Pretoria News Weekend - - NEWS -

BARACK Obama posted on Face­book a list of books he’s been read­ing. “This sum­mer I’ve been ab­sorbed by new nov­els,” the former pres­i­dent wrote, “re­vis­ited an old clas­sic, and reaf­firmed my faith in our abil­ity to move for­ward to­gether when we seek the truth.”

Obama didn’t rage against his en­e­mies or at­tack the pil­lars of democ­racy. He didn’t call any­body a “dog”. He didn’t brag about his own best-sell­ers – or the size of his book-read­ing hands.

In­stead, he just pre­sented a small win­dow into the mind of a man who ap­pre­ci­ates how books can al­ter the pace of our lives and il­lu­mi­nate the world. “One of my favourite parts of sum­mer is de­cid­ing what to read when things slow down just a bit,” Obama wrote, “whether it’s on a va­ca­tion with fam­ily or just a quiet af­ter­noon.”

For a na­tion show­ered by the sput­ter­ing rage of his re­place­ment, Obama’s im­plicit re­minder of how in­cu­ri­ous and alit­er­ate the Oval Of­fice has be­come is al­most cruel.

As usual, the former pres­i­dent’s sum­mer read­ing list is a model of di­verse voices and con­cerns, with­out a whiff of that syn­thetic in­tel­lec­tu­al­ity that fre­quently hov­ers around politi­cians’ al­leged bed­side read­ing. (Let’s be hon­est, no­body is re­ally en­joy­ing Thucy­dides’s His­tory of the Pelo­pon­nesian War and Thomas Piketty’s Cap­i­tal this sum­mer).

Obama’s choices are books that one can eas­ily find at most book­stores or li­braries:


1. by Tara Westover (Ran­dom House).

Obama de­scribes this as “a re­mark­able mem­oir of a young wo­man raised in a sur­vival­ist fam­ily in Idaho who strives for ed­u­ca­tion while still show­ing great un­der­stand­ing and love for the world she leaves be­hind.”

Westover’s story is even more dra­matic than that sum­mary sug­gests: Her par­ents home-schooled their seven chil­dren largely on mat­ters of faith, but she man­aged to get into Brigham Young Univer­sity and even­tu­ally at­tended Har­vard and earned a doc­tor­ate in his­tory from Cam­bridge. Ed­u­cated has been on The Wash­ing­ton Post best-seller list since it was pub­lished in Fe­bru­ary.

2. On­daatje (Knopf).


by Michael

The lat­est from the Booker Prize-win­ning au­thor of The English Pa­tient, this novel takes place in Lon­don

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