Obama Book Recommendations

Avid Reader in Chief

In one of his last interviews while in office, Barack Obama told Michiko Kakutani of the New York Times that reading gave him the ability to occasionally “slow down and get perspective” and “get in somebody else’s shoes.” The interviewer concluded that "Not since Lincoln has there been a president as fundamentally shaped — in his life, convictions and outlook on the world — by reading and writing as Barack Obama." [link to the article through IC Library's subscription | link for non-IC-community members | interview transcript]

In the last week of Barack Obama's presidency, Entertainment Weekly published a list it called Every Book Barack Obama Has Recommended During His Presidency. The compilation came from a variety of occasions and in different situations. He spoke of childhood favorites and what books he had recommended to his daughter. He has announced which "beach reads" he is taking before going on vacation, although he hasn't reviewed many of them after he has returned. He says he's turned to biographies for advice. He reads other non-fiction for a better understanding of various controversies, conflicts, and issues of the day. Other titles have been especially important and influential to him on a spiritual, moral, or personal level. 

The list on this page has been compiled using the two articles above and other sources. The Ithaca College Library is proud that we have 90 out of 101 of the President's recommended books in our collection, and some of the missing books are on order.

101 Books

  1. Age of Ambition: Chasing Fortune, Truth and Faith in the New China, Evan Osnos
  2. All That Is, James Salter [in Popular Reading]
  3. All the Light We Cannot See, Anthony Doerr
  4. All the King’s Men, Robert Penn Warren
  5. Andy Grove: The Life and Times of an American, Richard S. Tedlow
  6. The Autobiography of Malcolm X, Malcolm X
  7. An Autobiography; the Story of My Experiments with Truth, Mohatma Gandhi
  8. Barbarian Days: A Surfing Life, William Finnegan
  9. Behind the Beautiful Forevers: Life, Death, and Hope in a Mumbai Undercity, Katherine Boo
  10. Being and Nothingness; an Essay on Phenomenological Ontology, Jean-Paul Sartre [among others of his philosophical works]
  11. Being Mortal: Medicine and What Matters in the End, Atul Gawande
  12. A Bend in the River, V. S. Naipaul
  13. Best and the Brightest, David Halberstam
  14. Between the World and Me, Ta-Nehisi Coates
  15. The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao, Junot Díaz
  16. Brown Girl Dreaming, Jacqueline Woodson
  17. Cancer Ward, Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn
  18. Cartwheeling in Thunderstorms, Katherine Rundell
  19. Collected Poems, 1948-1984, Derek Walcott
  20. The Collected Works, Langston Hughes
  21. The Collected Works, Abraham Lincoln
  22. The Complete Works, William Shakespeare
  23. Confessions, Augustine
  24. Cutting for Stone, Abraham Verghese
  25. Defining Moment: FDR’s Hundred Days and the Triumph of Hope, Jonathan Alter
  26. Fates and Furies, Lauren Groff [in Popular Reading]
  27. FDR, Jean Edward Smith
  28. The Federalist Papers, Alexander Hamilton, James Madison, and John Jay
  29. The Fire Next Time, James Baldwin
  30. Ghost Wars: The Secret History of the CIA, Afghanistan, and Bin Laden, from the Soviet Invasion to September 10, 2001, Steve Coll
  31. Gilead, Marilynne Robinson
  32. The Girl on the Train, Paula Hawkins [in Popular Reading]
  33. The Golden Notebook, Doris Lessing
  34. Gone Girl, Gillian Flynn
  35. The Great Gatsby, F. Scott Fitzgerald
  36. H Is for Hawk, Helen Macdonald
  37. Harry Potter [series], J.K. Rowling [The IC Library has all seven in the original series]
  38. Heart of Darkness, Joseph Conrad
  39. Hot, Flat, and Crowded: Why We Need a Green Revolution and How It Can Renew America, Thomas L. Friedman
  40. In Dubious Battle, John Steinbeck
  41. An Inquiry into the Nature and Causes of the Wealth of Nations, Adam Smith
  42. Invisible Man, Ralph Ellison
  43. John Adams, David McCullough
  44. A Kind And Just Parent, William Ayers
  45. The Laughing Monsters, Denis Johnson [in Popular Reading]
  46. Lessons in Disaster, Gordon Goldstein
  47. Lincoln: The Biography of a Writer, Fred Kaplan
  48. Long Walk to Freedom, Nelson Mandela
  49. The Lowland, Jhumpa Lahiri [in Popular Reading]
  50. Moby Dick, Herman Melville
  51. Moral Man And Immoral Society, Reinhold Niebuhr
  52. The Naked and the Dead, Norman Mailer
  53. The Narrow Road to the Deep North, Richard Flanagan
  54. Netherland, Joseph O’Neill
  55. Nora Webster, Colm Toibin [in Popular Reading]
  56. Nuts To You, Lynn Rae Perkins
  57. Of Mice and Men, John Steinbeck
  58. One Hundred Years of Solitude, Gabriel García Márquez
  59. Papers, Thomas Jefferson
  60. Parting The Waters: America in the King years, 1954-1963, Taylor Branch
  61. Philosophy & Literature, Peter S. Thompson
  62. Plainsong, Kent Haruf
  63. Post-American World, Fareed Zakaria
  64. The Power and the Glory, Graham Greene
  65. The Power Broker: Robert Moses and the Fall of New York, Robert A. Caro
  66. Purity, Jonathan Franzen [in Popular Reading]
  67. The Quiet American, Graham Greene
  68. Redeployment, Phil Klay
  69. Redwall [series], Brian Jacques [The IC Library has 3 in the series, including The Long Patrol]
  70. The Rise of Theodore Roosevelt, Edmund Morris
  71. Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind, Yuval Noah Harari
  72. Self-Reliance, Ralph Waldo Emerson [in Complete Works]
  73. Seveneves, Neal Stephenson
  74. The Sixth Extinction, Elizabeth Kolbert
  75. Song Of Solomon, Toni Morrison
  76. Souls of Black Folk, W.E.B. Du Bois
  77. Team of Rivals: The Political Genius of Abraham Lincoln, Doris Kearns Goodwin
  78. Theory of Moral Sentiments, Adam Smith
  79. Thinking, Fast and Slow, Daniel Kahneman
  80. The Three-Body Problem, Liu Cixin
  81. Thus spoke Zarathustra, Friedrich Nietzsche [among other works]
  82. To the End of the Land, David Grossman
  83. Treasure Island, Robert Louis Stevenson
  84. Two Years Eight Months and Twenty-Eight Nights, Salman Rushdie
  85. The Underground Railroad, Colson Whitehead
  86. Unequal Democracy: The Political Economy of the New Gilded Age, Larry Bartels
  87. Washington: A Life, Ron Chernow
  88. The Way Home, George Pelecanos
  89. What Is the What, Dave Eggers
  90. Where the Wild Things Are, Maurice Sendak
  91. Why We Can't Wait, Martin Luther King [among other books and sermons]
  92. The Woman Warrior, Maxine Hong Kingston
  93. Working, Studs Terkel
  94. Works, Richard Wright
  95. The Writings of Mark Twain, Mark Twain

    ALSO the works of these authors,whom the President named without identifying specific titles:
  96. Saul Bellow (Ithaca College Library has 23 titles)
  97. E.L. Doctorow (14 titles) Obama wrote of Doctorow, "One of America's greatest novelists. His books taught me much."
  98. Barbara Kingsolver (7 titles)
  99. Philip Roth (30 titles)
  100. Zadie Smith (8 titles)
  101. Paul Tillich (21 titles)
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