Barack Obama’s summer reading list includes empathy, understanding and ‘Factfulness’

Barack Obama, swimming off Hawaii in 2012, has released his summer 2018 reading list.
Barack Obama, swimming off Hawaii in 2012, has released his summer 2018 reading list.
(Pete Souza / AFP/Getty Images)

Former President Obama has shared his summer reading list, and it shows a drive toward understanding and empathy.

Obama posted some of his book recommendations on Facebook on Sunday. The former president praised five books he’s enjoyed in the last months, including a novel by a Canadian literary legend and a book by a recently departed Nobel Prize winner.

“One of my favorite parts of summer is deciding what to read when things slow down just a bit, whether it’s on a vacation with family or just a quiet afternoon,” Obama wrote. “This summer I’ve been absorbed by new novels, revisited an old classic, and reaffirmed my faith in our ability to move forward together when we seek the truth.”


First on the 44th president’s list is Tara Westover’s memoir “Educated,” about the author’s childhood in Idaho, where she was raised in a survivalist family. Obama called the book “remarkable.”

The former president also had kind words for “An American Marriage,” the Oprah Winfrey-endorsed novel by Tayari Jones. “‘An American Marriage’ by Tayari Jones is a moving portrayal of the effects of a wrongful conviction on a young African-American couple,” he wrote.

He also recommended a book that Microsoft founder Bill Gates also loved: “Factfulness” by the late Hans Rosling. Obama called it “a hopeful book about the potential for human progress when we work off facts rather than our inherent biases.”

Gates, a fan of Rosling’s book, gave free copies — electronically — to college graduates this year.

Obama also read two novels by literary lions: Michael Ondaatje’s “Warlight” and V.S. Naipaul’s “ A House for Mr. Biswas.” Naipaul, a Trinidadian writer who won the 2001 Nobel Prize for literature, died earlier this month.

This is the second reading list Obama has posted this year. In June, he took to Facebook to recommend books by Alex Wagner, Patrick J. Deneen, Mitch Landrieu, Enrico Moretti and Jennifer Kavanagh.

Two of the authors praised by Obama on his most recent list reacted to the news on Twitter: