Former President Barack Obama has gone the route of Oprah’s Book Club and has come out with all his must-read books that he himself has been obsessing over. We’ve not only updated with his latest book picks, but have the entire reading list from the past few years!
There are so many book clubs out there that we cover, like Read With Jenna and Reese Witherspoon’s Book Club – but one of the newest and most interesting has to be Obama’s (can we just refer to him by his last name?!). Typically each summer he comes out with a few of his favorites, but now there are more than a dozen books he’s sharing with us all.
And from the former President himself, he’s recently said,
I’ve read a couple of great books this year and wanted to share some of my favorites so far.”
What’s cool about this year’s list is that you may have actually already read a few of them since some are on other book club recommendation lists too. We’ve listed out all of the most current picks, including the price (and if it’s currently on sale), and where you can pick it up yourself. Each listed below will be the hardcover price, but keep in mind if you click through you can typically choose from hardcover, paperback, kindle, audio book, and more!
OBAMA'S LATEST BOOK LIST FOR 2023
Poverty, By America by Matthew Desmond: Elegantly written and fiercely argued, this compassionate book gives us new ways of thinking about a morally urgent problem. It also helps us imagine solutions. Desmond builds a startlingly original and ambitious case for ending poverty. He calls on us all to become poverty abolitionists, engaged in a politics of collective belonging to usher in a new age of shared prosperity and, at last, true freedom. Read more here!
Small Mercies by Dennis Lehane: Set against the hot, tumultuous months when the city’s desegregation of its public schools exploded in violence, Small Mercies is a superb thriller, a brutal depiction of criminality and power, and an unflinching portrait of the dark heart of American racism. It is a mesmerizing and wrenching work that only Dennis Lehane could write. Read more here!
King: A Life by Jonathan Eig: In this landmark biography, Eig gives us an MLK for our times: a deep thinker, a brilliant strategist, and a committed radical who led one of history’s greatest movements, and whose demands for racial and economic justice remain as urgent today as they were in his lifetime. Read more here!
The Manifestation Journal: by Patrick Varone: While not an official Obama pick (yet) I’ve created a daily prompt-based manifestation journal to help you easily set your daily intention, practice gratitude, focus on forgiveness, be specific with what you want to manifest and so much more. In total you can fill this out in less than 6 minutes per day and really change the course of your life. Read more here!
Hello Beautiful by Ann Napolitano: An exquisite homage to Louisa May Alcott’s timeless classic, Little Women, Hello Beautiful is a profoundly moving portrait of what is possible when we choose to love someone not in spite of who they are, but because of it. Read more here!
All the Sinners Bleed by S.A Cosby: Titus Crown is the first Black sheriff in the history of Charon County, Virginia. In recent decades, quiet Charon has had only two murders. But after years of working as an FBI agent, Titus knows better than anyone that while his hometown might seem like a land of moonshine, cornbread, and honeysuckle, secrets always fester under the surface. Read more here!
Birnam Wood by Eleanor Catton: A gripping psychological thriller from the Booker Prize–winning author of The Luminaries, Eleanor Catton’s Birnam Wood is Shakespearean in its drama, Austenian in its wit, and, like both inﬂuences, fascinated by what makes us who we are. A brilliantly constructed study of intentions, actions, and consequences, it is a mesmerizing, unﬂinching consideration of the human impulse to ensure our own survival. Read more here!
What Napoleon Could Not Do by EDK Nnuro: When siblings Jacob and Belinda Nti were growing up in Ghana, their goal was simple: to move to America. For them, the United States was both an opportunity and a struggle, a goal and an obstacle. Read more here!
The Wager by David Grann: The Wager is a grand tale of human behavior at the extremes told by one of our greatest nonfiction writers. Grann’s recreation of the hidden world on a British warship rivals the work of Patrick O’Brian, his portrayal of the castaways’ desperate straits stands up to the classics of survival writing such as The Endurance, and his account of the court martial has the savvy of a Scott Turow thriller. As always with Grann’s work, the incredible twists of the narrative hold the reader spellbound. Read more here!
Blue Hour by Tiffany Clarke Harrison: Our narrator is a gifted photographer, an uncertain wife, an infertile mother, a biracial woman in an unraveling America. As she grapples with a lifetime of ambivalence about motherhood, yet another act of police brutality makes headlines, and this time the victim is Noah, a boy in her photography class. Unmoored by the grief of a recent devastating miscarriage and Noah’s fight for his life, she worries she can no longer chase the hope of having a child, no longer wants to bring a Black body into the world. Read more here!
