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Barack Obama 2020 Book Recommendations

The year 2020 is slowly but surely drawing to a close. But will 2021 really be “better“? Education never hurts, just like discovering new perspectives and ways of life. Former U.S. President Barack Obama is also convinced of this. In contrast to the still current president, he also reads works over 280 characters, even in bound form. Barack Obama has now published his favourite books from 2020 on Twitter – definitely not the classic bestsellers. Below for you an overview as well as a short description of each of the books, as well as the possibility to order them directly online*. (* advertising). Here is the accompanying text to the tweet from his account @BarackObama: As 2020 comes to a close, I wanted to share my annual lists of favourites. I’ll start by sharing my favourite books this year, deliberately omitting what I think is a pretty good book – A Promised Land – by a certain 44th president. I hope you enjoy reading these as much as I did.

2020 Book Recommendations by Barack Obama

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Homeland Elegies by Ayad Akhtar

An American son and his immigrant father search for belonging – in post-Trump America, and in their relationship with each other.

 


Jack by Marilynne Robinson

From one of the English language’s great writers. Revisiting her beloved characters, Jack joins Gilead, winner of the Pulitzer; Home, winner of the Women’s Prize for Fiction and Lila, which won the National Book Critics Circle Award. This is the compassionate and heartbreaking story of the wayward son, Jack Boughton.


Caste by Isabel Wilkerson

Beyond race or class, our lives are defined by a powerful, unspoken system of divisions. In Caste, Pulitzer Prize-winning author Isabel Wilkerson gives an astounding portrait of this hidden phenomenon. Linking America, India and Nazi Germany, Wilkerson reveals how our world has been shaped by caste – and how its rigid, arbitrary hierarchies still divide us today.


The Splendid and the Vile by Erik Larson

In The Splendid and the Vile, Erik Larson gives a new and brilliantly cinematic account of how Britain’s most iconic leader set about unifying the nation at its most vulnerable moment, and teaching ‚the art of being fearless.‘ Drawing on once-secret intelligence reports and diaries, #1 bestselling author Larson takes readers from the shelled streets of London to Churchill’s own chambers, giving a vivid vision of true leadership, when – in the face of unrelenting horror – a leader of eloquence, strategic brilliance and perseverance bound a country, and a family, together.


Luster by Raven Leilani

Edie is just trying to survive. She’s messing up in her dead-end admin job in her all-white office, is sleeping with all the wrong men, and has failed at the only thing that meant anything to her, painting. No one seems to care that she doesn’t really know what she’s doing with her life beyond looking for her next hook-up.

Then she meets Eric, a white middle-aged archivist with a suburban family, including a wife who has sort-of-agreed to an open marriage and an adopted black daughter who doesn’t have a single person in her life who can show her how to do her hair. As if navigating the constantly shifting landscape of sexual and racial politics as a young black woman isn’t already hard enough, with nowhere else left to go, Edie finds herself falling headfirst into Eric’s home and family.


how much of these hills is gold by c pam zhang

America. In the twilight of the Gold Rush, two siblings cross a landscape with a gun in their hands and the body of their father on their backs . . .


Long Bright River by Liz Moore

KENSINGTON AVE, PHILADELPHIA:

THE FIRST PLACE YOU GO FOR DRUGS OR SEX.
THE LAST PLACE YOU WANT TO LOOK FOR YOUR SISTER.

Mickey Fitzpatrick has been patrolling the 24th District for years. She knows most of the working women by name. She knows what desperation looks like and what people will do when they need a fix. She’s become used to finding overdose victims: their numbers are growing every year. But every time she sees someone sprawled out, slumped over, cold to the touch, she has to pray it’s not her sister, Kacey.

When the bodies of murdered sex workers start turning up on the Ave, the Chief of Police is keen to bury the news. They’re not the kind of victims that generate a whole lot of press anyway. But Mickey is obsessed, dangerously so, with finding the perpetrator – before Kacey becomes the next victim.


Memorial Drive by Natasha Trethewey

A chillingly personal and exquisitely wrought memoir of a daughter reckoning with the brutal murder of her mother at the hands of her former stepfather, and the moving, intimate story of a poet coming into her own in the wake of a tragedy.


Twilight of Democracy by Anne Applebaum

From the United States and Britain to continental Europe and beyond, liberal democracy is under siege, while authoritarianism is on the rise. In Twilight of Democracy, Anne Applebaum, an award-winning historian of Soviet atrocities who was one of the first American journalists to raise an alarm about anti-democratic trends in the West, explains the lure of nationalism and autocracy. In this captivating essay, she contends that political systems with radically simple beliefs are inherently appealing, especially when they benefit the loyal to the exclusion of everyone else.

Despotic leaders do not rule alone; they rely on political allies, bureaucrats, and media figures to pave their way and support their rule. The authoritarian and nationalist parties that have arisen within modern democracies offer new paths to wealth or power for their adherents. Applebaum describes many of the new advocates of illiberalism in countries around the world, showing how they use conspiracy theory, political polarization, social media, and even nostalgia to change their societies.

Elegantly written and urgently argued, Twilight of Democracy is a brilliant dissection of a world-shaking shift and a stirring glimpse of the road back to democratic values.


Deacon King Kong by James McBride

In September 1969, a fumbling, cranky old church deacon known as Sportcoat shuffles into the courtyard of the Cause Houses housing project in south Brooklyn, pulls a .38 from his pocket, and, in front of everybody, shoots the project’s drug dealer at point-blank range.

