The Ultimate Guide to Obama Memoirs and Books

I am an unapologetic Obama family fangirl. I would’ve sold my mama to get my hands on the new Pete Souza photography book of his presidency. I give my “Yes We Can” ornament (with Obama a la Rosie the Riveter) a loving kiss each year before I place it on my Christmas tree. Every single day, I miss the class, grace, and intelligence with which our country was lead in those years. Was he perfect? No. But he was mine. So as I’m sure you can imagine, I’m a sucker for Obama memoirs.

Over a year after the Oval Office said goodbye to Barack, Michelle, Sasha, Malia, Sunny, and Bo, I think it’s a good time to revisit some of the best memoirs and books about Obama, his presidency, and his gorgeous family. As I eagerly await the result of Barack and Michelle’s $65 million joint book deal advance from Penguin Random House, these excellent books about the man, the myth, and the legend will just have to suffice.

OBAMA MEMOIRS

obama memoirsDreams from My Father: A Story of Race and Inheritance by Barack Obama

In this lyrical, unsentimental, and compelling memoir, the son of a black African father and a white American mother searches for a workable meaning to his life as a black American. It begins in New York, where Barack Obama learns that his father—a figure he knows more as a myth than as a man—has been killed in a car accident. This sudden death inspires an emotional odyssey—first to a small town in Kansas, from which he retraces the migration of his mother’s family to Hawaii, and then to Kenya, where he meets the African side of his family, confronts the bitter truth of his father’s life, and at last reconciles his divided inheritance.

obama memoirsThe Audacity of Hope: Thoughts on Reclaiming the American Dream by Barack Obama.

At the heart of this book is Barack Obama’s vision of how we can move beyond our divisions to tackle concrete problems. He examines the growing economic insecurity of American families, the racial and religious tensions within the body politic, and the transnational threats—from terrorism to pandemic—that gather beyond our shores. And he grapples with the role that faith plays in a democracy—where it is vital and where it must never intrude. Underlying his stories about family, friends, and members of the Senate is a vigorous search for connection: the foundation for a radically hopeful political consensus

BIOGRAPHIES/ESSAY COLLECTIONS

obama memoirsBarack Obama: The Story by David Maraniss

In Barack Obama: The Story, David Maraniss has written a deeply reported generational biography teeming with fresh insights and revealing information, a masterly narrative drawn from hundreds of interviews, including with President Obama in the Oval Office, and a trove of letters, journals, diaries, and other documents.

 

obama memoirsRising Star: The Making of Barack Obama by David Garrow

Rising Star: The Making of Barack Obama captivatingly describes Barack Obama’s tumultuous upbringing as a young black man attending an almost-all-white, elite private school in Honolulu while being raised almost exclusively by his white grandparents. After recounting Obama’s college years in California and New York, Garrow charts Obama’s time as a Chicago community organizer, working in some of the city’s roughest neighborhoods, his years at the top of his Harvard Law School class, and his return to Chicago, where Obama honed his skills as a hard-knuckled politician, first in the state legislature and then as a candidate for the United States Senate.

obama memoirsThe Obamas by Jodi Kantor

Jodi Kantor takes us inside the White House as Michelle and Barack Obama begin their transformation into President and First Lady. Filled with insight, surprising behind-the-scenes detail, and stories that never made headlines, it is a revelatory story of personal history on the political stage.

 

 

obama memoirsMichelle Obama: A Life by Peter Slevin

This is the inspiring story of a modern American icon, the first comprehensive account of the life and times of Michelle Obama. With disciplined reporting and a storyteller’s eye for revealing detail, Peter Slevin follows Michelle to the White House from her working-class childhood on Chicago’s largely segregated South Side. He illuminates her tribulations at Princeton University and Harvard Law School during the racially charged 1980s and the dilemmas she faced in Chicago while building a high-powered career, raising a family, and helping a young community organizer named Barack Obama become president of the United States.

obama memoirsCourage is Contagious: And Other Reasons to Be Grateful for Michelle Obama edited by Nick Haramis

Here are original testimonials from Gloria Steinem, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, Alice Waters, and Charlamagne Tha God, among others. Presidential biographer Jon Meacham supplies historical perspective. Actress Tracee Ellis Ross suggests that Mrs. Obama “provided an antidote to all the false representations of black women that have inundated us for centuries.” Anna Wintour and designer Jason Wu celebrate the former first lady’s impact as an international fashion icon. Two ninth-grade girls—one in training to be a boxer—talk about how Mrs. Obama has emboldened them to be themselves.

obama memoirsThe Bridge: The Life and Rise of Barack Obama by David Remnick

In this nuanced and complex portrait of Barack Obama, Pulitzer Prize-winner David Remnick offers a thorough, intricate, and riveting account of the unique experiences that shaped our nation’s first African American president.

