- Former President Barack Obama tweeted out his annual list of favorite books he recommends.
- It’s become a yearly tradition for the 44th president.
- This year, he included 19 titles on his list — ranging from fiction to biographies to histories and essays.
- Visit Insider’s homepage for more stories.
Former President Barack Obama tweeted out a list of his favorite books from 2019 on Saturday, as has become one of his yearly traditions.
The 44th president listed a range of titles he recommends, including fiction, essay compilations, biographies, and even a couple of sports-related books.
“As we wind down 2019, I wanted to share with you my annual list of favorites that made the last year a little brighter,” Obama said. “We’ll start with books today — movies and music coming soon. I hope you enjoy these as much as I did.”
Check out the full list below:
‘The Age of Surveillance Capitalism: The Fight for a Human Future at the New Frontier of Power’ by Shoshana Zuboff
“In this masterwork of original thinking and research, Shoshana Zuboff provides startling insights into the phenomenon that she has named surveillance capitalism. The stakes could not be higher: a global architecture of behavior modification threatens human nature in the twenty-first century just as industrial capitalism disfigured the natural world in the twentieth.
“Zuboff vividly brings to life the consequences as surveillance capitalism advances from Silicon Valley into every economic sector. Vast wealth and power are accumulated in ominous new ‘behavioral futures markets,’ where predictions about our behavior are bought and sold, and the production of goods and services is subordinated to a new ‘means of behavioral modification.’
‘The Anarchy: The Relentless Rise of the East India Company’ by William Dalrymple
“The Anarchytells one of history’s most remarkable stories: how the Mughal Empire―which dominated world trade and manufacturing and possessed almost unlimited resources―fell apart and was replaced by a multinational corporation based thousands of miles overseas, and answerable to shareholders, most of whom had never even seen India and no idea about the country whose wealth was providing their dividends. Using previously untapped sources, Dalrymple tells the story of the East India Company as it has never been told before and provides a portrait of the devastating results from the abuse of corporate power.”
‘Furious Hours: Murder, Fraud, and the Last Trial of Harper Lee’ by Casey Cep
“Reverend Willie Maxwell was a rural preacher accused of murdering five of his family members for insurance money in the 1970s. With the help of a savvy lawyer, he escaped justice for years until a relative shot him dead at the funeral of his last victim. Despite hundreds of witnesses, Maxwell’s murderer was acquitted — thanks to the same attorney who had previously defended the Reverend.
“As Alabama is consumed by these gripping events, it’s not long until news of the case reaches Alabama’s — and America’s — most famous writer. Intrigued by the story, Harper Lee makes a journey back to her home state to witness the Reverend’s killer face trial. Lee had the idea of writing her ownIn Cold Blood, the true-crime classic she had helped her friend Truman Capote research. She spent a year in town reporting on the Maxwell case and many more years trying to finish the book she calledThe Reverend.
“Now Casey Cep brings this story to life, from the shocking murders to the courtroom drama to the racial politics of the Deep South. At the same time, she offers a deeply moving portrait of one of America’s most beloved writers and her struggle with fame, success and the mystery of artistic creativity.”
‘Girl, Woman, Other’ by Bernardine Evaristo
“Bernardine Evaristo is the winner of the 2019 Booker Prize and the first black woman to receive this highest literary honor in the English language. Girl, Woman, Other is a magnificent portrayal of the intersections of identity and a moving and hopeful story of an interconnected group of Black British women that paints a vivid portrait of the state of contemporary Britain and looks back to the legacy of Britain’s colonial history in Africa and the Caribbean.
“The twelve central characters of this multi-voiced novel lead vastly different lives: Amma is a newly acclaimed playwright whose work often explores her Black lesbian identity; her old friend Shirley is a teacher, jaded after decades of work in London’s funding-deprived schools; Carole, one of Shirley’s former students, is a successful investment banker; Carole’s mother Bummi works as a cleaner and worries about her daughter’s lack of rootedness despite her obvious achievements. From a nonbinary social media influencer to a 93-year-old woman living on a farm in Northern England, these unforgettable characters also intersect in shared aspects of their identities, from age to race to sexuality to class.”
