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Every book Barack Obama recommended during his presidency

posted by Jason Kottke   Jan 23, 2017

President Obama is a reader. NY Times book critic Michiko Kakutani interviewed Obama about his reading just before he left office.

Last Friday, seven days before his departure from the White House, Mr. Obama sat down in the Oval Office and talked about the indispensable role that books have played during his presidency and throughout his life — from his peripatetic and sometimes lonely boyhood, when “these worlds that were portable” provided companionship, to his youth when they helped him to figure out who he was, what he thought and what was important.

During his eight years in the White House — in a noisy era of information overload, extreme partisanship and knee-jerk reactions — books were a sustaining source of ideas and inspiration, and gave him a renewed appreciation for the complexities and ambiguities of the human condition.

During his tenure in office, the President publicly recommended 86 different books, compiled into one list by Entertainment Weekly. Here are several of them, some of which I have also read and recommended on this very site:

Being Mortal: Medicine and What Matters in the End, Dr. Atul Gawande
One Hundred Years of Solitude, Gabriel García Márquez
Seveneves, Neal Stephenson
Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind, Yuval Noah Harari
The Sixth Extinction, Elizabeth Kolbert
Where the Wild Things Are, Maurice Sendak
Barbarian Days: A Surfing Life, William Finnegan
The Power Broker, Robert A. Caro
Souls of Black Folk, W.E.B. Du Bois
The Underground Railroad, Colson Whitehead
Working, Studs Terkel
Washington: A Life, Ron Chernow
The Harry Potter series, J.K. Rowling
Team of Rivals: The Political Genius of Abraham Lincoln, Doris Kearns Goodwin
What Is the What, Dave Eggers

Our most widely read US President, for sure.

Update: I’m getting some pushback on my assertion that Obama was “our most widely read US President”. Since “widely read” seems to have multiple meanings, I should have been more explicit on what I meant. I didn’t mean that he had written the most books read by the most people (that is perhaps Teddy Roosevelt) or had read the most books (George W. Bush and Roosevelt were both voracious readers, as were Jefferson, Clinton, and Lincoln). I meant that compared to previous Presidents, Obama has read books from the widest spectrum of viewpoints and authors. Among the list of 86 (which are not the books he read in office but just the ones he publicly recommended) are books on politics (of course), science, economics, sports, and medicine, some classics, children’s books, plenty of fiction, and science fiction. Most importantly, the list includes many books written by women and persons of color. Judging by this (partial) George W. Bush reading list (which includes only two books written by women (one of whom is his daughter)), outside of Clinton and perhaps Carter, I would wager very few Presidents have read many books by women and no more than a token few books by black authors.

We Work Remotely

New Dr. Seuss book: What Pet Should I Get?

posted by Jason Kottke   Feb 18, 2015

Which Pet Should I Get?

A new Dr. Seuss book will be coming out in July; it’s called What Pet Should I Get?

What happens when a brother and sister visit a pet store to pick a pet? Naturally, they can’t choose just one! The tale captures a classic childhood moment — choosing a pet — and uses it to illuminate a life lesson: that it is hard to make up your mind, but sometimes you just have to do it!

The manuscript for the book was recently discovered by his widow and his secretary while cleaning out his office. Two more new books will be published from other materials they found. (via nextdraft)

Update: The book comes out on July 28. Buzzfeed has an early look at some of the artwork and Michiko Kakutani has a Seussian rhyming review of it in the NY Times.

A new book by the doctor is about to come out.
“What Pet Should I Get?” is its name.
It’s short and it’s Seuss-ish, not “One Fish Two Fish,”
But it does play a similar game.

Filled with creatures both real and zany,
It shows off his gift for creating a zoo.
Two-legged, four-legged, winged and finned,
Beasties familiar and entirely new!