Barack Obama Shares His 2019 Summer Reading List

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As summer’s end approaches—bringing with it an end to the time for summer reads—former President Barack Obama has shared some of what he’s been reading this season. In his summer reading list for 2019, Obama has highlighted books that span genres and feature authors from a variety of backgrounds, from veterans like Colson Whitehead and Téa Obreht to newer voices like Stephanie Land and Lauren Wilkinson.

In an Instagram post, Obama shared his picks for what to read this summer. He suggested starting with reading or re-reading the late Pulitzer Prize-winning author Toni Morrison‘s collected works, including Beloved, Song of Solomon and The Bluest Eye. “You’ll be glad you read them,” he wrote. “And while I’m at it, here are a few more titles you might want to explore.”

Obama’s other picks include:

The Nickel Boys, Colson Whitehead (2019)

One of the most anticipated books of summer 2019, the Pulitzer Prize winner’s latest novel follows a black teenager in 1960s Florida who unexpectedly ends up at an abusive reform school and befriends another boy there. Inspired by a real reform school, Whitehead explores America’s relationship with racism through the horrors of the Jim Crow South.

Exhalation, Ted Chiang (2019)

The latest short story collection from Chiang, who wrote the story that is the basis for the award-winning movie Arrival, tackles many of humanity’s most pressing questions through tales about free will, evolution and alternative universes.

Wolf Hall, Hilary Mantel (2009)

This Man Booker Prize-winning historical novel completely reimagines sixteenth century England under Henry VIII. Mantel examines a society experiencing complicated and rapid change through her fictional portrait of Henry’s advisor, Thomas Cromwell.

Men Without Women, Haruki Murakami (2014)

From ex-boyfriends to bartenders, the characters in the seven stories in bestselling Japanese writer Haruki Murakami’s short story collection deal with loneliness as many have lost the women in their lives. The stories oscillate between mysterious, dark and, at times, humorous, to paint a complicated picture of the dynamics between men and women.

American Spy, Lauren Wilkinson (2019)

Structured as a letter addressed to her two young sons, this thriller is centered around Marie Mitchell, a black FBI intelligence officer. American Spy travels in time betweem Marie’s upbringing in 1960s Queens and her spy work during the Cold War to highlight the trials of a protagonist questioning her identity as a woman, a person of color and an American.

The Shallows, Nicholas Carr (2010)

Is the Internet changing us for the better or for the worse? The question looms over Carr’s book, which was nominated for a Pulitzer Prize in 2011 and illuminates the consequences of the Internet, including how it has shaped the way we think, read and even feel.

Lab Girl, Hope Jahren (2016)

Science is at the heart of geobiologist Hope Jahren’s award-winning memoir. Jahren explores her relationship with the subject, beginning as a child in Minnesota where she played in her father’s college laboratory. Lab Girl asks poignant questions about the way we view the world and the lengths we’ll go to protect it from threats of our own making.

Inland, Téa Obreht (2019)

In her follow-up to her 2011 bestseller The Tiger’s Wife, Téa Oreht’s new novel follows two characters living in the unsettled American West. One is Nora, a wife and mother waiting for her husband to return home, and the other is Lurie, a former outlaw who believes he is being haunted by ghosts. In an interview with TIME, Obreht discussed her own feelings about how places can be haunted. “When horrific things happen in certain places, they are just always happening in those places in perpetuity, and you can feel the impression of it pressing down on you,” she said.

How to Read the Air, Dinaw Mengestu (2010)

In Mengestu’s bestseller, Jonas is the adult son of two Ethiopian immigrants, desperate to learn more about his roots after his father dies. Examining issues of immigration, differences between generations and the power of familial bonds, How to Read the Air addresses the difficulty of building a robust family history.

Maid, Stephanie Land (2019)

In her memoir, Land recounts her experiences working as a maid for upper-middle class Americans in an effort to support her young daughter. The book analyzes the disparities that exist between economic classes in the country and showcases how privileged people treat those who are working just to make ends meet.

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