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17 Books Barack Obama Thinks Everyone Should Read This Summer

Former Pres. Barack Obama is a prolific reader. It's a tradition for him to make a summer reading list each year. This year, his book recommendations focused on African literature.

 Johner Images/Getty Images

By Rachel Premack 

Former President Barack Obama is making his first trip to Africa since he left the White House last year. So, his annual summer reading list, which he posted on Facebook, is focusing on African literature.

“Kenya, of course, is the Obama ancestral home,” he wrote in the July 13 post. “I visited for the first time when I was in my twenties and I was profoundly influenced by my experiences – a journey I wrote about in my first book, Dreams from My Father.”

Along with these six new recommendations, we also included the 11 books that Obama praised in a conversation in 2017 with Michiko Kakutani, the chief book critic for the New York Times.

Here’s what the former president said you ought to read this summer:

‘Things Fall Apart,’ by Chinua Achebe

Obama says:

“A true classic of world literature, this novel paints a picture of traditional society wrestling with the arrival of foreign influence, from Christian missionaries to British colonialism. A masterpiece that has inspired generations of writers in Nigeria, across Africa, and around the world.”

Buy it here »

‘A Grain of Wheat,’ by Ngugi Thiong’o

Obama says:

“A chronicle of the events leading up to Kenya’s independence, and a compelling story of how the transformative events of history weigh on individual lives and relationships.”

Buy it here »

‘Long Walk to Freedom: The Autobiography of Nelson Mandela,’ by Nelson Mandela

Obama says:

“Mandela’s life was one of the epic stories of the 20th century. This definitive memoir traces the arc of his life from a small village, to his years as a revolutionary, to his long imprisonment, and ultimately his ascension to unifying President, leader, and global icon. Essential reading for anyone who wants to understand history – and then go out and change it.”

Buy it here »

‘Americanah’ by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

Obama says:

“From one of the world’s great contemporary writers comes the story of two Nigerians making their way in the U.S. and the UK, raising universal questions of race and belonging, the overseas experience for the African diaspora, and the search for identity and a home.”

Buy it here »

‘The Return’ by Hisham Matar

Obama says:

“A beautifully-written memoir that skillfully balances a graceful guide through Libya’s recent history with the author’s dogged quest to find his father who disappeared in Gaddafi’s prisons.”

Buy it here »

‘The World As It Is’ by Ben Rhodes

Obama says:

“It’s true, Ben does not have African blood running through his veins. But few others so closely see the world through my eyes like he can. Ben’s one of the few who’ve been with me since that first presidential campaign. His memoir is one of the smartest reflections I’ve seen as to how we approached foreign policy, and one of the most compelling stories I’ve seen about what it’s actually like to serve the American people for eight years in the White House.”

Buy it here »

Previously, he’s recommended: ‘The Naked and the Dead’ by Norman Mailer

Amazon synopsis:

“Written in gritty, journalistic detail, the story follows an army platoon of foot soldiers who are fighting for the possession of the Japanese-held island of Anopopei. Composed in 1948, ‘The Naked and the Dead’ is representative of the best in twentieth-century American writing.”

Buy it here »

‘One Hundred Years of Solitude’ by Gabriel Garcia Marquez

Amazon synopsis:

“The brilliant, bestselling, landmark novel that tells the story of the Buendia family, and chronicles the irreconcilable conflict between the desire for solitude and the need for love — in rich, imaginative prose that has come to define an entire genre known as ‘magical realism.'”

Buy it here »

‘The Golden Notebook’ by Doris Lessing

Amazon synopsis:

“Anna is a writer, author of one very successful novel, who now keeps four notebooks. In one, with a black cover, she reviews the African experience of her earlier years. In a red one she records her political life, her disillusionment with communism. In a yellow one she writes a novel in which the heroine relives part of her own experience. And in a blue one she keeps a personal diary.

