Hey, you remember the time when the President of the United States was able to understand a joke and didn’t think that Greenland is for sale? Or when most of President’s closest associates were not in jail, or on their way there? Or the times when the President could denounce white supremacy without alienating his base? Or when the President’s party did not rely on suppressing voter’s rights to win an election? Yep, me too. And believe it or not, it was not that long ago.
Every single time I turn on the TV in the morning to watch the news nowadays, I am painfully reminded of this new dystopian-like reality we live in. How many things have changed, how many things that would be unthinkable just mere 3 years ago we let normalize. In these times I find comfort and hope in going back to times when hearing the name of the US President wasn’t followed by ‘oh no, what now?!’ And to channel this spirit I did what I always do: Acquire more additions to my personal library and pretend that everything’s alright. And as a result of these sanity-saving measures now I can present you with Obama Edition of wannabe writer reads.
Becoming by Michelle Obama (5 out of 5 – 2x)
Ladies first, so let’s start with the first lady. Becoming was released in the fall last year and before the year was over it made the most successful book of the year and rightly so. Which also explain why I’m a proud owner of both the hard copy and the audiobook. Michelle Obama’s writing style is very readable and has a nice flow to it, her narration of the audiobook is also a very enjoyable, her pacing and articulation are both superb, no doubt a result of her 8-year experience as FLOTUS. So whichever format you choose, you won’t be disappointed.
As for the content, the entire book revolves around the idea of ‘Becoming,’ of this never-ending process of evolving, both on a personal level and as a society as a whole. Of course, her memoir is concerned with her WH years, but perhaps surprisingly for some, these 8 years are only a small fraction of the book. It is because this book is not a memoir of President Obama’s wife, it is a memoir Michelle Robinson-Obama and it is even more interesting for it. She shares with the readers her childhood spent in Chicago, her father’s fight with MS, her experience as an African-American woman attending Ivy League schools and as a young professional woman on of a fulfilling career and of course how it was like to take on the challenges of first ladyship as the first African American woman to ever be in this position. In short, this is a memoir of a fascinating and accomplished woman, who happens to be married to someone who has become a president.
I read this book both out of my interest and as a part of my research (win-win!) What I really appreciated was the contrast of Hillary Clinton’s Living History, which I read shortly before this one and Becoming Two completely different books, written by two completely different, but equally admirable ladies. Whereas Clinton’s memoir is enormously fact/politics based, a result of her nature and greater involvement in her husband’s administration, if you expect a lot of politics and insights into Obama’s administration from Becoming look somewhere else. But if you’re interested in a powerful and relatable personal story, this one is for you.
The Audacity of Hope by Barack Obama (5 out of 5)
If politics is what you’re looking for, perhaps this Obama will hit the spot. I admit, still not an insight into Obama’s administration but it gives you a pretty clear idea on what ideas Barack was running on and what ideas and values shaped his years as the president.
The book itself is divided into 9 chapters/thematic chunks discussing everything from politics, values, partisanship to the issues of race and family and all of them are interconnected by Barack’s journey from being a strangely named kid from Hawaii to being an American senator.
I admit, I could be (probably am) biased, as not only do I admire him as a symbol of dignity and intelligence that the office of president deserves, but also I found out that we share a lot of the same values and strangely enough, judging by both, his and Michelle’s accounts, several habits and character traits. Spending all our spare money on books for one, or caring so deeply about the injustice in the world that it keeps us awake at night.
Reading the Audacity of Hope gave my views, values, and ideas a sense of belongingness, a sort of an assurance that they are not just random fantasies flowing in the ocean of rottenness that seems to be controlling the world nowadays. But that’s me, I strongly advise you to pick up the book and make a judgment for yourself. And if you don’t end up loving it quite as much as I did, what harm is in reading a couple of words by one of the smartest people on the planet anyway?
Thanks, Obama: My Hopey, Changey White House Years by David Litt (3,5 out of 5)
I’ll finish our little excursion into the better times by a book written by (surprise!) not an Obama. Shocking, I know. David Litt was one of Obama’s speechwriters and as such he offers you a unique look at what it is like to have President Obama as an employer, which to me seems to be equally amazing and terrifying. Naturally, it’s not as heavy on politics as Ben Rhodes’ book, I’ve already written about here, but you can still find some interesting political bits in there. Overall, it is more of a light read, something alongside funny backstage stories.
Couple of words on the low-ish rating here. Do you know how they say that you can only make the first impression once? Yep, he screwed it up on the first 20 pages or so for me, by treating his girlfriend like an idiot because she voted for Clinton in 2008 (you don’t have to vote her or even like her for that matter, but Democrats treating her like an enemy were a significant part of creating this mess we’re in and that’s a bit hard for me to swallow). After that it was just very hard to shake off, though not that I would actively try. Petty point, but hey, it’s my review. Apart from that, it is a light read that succeeded in taking my mind off the current affairs, so still a success and recommend!
To sum it up, if you, just like I do, feel overwhelmed/anxious/furious/choose your pick for the day by the current events, either of these books will provide a bit of comfort and renew your faith in humanity, in what seems to be the new normal. And I cannot even express how important that is.