Barack Obama’s 2018 summer book list

Summer reading time.
Summer reading time.
Image: AP Photo/Susan Walsh
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Earlier this summer, Barack Obama was in study mode. In June, the avid reader and former US president was reading about inequality. In July, he caught up on books from African writers for a trip to the continent.

Now it’s August, and he’s taking a break. “One of my favorite parts of summer is deciding what to read when things slow down just a bit, whether it’s on a vacation with family or just a quiet afternoon,” he writes. He chose a couple of new novels, a memoir, a favorite of Bill Gates, and is rereading A House for Mr Biswas, by V.S. Naipaul, who died last week.

Here are five books Obama read this summer and recommended yesterday on Facebook:

  • Educated, by Tara Westover (2018) – Westover’s memoir about growing up in an extreme survivalist family with no formal education. She studies on her own and winds up at Brigham Young University and eventually at Cambridge to get her PhD. “A remarkable memoir…showing great understanding and love for the world she leaves behind,” writes Obama.
  • Warlight, by Michael Ondaatje (2018) — In the new novel by the author of the The English Patient, characters in post-World War II London piece together the past. “A meditation on the lingering effects of war on family,” Obama says.
  • A House for Mr Biswas, V.S. Naipaul (1961) — The story of a Trinidadian-born son of Indians. It’s the novel that launched the recently deceased writer into widespread critical acclaim. “[Naipaul’s] first great novel about growing up in Trinidad and the challenge of post-colonial identity,” says Obama.
  • An American Marriage, by Tayari Jones (2018) — A novel about a young newly married couple that’s ripped apart when the husband is wrongly convicted of rape and sentenced to 12 years in prison. Writes Obama, “A moving portrayal of the effects of a wrongful conviction on a young African-American couple.”
  • Factfulness: Ten Reasons We’re Wrong about the World—and Why Things Are Better than You Think, by Hans Rosling, with Ola Rosling and Anna Rosling Rönnlund (2018) — A nonfiction book about common non-fact-based instincts that lead us to incorrect conclusions about the world, by the late Swedish academic, co-written with his son and daughter-in-law. (It’s also a favorite of Bill Gates.) “A hopeful book about the potential for human progress when we work off facts rather than our inherent biases,” says Obama.