The reasons for this desperate burst of violence and the consequences that spring from it lie at the heart of Deacon King Kong, James McBride’s funny, moving novel and his first since his National Book Award-winning The Good Lord Bird. In Deacon King Kong, McBride brings to vivid life the people affected by the shooting: the victim, the African-American and Latinx residents who witnessed it, the white neighbours, the local cops assigned to investigate, the members of the Five Ends Baptist Church where Sportcoat was a deacon, the neighbourhood’s Italian mobsters, and Sportcoat himself.

As the story deepens, it becomes clear that the lives of the characters—caught in the tumultuous swirl of 1960s New York—overlap in unexpected ways. When the truth does emerge, McBride shows us that not all secrets are meant to be hidden, that the best way to grow is to face change without fear, and that the seeds of love lie in hope and compassion.

Bringing to these pages both his masterly storytelling skills and his abiding faith in humanity, James McBride has written a novel every bit as involving as The Good Lord Bird and as emotionally honest as The Color of Water. Told with insight and wit, Deacon King Kong demonstrates that love and faith live in all of us.


The Undocumented Americans by Karla Cornejo Villavicencio

Writer Karla Cornejo Villavicencio was on DACA when she decided to write about being undocumented for the first time using her own name. It was right after the election of 2016, the day she realized the story she’d tried to steer clear of was the only one she wanted to tell. So she wrote her immigration lawyer’s phone number on her hand in Sharpie and embarked on a trip across the country to tell the stories of her fellow undocumented immigrants—and to find the hidden key to her own.


The Vanishing Half by Brit Bennett

‚The Vanishing Half is an utterly mesmerising novel. It seduces with its literary flair, surprises with its breath-taking plot twists, delights with its psychological insights, and challenges us to consider the corrupting consequences of racism on different communities and individual lives. I absolutely loved this book‘ Bernardine Evaristo, winner of the Booker Prize 2019


The Glass Hotel by Emily St. John Mandel

Vincent is the beautiful bartender at the Hotel Caiette, a five-star glass-and-cedar palace on the northernmost tip of Vancouver Island. New York financier Jonathan Alkaitis owns the hotel. When he passes Vincent his card with a tip, it’s the beginning of their life together. That same day, a hooded figure scrawls a note on the windowed wall of the hotel: ‘Why don’t you swallow broken glass.’ Leon Prevant, a shipping executive for a company called Neptune-Avramidis, sees the note from the hotel bar and is shaken to his core. Thirteen years later, just after a massive Ponzi scheme implodes in New York, Vincent mysteriously disappears from the deck of a Neptune-Avramidis ship.

Weaving together the lives of these characters, Emily St. John Mandel’s The Glass Hotel moves between the ship, the towers of Manhattan, and the wilderness of remote British Columbia, painting a breathtaking picture of greed and guilt, fantasy and delusion, art and the ghosts of our pasts.


Hidden Valley Road by Robert Kolker

Don and Mimi Galvin seemed to be living the American dream. After World War II, Don’s work with the Air Force brought them to Colorado, where their twelve children perfectly spanned the baby boom: the oldest born in 1945, the youngest in 1965. In those years, there was an established script for a family like the Galvins – aspiration, hard work, upward mobility, domestic harmony – and they worked hard to play their parts. But behind the scenes was a different story: psychological breakdown, sudden shocking violence, hidden abuse. By the mid-1970s, six of the ten Galvin boys, one after the other, were diagnosed as schizophrenic. How could all this happen to one family?

What took place inside the house on Hidden Valley Road was so extraordinary that the Galvins became one of the first families to be studied by the National Institutes of Mental Health. Their story offers a shadow history of the science of schizophrenia, from the era of institutionalization, lobotomy, and the schizophrenogenic mother, to the search for genetic markers for the disease, always amidst profound disagreements about the nature of the illness itself. And unbeknownst to the Galvins, samples of their DNA informed decades of genetic research that continues today, offering paths to treatment, prediction, and even eradication of the disease for future generations.

With clarity and compassion, bestselling and award-winning author Robert Kolker uncovers one family’s unforgettable legacy of suffering, love and hope.

 


The Ministry for the Future by Kim Stanley Robinson

The Ministry for the Future is a masterpiece of the imagination, using fictional eyewitness accounts to tell the story of how climate change will affect us all. Its setting is not a desolate, post-apocalyptic world, but a future that is almost upon us—and in which we might just overcome the extraordinary challenges we face.

It is a novel both immediate and impactful, desperate and hopeful in equal measure, and it is one of the most powerful and original books on climate change ever written.

 


sharks in the time of saviours by kawai strong Washburn

‚The novel you never knew you were waiting for‘ Marlon James ‚As vivid as it is splendid‘ New York Times ‚I didn’t want it to end‘ Sarah Moss In 1995 in Kailua-Kona, Hawai’i, seven-year-old Nainoa Flores is saved from drowning by a shiver of sharks. His family, struggling to make ends meet amidst the collapse of the sugar cane industry, hails his rescue as a sign of favour from ancient Hawaiian gods. But as time passes, this hope gives way to economic realities, forcing Nainoa and his siblings to seek salvation across the continental United States, leaving behind home and family. With a profound command of the language, Washburn’s powerful debut novel examines what it means to be both of a place and a stranger in it.


Missionaries by Phil Klay

Neither Mason, a US Special Forces medic, nor Lisette, a foreign correspondent, has emerged from America’s long wars in Iraq and Afghanistan unscathed. Yet, for them, the war still exerts a terrible draw – the noble calling, the camaraderie, the life-and-death stakes. Where else in the world can such a person go?

All roads lead to Colombia, where the US has partnered with the local government to stamp out a vicious civil war and keep the predatory narco gangs at bay. Mason is ready for the good war, and Lisette is more than ready to cover it.

A novel of extraordinary suspense, Missionaries is an astonishment whose unsparing drama is infused with rare wisdom about the human heart.

 


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