Barack Obama Says These Are His Favorite Books of 2018

If you’re looking for something new to read in 2019, Barack Obama has a few suggestions. The former president revealed his picks for the best books of 2018 in a Facebook post on Friday. And it seems like life after the White House has left him plenty of time to read. He included almost 30 books on his best-of list.

Barack Obama’s No. 1 book of 2018 is no surprise

Barack Obama

Barack Obama signs copies of his book The Audacity of Hope in 2006. | Tim Boyle/Getty Images

Obama’s top pick for 2018 is by an author he knows well. He wrote that his wife Michelle’s memoir Becoming is “obviously my favorite!” Becoming became the best-selling book of the year after it was released in November.

But not every author on Obama’s list is as celebrated as Michelle Obama. The former president wrote that he hopes his year-end list will draw attention to “authors, artists, and storytellers” who are both “household names and others who you may not have heard of before.”

Obama’s best books of 2018 list

Obama’s top books of the year included a mix of new fiction and non-fiction, along with a handful of older titles.

Obama’s favorite new non-fiction of 2018:

  • American Prison by Shane Bauer
  • Arthur Ashe: A Life by Raymond Arsenault
  • Becoming by Michelle Obama
  • Educated by Tara Westover
  • Factfulness by Hans Rosling
  • Feel Free by Zadie Smith
  • Frederick Douglass: Prophet of Freedom by David W. Blight
  • Futureface: A Family Mystery, an Epic Quest, and the Secret to Belonging by Alex Wagner
  • How Democracies Die by Steven Levitsky and Daniel Ziblatt
  • In the Shadow of Statues: A White Southerner Confronts History by Mitch Landrieu
  • The World As It Is by Ben Rhodes
  • Why Liberalism Failed by Patrick Deneen

Obama’s favorite new fiction of 2018:

  • An American Marriage by Tayari Jones
  • Asymmetry by Lisa Halliday
  • Florida by Lauren Groff
  • Immigrant, Montana by Amitava Kumar
  • The Largesse of the Sea Maiden by Denis Johnson
  • There There by Tommy Orange
  • Warlight by Michael Ondaatje
  • Washington Black by Esi Edugyan

Obama also recommended a few titles that didn’t come out in 2018 but still captured his attention:

  • A Grain of Wheat by Ngugi wa Thiong’o
  • A House for Mr Biswas by V.S. Naipaul
  • Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
  • Life 3.0: Being Human in the Age of Artificial Intelligence by Max Tegmark
  • Long Walk to Freedom by Nelson Mandela
  • The Broken Ladder: How Inequality Affects the Way We Think, Live, and Die by Keith Payne
  • The New Geography of Jobs by Enrico Moretti
  • The Return by Hisham Matar
  • Things Fall Apart by Chinua Achebe

The authors Obama loves

Obama Visits Local Bookstore On Small Business Saturday

Barack Obama and daughters Sasha and Malia purchase books at Washington D.C.’s Politics and Prose bookstore in 2014. |  Dennis Brack/Black Star

Obama is an avid reader who doesn’t hesitate to share what’s on his bookshelf. Several authors he’s named in the past reappeared this year.

In 2015, he said his favorite book of the year Lauren Groff’s novel Fate & Furies. Her short story collection Florida made the list this year. During a 2014 trip to an indie bookstore in D.C., Obama picked a stack of books, including The Laughing Monsters by Denis Johnson. This year, he recommended Johnson’s posthumous short story collection The Largesse of the Sea Maiden. He’s also praised the work of Nelson Mandela, V.S. Naipaul, and Zadie Smith, who were among the many writers who he told the New York Times helped him navigate his years in the White House.

Reading regularly when he was president helped him “slow down and get perspective” and “get in somebody else’s shoes,” Obama told the paper in 2017, both of which “have been invaluable to me. Whether they’ve made me a better president I can’t say. But what I can say is that they have allowed me to sort of maintain my balance during the course of eight years, because this is a place that comes at you hard and fast and doesn’t let up.”

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