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Discover Barack Obama’s Favourite Books from his reading list (Updated 2023)

Here's a rundown of Barack Obama's favorite books of the last summer.
by Michael Benninger | Oct 23 2023
barack obama favourite books

Barack Obama once remarked:

“Reading is the gateway skill that makes all other learning possible, from complex word problems and the meaning of our history to scientific discovery and technological proficiency.”

Those are words the former President of the United States continues to live by, and each year he releases a list of his recommended reads.

It has become a tradition for Obama since 2009 to tweet a list of his favorite books, movies, and music picks. And last summer was not an exception. Here’s the list of Barack Obama’s favorite books.


Blinkist has a vast library, including all of Barack Obama’s favorite books. You can explore the app to discover the most significant and life-changing ideas. If you’re interested in reading more of Obama’s top picks but don’t know where to start, here’s a list of the nine books recommended by one of the world’s most admired men.y one of the world’s most admired men.

1. Poverty, by America” by Matthew Desmond

In this thought-provoking book, the Pulitzer Prize-winning author of “Evicted” presents a fresh perspective on the ongoing debate surrounding poverty in America. Challenging conventional beliefs, the author proposes a compelling argument: poverty endures because the rest of society derives some form of benefit from it. Prepare to have your preconceptions challenged and your understanding deepened as you explore this insightful exploration of a pressing issue.

2. Small Mercies” by Dennis Lehane

Dennis Lehane, the acclaimed bestselling author, has returned with a masterpiece in the form of his latest thrilling novel, “Small Mercies”. The book takes readers on a heart-pounding journey through the lives of seemingly ordinary individuals whose paths intertwine amidst two seemingly unrelated incidents: the disappearance of a teenager and the discovery of a dead man. Lehane’s skillful storytelling unravels a captivating web of secrets, regrets, and redemption, ensuring you will be on the edge of your seat from start to finish. Prepare for an immersive reading experience that will leave you enthralled.

“Small Mercies is thought-provoking, engaging, enraging, and can’t-put-it-down entertainment”
Stephen King


3. King: A Life” by Jonathan Eig

This meticulously researched biography offers unparalleled insights into the indomitable spirit of Martin Luther King Jr. Within this illuminating and eye-opening portrayal of the renowned preacher and activist who reshaped our world, the bestselling biographer presents an intimate and nuanced perspective. Offering a profound understanding of this extraordinary figure, the author sheds light on the complex and tumultuous inner world of a man who tirelessly advocated for peaceful protest while grappling with his own personal demons. It is an essential read that will inspire and educate, sparking a renewed appreciation for the relentless pursuit of justice.

4. Hello Beautiful” by Ann Napolitano

A portrait of the human spirit’s resilience in the face of adversity. Seamlessly blending heartache, hope, and redemption, Napolitano skillfully crafts a gripping tale that explores the depths of loss and the power of second chances. Through its exquisite tribute to Louisa May Alcott’s beloved masterpiece “Little Women,” “Hello Beautiful” offers a deeply emotional portrayal of the transformative power of love and reminder that true love flourishes when we embrace others not despite their unique essence but because of it. 

5. All the Sinners Bleed” by S. A. Cosby

Want a thrilling and satisfying read? This electrifying crime thriller takes readers on a heart-pounding journey through the seedy underbelly of a small town haunted by its dark secrets. Cosby’s masterful storytelling weaves together a suspenseful tale of redemption, revenge, and the consequences of one’s past actions that skillfully weaves together themes of race, religion, politics, and the intricacies of small-town policing in the modern era. With its complex characters and expertly crafted plot twists, “All the Sinners Bleed” challenges conventional notions of morality.

“An atmospheric pressure cooker.”
People Magazine


6. Birnam Wood” by Eleanor Catton

Brace yourself for an enthralling literary journey. This remarkable thriller immerses readers in a world filled with intrigue, passion, and elaborate schemes. Set in 19th-century Scotland, Catton’s mesmerizing storytelling captures the essence of love and betrayal, power struggles, and unexpected alliances. “Birnam Wood” is a captivating tale that combines the dramatic essence of Shakespeare with the wit reminiscent of Austen. Embark on this literary adventure and discover why it has earned a place on Barack Obama’s esteemed reading list.

7. What Napoleon Could Not Do” by DK Nnuro

Embark on a journey alongside two siblings, Jacob and Belinda, who were born in Ghana, and Belinda’s Texan husband, Wilder, as they grapple with the complexities of being American. Author Nnuro created these characters in response to the “fundamental dissonance” within the term “African-American.” suggesting that perhaps the words “African” and “American” should be separated by an ellipsis, symbolizing the ongoing struggles between Black individuals with immediate African ancestry and those without. The heart of Nnuro’s novel lies within this ellipsis, offering a compelling exploration of identity and the enduring conflicts that shape the African-American experience.

8. The Wager: A Tale of Shipwreck, Mutiny and Murder” by David Grann

The #1 New York Times Bestseller for several weeks. In this page-turning story, David Grann uncovers the harrowing journey of a group of British castaways stranded on a deserted island in the 18th century. As they struggle to survive, tensions rise, leading to a shocking mutiny and a series of brutal murders. Grann masterfully weaves historical facts and narrative suspense, transporting readers to a world of adventure, betrayal, and the dark depths of the human psyche. “The Wager” is not only a thrilling tale but also a reflection on the extremes of human behavior and the lengths people are willing to go to survive. A must-read for history enthusiasts and lovers of compelling storytelling.

“A genre-defying literary naval-history thriller, part Master and Commander, part Lord of the Flies”
Vanity Fair


9. Blue Hour” by Tiffany Clarke Harrison

Set against the backdrop of a small coastal town, Harrison delves into the complexities of love, loss, and the healing power of friendship. In a landscape fraught with uncertainty, buried trauma, and a nation in turmoil, the essence of motherhood endures as a resounding love song. “Blue Hour” beautifully intertwines multiple narratives, each grappling with their own personal challenges and yearnings for a brighter future.


Blinkist makes exploring our collection of Barack Obama’s favorite books easy. Also, you can check the collection of Obama’s recommended books. So now that you know a bit about each of these titles, which one will you read first?

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