Sunday, April 16, 2023

Obama's Reading Habits


Esquire - "Behind the Scenes of Barack Obama’s Reading Lists"

"While Schultz freely admits that staff members contribute to planning the announcements and creating promotional elements like social-media graphics, he said, “these lists come from him. This is not a staff-led exercise, and I think if it was, it wouldn’t pass the smell test. These lists wouldn’t be as salient or get as much traction if it wasn’t coming from him directly.”

According to Schultz, the richness of Obama’s reading recommendations are a reflection of the man himself and his community. You don’t need The New York Times Book Review or Susie from book club to get recommendations when you’re constantly surrounded by some of the most interesting people in the world. As Schultz pointed out, “Being a former president, one of the perks is access to people and communities and stories from every corner of the planet, in every industry, in every sector, in every vector… Whether it’s people in business or sports or his daughter or other friends, these are all people that he hears about books from.”

The titles that Obama selects are incredibly diverse both in subjects and in authors, varying widely from the boring political tomes written by old white men that you might imagine dwelling on the nightstands of former presidents. Of the 13 titles included in Obama’s Favorite Books of 2022, there are nine works of fiction and four works of nonfiction, including books by eight women and eight BIPOC authors. There’s a novel about a dystopian school for mothers; a graphic novel about labor and survival in Canada; a journey through the history, rituals, and landscapes of the American South; and a beautifully crafted short-story collection. As someone who spent the better part of a decade working in Big Five book publishing (the five largest publishing houses: Penguin Random House, HarperCollins, Simon & Schuster, Macmillan, and Hachette), I can tell you that the former president has impeccable taste.


The question of how the most powerful man on the planet found time to read Fates and Furies amid major world events like the Arab Spring and the killing of Osama bin Laden is a perfectly valid reason for skepticism—the guy was and is busy!—but Schultz says Obama found time to read because he sees reading as necessary, and he makes it a priority on his schedule. “He considered [reading] part of being a good leader, part of being a good president, part of being a good father, a good husband, and a good man,” Schultz said."

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