‘The Heartbeat of Wounded Knee: Native America from 1890 to the Present’ by David Treuer
“InThe Heartbeat of Wounded Knee, Treuer melds history with reportage and memoir. Tracing the tribes’ distinctive cultures from first contact, he explores how the depredations of each era spawned new modes of survival. The devastating seizures of land gave rise to increasingly sophisticated legal and political maneuvering that put the lie to the myth that Indians don’t know or care about property. The forced assimilation of their children at government-run boarding schools incubated a unifying Native identity. Conscription in the US military and the pull of urban life brought Indians into the mainstream and modern times, even as it steered the emerging shape of self-rule and spawned a new generation of resistance. The Heartbeat of Wounded Knee is the essential, intimate story of a resilient people in a transformative era.”
‘How to Do Nothing: Resisting the Attention Economy’ by Jenny Odell
“Nothing is harder to do these days than nothing. But in a world where our value is determined by our 24/7 data productivity . . . doing nothing may be our most important form of resistance.
“So argues artist and critic Jenny Odell in this field guide to doing nothing (at least as capitalism defines it). Odell sees our attention as the most precious—and overdrawn—resource we have. Once we can start paying a new kind of attention, she writes, we can undertake bolder forms of political action, reimagine humankind’s role in the environment, and arrive at more meaningful understandings of happiness and progress.
“Far from the simple anti-technology screed, or the back-to-nature meditation we read so often,How to do Nothingis an action plan for thinking outside of capitalist narratives of efficiency and techno-determinism. Provocative, timely, and utterly persuasive, this book is a four-course meal in the age of Soylent.”
‘Lost Children Archive’ by Valeria Luiselli
“From the two-time NBCC Finalist, an emotionally resonant, fiercely imaginative new novel about a family whose road trip across America collides with an immigration crisis at the southwestern border — an indelible journey told with breathtaking imagery, spare lyricism, and profound humanity.”
‘Lot: Stories’ by Bryan Washington
“In the city of Houston – a sprawling, diverse microcosm of America – the son of a black mother and a Latino father is coming of age. He’s working at his family’s restaurant, weathering his brother’s blows, resenting his older sister’s absence. And discovering he likes boys.
“Around him, others live and thrive and die in Houston’s myriad neighborhoods: a young woman whose affair detonates across an apartment complex, a ragtag baseball team, a group of young hustlers, hurricane survivors, a local drug dealer who takes a Guatemalan teen under his wing, a reluctant chupacabra.
“Bryan Washington’s brilliant, viscerally drawn world vibrates with energy, wit, raw power, and the infinite longing of people searching for home. With soulful insight into what makes a community, a family, and a life,Lotexplores trust and love in all its unsparing and unsteady forms.”
‘Normal People’ by Sally Rooney
“Connell and Marianne grew up in the same small town, but the similarities end there. At school, Connell is popular and well liked, while Marianne is a loner. But when the two strike up a conversation—awkward but electrifying—something life changing begins.
“A year later, they’re both studying at Trinity College in Dublin. Marianne has found her feet in a new social world while Connell hangs at the sidelines, shy and uncertain. Throughout their years at university, Marianne and Connell circle one another, straying toward other people and possibilities but always magnetically, irresistibly drawn back together. And as she veers into self-destruction and he begins to search for meaning elsewhere, each must confront how far they are willing to go to save the other.
“Normal Peopleis the story of mutual fascination, friendship and love. It takes us from that first conversation to the years beyond, in the company of two people who try to stay apart but find that they can’t.”
‘The Orphan Master’s Son’ by Adam Johnson
“Pak Jun Do is the haunted son of a lost mother—a singer ‘stolen’ to Pyongyang—and an influential father who runs a work camp for orphans. Superiors in the North Korean state soon recognize the boy’s loyalty and keen instincts. Considering himself ‘a humble citizen of the greatest nation in the world,’ Jun Do rises in the ranks. He becomes a professional kidnapper who must navigate the shifting rules, arbitrary violence, and baffling demands of his overlords in order to stay alive. Driven to the absolute limit of what any human being could endure, he boldly takes on the treacherous role of rival to Kim Jong Il in an attempt to save the woman he loves, Sun Moon, a legendary actress ‘so pure, she didn’t know what starving people looked like.’
