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