Happy birthday, Mister President, happy birthday to you!
It might be an historic election year, but on this date, our commander in chief is celebrating his own milestone: Barack Obama, 44th President of the U.S., turns 55 years old today. And to honor the Prez on his birthday, we’re rounding up a list of recommended reads vetted by the man himself. Because in addition to being our fearless leader, President Obama is also quite the fearless reader.
From novels to biographies to classic children’s books, these are the titles the President has namedropped over the years as his faves (or in one case, clearly enjoyed so much he didn’t have to).
Fates and Furies, by Lauren Groff
This novel shot to the top of bestseller lists everywhere after the President named it as his favorite book of 2015, but let’s be honest, it was probably already on its way there to begin with. Groff’s intricate, ambitious, mesmerizing portrait of a marriage—and the revelation of the mysteries and lies contained therein—is a seriously gripping read.
For Whom the Bell Tolls, by Ernest Hemingway
Hemingway’s sweeping war novel was named by President Obama in a Rolling Stone interview as a work that inspired him as a young man, with its themes of love, loyalty, idealism, and courage. Interestingly, this is also a book with documented bipartisan appeal; it’s a big favorite of one-time Republican presidential nominee (and Obama political opponent) John McCain.
The Lowland, by Jhumpa Lahiri
Lahiri’s tale of two brothers coming of age in 1960s Calcutta, set against the backdrop of the Indian quest for independence, was cracked open by the President in a very different setting last summer: among others titles, it was brought along as a vacation read during the first family’s trip to Martha’s Vineyard.
Self-Reliance, by Ralph Waldo Emerson
Along with Toni Morrison’s Song of Solomon, this title is listed as one of the President’s faves on his Facebook page. A passionate argument in support of individualism as a vital founding principle of a free and civilized society, Emerson’s essay is just the kind of thing you’d expect the leader of the free world to appreciate.
Paperback $19.80 | $22.00
Team of Rivals, by Doris Kearns Goodwin
With his measured, strategic approach to policy and amazing skills as an orator, Barack Obama has long been compared to a certain Presidential predecessor—and this book might be a reason why. In 2009, the President noted that Doris Kearns Goodwin’s expansive biography of Lincoln gave him an insight into how best to shape his own cabinet. Among the moves he pulled from the 16th president’s playbook? Naming former rival (and now Democratic nominee) Hillary Clinton as his Secretary of State.
Where the Wild Things Are, by Maurice Sendak
The president may not have ever specifically named this classic as a fave, but you can’t watch the video of POTUS and FLOTUS reading it aloud at the White House annual Easter Egg Roll and pretend they don’t both love it. Let the wild rumpus start!