Barack Obama reveals his summer reading list, includes Toni Morrison

The former president recommends books about Jim Crow, Thomas Cromwell, female scientists, spies, single moms, immigrants and space aliens.

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Barack Obama includes the work of the late, great author Toni Morrison on his summer reading list for 2019.

Barack Obama

Even though most of us will never become the president of the United States, we can still read like one. On Wednesday, former US President Barack Obama posted on Facebook his favorite books he's been reading over the summer. 

"It's August, so I wanted to let you know about a few books I've been reading this summer, in case you're looking for some suggestions," Obama wrote on his Facebook page.

It's August, so I wanted to let you know about a few books I've been reading this summer, in case you're looking for...

Posted by Barack Obama on Wednesday, August 14, 2019

The Nickel Boys

The Pulitzer Prize and National Book Award winning author Colson Whitehead -- best known for his previous book The Underground Railroad -- tackles another moment in American history told through the story of two boys sentenced to a nightmarish reform school in Jim Crow-era Florida.

This book is "a necessary read, detailing the way Jim Crow and mass incarceration tore apart lives and wrought consequences that ripple into today," Obama wrote.

Exhalation: Stories

If you loved the Academy Award-nominated film Arrival, then you already know sci-fi author Ted Chiang's work. Arrival is based off his previous book Stories of Your Life and Others. Chiang's new collection of short fiction explores alternate universes, free will, regret and aliens.

Exhalation is a "collection of short stories that will make you think, grapple with big questions, and feel more human. The best kind of science fiction," Obama adds.

Wolf Hall

This historical novel by Hilary Mantel­ won the coveted Booker Prize back in 2009. As a reimagining of life under Henry VIII, this novel gives a glimpse of the real-life charmer and ambitious lawyer Thomas Cromwell who served as chief minister to King Henry VIII of England from 1532 to 1540 -- until he was beheaded by the King.

"Hilary Mantel­'s epic fictionalized look at Thomas Cromwell's rise to power, came out in 2009, but I was a little busy back then, so I missed it," Obama wrote. "Still great today."

Men Without Women: Stories

Author Haruki Murakami shows off his powers of observation in telling the stories of men who find themselves alone. Over seven short stories, Murakami brings readers into the lives of lovesick doctors, students, ex-boyfriends, actors and bartenders.

"Haruki Murakami's book examines what happens to characters without important women in their lives; it'll move you and confuse you and sometimes leave you with more questions than answers," Obama said.

American Spy

Set in the '80s during the heart of the Cold War, this thriller by Lauren Wilkinson tells the story of the brilliant FBI agent Marie Mitchell who just so happens to be a young black woman working in an old boys' club who just won't give her a career break.

Then everything changes when she joins a shadowy task force aimed at stopping the Communist threat which includes the revolutionary Thomas Sankara.

American Spy "is a whole lot more than just a spy thriller, wrapping together the ties of family, of love, and of country," Obama wrote.

The Shallows: What the Internet is Doing to Our Brains

Ever wonder if Google is making us stupid? If you want to take a closer, more scientific look at what the web might be doing to us mentally, read this book by Nicholas Carr.

While we might be getting better at skimming articles thanks to the internet, we might also be losing our capacity for concentration and contemplation in the process.

The book "came out a few years ago, but its arguments on the internet's impact on our brains, our lives, and our communities are still worthy of reflection, which is something we all could use a little more of in this age," Obama wrote.

Lab Girl

Winner of the National Book Critics Circle Award for Autobiography, author Hope Jahren's touching memoir gives readers a look at her life as geobiologist and how she found a sanctuary in science, learning to perform lab work with both her heart and hands.

This "is a beautifully written memoir about the life of a woman in science, a brilliant friendship, and the profundity of trees. Terrific," Obama said.


Inland by Téa Obreht takes place in the Arizona Territory in 1893 and weaves the tale of two characters: an unflinching frontierswoman named Nora (who is looking for her missing husband and sons) and outlaw Lurie who is haunted by ghosts.

This book "just came out, so I won't spoil anything," Obama wrote. "But those of you who've been waiting for Obreht's next novel won't be disappointed."

How to Read the Air

How to Read the Air by Dinaw Mengestu is the story of a young Ethiopian immigrant couple who go on a road trip from their new home in Peoria, Illinois, to Nashville, Tennessee. Later their son Jonas spends his life retracing the steps of his parents as he tries to make sense of the trials and tribulations of their lives.

"You'll get a better sense of the complexity and redemption within the American immigrant story with Dinaw Mengestu's novel," Obama said.

Maid: Hard Work, Low Pay and a Mother's Will to Survive

Stephanie Land's memoir about working as a maid to support her daughter shows how hard it is as a single mother trying to make a better life for her child.

This "is a single mother's personal, unflinching look at America's class divide, a description of the tightrope many families walk just to get by, and a reminder of the dignity of all work," Obama wrote.

Collected works of Toni Morrison

With the death this year of award-winning author Toni Morrison, many people are rediscovering her work or reading her books for the first time. Obama is a big fan of Morrison, and reminds us to take a look at her collected works for a great read.

"You can't go wrong by reading or re-reading the collected works of Toni Morrison," Obama added. "Beloved, Song of Solomon, The Bluest Eye, Sula, everything else -- they're transcendent, all of them. You'll be glad you read them."

If you need more book suggestions, be sure to check out the CNET Book Club where we talk to authors and discuss smart sci-fi as well as the latest science and technology books.

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