11 Books About Barack Obama's Legacy To Read This Presidents Day Weekend
If you’re missing the 44th Commander-in-Chief, you’re not alone. Millions (rough estimate, by yours truly) of Americans were ready to offer former-president Barack Obama a third term in the White House; especially after the 2016 election exploded in a big, Tweet-y mess all over the place. But what is it that makes the previous Commander-in-Chief so beloved anyway — and what will Barack Obama’s legacy be to the American people?
Now I know, I know — not everyone loved President Obama. Plenty of people didn’t love him at all. (I don't know any, but I hear you're out there and I'm always available for coffee and conversation.) But for those who did love Obama, you folks really, really seemed to love him. Like One Direction fangirl love. (I mean, can we just talk about the President Obama memes for a second?) So, was it his political passion? His bookworm tendencies? His skill at delivering a truly killer speech? His measured and methodical decision making? His ability to go more than four seconds without rage-Tweeting international leaders and department stores with equal severity? All of the above? And more?
Whatever the qualities that have endeared former-president Obama to the American people forever, there’s no question that Obama has left a significant legacy — and, for those of us who miss him, pretty big shoes to fill. Here are 11 books about Barack Obama’s legacy.
1. 'A Consequential President: The Legacy of Barack Obama' by Michael D'Antonio
From Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Michael D'Antonio is the story of the once-unlikeliest of presidential candidates, whose message of hope transformed the American spirit and invigorated voters — perhaps like no candidate in recent American history has. In his book A Consequential President: The Legacy of Barack Obama, D’Antonio demonstrates the major successes and inevitable disappointments of Obama’s presidency, including the unprecedented opposition he faced in Washington and how, despite that opposition, he still became one of the most influential presidents in American history.
2. ‘The Bridge: The Life and Rise of Barack Obama’ by David Remnick
David Remnick is an American journalist and Pulitzer Prize-winning biographer whose 2010 biography of Barack Obama, The Bridge: The Life and Rise of Barack Obama, is considered the most complete account of the 44th president’s life, political ambitions and achievements, and prospective legacy that has been published so far. Including stories about former-president Obama’s parents, as well as interviews with other family members, friends, teachers, mentors, critics, and even Obama himself, Remnick has compiled a touching, compelling, and inspiring profile of a man who changed the history of the United States.
3. ‘Rising Star: The Making of Barack Obama’ by David Garrow
Another Pulitzer Prize-winning author to tackle the life and legacy of former-president Barack Obama, David Garrow’s Rising Star: The Making of Barack Obama is scheduled to land on bookstore shelves this May and is being described as: “the definitive account of Barack Obama’s life before he became the 44th president of the United States.” Taking readers from Hawaii to Indonesia and across the contiguous United States, Garrow tells the story of Obama’s pre-White House years, starting with his childhood and moving through his time as a student, a community organizer, and an aspiring politician. Can’t wait for this one.
4. 'Audacity: How Barack Obama Defied His Critics and Created a Legacy That Will Prevail' by Jonathan Chait
Described as: "an unassailable case that, in the eyes of history, Barack Obama will be viewed as one of America’s best and most accomplished presidents," Jonathan Chait's political biography Audacity: How Barack Obama Defied His Critics and Created a Legacy That Will Prevail takes readers through eight years of the history-making achievements of America's 44th president. If you ever needed proof that Obama will be remembered as one of the greatest presidents of all-time, this book is it.
5. ‘Barack Obama: The Story’ by David Maraniss
Journalist and historian David Maraniss has written a number of bestselling books, including biographies of former-president Bill Clinton, baseball superstar Roberto Clemente, and American football player Vince Lombardi. His 2012 biography of Barack Obama, entitled simply Barack Obama: The Story draws from hundreds of interviews, letters, journals, diaries, and other documents — starting with a global perspective by examining the stories of the former-president’s ancestors, then working its way to the United States and into the life and times of Obama himself.
6. ‘Obama's Wars’ by Bob Woodward
Much has been made about the global and political climate former-president Barack Obama inherited from the administration that came before him; and journalist Bob Woodward, a reporter who has led The Washington Post to two Pulitzer Prizes, illuminates the complications, frustrations, and often impossible decisions the 44th president was forced to make during his time in office, while trying to resolve the war in Afghanistan. Obama’s Wars uses internal memos, classified documents, meeting notes, and hundreds of hours of interviews — including those with the then-president himself — to paint a complete portrait of what it was like for the president as he struggled to get American troops out of the Middle East. This book also demonstrates the profound thought, care, intelligence, and compassion Obama put into every decision he made throughout his presidency.
7. 'We Are the Change We Seek: The Speeches of Barack Obama' edited by E.J. Dionne Jr. and Joy-Ann Reid
One thing we'll definitely miss about our 44th Commander-in-Chief is his respect for literature, his love of words, and his talent for composing and giving speeches that moved his most ardent fans and his staunch opponents, in equal measure. We Are the Change We Seek, edited by by E.J. Dionne Jr. and Joy-Ann Reid is a collection of Barack Obama's 26 greatest addresses, beginning with his 2002 speech opposing the Iraq War and ending with his final speech before the United Nations in September of 2016.
8. ‘Of Thee I Sing: A Letter to My Daughters’ by Barack Obama
There is certainly nobody who has quite as personal a connection to Barack Obama’s legacy than his two daughters, and in this children’s book written by the former-president — in the form of a letter to Sasha and Malia Obama — readers are reminded not only of Obama’s legacy, but the legacies of other Americans who informed and inspired Obama’s own. Using the examples of 13 Americans who changed history — from Abraham Lincoln, to Jackie Robinson, to Billie Holiday, to Georgia O'Keeffe, Obama celebrates the intellect, artistry, and activism that have defined America.
9. ‘The Rise of Barack Obama’ by Pete Souza
If the Obama/Biden bromance memes taught us anything, it’s that Barack Obama definitely knows how to take an expressive picture. Award-winning photojournalist Pete Souza’s The Rise of Barack Obama features a stunning collection of photographs that document both public and private moments, beginning with Obama’s first day in the U.S. Senate and continuing through the Pennsylvania primary in 2008. Souza, whose unique position as a photographer allowed him to witness much of Obama’s political rise, includes captions and commentary with each image.
10. 'Obama: The Call of History' by Peter Baker
Called “the first complete account [of Barack Obama's presidency] that will stand the test of time” Peter Baker’s Obama: The Call of History comes out in April, and will explore both the successes and the disappointments of the entire Obama presidency, painting a portrait of a complex, passionate, and wholly uncommon modern president. This book also features photographs by New York Times photographers that chronicle the major events of Obama’s eight years in office.
11. ‘The Audacity of Hope: Thoughts on Reclaiming the American Dream’ by Barack Obama
Another title written by the former-president himself, The Audacity of Hope: Thoughts on Reclaiming the American Dream is one of the best literary accounts of what Barack Obama hoped for his legacy — told in his own, inspirational words. As we face a new presidential administration in Washington, we’re reminded more than ever of the lingering power of Obama’s constant call for community, optimism, and hope.