12 Books on Barack Obama’s Summer Reading List


Barack Obama may no longer be our Commander-in-Chief, but he's still our Reader-in-Chief. This summer, he’s been reading a mixture of recent hits and past bestsellers for an eclectic mix that has something for everyone. And of course, he recommends that everyone visit (or revisit) the works of the late Toni Morrison, one of America’s finest writers. Find out more about his picks below. (You can read Obama’s original post about his summer reading list on Facebook.)


In light of Toni Morrison’s passing earlier this month, former president Barack Obama began his summer reading Facebook post by writing, “To start, you can't go wrong by reading or re-reading the collected works of Toni Morrison. Beloved, Song of Solomon, The Bluest Eye, Sula, everything else — they're transcendent, all of them. You’ll be glad you read them.” You can find all four of Obama’s favorite Morrison stories on Scribd, as well as many of her other works.

The Nickel Boys

The rest of Obama’s reading list contains many buzzy books of the moment and from the recent past. Describing the new novel by the author of The Underground Railroad, Obama writes in his post, “Sometimes difficult to swallow, The Nickel Boys by Colson Whitehead is a necessary read, detailing the way Jim Crow and mass incarceration tore apart lives and wrought consequences that ripple into today.”


Exhalation by Ted Chiang is a collection of short stories that will make you think, grapple with big questions, and feel more human. The best kind of science fiction,” writes Obama on Facebook.

Wolf Hall

The former president made us chuckle later in the post by saying, “Wolf Hall, Hilary Mantel­’s epic fictionalized look at Thomas Cromwell’s rise to power, came out in 2009, but I was a little busy back then, so I missed it. Still great today.”

Men Without Women

“Haruki Murakami’s Men Without Women examines what happens to characters without important women in their lives; it'll move you and confuse you and sometimes leave you with more questions than answers,” writes Obama in his Facebook post.

American Spy

A spy novel inspired by true events also made Obama’s list. Wilkinson’s debut blends literary fiction with Cold War espionage. An African-American female secret agent is on a dangerous mission to seduce, then take down, a revolutionary leader. Obama calls it “a whole lot more than just a spy thriller, wrapping together the ties of family, of love, and of country.”

Lab Girl

Lab Girl by Hope Jahren is a beautifully written memoir about the life of a woman in science, a brilliant friendship, and the profundity of trees. Terrific,” writes Obama in his post.


The sophomore effort from the author of The Tiger’s Wife is two magical stories about the American West rolled into one myth-shattering and myth-making tale. Learn about some obscurer parts of American history while being mesmerized by the beauty of the landscape and how haunted it is by ghosts.

How to Read the Air

“You’ll get a better sense of the complexity and redemption within the American immigrant story with Dinaw Mengestu’s novel, How to Read the Air,” according to the former president in his Facebook post.

Happy end-of-summer reading! You can find Obama’s reading list on Scribd here.

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