“Part breathless thriller, part story of innocence lost, part story of romantic love,The Orphan Master’s Sonis also a riveting portrait of a world heretofore hidden from view: a North Korea rife with hunger, corruption, and casual cruelty but also camaraderie, stolen moments of beauty, and love.”
‘The Yellow House’ by Sarah M. Broom
“A book of great ambition, Sarah M. Broom’s The Yellow House tells a hundred years of her family and their relationship to home in a neglected area of one of America’s most mythologized cities. This is the story of a mother’s struggle against a house’s entropy, and that of a prodigal daughter who left home only to reckon with the pull that home exerts, even after the Yellow House was wiped off the map after Hurricane Katrina. The Yellow Houseexpands the map of New Orleans to include the stories of its lesser-known natives, guided deftly by one of its native daughters, to demonstrate how enduring drives of clan, pride, and familial love resist and defy erasure. Located in the gap between the ‘Big Easy’ of tourist guides and the New Orleans in which Broom was raised,The Yellow Houseis a brilliant memoir of place, class, race, the seeping rot of inequality, and the internalized shame that often follows. It is a transformative, deeply moving story from an unparalleled new voice of startling clarity, authority, and power.”
‘Say Nothing: A True Story of Murder and Memory in Northern Ireland’ by Patrick Radden Keefe
“Patrick Radden Keefe’s mesmerizing book on the bitter conflict in Northern Ireland and its aftermath uses the McConville case as a starting point for the tale of a society wracked by a violent guerrilla war, a war whose consequences have never been reckoned with. The brutal violence seared not only people like the McConville children, but also IRA members embittered by a peace that fell far short of the goal of a united Ireland, and left them wondering whether the killings they committed were not justified acts of war, but simple murders. From radical and impetuous IRA terrorists such as Dolours Price, who, when she was barely out of her teens, was already planting bombs in London and targeting informers for execution, to the ferocious IRA mastermind known as The Dark, to the spy games and dirty schemes of the British Army, to Gerry Adams, who negotiated the peace but betrayed his hardcore comrades by denying his IRA past–Say Nothingconjures a world of passion, betrayal, vengeance, and anguish.”
‘Solitary’ by Albert Woodfox
“Solitaryis the unforgettable life story of a man who served more than four decades in solitary confinement—in a 6-foot by 9-foot cell, 23 hours a day, in notorious Angola prison in Louisiana—all for a crime he did not commit. That Albert Woodfox survived was, in itself, a feat of extraordinary endurance against the violence and deprivation he faced daily. That he was able to emerge whole from his odyssey within America’s prison and judicial systems is a triumph of the human spirit, and makes his book a clarion call to reform the inhumanity of solitary confinement in the U.S. and around the world.”
‘The Topeka School’ by Ben Lerner
“Adam Gordon is a senior at Topeka High School, class of ’97. His mother, Jane, is a famous feminist author; his father, Jonathan, is an expert at getting ‘lost boys’ to open up. They both work at a psychiatric clinic that has attracted staff and patients from around the world. Adam is a renowned debater, expected to win a national championship before he heads to college. He is one of the cool kids, ready to fight or, better, freestyle about fighting if it keeps his peers from thinking of him as weak. Adam is also one of the seniors who bring the loner Darren Eberheart—who is, unbeknownst to Adam, his father’s patient—into the social scene, to disastrous effect.
“Deftly shifting perspectives and time periods,The Topeka Schoolis the story of a family, its struggles and its strengths: Jane’s reckoning with the legacy of an abusive father, Jonathan’s marital transgressions, the challenge of raising a good son in a culture of toxic masculinity. It is also a riveting prehistory of the present: the collapse of public speech, the trolls and tyrants of the New Right, and the ongoing crisis of identity among white men.”
‘Trick Mirror: Reflections on Self-Delusion’ by Jia Tolentino
“Jia Tolentino is a peerless voice of her generation, tackling the conflicts, contradictions, and sea changes that define us and our time. Now, in this dazzling collection of nine entirely original essays, written with a rare combination of give and sharpness, wit and fearlessness, she delves into the forces that warp our vision, demonstrating an unparalleled stylistic potency and critical dexterity.
