Barack Obama, 44th President of The United States of America

President Barack Obama's Recommended Reading List on Anti-Racism

Barack Obama

  • Frederick Douglass: Prophet of Freedom by David W. Blight - In this historical biography, Blight examines the impact Fredrick Douglass had on the US. Douglass was a slave who escaped from his slave owners in Baltimore, Maryland, to become an influential orator and author after publishing the history-making "Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass.".  Published by Simon & Schuster, © 2018.

  • Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie - From one of the world's great contemporary writers comes the story of two Nigerians making their way in the US and the UK, raising universal questions of race and belonging, the overseas experience for the African diaspora, and the search for identity, and a home."  Published by Alfred A. Knopf, © 2013.

  • The World As It Is by Ben Rhodes.  "The World as It Is" is a memoir by Ben Rhodes, a former White House staffer and longtime adviser to former U.S. President Barack Obama.  Published by Random House, © 2018.

  • Lost Children Archive by Valeria Luiselli.  "Lost Children Archive" is a 2019 novel by writer Valeria Luiselli.  Luiselli was in part inspired by the ongoing American policy of separating children from their parents at the Mexican-American border.  Published by Penguin Random House, © 2019.

  • The Heartbeat of Wounded Knee: Native America from 1890 to the Present by David Treuer.  Academic and author Treuer combines in-depth reporting with storytelling in this best-selling piece on the history of the Native American people. The book covers everything from the rise of different tribal cultures to the seizure of their people's land, forced assimilation, and resistance.  Published by Riverhead Books, © 2019.

  • The Woman Warrior by Maxine Hong Kingston.  In "The Woman Warrior," Chinese-American author Kingston weaves together her family's stories, her experience growing up, and ancient Chinese myths in a book that makes powerful statements on American identity.  Published by Alfred A. Knopf, © 1976.

  • Lot: Stories by Bryan Washington.  Set in the bustling city of Houston, "Lot: Stories," follows an eclectic group characters on their individual journeys to find a place called home, including a young boy coming to terms with his gay identity, a family in the wake of Hurricane Harvey, and a drug dealer who takes a Guatemalan teen under his wing.   Published by Riverhead, © 2019.

  • The Yellow House by Sarah M. Broom.  "The Yellow House" isn't just a story about the author's home in a neglected area of New Orleans, but a commentary on race and inequality in the US.  Published by Grove Press, © 2019.

  • Becoming by Michelle Obama.  Becoming is the memoir of former United States first lady Michelle Obama, published in 2018. Described by the author as a deeply personal experience, the book talks about her roots and how she found her voice, as well as her time in the White House, her public health campaign, and her role as a mother.  Published by Crown, © 2018.

  • Solitary by Albert Woodfox.  Albert Woodfox shares his story of surviving more than 40 years confined to a cramped cell in solitary confinement at Louisiana's "Angola" prison — for a crime he says he didn't commit. The story is a powerful commentary on the prison and judicial system.  Published by Grove Press, © 2019.

  • The Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead.  Whitehead's fiction piece follows a girl named Cora, a slave on a cotton plantation in Georgia who faces brutal treatment. One day, she learns about the Underground Railroad from a friend, and the pair makes the life-changing decision to attempt an escape.  Published by Doubleday, © 2016.

  • Song of Solomon by Toni Morrison.  Morrison, beloved African American novelist and essayist, won the 1993 Nobel Prize in literature for this work of fiction, which follows the story of the first African-American child to be born in the hospital.  Published by Alfred A. Knopf, © 1977.

  • Heartland: A Memoir of Working Hard and Being Broke in the Richest Country on Earth by Sarah Smarsh.  Heartland is Sarah Smarsh's memoir of growing up poor in rural Kansas, herself the youngest of generations of poor women, and the effect that systematic poverty has on her people. The book contains some interesting points about growing up rural and poor, and includes some eye-opening anecdotes about herself and her family.  Published by Scribner, © 2019.

  • The Nickel Boys: A Novel by Colson Whitehead.  Set in the Jim Crow era, and based off of a real school for boys that closed in 2011, Whitehead's novel follows a young black man sent to a school that claims it turns bad boys into good men.  Published by Random House, © 2019.

  • The Warmth of Other Suns: The Epic Story of America's Great Migration by Isabel Wilkerson.  The Pulitzer Prize–winning author details one of the most important, but little-known stories in US history, the 1915 to 1970 migration of black citizens to the North and West from the South.  Published by Random House, © 2010.

  • Brown Girl Dreaming by Jacqueline Woodson.  In this young adult read comprised of seven poems, Woodson shares her story of what it was like growing up African American in an era where Jim Crow's effects could still be felt and the Civil Rights movement was growing.  Published by Nancy Paulsen Books, a division of the Penguin Group, © 2014.

  • American Prison by Shane Bauer.  In 2014, journalist Shane Bauer took a job as a prison guard at a private prison in Louisiana for an undercover article that would spark a national conversation on for-profit prisons. In "American Prison," Bauer digs deeper, explaining private prisons and their role in a post-slavery US.  Published by Penguin Press, © 2018.

  • Souls of Black Folk by W.E.B. Du Bois.  "The Souls of Black Folk" by Du Bois, a historian, a civil rights activist, and sociologist, is a crucial work of African American literary history and sociology.  Published by Penguin Random House, © 2018 from essays first published in the Atlantic Weekly in 1903.

  • Finding My Voice by Valerie Jarrett.  In this memoir, the former Obama senior adviser, documents her decades-long relationship with Michelle and Barack Obama, from interviewing a young Michelle for a job in Chicago to becoming the couple's trusted political go-to and confidante.  Published by Penguin Books, © 2020.

  • In the Shadow of Statues: A White Southerner Confronts History by Mitch Landrieu.  The former New Orleans mayor who removed multiple Confederate statues from the city talks about racism in the US and argues for white Americans to confront the country's past.  Published by Penguin Publishing Group, a division of Penguin Random House, © 2018.