‘A Promised Land’ is the first of two volumes of Barack Obama’s memoirs of his two-term presidency. Published in November last year, this part covers his path to becoming the Democrat candidate in 2008 and then rattles through the main challenges he faced during the first two-and-a-half years of his presidency including the financial crisis, military operations in Afghanistan and Iraq, healthcare reform, climate change, the Deepwater Horizon oil spill, the Arab Spring and the raid that killed Osama bin Laden.
Like many political memoirs, ‘A Promised Land’ is on the wordy side, clocking in at over 700 pages with another volume still to come. Obama is self-aware enough to realise that his verbosity was an issue in his early campaign speeches which focused too much on policy detail and sometimes saw him struggle to connect with voters on a personal level. Thankfully, his writing on the page is engaging even when he is explaining complex policy background, although if you’re more interested in life behind the scenes at the White House, then Becoming by Michelle Obama generally offers more insight on that side of things. Continue reading
‘Becoming’ by Michelle Obama is already one of the bestselling memoirs of all time selling nearly 10 million copies just four months after it was first published towards the end of 2018. Rebecca, Laura and I optimistically attempted to get tickets for the former First Lady’s sell-out talk with Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie at the Southbank Centre in December along with a mere 44,000 other people. We were, of course, unsuccessful, but I eventually got hold of a library copy of the much talked-about memoir which is split into three parts. “Becoming Me” covers her childhood growing up in the South Side of Chicago, college years at Princeton and Harvard and early legal career. “Becoming Us” begins with her meeting Barack Obama in the late 1980s through to the 2008 presidential election and “Becoming More” which covers the two terms spent at the White House. Continue reading
It’s almost impossible to avoid hearing about Donald Trump’s latest exploits via rolling news headlines every day, but until now, I hadn’t read any books detailing the whole sorry saga of the Trump administration to date. However, ‘Fire and Fury: Inside the Trump White House’ is very much the book of the moment and seeing its author Michael Wolff in conversation with Armando Iannucci (creator of some of the best TV political satires including ‘The Thick of It’ and ‘Veep’) at the Friends House near Euston in London on Friday night was simply too good an opportunity to miss. Continue reading
I enjoyed reading Sisterland by Curtis Sittenfeld a couple of years ago and as part of my ongoing efforts to read other books by authors I have discovered since starting my blog, I turned to Sittenfeld’s best known novel ‘American Wife’ which was published in 2008. It is a portrait of Alice Lindgren and her path towards becoming First Lady of the United States in 2001, from her youth in Wisconsin, to marriage and motherhood in her thirties through to her life in the White House during her husband’s unpopular presidency. Knowing that the story was inspired by key events in the life of Laura Bush means it is difficult not to picture Alice’s husband Charlie Blackwell as George W. Bush who took office in the same year. Continue reading
I hardly ever read two books or more at the same time but with ‘The Bridge: The Life and Rise of Barack Obama’ by David Remnick I had to make an exception. It is a beast of a book and I would never have finished it if I hadn’t been reading some fiction alongside it over the last few weeks. As I mentioned in my post about political biographies, almost all books about political figures are extremely weighty tomes which are crammed with more detail than you will ever need to know. ‘The Bridge’ is no different but even though it definitely isn’t aimed at the casual reader, it is still a highly readable account of Barack Obama’s truly extraordinary life and path to the White House. Continue reading