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4 Michelle Obama Book Recommendations for a Thoughtful and Revealing Read

Michelle Obama has recommended relatively few books, so her praise carries special weight. Here are four nonfiction titles from her reading list.
by Tania Strauss | Apr 26 2022

Given Michelle Obama’s beloved public image and thoughtful, intelligent reputation, it’s no surprise that people are very interested in the first lady’s reading list. However while her presidential husband has made a tradition of releasing a full list of his favorite books every year, Michelle has been a lot quieter on the subject. 

With the publication of her bestselling memoir Becoming, available in the Blinkist library,  there was renewed interest in what Michelle Obama’s recommended books might be – and she has mentioned a few key nonfiction titles over the years. Unsurprisingly all these books, which are focused on memoirs, touch on topics that can shed light on something meaningful about the world and reveal something resonant about the lives of the people who wrote them. 


So here is a short but powerful list of four nonfiction books that Michelle Obama has praised in the last few years:

1 . Educated by Tara Westover

This widely-acclaimed memoir, which was featured on several year-end lists when it was published in 2018, charts the author’s journey from an abusive, fundamentalist Mormon upbringing to a Ph.D. from Cambridge University. Forbidden from attending school as a girl, Westover ran away from her rural home when she was sixteen and charted a course that would take her far beyond her repressive roots – but cause her to lose her family in the process.  “It’s an engrossing read, a fresh perspective on the power of an education, and it’s also a testament to the way grit and resilience can shape our lives,” Obama raved to  New York Times.


2. The Diary of a Young Girl by Anne Frank


Anne Frank’s Diary, written while her Jewish family hid from the Nazis in an Amsterdam attic, is one of the great classics of memoir. Perhaps because Anne Frank never intended her diary to be published, it has an honesty, immediacy, and texture of lived experience that has touched millions, and that gave a face to the uncountable losses of the Holocaust.  Michelle Obama is one such person who was touched deeply, and she published a lengthy tribute to the book on her Instagram after visiting the Anne Frank House in Amsterdam in 2019.


3. Light of the World: A Memoir by Elizabeth Alexander


Poet Elizabeth Alexander is a Pulitzer Prize finalist who composed and recited a poem for Barack Obama’s inauguration in 2009. When she unexpectedly lost her husband, she had to deal with her own overwhelming grief while continuing to be there for the couple’s two sons. The lyrical memoir she wrote about this tragedy is a beautiful tribute to the joys of her marriage, and an intimate exploration of the grief she had to move through after it was cut short.  Michelle Obama told People Magazine that Light of the World was her favorite book of 2015.


4. Conversations with Myself by Nelson Mandela


A landmark book documenting an incredible life, Conversations with Myself compiles decades worth of Nelson Mandela’s diaries, letters, speeches, and other personal papers into one volume. The book, which has a forward by Barack Obama, gives readers an intimate, inside view of how Mandela experienced his journey as it was actually happening. “I like to flip through it from time to time because it always seems to give me an extra boost when I need it,” Obama told the New York Times in the same article quoted above.

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