“Trick Mirror is an enlightening, unforgettable trip through the river of self-delusion that surges just beneath the surface of our lives. This is a book about the incentives that shape us, and about how hard it is to see ourselves clearly through a culture that revolves around the self. In each essay, Tolentino writes about a cultural prism: the rise of the nightmare social internet; the advent of scamming as the definitive millennial ethos; the literary heroine’s journey from brave to blank to bitter; the punitive dream of optimization, which insists that everything, including our bodies, should become more efficient and beautiful until we die. Gleaming with Tolentino’s sense of humor and capacity to elucidate the impossibly complex in an instant, and marked by her desire to treat the reader with profound honesty, Trick Mirroris an instant classic of the worst decade yet.”
‘Trust Exercise’ by Susan Choi
“As captivating and tender as it is surprising, Susan Choi’s Trust Exercisewill incite heated conversations about fiction and truth, and about friendships and loyalties, and will leave readers with wiser understandings of the true capacities of adolescents and of the powers and responsibilities of adults.”
‘We Live in Water: Stories’ by Jess Walter
“Stories in We Live in Water range from comic tales of love to social satire and suspenseful crime fiction. Traveling from hip Portland to once-hip Seattle to never-hip Spokane, to a condemned casino in Las Vegas and a bottomless lake in the dark woods of Idaho, this is a world of lost fathers and redemptive con men, of personal struggles and diminished dreams.”
‘A Different Way to Win: Dan Rooney’s Story from the Super Bowl to the Rooney Rule’ by Jim Rooney
“Dan Rooney was one of the most-influential sports executives of his generation, the man who transformed the Pittsburgh Steelers into one of the National Football League’s great dynasties and premiere franchises. Some of his most-important achievements, however, took place off the playing field as he sought to bring about equity in the league’s hiring practices and peace in his ancestral homeland of Ireland. As a business leader, a philanthropist, a diplomat and the author of the famous Rooney Rule, Dan Rooney was known for his core values, his quiet strength, his effectiveness, and his willingness to talk to and hear from those who disagreed with him.
“In this poignant account of his father’s life, Jim Rooney takes readers behind the scenes to share stories from his hundreds of hours of interviews with business and political leaders; sports and celebrity influencers; and family members. Part memoir, part business biography, part history book, A Different Way to Win underscores the importance of focusing on the long game and the effectiveness in building consensus in a way that is meaningful and sustainable for decades to come.”
‘The Sixth Man’ by Andre Iguodala
“Andre Iguodala is one of the most admired players in the NBA. And fresh off the Warriors’ fifth Finals appearance in five years, his game has never been stronger.
“Off the court, Iguodala has earned respect, too—for his successful tech investments, his philanthropy, and increasingly for his contributions to the conversation about race in America. It is no surprise, then, that in his first book, Andre, with his cowriter Carvell Wallace, has pushed himself to go further than he ever has before about his life, not only as an athlete but about what makes him who he is at his core.”
Obama also mentioned a number of his other favorite books from earlier in the year
—Barack Obama (@BarackObama) December 28, 2019
- “American Spy” by Lauren Wilkinson
- “The Education of an Idealist” by Samantha Power
- “Exhalation” by Ted Chiang
- “Finding My Voice” by Valerie Jarrett
- “Heartland: A Memoir of Working Hard and Being Broke in the Richest Country on Earth” by Sarah Smarsh
- “How to Read the Air” by Dinaw Mengestu
- “Inland” by Téa Obreht
- “Lab Girl” by Hope Jahren
- “Maid: Hard Work, Low Pay, and a Mother”s Will to Survive” by Stephanie Land
- “Men Without Women” by Haruki Murakami
- “The Moment of Lift” by Melinda Gates
- “The Nickel Boys” by Colson Whitehead
- “Pachinko” by Min Jin Lee
- “The Shadow of Sirius” by W.S. Merwin
- “The Shallows” by Nicholas Carr
- Toni Morrison”s collected works
- “Tough Love: My Story of the Things Worth Fighting For” by Susan Rice
- “The Warmth of Other Suns: The Epic Story of America”s Great Migration” by Isabel Wilkerson
- “Wolf Hall” by Hilary Mantel