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10 Eye-Opening Books Recommended by Barack Obama — Prepare to Be Blown Away (Like I Was)

A book list for anyone who loves books, Obama, or both

10 Eye-Opening Books Recommended by Barack Obama — Prepare to Be Blown Away (Like I Was)

Some hate him. Some love him.

He won the Nobel Peace Prize. Whether he deserved it or not, is debatable.

He is none other than the first American black president, Barack Obama. Regardless of the country you are from, you probably remember the smiling family photos featuring him, his wife Michelle, and two darling daughters.

Whatever you think of him, the common ground between you and him is books (or family or both). The books he has recommended will empower you politically, and make you think critically.

If you want to expand your horizons, give this list a go.

10 Eye-Opening Books Recommended by Barack Obama — Prepare to Be Blown Away (Like I Was)

We are being reduced to mere products.

All the apps and the web services have our data.

They use our data to create ‘behavioral products’ which are then bought by companies to predict and control our choices.

Zuboff makes us see the power and knowledge imbalance.

There is one category of material that we all can access online. Then, there is a second category of material that can be accessed by ‘surveillance capitalists.’ That data consists of our online behavior.

“Surveillance capitalism unilaterally claims human experience as free raw material for translation into behavioral data.”

Using the expertise that she gathered in 12 years of research, the author gives an almost frightening view of the future.

“The real psychological truth is this: If you’ve got nothing to hide, you are nothing.”

An authoritative rule of those who know us more than our loved ones.

They will be able to predict and influence our behavior on a global scale. This goes against the very foundations of ‘democracy’ and ‘free will’.

Next time you log on to the internet, remember you are a pawn in the game of global control.

10 Eye-Opening Books Recommended by Barack Obama — Prepare to Be Blown Away (Like I Was)

Democratically elected leaders hurt democracy.

My country is one of those where democracy struggles to survive.

One might blame those who have imposed authoritative regimes.

The real blame lies with those who were elected. If they were sincere, no one would have been able to dismantle democratic structures.

“Democracies may die at the hands not of generals but of elected leaders — presidents or prime ministers who subvert the very process that brought them to power.”

As Levitsky puts it, the elected members are guilty of “…packing and “weaponizing” the courts and other neutral agencies, buying off the media and the private sector (or bullying them into silence), and rewriting the rules of politics to tilt the playing field against opponents.”

The author’s words are enlightening because I have seen it play out.

Such injury to democracy at the hands of those who sworn to protect it, leads to its death, “…gradually, subtly, and even legally”.

“Would-be autocrats often use economic crises, natural disasters, and especially security threats — wars, armed insurgencies, or terrorist attacks — to justify antidemocratic measures.”

This book is a must-read for those who support democratic rule.

10 Eye-Opening Books Recommended by Barack Obama — Prepare to Be Blown Away (Like I Was)

From ‘terrorist’ to ‘Father of Nation’.

Nelson Mandela was labeled a terrorist by the apartheid government of South Africa, the US, and the UK.

He spent over 27 years in prison.


His commitment to free South Africa bore fruit. In 1994, negotiations between the apartheid government and the resistance resulted in the first democratic elections in South Africa. Mandela was elected.

“I am fundamentally an optimist.”

This autobiography details his life and struggles. His childhood, law career, and eventual membership of ANC, African National Congress. He led protests and used guerrilla tactics to resist the occupation.

“No one is born hating another person because of the color of his skin, or his background, or his religion.”

Apart from the facts of his life and struggles, the thing that jumps out the most is his commitment to positivity.

We see the same in the previous book. Both are black prisoners who served long sentences.

Maybe the reason why these men survived the horrors of prisons and the abuse pelted out at them, is their will force and the ability to see the light in the direst of situations.

“I always knew that deep down in every human heart, there is mercy and generosity… Man’s goodness is a flame that can be hidden but never extinguished.”

If you want to learn more about occupation, resistance, and freedom, try this book.

10 Eye-Opening Books Recommended by Barack Obama — Prepare to Be Blown Away (Like I Was)

Our emotions get the better of us.

Times today are worse than before, we hear our elders say.

“Every group of people I ask thinks the world is more frightening, more violent, and more hopeless — in short, more dramatic — than it really is.”

But are they?

No, says Hans Rosling.

He gives us a wake-up call by reminding us of our negative bias. Our brain focuses on the most dramatic information and gives us reasons to fear.

“There’s no room for facts when our minds are occupied by fear.”

We are wrong about the world when we make pessimistic conclusions. Rosling doesn’t want us to feel ashamed as he breaks down the negative picture with hard-hitting facts.

He wants us to look at the world with wonder and curiosity and say:

“Wow, how is that even possible?”

In today’s world where constant news bombardment on the internet makes us fear for our lives, this book is a ray of hope.

10 Eye-Opening Books Recommended by Barack Obama — Prepare to Be Blown Away (Like I Was)

From being cut off from the world to conquering it.

This is a memoir written by Tara Westover, who was born into a Mormon survivalist family.

Her parents were cut off from the world and had a strong mistrust of the government and healthcare institutions.

However, she grew up and carved her path in life. She started attending college which was her first experience with formal education.

“All my studying, reading, thinking, traveling, had it transformed me into someone who no longer belonged anywhere?”

Westover was the subject of physical and verbal abuse by one of her brothers. She suffered from panic attacks as well.

She persevered. Earning scholarships from prestigious institutes, she continued her education.

Success came, albeit her relationship with her parents broke down.

“The thing about having a mental breakdown is that no matter how obvious it is that you’re having one, it is somehow not obvious to you. I’m fine, you think.”

Westover’s family reminds me of a friend’s husband who has a cult-ish approach towards the whole ‘living natural’ thing.

