Written by Christina Caron
Former President Barack Obama on Friday shared some of the books, movies and music he found most inspiring or thought-provoking in 2018, including works that he “just plain loved,” compiling them into a year-end list posted on Facebook.
It was a wide-ranging list that included songs by artists as varied as Cardi B, Janelle Monáe and Nancy Wilson, who died this month. Unsurprisingly, “Becoming,” by Michelle Obama, topped his list of books, which featured multiple works by women and by authors of color.
Obama started sharing his reading lists and playlists during his presidency and has continued that tradition into retirement. The selections are a carefully curated mix of works that have found critical acclaim or mainstream popularity, punctuated by nods to lesser-known artists.
Obama, an avid reader with a deep appreciation of pop culture, not only celebrated art during his presidency but also brought it into the White House.
There was the luncheon with novelists Zadie Smith, Barbara Kingsolver, Junot Díaz, Dave Eggers and Colson Whitehead. Visits from numerous rappers and R&B singers including Common, John Legend and Queen Latifah. And the multicultural “Jazz at the White House” event in 2016.
In 2009, before Lin-Manuel Miranda was a household name, Obama invited him to a White House poetry jam, where he performed an early version of the opening song from “Hamilton.” Miranda was invited back in 2016, along with his cast, to perform parts of the Broadway blockbuster for high school students.
A love of books has always been one of Obama’s defining features. Nearly every night in the White House, he would read for an hour or so, The New York Times’ former chief book critic, Michiko Kakutani, reported.
“Not since Lincoln has there been a president as fundamentally shaped — in his life, convictions and outlook on the world — by reading and writing as Barack Obama,” Kakutani wrote.
Obama’s Facebook post provided “a chance to highlight talented authors, artists, and storytellers — some who are household names and others who you may not have heard of before,” he wrote.
Several of his favourite books, including “There There,” “Asymmetry” and “Frederick Douglass: Prophet of Freedom,” appeared on The Times’ list of the 10 best books of 2018.
Here’s his full list of favourites.
“Becoming” by Michelle Obama “An American Marriage” by Tayari Jones”Americanah” by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie”American Prison” by Shane Bauer “Arthur Ashe: A Life” by Raymond Arsenault”Asymmetry” by Lisa Halliday”The Broken Ladder: How Inequality Affects the Way We Think, Live, and Die” by Keith Payne”Educated” by Tara Westover”Factfulness” by Hans Rosling”Feel Free” by Zadie Smith”Florida” by Lauren Groff”Frederick Douglass: Prophet of Freedom” by David W. Blight”Futureface: A Family Mystery, an Epic Quest, and the Secret to Belonging” by Alex Wagner”A Grain of Wheat” by Ngugi wa Thiong’o”A House for Mr Biswas” by V.S. Naipaul”How Democracies Die” by Steven Levitsky and Daniel Ziblatt”Immigrant, Montana” by Amitava Kumar”In the Shadow of Statues: A White Southerner Confronts History” by Mitch Landrieu”The Largesse of the Sea Maiden” by Denis Johnson”Life 3.0: Being Human in the Age of Artificial Intelligence” by Max Tegmark”Long Walk to Freedom” by Nelson Mandela”There There” by Tommy Orange”The New Geography of Jobs” by Enrico Moretti”The Return” by Hisham Matar”Things Fall Apart” by Chinua Achebe”Warlight” by Michael Ondaatje”Washington Black” by Esi Edugyan”Why Liberalism Failed” by Patrick Deneen”The World As It Is” by Ben Rhodes
“Annihilation””Black Panther””BlacKkKlansman””Blindspotting””Burning the Death of Stalin””Eighth Grade””If Beale Street Could Talk””Leave No Trace””Minding the Gap””The Rider””Roma””Shoplifters””Support the Girls””Won’t You Be My Neighbor”
“Apes**t” by The Carters”Bad Bad News” by Leon Bridges”Could’ve Been” by H.E.R. (feat. Bryson Tiller)”Disco Yes” by Tom Misch (feat. Poppy Ajudha)”Ekombe” by Jupiter & Okwess“Every Time I Hear That Song” by Brandi Carlile“Girl Goin’ Nowhere” by Ashley McBryde“Historia De Un Amor” by Tonina (feat. Javier Limón and Tali Rubinstein)“I Like It” by Cardi B (feat. Bad Bunny and J Balvin)“Kevin’s Heart” by J. Cole“King for a Day” by Anderson East“Love Lies” by Khalid & Normani“Make Me Feel” by Janelle Monáe“Mary Don’t You Weep (Piano & A Microphone 1983 Version)” by Prince”My Own Thing” by Chance the Rapper (feat. Joey Purp)”Need a Little Time” by Courtney Barnett”Nina Cried Power” by Hozier (feat. Mavis Staples)”Nterini” by Fatoumata Diawara”One Trick Ponies” by Kurt Vile”Turnin’ Me Up” by BJ the Chicago Kid”Wait by the River” by Lord Huron”Wow Freestyle” by Jay Rock (feat. Kendrick Lamar)”The Great American Songbook” by Nancy Wilson