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Books

Obama shares his June reading list, but don’t expect any beach reads

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President Obama during a news conference in 2012. The former president has shared his recent reading list.
(SAUL LOEB / AFP/Getty Images)

Former President Obama is out of office but he’s keeping up on politics and social issues with the books he’s reading.

Obama shared a list of books he’s been reading on Facebook on Saturday.

The list is long on intellectual nonfiction and short on anything that could be described as a beach read. “It’s admittedly a slightly heavier list than what I’ll be reading over the summer,” Obama admitted.

His first recommendation was “Futureface: A Family Mystery, an Epic Quest, and the Secret to Belonging,” journalist Alex Wagner’s memoir about her globetrotting quest to trace her ancestry.

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“What she came up with is a thoughtful, beautiful meditation on what makes us who we are — the search for harmony between our own individual identities and the values and ideals that bind us together as Americans,” Obama wrote.

A surprise entry on the list was “Why Liberalism Failed” by Notre Dame professor Patrick J. Deneen. The book has garnered praise from conservative writers including Ross Douthat, Rod Dreher and the National Review magazine.

“I don’t agree with most of the author’s conclusions,” Obama wrote, “but the book offers cogent insights into the loss of meaning and community that many in the West feel, issues that liberal democracies ignore at their own peril.”

Obama also plugged a book by a possible 2020 presidential candidate, former New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu. The ex-president praised Landrieu’s “In the Shadow of Statues: A White Southerner Confronts History,” which was released in March.

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“It’s an ultimately optimistic take from someone who believes the South will rise again not by reasserting the past, but by transcending it,” Obama wrote.

Obama also recommended Enrico Moretti’s “The New Geography of Jobs” and Jennifer Kavanagh’s “Truth Decay: An Initial Exploration of the Diminishing Role of Facts and Analysis in American Public Life,” as well as an article in the Atlantic, Matthew Stewart’s “The 9.9 Percent Is the New American Aristocracy,” which he called “thought-provoking.”

No fiction made Obama’s list this time, but he’s been known to pick up a novel or two. He shared a list of his favorite books of 2017 on Facebook in December; it included the novels “The Power” by Naomi Alderman, “Exit West” by Mohsin Hamid, “Sing, Unburied, Sing” by Jesmyn Ward and James McBride’s short story collection, “Five-Carat Soul.”

Obama clearly has a soft spot for books, a trait that his successor does not seem to share. In 2016, Donald Trump told journalist MegynKelly that he doesn’t have the time to read books, although he did say he enjoyed Erich Maria Remarque’s classic antiwar novel “All Quiet on the Western Front.”

In 2005, however, Trump seemed to indicate that he had an affinity for contemporary acclaimed authors, writing in a letter to the editor of the New York Times, “Most writers want to be successful. Some writers even want to be good writers. I’ve read John Updike, I’ve read Orhan Pamuk, I’ve read Philip Roth.”


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