Five books Barack Obama thinks you should read

Image: Reuters/Jim Young
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As North Americans slouch toward the end of summer, the US reader-in-chief has some new book recommendations for the beach-inclined. President Barack Obama’s recommended reading list for this summer includes essays about surfing and hawks, and Oprah-approved fiction about a slave on a Georgia plantation.

Barbarian Days: A Surfing Life, by William Finnegan (Penguin Press)

Barbarian Days is a memoir by The New Yorker’s William Finnegan about his obsession with surfing. The book is the 2016 winner of the Pulitzer in biography, and The New York Times says the writing is ”harrowing and characteristically droll and psychologically insightful.”

The Underground Railroad, by Colson Whitehead (Doubleday)

Colson Whitehead’s new book is an “oddly whimsical” slave narrative about Cora, a slave on a cotton plantation in Georgia. The book is “a fascinating lamination of disparate tones,” so highly anticipated that publishers released it a month ahead of schedule.

H Is for Hawk, by Helen Macdonald (Grove)

Helen Macdonald writes of coming to terms with her father’s death, and how her grief pushes her to train a goshawk, a notoriously “mad, murderous, unpredictable” bird. Writes The New Yorker, “Such simplicity, such totality.”

The Girl on the Train, by Paula Hawkins (Riverhead)

Paula Hawkin’s book is a psychological thriller about Rachel, who’s obsessed with a couple that lives nearby, and who unravels when the woman goes missing. ”What really makes The Girl on the Train such a gripping novel is …the degree to which memory and imagination can become confused,” says NPR.

Seveneves, by Neal Stephenson (William Morrow)

In Neal Stephenson’s science fiction novel, Earthlings reel from the news that the destruction of the planet is coming and build an ark to save it. “If nothing else,” says The New York Times, “the amount of planning and organization required to make this work is admirable.”