Obama Shares His Summer Reading List

Former President Barack Obama shared his summer reading list on social media on Wednesday, offering a mix of novels, short story collections and nonfiction for anyone, in his words, “looking for some suggestions.”

The list covers both new releases and older works from authors such as Téa Obreht, Colson Whitehead, Ted Chiang, Haruki Murakami, Dinaw Mengestu and Hilary Mantel. Mr. Obama started with an invitation to read works by the Nobel laureate Toni Morrison, who died last week at the age of 88.

“Beloved, Song of Solomon, The Bluest Eye, Sula, everything else — they’re transcendent, all of them,” he wrote. “You’ll be glad you read them.” The former president presented the author with the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2012.

Mr. Obama’s interest in reading has been well documented. The former New York Times chief book critic Michiko Kakutani reported at the end of Mr. Obama’s presidency that he would read for about an hour on most nights. Mr. Obama said that reading fiction left him “better able to imagine what’s going on in the lives of people throughout my presidency.”

He shared recommendations for books and movies throughout his presidency and has continued the tradition after leaving office. Last summer, he posted a more academic list of nonfiction works to his Facebook page. At the end of the year he released a list of his favorite works of 2018. His wife Michelle Obama’s memoir “Becoming” topped the list.

In the reading list he shared on Wednesday, Mr. Obama continued to promote a diverse group of writers, many of whom focus on issues of race, immigration, gender and class.

“I am deeply honored to be on @BarackObama’s summer reading list, and more than a little nostalgic for a president who values reading,” the author Lauren Wilkinson wrote on Twitter.

Mr. Obama wrote that Ms. Wilkinson’s “American Spy,” her debut novel about a black female secret agent, is “a whole lot more than just a spy thriller, wrapping together the ties of family, of love, and of country.”

The list also includes “The Nickel Boys,” Mr. Whitehead’s fictionalized account of the state-run Dozier School for Boys, where dozens of students were tortured. Mr. Whitehead was among a handful of novelists, along with Zadie Smith, Barbara Kingsolver, Junot Díaz and Dave Eggers, whom Mr. Obama invited to a luncheon at the end of his presidency.

Stephanie Land’s recent memoir, “Maid,” which chronicles her time as a single mother and cleaner, offers an “unflinching look at America’s class divide” and “a reminder of the dignity of all work,” according to Mr. Obama.

“I’m so dead rn,” Ms. Land wrote on Twitter in response to the list. “I can’t believe I get a chance to be on this list with these very incredible writers.”

Another memoir, Hope Jahren’s “Lab Girl,” follows both the writer’s personal journey to becoming a scientist and her work on the secret life of plants. In her 2016 review of the work, Ms. Kakutani called it “a book that, at its best, does for botany what Oliver Sacks’s essays did for neurology.”

Here’s the full summer reading list, with links to reviews:

The collected works of Toni Morrison

The Nickel Boys” by Colson Whitehead

Exhalation” by Ted Chiang

Wolf Hall” by Hilary Mantel


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