Barack Obama has shared his summer reading list for 2022, comprising 14 books, with his Twitter followers.
“I’ve read a couple of great books this year and wanted to share some of my favourites so far”, the former president tweeted on Tuesday (26 July).
Here’s a quick rundown of Obama’s recommendations.
Sea of Tranquility by Emily St John Mandel, 2022
It’s the Canadian writer’s sixth book and is a work of speculative fiction.
“In Sea of Tranquility, Mandel offers one of her finest novels and one of her most satisfying forays into the arena of speculative fiction yet, but it is her ability to convincingly inhabit the ordinary, and her ability to project a sustaining acknowledgment of beauty, that sets the novel apart”, The New York Times’ review states.
Why We’re Polarized by Ezra Klein, 2020
The non-fiction book by the Vox co-founder and New York Times columnist looks at US political polarisation.
“Klein is a maestro at compactly and elegantly summarising the work of others, and he patiently moves us through the scholarship of Alan Abramowitz on political polarisation and Lilliana Mason on social polarisation, along the way to concluding that ‘our political identities have become political mega-identities’”, The New Yorker’s review says.
The Candy House by Jennifer Egan, 2022
The New York Times’ review says it’s “the literary version of the collaborative novel written by your friends and friends of friends on Facebook or Instagram, each link opening on a new protagonist. It is a spectacular palace built out of rabbit holes”.
A Little Devil in America by Hanif Abdurraqib, 2021
The Guardian’s review says every subject in this book of essays “is carefully chosen in the service of a broader critical project, which is to understand the significance of black performance in the US across media such as music, dance, comedy and even card games”.
To Paradise by Hanya Yanagihara, 2022
“This ambitious novel tackles major American questions and answers them in an original, engrossing way. It has a major feel. But it is finally in such minor moments that Yanagihara shows greatness”, The New York Times’ review says.
Silverview by John le Carré, 2021
Silverview is John le Carré’s final novel, his 26th, published after his death. The author died in 2020 at the age of 89.
“This slender volume (just over 200 pages) does conclude, rather abruptly, but it lacks what le Carré has taught us to expect of an ending”, The New York Times’ review says. “You can wonder, indeed, whether he had quite got around to finishing the book. He started writing it about a decade ago, then put it aside to write his memoir, The Pigeon Tunnel.’ And although Silverview is said to be his last completed novel, it’s evidently not the last one he was working on.”
Black Cake by Charmaine Wilkerson, 2022
The Washington Post’s review says it’s a “penetrating look at a delicacy filled with emotional turmoil but built into the very soul of a community echoes more sweeping issues of identity. Wilkerson is questioning the very essence of tradition that is known to many people of Caribbean heritage”.
The Family Chao by Lan Samantha Chang, 2022
NPR says in its review that it’s “a riveting character-driven novel that delves beautifully into human psychology; Dostoevsky himself would surely approve”.
Velvet Was the Night by Silvia Moreno-Garcia, 2021
“This is a noir with a heart of gold, and it’s a narrative in which the empathy we feel for its characters ultimately reveals an important truth: That Moreno-Garcia is not only a talented storyteller but also an incredibly versatile one”, the NPR review says.
Mouth to Mouth by Antoine Wilson, 2022
“In a landscape of literary fiction trending towards navel-gazing, it’s a delight to read a pacy story, well told”, The Financial Times says in its review. “Wilson’s propulsive prose moves the plot forward until the novel’s final twist in its last sentence. Mouth to Mouth is to be devoured in one greedy gulp, but the questions it raises linger long afterwards.”
The Great Experimen–t: Why Diverse Democracies Fall Apart and How They Can Endure by Yascha Mounk, 2022
“In his more noble theorising, Mounk grasps the key point that our best hope involves getting past the simplistic majority-minority dichotomy that dominates so much of the discourse. We should embrace complexity and avoid essentialism. But the big question remains: How?” The Washington Post ponders in its review.
The School for Good Mothers by Jessamine Chan, 2022
“Chan’s ideas are livid, but her prose is cool in temperature, and the effect is of an extended-release drug that doesn’t peak until long after you’ve swallowed it”, The New York Times’ review says. “One test of speculative fiction is whether or not it gives you nightmares, and when mine came – I knew they would – it was a full week after I’d finished this time bomb of a book. ‘This is a safe space, ladies,’ a faceless captor was telling me in my sleep. Terrifying.”
Razorblade Tears by SA Cosby, 2021
“The contradictions in ‘Razorblade Tears’ suggest the deeper moral ambiguity in this and all vigilante narratives. Unlike another Shakespearean character, who famously said revenge is a dish best served cold, these Southern fathers are well aware of the paradoxes of their mission, even as they are compelled to finish it in the name of justice for their boys”, The Los Angeles Times’ review states.
Blood in the Garden: The Flagrant History of the 1990s New York Knicks by Chris Herring, 2022
The final book on Obama’s list is for his fellow basketball fans.
The Wall Street Journal review says: “In compelling fashion, Mr Herring, a senior writer at Sports Illustrated who wrote for this newspaper from 2009 to 2016, takes his readers on a trip through the most successful decade in the history of one of the NBA’s marquee franchises. This 10-year stretch saw the Knicks make the playoffs each season, compete in three conference championships and appear twice in the NBA Finals. (They lost both times.)”