President Barack Obama’s Favorite Books

Did you ever want to know what Barack Obama’s favorite books are? Back in October of 2008, The New York Times asked him to provide a list of some of his most favorite books. Here it is:

  • Ralph Waldo by Emerson
  • Thomas Jefferson
  • Mark Twain
  • Abraham Lincoln
  • James Baldwin
  • W. E. B. DuBois’ Souls of Black Folk
  • Martin Luther King’s Letter From Birmingham Jail
  • Toni Morrison’s Song of Solomon
  • Graham Greene’s The Power and the Glory and The Quiet American
  • Doris Lessing’s The Golden Notebook
  • Alexander Solzhenitsyn’s Cancer Ward
  • John Steinbeck’s In Dubious Battle
  • Robert Caro’s Power Broker
  • Studs Terkel’s Working
  • Adam Smith’s Wealth of Nations and Theory of Moral Sentiments
  • Robert Penn’s All the King’s Men – a novel about a corrupt Southern governor

Theology and Philosophy

Obama also noted several of his theology and philosophy influences over the years:

  • Friedrich Nietzsche (the nineteenth-century German philosopher and classical philologist.)
  • Reinhold Niebuhr ( the American theologian. A Protestant, he is best known for his study of the task of relating the Christian faith to the realities of modern politics and diplomacy. He was an important contributor to modern “just war” thinking.)
  • Paul Tillich (the German-American theologian and Christian existentialist philosopher.)

During his college years Occidental College in California , Obama says his love of literature was renewed, where he was admitted to reading “tons of books”. In December of 1997, he even reviewed a book for the Chicago Tribune:

“A Kind and Just Parent: The Children of the Juvenile Court.” by William Ayers

During the Democratic campaign in 2008, in an interview with Rolling Stone magazine, Obama listed Shakespeare and Ernest Hemingway’s “For Whom The Bell Tolls” as key influences. He also mentioned Herman Melville’s “Moby Dick”, E.L. Doctorow and Philip Roth. Thrown into the mix was also “Parting the Waters” by Taylor Branch, a Pulitzer Prize-winning book about Martin Luther King.

Later in November of last year, he departed his residence in Chicago carrying a hardcover copy of “Lincoln: The Biography of a Writer” by Fred Kaplan.  In the same month, he was spotted with a copy of Derek Walcott’s” Collected Poems 1948-1984.”

With two young daughters to entertain, he also claims to have read all seven of the Potter books.  As we all know,  Harry Potter is a series of seven highly popular  fantasy novels written by British author J. K. Rowling.

Post Election

Once the election of 2008 was over, there were several other books mentioned, including  “Team of Rivals” by Doris Kearns Goodwin.  Team of Rivals: The Political Genius of Abraham Lincoln is a non-fiction book written by historian Doris Kearns Goodwin, first published by Simon & Schuster on October 25, 2005. The book is a biographical portrait of U.S. President Abraham Lincoln and some of the men who served with him in his Cabinet from 1861 to 1865. Three of his Cabinet members had previously run against Lincoln in the 1860 election: Edward Bates (Attorney General), Salmon Chase (Treasury), and William H. Seward (State). The book focuses on Lincoln’s mostly successful attempts to reconcile conflicting personalities and political factions on the path to abolition and victory in the US Civil War.

On a related note,  Poet Elizabeth Alexander, a close friend, is reading at his inauguration today.


1 Trackbacks & Pingbacks

  1. President Obama’s Favorite Books « Univ of Puget Sound English Department

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.