Barack Obama’s Summer Reading List

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Kelly Jensen


Kelly is a former librarian and a long-time blogger at STACKED. She's the editor/author of (DON'T) CALL ME CRAZY: 33 VOICES START THE CONVERSATION ABOUT MENTAL HEALTH and the editor/author of HERE WE ARE: FEMINISM FOR THE REAL WORLD. Her next book, BODY TALK, will publish in Fall 2020. Follow her on Instagram @heykellyjensen.

It’s summer, which means it’s once again time for former President Barack Obama to share what he’s got on his summer reading list. As always, it’s a compelling look at a wide range of literature, including fiction and nonfiction, as well as a fascinating peek inside the mind of one of the United States’s biggest minds and voices.

Obama shared his summer reading list on social media Saturday.

“Whether you’re camped out on the beach or curled up on the couch on a rainy day, there’s nothing quite like sitting down with a great book in the summer,” he wrote. “While we were still in the White House, I began sharing my summer favorites—and over the years, it’s become a little tradition that I look forward to sharing with you all. So without further ado, here are some books I’ve read recently.”

Here’s what’s on his list:

  • At Night All Blood is Black by David Diop, this year’s Booker Award winner. The story is a look at a little known piece of World War I history.

  • Land of Big Numbers by Te-Ping Chen, a short story collection featuring a wide range of experiences of modern Chinese people.  
  • Empire of Pain by Patrick Radden Keefe, A nonfiction look at the Sackler family, whose three generations of doctors developed and destroyed their reputation with valium and OxyContin.

  • Project Hail Mary by Andy Weir, Weir’s latest science fiction thriller about the lone astronaut who has to save the planet from disaster.
  • When We Cease to Understand the World by Benjamin Labatut, a work of biographical fiction about the lives of real scientists and thinkers whose work butts against morality in complicated ways.
  • Things We Lost To The Water by Eric Nguyen, a novel about a Vietnamese family who immigrates to New Orleans and struggles through the changes of such a monumental shift in their lives.
  • Leave The World Behind by Rumaan Alam, a highly-decorated novel about two families who don’t know one another but are forced together during a very bad weekend.
  • Klara and the Sun by Kazuo Ishiguro, about Klara, an Artificial Friend, hoping to be chosen by a customer at the store where she observes everything going on around her.
  • The Sweetness of Water by Nathan Harris, a debut novel also named one of Oprah’s Book Club picks, about a pair of brothers in Reconstruction-era Georgia.
  • Intimacies by Katie Kitamura, a thriller about a woman who moves to The Hague to escape New York City and finds herself deeply entrenched in her work at the International Court.

As always, this reading list showcases a huge range of interests, styles, and genres. Once you read your way through these titles, don’t miss previous Obama Book Recommendations from years past.