5 Must-Have Obama Books

In honor of Presidents’ Day, The Dossier recommends five books that commemorate the Obama Presidency.

Yesterday The Dossier reviewed the film Judas and the Black Messiah and recommended five books on the Black Panther Party.

Tonight, in honor of Presidents’ Day, The Dossier slides into your inbox to recommend five books that commemorate the Obama Presidency.

Only Obama, a black man who emerged from the best of white America, and thus could have made sincerely trust white America, could be so certain that he could achieve broad national appeal. And yet only a black man with that same biography could underestimate his opposition’s resolve to destroy him… 

There are no clean victories for black people, nor, perhaps, for any people. The presidency of Barack Obama is no different.

Ta-Nehisi Coates, The Atlantic


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A Promised Land

“The presidential memoir so often falls flat because it works against the strengths of the memoir form. Rather than take a slice of one’s life to lay bare and come to a revelation about the self or the world, the presidential memoir seeks to take the sum of a life to defend one’s actions. These sorts of memoirs are an attempt maybe not to rewrite history, but to situate history in the most rosy frame. It is by nature defensive and in this book, we see Obama’s primary defensive tool, his prodigious mind and proclivity toward over-considering every detail.” - Nathan Marshall in Chicago Tribune

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Becoming

Becoming is refined and forthright, gracefully written and at times laugh-out-loud funny, with a humbler tone and less name-dropping than might be expected of one who is on chatting terms with the queen of England. One of Obama’s strengths is her ability to look back not from the high perch of celebrity or with the inevitability of hindsight but with the anxieties of the uncertain. She writes in the moment, as she saw and felt and discovered — as events were occurring… This gives the book’s first half, in particular, covering the part of her life we know least about, an unexpected suspense.” - Isabel Wilkerson in New York Times

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Obama: An Intimate Portrait

“Chronologically organized, with commentary by [Pete] Souza, the book could be titled “The Many Moods of Barack Obama.” The caricature of the president as a stiff, cerebral character has always been undercut by his improvisational charm. Souza records his full emotional range — from the pensive president-elect contemplating his reflection on the eve of his first inaugural to the playful husband butting heads with Michelle Obama in a freight elevator en route to an inaugural ball.” - Julia M. Klein in Chicago Tribune

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The Obama Portraits 

“With copious photos, the book The Obama Portraits details the creation of the paintings while delving into the significance of their unprecedented popularity… The choice of artists, both African American, was leaked while the portraits were being executed. Kehinde Wiley, known for his large-scale depictions of African American men in poses and trappings inspired by famous paintings from art history, was painting the president. Amy Sherald had been commissioned to paint the first lady. Sherald had received attention for paintings of African Americans that included many she had met on the streets of her native Baltimore.” - Reagan Upshaw in Washington Post

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Parker Looks Up: An Extraordinary Moment

“In the spring of 2018, 2-year-old Parker Curry visited the National Portrait Gallery in Washington, D.C., with her mom, her sister and her best friend. They saw a lot of artwork that day — but it was Amy Sherald's portrait of first lady Michelle Obama that made Parker stop in her tracks and look up in awe… The experience has inspired a picture book — Parker Looks Up — written by Parker and her mom, Jessica Curry Morton, and illustrated by Brittany Jackson.” - Samantha Balaban, NPR

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