This book gives us the lesson that regardless of our parents’ beliefs, we have the responsibility to think critically and examine the world for ourselves.

10 Eye-Opening Books Recommended by Barack Obama — Prepare to Be Blown Away (Like I Was)

Embrace the slow life.

Odell writes an eye-opening account that makes us critically analyze our modern lifestyle.

We try to be productive every minute of the day.

We forget the little things right in front of us. Nature, the people, and our thoughts.

By allowing ourselves to get off the hamster wheel, we allow ourselves to think and discover our hidden skills. The author discovers that she likes bird watching.

“What does it mean to construct digital worlds while the actual world is crumbling before our eyes?”

The author doesn’t tell us to cut off from society.

Instead, she encourages good urban planning and the use of bioregions so we can connect with nature. She also tells us to use technology healthily so we can reap its benefits.

“… I am opposed to the way that corporate platforms buy and sell our attention, as well as to designs and uses of technology that enshrine a narrow definition of productivity and ignore the local, the carnal, and the poetic.”

In the ‘attention economy,’ tech companies are competing for our attention.

Instead, we have to embrace ‘bioregionalism’ where we live in harmony with all the local life forms, including economic and political climate.

Pick up this book and push the brakes in the race of life.

10 Eye-Opening Books Recommended by Barack Obama — Prepare to Be Blown Away (Like I Was)

A misplaced manuscript, a murder trial, and a writer who values her privacy.

The great American classic, ‘To Kill a Mockingbird’ was written by Harper Lee.

Did she write another book?

Perhaps. But the manuscript is lost.

Inspired by her close friend Truman Capote’s ‘In Cold Blood’, she set out to write a true crime non-fiction novel. Her work would never see the light of day.

This gave Casey Cep an opportunity to write a unique book. A book that brings together a true crime case and a writer’s biography.

“Water, like violence, is difficult to contain.”

A reverend in Alabama, Willie Maxwell has 5 people around him die in mysterious circumstances. He had insurance taken out on all of them before their deaths.

You know how that goes.

Maxwell is shot at the funeral of his last victim. Interestingly, the lawyer who helped him sue the insurance companies ends up defending his killer.

A mysterious story that will make you sit and reflect on a lot of things. Insurance fraud, the justice system, and the author who wrote only one book.

“Nothing writes itself. Left to its own devices, the world will never transform into words, & no matter how many pages of notes & interviews & documents a reporting trip generates, the one that matters most always starts out blank.”

In an interview about her book, Cep said, “…there are also just a lot of mysteries, and they force us to think about how we can ever know anything or by what evidence or inference we can arrive at truth.”

10 Eye-Opening Books Recommended by Barack Obama — Prepare to Be Blown Away (Like I Was)

A philanthropic venture or white savior complex?

Well, I am conflicted.

The book makes the argument and rightfully so, that educating women is the path to society’s success.

It talks about child marriages, unpaid labor of housework, women farmers, and women in work environments.

“As women gain rights, families flourish, and so do societies.”

The examples however are predominantly of how the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation has helped those in need. From India to Kenya, there have been initiatives to help women in need.

At times Melinda cites interesting research to make her case. For example, when fathers take on at least 40 percent of the childcare responsibilities, their risk for mental health issues and drug problems decreases. The children are happier, have better academic performance, and are confident.

“If you want to lift up humanity, empower women. It is the most comprehensive, pervasive, high-leverage investment you can make in human beings.”

I am on board with the ‘empower women’ message. Duh!

As others have questioned, is it a biography or a “long letter to potential donors”?

10 Eye-Opening Books Recommended by Barack Obama — Prepare to Be Blown Away (Like I Was)

Why wouldn’t Obama recommend this? It’s his wife’s book.

First Lady’s memoir was the most-sold book in America for the year 2018.

She was born in Chicago. Her mother and father made sure she and her siblings were educated. They also made sure that they were exposed to music and art.

Through hard work and dedication, she became one of the high-achieving students in her academic career.

“For me, becoming isn’t about arriving somewhere or achieving a certain aim. I see it instead as forward motion, a means of evolving, a way to reach continuously toward a better self.”

A counselor once said to her, “I’m not sure you’re Princeton material.” Regardless, Michelle applied and got in.

The next step was Harvard and then work, where she met Barack.

Going on, she describes their eventual marriage and life in the white house. It came with a unique set of challenges.

“Friendships between women, as any woman will tell you, are built of a thousand small kindnesses… swapped back and forth and over again.”

The memoir is divided into three parts, ‘Becoming Me’, ‘Becoming Us, and ‘Becoming More.’

Regardless of your political views, this book will teach you a lot and help you see behind the curtains of the White House.

10 Eye-Opening Books Recommended by Barack Obama — Prepare to Be Blown Away (Like I Was)

He was in solitary confinement for 43 years for a crime he didn’t commit.

If you are looking for strength in dark times, this book will give you so.

Albert Woodfox was falsely charged with the murder of a prison guard along with a friend. Another black prisoner was charged with a separate murder.

“Prison is designed to break one’s spirit and destroy one’s resolve.”

All three were kept in Closed Cell Restricted (CCR) cellblock i.e. solitary confinement. They are known as Angola 3.

The evidence was shoddy. The witnesses were bribed. The bloody handprint on the scene matched neither of the people convicted for the crime.

Even the murdered guard’s wife campaigned for Woodfox to be released. She came to know of the discrepancies in the evidence in 2006.

It was a long hard battle but ultimately they were released one after the other. Woodfox was the last one who was freed in 2016. He spent 43 years in jail.

Despite what he endured, his hope and optimism is unwavering.

He writes in his book:

“I have hope for humankind. It is my hope that a new human being will evolve so that needless pain and suffering, poverty, exploitation, racism, and injustice will be things of the past.”


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