OBAMA'S BOOK LIST FOR 2022
Sea of Tranquility by Emily St. John Mandel: When Gaspery-Jacques Roberts, a detective in the black-skied Night City, is hired to investigate an anomaly in the North American wilderness, he uncovers a series of lives upended: The exiled son of an earl driven to madness, a writer trapped far from home as a pandemic ravages Earth, and a childhood friend from the Night City who, like Gaspery himself, has glimpsed the chance to do something extraordinary that will disrupt the timeline of the universe.
A virtuoso performance that is as human and tender as it is intellectually playful, Sea of Tranquility is a novel of time travel and metaphysics that precisely captures the reality of our current moment. Read more here!
The Candy House by Jennifer Eagan: In the world of Egan’s spectacular imagination, there are “counters” who track and exploit desires and there are “eluders,” those who understand the price of taking a bite of the Candy House. Egan introduces these characters in an astonishing array of narrative styles—from omniscient to first person plural to a duet of voices, an epistolary chapter, and a chapter of tweets. Intellectually dazzling, The Candy House is also a moving testament to the tenacity and transcendence of human longing for connection, family, privacy, and love. Read more here!
A Little Devil in America by Hanif Abdurraqib: Touching on Michael Jackson, Patti LaBelle, Billy Dee Williams, the Wu-Tan Clan, Dave Chappelle, and more, Abdurraqib writes prose brimming with jubilation and pain. With care and generosity, he explains the poignancy of performances big and small, each one feeling intensely familiar and vital, both timeless and desperately urgent. Filled with sharp insight, humor, and heart, A Little Devil in America exalts the Black performance that unfolds in specific moments in time and space—from midcentury Paris to the moon, and back down again to a cramped living room in Columbus, Ohio. Read more here!
Why We’re Polarized by Ezra Klein: Klein shows how and why American politics polarized around identity in the 20th century, and what that polarization did to the way we see the world and one another. And he traces the feedback loops between polarized political identities and polarized political institutions that are driving our system toward crisis. Read more here!
To Paradise by Hanya Yanagihara: To Paradise is a fin de siècle novel of marvelous literary effect, but above all it is a work of emotional genius. The great power of this remarkable novel is driven by Yanagihara’s understanding of the aching desire to protect those we love—partners, lovers, children, friends, family, and even our fellow citizens—and the pain that ensues when we cannot. Read more here!
Black Cake by Charmaine Wilkerson: This debut novel is a story of how the inheritance of betrayals, secrets, memories, and even names can shape relationships and history. Deeply evocative and beautifully written, Black Cake is an extraordinary journey through the life of a family changed forever by the choices of its matriarch. Read more here!
Silverview by John le Carre: Silverview is the mesmerizing story of an encounter between innocence and experience and between public duty and private morals. In his inimitable voice John le Carré, the greatest chronicler of our age, seeks to answer the question of what we truly owe to the people we love. Read more here!
Velvet Was the Night by Silvia Moreno-Garcia: Brimming with heartbreak, comedy, and suspense, The Family Chao offers a kaleidoscopic, highly entertaining portrait of a Chinese American family grappling with the dark undercurrents of a seemingly pleasant small town. Read more here!
Mouth to Mouth by Antoine Wilson: In a first-class lounge at JFK airport, our narrator listens as Jeff Cook, a former classmate he only vaguely remembers, shares the uncanny story of his adult life—a life that changed course years before, the moment he resuscitated a drowning man. Read more here!
The School For Good Mothers by Jessamine Chan: An intense, captivating page-turner that is also a transgressive novel of ideas about the perils of perfect upper-middle class parenting; the violence enacted upon women by both the state and, at times, one another; the systems that separate families; and the boundlessness of love, The School for Good Mothers introduces, in Frida, an everywoman for the ages. Read more here!
The Great Experiment by Yascha Mounk: Drawing on history, social psychology, and comparative politics, Mounk examines how diverse societies have long suffered from the ills of domination, fragmentation, or structured anarchy. So it is hardly surprising that most people are now deeply pessimistic that different groups might be able to integrate in harmony, celebrating their differences without essentializing them. But Mounk shows us that the past can offer crucial insights for how to do better in the future. There is real reason for hope. Read more here!
Blood in the Garden by Chris Herring: The definitive history of the 1990s New York Knicks, illustrating how Pat Riley, Patrick Ewing, John Starks, Charles Oakley, and Anthony Mason resurrected the iconic franchise through oppressive physicality and unmatched grit. Read more here!
THE COMPLETE 2021 LIST
If you’re new to Obama’s reading list, feel free to go back in time to previous picks from 2021. So many of his picks are currently on sale too! Browse the complete list below and enjoy!