The 6 Books Barack Obama Is Reading This Summer

Our former Reader-in-Chief still has great literary taste.

Former President and Reader-in-Chief, Barack Obama, just announced his summer reading list on Facebook — the six books he picked to accompany him on a forthcoming trip to Kenya and South Africa, by “Africa’s best writers and thinkers, each of whom illuminate our world in powerful and unique ways.” We love the books he’s chosen and can’t wait to read (or re-read) them all. Below is the list along with his own descriptions of each. You can read the original post here.


Things Fall Apart by Chinua Achebe

“A true classic of world literature, this novel paints a picture of traditional society wrestling with the arrival of foreign influence, from Christian missionaries to British colonialism. A masterpiece that has inspired generations of writers in Nigeria, across Africa, and around the world.”


A Grain of Wheat by Ngugi wa Thiong’o

“A chronicle of the events leading up to Kenya’s independence, and a compelling story of how the transformative events of history weigh on individual lives and relationships.”


Long Walk to Freedom by Nelson Mandela

“Mandela’s life was one of the epic stories of the 20th century. This definitive memoir traces the arc of his life from a small village, to his years as a revolutionary, to his long imprisonment, and ultimately his ascension to unifying President, leader, and global icon. Essential reading for anyone who wants to understand history – and then go out and change it.”


Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

“From one of the world’s great contemporary writers comes the story of two Nigerians making their way in the U.S. and the UK, raising universal questions of race and belonging, the overseas experience for the African diaspora, and the search for identity and a home.”


The Return by Hisham Matar

“A beautifully-written memoir that skillfully balances a graceful guide through Libya’s recent history with the author’s dogged quest to find his father who disappeared in Gaddafi’s prisons.”


The World As It Is by Ben Rhodes

“It’s true, Ben does not have African blood running through his veins. But few others so closely see the world through my eyes like he can. Ben’s one of the few who’ve been with me since that first presidential campaign. His memoir is one of the smartest reflections I’ve seen as to how we approached foreign policy, and one of the most compelling stories I’ve seen about what it’s actually like to serve the American people for eight years in the White House.”


About Amy Brady

Amy Brady is the Editor-in-Chief of the Chicago Review of Books and Deputy Publisher of Guernica Magazine. Her writing has appeared in Oprah, The Village Voice, Pacific Standard, The New Republic, McSweeney's, and elsewhere. Follow her on Twitter at @ingredient_x.

4 comments on “The 6 Books Barack Obama Is Reading This Summer

  1. Americanah is definitely on my TBR!


  2. He’s not only reading but writing!
    I understand he’s putting the finishing touches on his projected best-seller “Wha Happened to Muh Legacy?”.
    The one chapter book is due to be released when his one billion dollar taxpayer funded library is built in 2025.


  3. I’m disappointed to see there isn’t any science fiction, fantasy, or other genre fiction there. I’d like to think Obama is a man of imagination.


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