 

 

obama memoirsObama: The Historic Journey by The New York Times, Jill Abramson, and Bill Keller

This is the remarkable story of Barack Obama’s journey to the White House, as told by the greatest cultural recorders in the world, the staff of The New York Times. From the first mention of Barack Obama in its pages (when he was elected president of the Harvard Law Review), to his electrifying speech at the 2004 Democratic Convention, to the days and months of the hard-fought, innovative campaign for Presidency, The New York Times has documented, recorded, and analyzed Obama in all the ways that he has irrevocably changed this country.

obama memoirsA Consequential President: The Legacy of Barack Obama by Michael D’Antonio

In response to criticism and disappointment from the Left, A Consequential President offers a bold assessment of the lasting successes and major achievements of President Obama.

 

 

 

obama memoirsAudacity: How Barack Obama Defied His Critics and Created a Legacy That Will Prevail by Jonathan Chait

An unassailable case that, in the eyes of history, Barack Obama will be viewed as one of America’s best and most accomplished presidents.

 

 

 

obama memoirsObama’s Wars by Bob Woodward

In Obama’s Wars, Bob Woodward provides the most intimate and sweeping portrait yet of the young president as commander in chief. Drawing on internal memos, classified documents, meeting notes, and hundreds of hours of interviews with most of the key players, including the president, Woodward tells the inside story of Obama making the critical decisions on the Afghanistan War, the secret campaign in Pakistan and the worldwide fight against terrorism.

obama memoirsThe Stranger: Barack Obama in the White House by Chuck Todd

In The Stranger, Chuck Todd draws upon his unprecedented inner-circle sources to create a gripping account of Obama’s White House tenure, from the early days of drift and helplessness to a final stand against the GOP in which Obama, at last liberated from his political future, finally triumphs.

BOOKS OF QUOTES

obama memoirsBarack Obama In His Own Words edited by Lisa Rogak

Provides a collection of quotations that reflect the political views and values of America’s forty-fourth president.

 

 

 

 

obama memoirsMichelle Obama In Her Own Words edited by Lisa Rogak

Rogak locates and organizes the funny, fascinating, inspiring (and occasionally controversial) words of our future First Lady, on many topics.

 

 

 

obama memoirsBarack Obama: Quotable Wisdom editor by Carol Kelly-Gangi

An illuminating and eloquent collection, Barack Obama: Quotable Wisdom offers readers new insight into this remarkable leader, charismatic man, and gifted orator whose words have time and again restored the faith and bolstered the hopes of millions of Americans.

 

 

obama memoirsWe Are the Change We Seek: The Speeches of Barack Obama edited by E.J. Dionne Jr. and Joy-Ann Reid

We Are the Change We Seek is a collection of Barack Obama’s 27 greatest addresses: beginning with his 2002 speech opposing the Iraq War and closing with his emotional farewell address in Chicago in January 2017.

 

 

obama memoirsFarewell Speeches by Barack Obama and Michelle Obama

The final speeches of the 44th President of the United States, Barack Obama, and First Lady Michelle Obama. Both speeches were instant and moving landmarks, as well as stirring testaments to the time this inspiring and beloved couple spent in the White House.

 

 

PHOTOGRAPHY BOOKS

obama memoirsObama: An Intimate Portrait by Pete Souza

Obama: An Intimate Portrait reproduces more than 300 of Souza’s most iconic photographs with fine-art print quality in an oversize collectible format. Together they document the most consequential hours of the Presidency—including the historic image of President Obama and his advisors in the Situation Room during the bin Laden mission—alongside unguarded moments with the President’s family, his encounters with children, interactions with world leaders and cultural figures, and more.

obama memoirsDream Big Dreams: Photographs from Barack Obama’s Inspiring and Historic Presidency by Pete Souza (for young readers)

From former Chief Official White House Photographer Pete Souza comes a book for young readers that highlights Barack Obama’s historic presidency and the qualities and actions that make him so beloved.

obama memoirsThe Rise of Barack Obama by Pete Souza

Award-winning photojournalist Pete Souza documents the meteoric rise of the charismatic Barack Obama from his first day in the U.S. Senate right up to the Pennsylvania presidential primary. More than 80% of these candid and stunning photographs capturing private and political moments have not been seen before.

obama memoirsChasing Light: Michelle Obama Through the Lens of a White House Photographer by Amanda Lucidon

A collection of striking and intimate photographs of Michelle Obama—many never before seen—coupled with personal reflections and behind-the-scenes stories from Official White House Photographer Amanda Lucidon, presented in a deluxe format.

obama memoirsObama: The Call of History by Peter Baker

Peter Baker’s authoritative history of the Obama presidency is the first complete account that will stand the test of time. Baker takes the measure of Obama’s achievements and disappointments in office and brings into focus the real legacy of the man who, as he described himself, “doesn’t look like all the presidents on the dollar bills.”

 

obama memoirsMichelle Obama: A Photographic Journey by Antonia Felix

A stunning pictorial celebration of one of the most beloved First Ladies of our time: Michelle Obama.
With 140 photographs, inspiring quotes, and excerpts from five historic speeches, this gorgeous volume pays tribute to Michelle Obama.

