Book Club

A decade's worth of reading: Barack Obama's must-reads

Former U.S. President Barack Obama addresses a town hall of young leaders from across Europe at an Obama Foundation event in Berlin, Germany April 6, 2019. REUTERS/Fabrizio Bensch - RC1C64D2A700

The 44th US president recommended dozens of books during his two terms Image: REUTERS/Fabrizio Bensch

Sangeeta Singh-Kurtz
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Book Club

Another summer, another list of summer reads from Barack Obama.

The 44th US president recommended dozens of books during his two terms, but Obama only started sharing summer reading lists—often alongside his annual Martha’s Vineyard vacation—in 2009. The latest list was released Thursday (15 August) on Instagram.

In honor of nearly a decade of spectacular book recommendations, we’re looking back at all of Obama’s summer-reading recommendations. Even though it’s already August, the former president’s idea of a “light read”—The Sixth Extinction?—is one that works in any season.

The Way Home, by George Pelecanos

Hot, Flat, and Crowded, by Tom Friedman

Lush Life, by Richard Price

Plainsong, by Kent Haruf

John Adams, by David McCullough

Freedom, by Jonathan Franzen

Tinkers, by Paul Harding

A Few Corrections, by Brad Leithauser

The Warmth of Other Suns, by Isabel Wilkerson

Cutting for Stone, by Abraham Verghese

Rodin’s Debutante, by Ward Just

To the End of the Land, by David Grossman

The Bayou Trilogy, by Daniel Woodrell

2012 – A busy year—reading list not disclosed.

2013 – Another busy year! No time for books.

The Laughing Monsters,by Denis Johnson

Nora Webster, by Colm Toibin

The Sixth Extinction, by Elizabeth Kolber

Between the World and Me, by Ta-Nehisi Coates

All That Is,by James Salter

The Lowland, by Jhumpa Lahiri

Washington: A Life, by Ron Chernow

Barbarian Days: A Surfing Life, by William Finnegan

H Is for Hawk, by Helen Macdonald

The Girl on the Train, by Paula Hawkins

Seveneves,by Neal Stephenson

The Underground Railroad, by Colson Whitehead

2017 (Note: This was a year-end round-up, so not explicitly for summer. But as a bonus, Obama also released a playlist this year.)

The Power, by Naomi Alderman

Grant,by Ron Chernow

Exit West, by Mohsin Hamid

Five-Carat Soul,by James McBride

Anything Is Possible,by Elizabeth Strout

Dying: A Memoir,by Cory Taylor

Sing, Unburied, Sing,by Jesmyn Ward

Coach Wooden and Me, by Kareem Abdul-Jabbar

Educated, by Tara Westover

Warlight, by Michael Ondaatje

A House for Mr. Biswas, by V.S. Naipaul

An American Marriage, by Tayari Jones

Factfulness, by Hans Rosling


The Nickel Boys, by Colson Whitehead

Exhalation, by Ted Chiang

Wolf Hall,by Hillary Mantel

Men Without Women, by Haruki Murakami

American Spy, by Lauren Wilkinson

The Shallows, by Nicholas Carr

Lab Girl, by Hope

JahrenInland, by Téa Obreht

How to Read the Air, by Dinaw Mengestu

Maid, by Stephanie Land

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