumed he was gathering material for a novel.

Philosophy and Literature became a classic interdisciplinary study when it first appeared. Poetry, plays, novels and short stories are all included, with a biography of each author. Philosophical works introduce each literary section. Plato, Aristotle, Descartes and Kant are included, but most of the philosophers are from the 20th century, like most of the authors.

Thus Spoke Zarathustra: A Book for Everyone and No One (Penguin Classics) - book cover
Politics & Social SciencesPolitics & Government

Thus Spoke Zarathustra: A Book for Everyone and No One (Penguin Classics)

Friedrich Nietzsche's most accessible and influential philosophical work, misquoted, misrepresented, brilliantly original and enormously influentialNietzsche was one of the most revolutionary and ...

Kant scholar Allen Wood once said that Nietzsche was a phase every high school boy grew out of eventually. Unsurprisingly, a New York Times article reports that as a college student, Barack Obama was indeed interested in Nietzsche, Freud, and Sartre.

Friedrich Nietzsche was a German philosopher. In the nineteenth century he predicted that over the next two centuries, the philosophy of nihilism — purposelessness and despair — would take over the Western world, leading to an unprecedented level of violence and world-wide war. Obviously he was correct.

Song of Solomon - book cover
Literature & FictionGenre Fiction

Song of Solomon

NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER • An official Oprah Winfrey's "The Books That Help Me Through" selection • With this brilliantly imagined novel, the acclaimed Nobel Prize winner transfigures the ...

In Katie Couric’s Presidential Questions series, when asked about its favorite book, Obama said — “Toni Morrison’s Song of Solomon might be one of my favorite books”. You may watch the video from this interview below.

Morrison narrates for three hours and lays out before us the complex lives and backgrounds of four generations of black family life in the south. Central is the character Milkman–an unfortunate nickname owed to his lengthy nursing period and delayed coming of age. Although a late starter, Milkman develops into a fundamentally strong person, who eventually learns to cherish his family and the importance of his roots.

Hamlet (Baker Street Readers) - book cover
Children's BooksArts, Music & Photography

Hamlet (Baker Street Readers)

Great reads for all ages! The world's greatest classic stories come to life in these expert retellings. Baker Street Readers give an enchanting taste of the original tales, quoting best-known ...

In Obama’s words — “Shakespeare’s tragedies, whether it’s Hamlet or [King] Lear… there’s so much in each of those tragedies. You can read them once a year and each year, there’s something new, there’s something you didn’t notice. There is some insight into the human dilemma. It’s powerful stuff.”

Shakespeare’s longest play and the play responsible for the immortal lines “To be or not to be: that is the question:” and the advise “to thine own self be true,” begins in Denmark with the news that King Hamlet of Denmark has recently died.

  • Parting the Waters

    - by Taylor Branch

A Pulitzer Prize-winning book about Martin Luther King is another favorite, hailed as the most masterful story ever told of the American civil rights movement.

Moving from the fiery political baptism of Martin Luther King, Jr., to the corridors of Camelot where the Kennedy brothers weighed demands for justice against the deceptions of J. Edgar Hoover, here is a vivid tapestry of America, torn and finally transformed by a revolutionary struggle unequaled since the Civil War.

Moral Man and Immoral Society: A Study in Ethics and Politics - book cover
Politics & Social SciencesPolitics & Government

Moral Man and Immoral Society: A Study in Ethics and Politics

This is a new release of the original 1934 edition.

In an interview to New York Times Op-Ed columnist David Brooks, Obama has described Reinhold Niebuhr as “one of my favorite philosophers.” Martin Luther King Jr. and Jimmy Carter were inspired by the work of this 20th century German-American Protestant theologian as well.

In Moral Man and Immoral Society, Niebuhr emphasizes a distinct difference in the moral character of the individual and the group. While the individual is capable of leading a moral life, a just society is nearly impossible. This is based on his pessimistic and realistic interpretation of human nature.

Team of Rivals: The Political Genius of Abraham Lincoln - book cover

Team of Rivals: The Political Genius of Abraham Lincoln

Winner of the Lincoln Prize Acclaimed historian Doris Kearns Goodwin illuminates Lincoln's political genius in this highly original work, as the one-term congressman and prairie lawyer rises from ...

The book Obama has most recently cited as a major influence. Lets recall that he announced his candidacy for president at the Old State Capitol building in Springfield, Ill., where, in 1858, Lincoln made his famous “House Divided” speech against slavery.

Without a doubt, Lincoln abhorred slavery, but what Goodwin describes in “Team of Rivals” was that Lincoln deftly incorporated his former opponents into his administration, winning them over with his prairie charm, formidable intellect and political acumen.

The Post-American World: Release 2.0 - book cover
Politics & Social SciencesPolitics & Government

The Post-American World: Release 2.0

The New York Times bestseller, revised and expanded with a new afterword: the essential update of Fareed Zakaria's international bestseller about America and its shifting position in world affairs.

The controversial book that Obama was photographed with In May 2008, as he walked across the tarmac at an airport in Bozeman, Montana. The book outlines America’s declining influence in international politics, or in author’s own words “This is not a book about the decline of America, but rather about the rise of everyone else.”

The basic argument of the book is that we can solve our problem by taking the lead in solving the world’s problem. The Presidential affairs indeed :)

The Golden Notebook: Perennial Classics edition - book cover
Literature & FictionHistory & Criticism

The Golden Notebook: Perennial Classics edition

"The Golden Notebook is Doris Lessing's most important work and has left its mark upon the ideas and feelings of a whole generation of women. " - New York Times Book ReviewAnna is a writer, author ...

According to an interview with the New York Times, The Golden Notebook was one of the books listed as important to new President. And the rest of the comment went on to say that certain books shape certain leaders in certain ways, which was all very interesting considering the context this novel occupies in modern day society and that it was originally written as a feminist text.

The elements that made the book remarkable when it first appeared are extremely candid sexual and psychological descriptions of its characters and a fractured, postmodern structure.

The Poetry of Derek Walcott 1948-2013 - book cover

The Poetry of Derek Walcott 1948-2013

A collection spanning the whole of Derek Walcott's celebrated, inimitable, essential career "He gives us more than himself or ‘a world'; he gives us a sense of infinity embodied in the language. " ...