 

obama memoirsMichelle Obama: The First Lady in Photographs by Deborah Willis and Emily Bernard

A stunning, visual biography of Michelle Obama that finally puts her phenomenal fame into a cultural and historical context we can all understand.

 

 

obama memoirsObama: The Historic Presidency of Barack Obama—2,920 Days by Mark Greenberg

Obama features rare and unseen photographs, along with iconic images and newspaper front pages from the president’s 2,920 days in office. It includes dramatic pictures, including the iconic shot from the situation room as the president and his staff watched the live unfolding of the bin Laden raid; day-to-day images of Obama in his roles as a world leader, policy maker, commander in chief, and father; lighthearted photos from the White House Correspondents’ Dinner; late-night television appearances; and moments with the entire Obama family.

CHILDREN’S BOOKS

obama memoirsOf Thee I Sing: A Letter to My Daughters by Barack Obama, illustrated by Loren Long

In this tender, beautiful letter to his daughters, President Barack Obama has written a moving tribute to thirteen groundbreaking Americans and the ideals that have shaped our nation. From the artistry of Georgia O’Keeffe, to the courage of Jackie Robinson, to the patriotism of George Washington, President Obama sees the traits of these heroes within his own children, and within all of America’s children.

obama memoirsWho is Barack Obama? by Roberta Edwards, illustrated by John O’Brien

As the world now knows, Barack Obama has made history as our first African American president. With black and white illustrations throughout, this biography is perfect for primary graders looking for a longer, fuller life story than is found in the author’s bestselling beginning reader Barack Obama: United States President.

 

obama memoirsWho Is Michelle Obama? by Megan Stine, illustrated by John O’Brien

Born into a close knit family in Chicago, Michelle Robinson was a star student who graduated from Princeton and Harvard Law. Then in 1992, she married another promising young lawyer and the rest, as they say, is history. It is undeniable that President Barack Obama has changed the United States but so has Michelle Obama, the self proclaimed “Mom in Chief.” This compelling, easy-to-read biography is illustrated by New Yorker artist John O’Brien.

obama memoirsOur Enduring Spirit: President Barack Obama’s First Words to America by Barack Obama, illustrated by Greg Ruth

A book for the ages, this is a stunningly illustrated picture book edition of President Barack Obama′s historic inaugural address. Artist Greg Ruth interprets Obama′s address and places it in historical context for children.

ACCOUNTS OF STAFF MEMBERS

obama memoirsThanks, Obama: My Hopey, Changey White House Years by David Litt

In this refreshingly honest memoir, Litt brings us inside Obamaworld. With a humorist’s eye for detail, he describes what it’s like to accidentally trigger an international incident or nearly set a president’s hair aflame. He answers questions you never knew you had: Which White House men’s room is the classiest? What do you do when the commander in chief gets your name wrong? Where should you never, under any circumstances, change clothes on Air Force One? With nearly a decade of stories to tell, Litt makes clear that politics is completely, hopelessly absurd.

obama memoirsWho Thought This Was a Good Idea: And Other Questions You Should Have Answers to When You Work in the White House by Alyssa Mastromonaco

Full of hilarious, never-before-told stories, Who Thought This Was a Good Idea? is an intimate portrait of a president, a book about how to get stuff done, and the story of how one woman challenged, again and again, what a “White House official” is supposed to look like. Here Alyssa shares the strategies that made her successful in politics and beyond, including the importance of confidence, the value of not being a jerk, and why ultimately everything comes down to hard work (and always carrying a spare tampon).

obama memoirsBeliever: My Forty Years in Politics by David Axelrod

The heart of Believer is Axelrod’s twenty-year friendship with Barack Obama, a warm partnership that inspired both men even as it propelled each to great heights. Taking a chance on an unlikely candidate for the U.S. Senate, Axelrod ultimately collaborated closely Obama on his political campaigns, and served as the invaluable strategist who contributed to the tremendous victories in 2008 and 2012. Switching careers again, Axelrod served as senior adviser to the president during one of the most challenging periods in national history: working at Obama’s side as he battled an economic disaster; navigated America through two wars; and fought to reform health care, the financial sector, and our gridlocked political institutions.

obama memoirsThe Audacity to Win: How Obama Won and How We Can Beat the Party of Limbaugh, Beck, and Palin by David Plouffe

Since David Plouffe helped design the plan that brought candidate Obama to the White House, the lessons of that plan have become only more relevant. Today, conservative forces led by figures like Sarah Palin and Glenn Beck threaten to derail the tremendous promise of Democrats’ recent gains, making the next election—and the ones beyond it—even more crucial. Plouffe explains the secrets to winning elections in contemporary politics, and shows how Democrats can build on the historic campaign of 2008 to keep the country on the right path. Featuring a new chapter on the challenges of 2010, The Audacity to Win is political writing at its boldest and most essential.

What are your favorite Obama memoirs and books? 

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