“Finally, in love with an American writer and threatened with insanity, Anna resolves to bring the threads of all four books together in a golden notebook. Doris Lessing’s best-known and most influential novel, ‘The Golden Notebook’ retains its extraordinary power and relevance decades after its initial publication.

Buy it here »

‘The Woman Warrior’ by Maxine Hong Kingston

Amazon synopsis:

“A Chinese American woman tells of the Chinese myths, family stories and events of her California childhood that have shaped her identity.”

Buy it here »

‘The Underground Railroad’ by Colson Whitehead

Amazon synopsis:

“Cora is a slave on a cotton plantation in Georgia. Life is hell for all the slaves, but especially bad for Cora; an outcast even among her fellow Africans, she is coming into womanhood—where even greater pain awaits.

“When Caesar, a recent arrival from Virginia, tells her about the Underground Railroad, they decide to take a terrifying risk and escape. Matters do not go as planned — Cora kills a young white boy who tries to capture her. Though they manage to find a station and head north, they are being hunted.”

Buy it here »

‘Gilead’ by Marilynne Robinson

Amazon synopsis:

“An intimate tale of three generations, from the Civil War to the 20th century: a story about fathers and sons and the spiritual battles that still rage at America’s heart.”

Buy it here »

‘Three-Body Problem’ by Cixin Liu

Amazon synopsis:

“Set against the backdrop of China’s Cultural Revolution, a secret military project sends signals into space to establish contact with aliens. An alien civilization on the brink of destruction captures the signal and plans to invade Earth.

“Meanwhile, on Earth, different camps start forming, planning to either welcome the superior beings and help them take over a world seen as corrupt, or to fight against the invasion. The result is a science fiction masterpiece of enormous scope and vision.”

Buy it here »

‘Gone Girl’ by Gillian Flynn

Amazon synopsis:

“On a warm summer morning in North Carthage, Missouri, it is Nick and Amy Dunne’s fifth wedding anniversary. Presents are being wrapped and reservations are being made when Nick’s clever and beautiful wife disappears.

“Husband-of-the-Year Nick isn’t doing himself any favors with cringe-worthy daydreams about the slope and shape of his wife’s head, but passages from Amy’s diary reveal the alpha-girl perfectionist could have put anyone dangerously on edge.

“Under mounting pressure from the police and the media — as well as Amy’s fiercely doting parents — the town golden boy parades an endless series of lies, deceits, and inappropriate behavior. Nick is oddly evasive, and he’s definitely bitter — but is he really a killer?”

Buy it here »

‘Fates and Furies’ by Lauren Groff

Amazon synopsis:

“A dazzling examination of a marriage, it is also a portrait of creative partnership written by one of the best writers of her generation. Every story has two sides. Every relationship has two perspectives. And sometimes, it turns out, the key to a great marriage is not its truths but its secrets. At the core of this rich, expansive, layered novel, Lauren Groff presents the story of one such marriage over the course of 24 years.”

Buy it here »

‘Song of Solomon’ by Toni Morrison

Amazon synopsis:

“Milkman Dead was born shortly after a neighborhood eccentric hurled himself off a rooftop in a vain attempt at flight. For the rest of his life he, too, will be trying to fly.

“With this brilliantly imagined novel, Toni Morrison transfigures the coming-of-age story as audaciously as Saul Bellow or Gabriel García Márquez. As she follows Milkman from his Rustbelt city to the place of his family’s origins, Morrison introduces an entire cast of strivers and seeresses, liars and assassins, the inhabitants of a fully realized black world.”

Buy it here »

‘A Bend in the River’ by V.S. Naipaul

Amazon synopsis:

“… V.S. Naipaul takes us deeply into the life of one man — an Indian who, uprooted by the bloody tides of Third World history, has come to live in an isolated town at the bend of a great river in a newly independent African nation.

“Naipaul gives us the most convincing and disturbing vision yet of what happens in a place caught between the dangerously alluring modern world and its own tenacious past and traditions.”

Buy it here »

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Originally published at www.businessinsider.com.

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