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10 Recommended Books by Barack Obama That Will Expand Your Brain (No, I’m Not Kidding)

Of public policy and politics

10 Recommended Books by Barack Obama That Will Expand Your Brain (No, I’m Not Kidding)
Barack Obama at a campaign rally for Senator Raphael Warnock in Atlanta in Dec. 2022. Photo: Elijah Nouvelage/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Politics is divisive.

Emotions become heightened and judgments become clouded. Each side vehemently sticks to their reasoning and arguments.

It is necessary to read books and expand your mind so you can have an informed opinion.

Whether you are a Republican, a Democrat, or somewhere in the middle, you will benefit from the books that Obama recommends.

Let’s go!

10 Recommended Books by Barack Obama That Will Expand Your Brain (No, I’m Not Kidding)

Are Democrats not using the modern media effectively?

Dan Pfeiffer has spent time in the white house. He was President Obama’s communications director.

Owing to his progressive background, the author is obviously left-leaning. There is quite a bit of name-calling in the book which would put some off. For example, the author says, “…Vice President Mike Pence, the human appendix.”

“The vast majority of the Democratic Party’s leadership, many of whom were born before the advent of television, have their heads burrowed in the proverbial sand.”

Pfeiffer says that the Republicans want to preserve their white Christian identity. And hence, they are against the diversification of America.

The author analyzes that the Republican propaganda is far more effective than the Democrats. He attributes this to the more effective use of modern networks by the Republicans.

I personally disagree. Because both sides of the political spectrum deploy questionable techniques to discredit their opponents and inflate their own contributions.

“The Republican narrative depends on reinforcing lies and fear of the government.”

The book does provide some solid discussion on the practical steps needed.

10 Recommended Books by Barack Obama That Will Expand Your Brain (No, I’m Not Kidding)

When religion and politics collide…

Are religious Christians obligated to support Trump?

Obviously not.

The author is the son of an evangelical pastor.

“I was part of an evil plot, the man wrote, to undermine God’s ordained leader of the United States.”

Alberta’s criticism of Trump landed him in hot waters with his church. They were very open with their criticism even at his father’s funeral.

In this book, the author has interviewed many evangelicals who support Trump. At times, the support has been taken to the extreme likening it to support for Jesus and God.

Alberta criticizes this approach. It has nothing to do with the teachings of Christ. Rather it has everything to do with social and political power. He reminds the reader that we will be answerable to God for our pride.

“Evangelical has become an inhibitor to evangelizing.”

I think any person who appreciates religion for its spirituality will understand what Alberta is saying. Religion is a positive force but when politicized, it has the ability to alienate and divide on a much deeper level.

10 Recommended Books by Barack Obama That Will Expand Your Brain (No, I’m Not Kidding)

When brilliance turns into insanity.

Just today, I was talking to someone about the case where a mom murdered her 3 kids.

The ones she was only able to have after 17 rounds of IVF.

My comment was, I am sure she was insane. No person in their right mind does something like this. However, this doesn’t and shouldn’t excuse her or anyone else’s actions.

This book chronicles the story of a man who went insane too.

“He was a Goldilocks who didn’t run off when the bears came home, but stayed for more porridge.”

The author tells the story of his childhood friend, Michael Laudor.

Rosen describes his childhood friend’s extroverted nature and intelligent mind. He was a natural. He chatted with the author’s mother as she gardened and his sister as she did homework.

The friends grew up, each went to college on a scholarship, and entered professional lives.

And then… Laudor suffered a psychotic break and was diagnosed with schizophrenia.

“Doctors had warned Michael not to write because he couldn’t control his imagination”.

He was advised to take it slow. But brilliant and committed as ever, Laudor went to Yale’s law school.

The book discusses the mental institutions and mental healthcare systems in America as well as the public’s perception of the mentally ill.

Laudor at one time was highly critical of the stereotype that schizophrenics are violent.

But in an ironic and sad twist, he ended up committing a very violent crime himself. He brutally stabbed his girlfriend.

Laudor remains committed to a mental health institution after his insanity plea was accepted.

10 Recommended Books by Barack Obama That Will Expand Your Brain (No, I’m Not Kidding)

A leader but flawed.

When the public venerates a hero, it molds the narrative into that of a flawless human being who can do no wrong.

I remember coming across a book that compiled the short biographies of some of the martyred soldiers of my country. And I remember thinking, did they make no mistakes?

“Life is what we make it by how we do our work. The hardest work in the world is the best work if we do it with dedication and passion for the cause.”

As we know, such is not the case in reality. Our heroes are humans. They fight their own demons like the rest of us.

This book brings us an intimate and complex portrait of Martin Luther King’s life. We learn of his childhood struggles, his youth, his activism, and more. We also learn of his shortcomings and limitations.

The author also uses information from declassified FBI files. We learn about those who wished to discredit MLK.

“Jim King — born the year before the abolition of chattel slavery — personified the crushing frustrations of Black life in the South.”

This book is a well-researched piece. It shows us the iconic hero that MLK was along with being a complex human.

10 Recommended Books by Barack Obama That Will Expand Your Brain (No, I’m Not Kidding)

The roots of humanism.

This book explores centuries of humanistic thought.

Bakewell explores the contributions of the humanists of the past like Christine de Pisan, Montaigne, and Bertrand Russell.

“A truly liberal society both values and enables deeper fulfillments: the pursuit of meaning and beauty, the diversity of cultural and personal experiences, the excitement of intellectual discovery, and the pleasures of love and companionship.”

Humanists look to all human dimensions of life, says the author.

She also tells us about the three humanist participles:

  1. Free thinking

  2. Inquiry

  3. Hope

We also learn about anti-humanism which opposes the progress of humans.

“Dispute and contradiction, not veneration and obedience, are the essence of intellectual life.”

The book is a bit dense but informative for sure. After reading it, you might realize that you are a humanist too.

10 Recommended Books by Barack Obama That Will Expand Your Brain (No, I’m Not Kidding)

Microchips run our world.

Semiconductor technology has undoubtedly changed our world forever.

Chris Miller explores the rise of the semiconductor industry and the effect it has on the geopolitics of our world.

“Application processors, the electronic brain inside each smartphone, are mostly produced in Taiwan and South Korea before being sent to China for final assembly inside a phone’s plastic case and glass screen.”

It was only through the high-speed chip technology of the US that Soviet military equipment was left behind.

The author also discusses the rise of the microchip industry in Japan, Taiwan, and China and how these markets offered tough competition to the US.

“In the age of AI, it’s often said that data is the new oil. Yet the real limitation we face isn’t the availability of data but of processing power.”

China is undoubtedly an emerging microchip powerhouse. But it faces its own struggles.

This book is an interesting look at semiconductor technology and the political affairs of the world.

10 Recommended Books by Barack Obama That Will Expand Your Brain (No, I’m Not Kidding)

When the war breaks out on a warship.

HMS Wager was a British warship.

Spain and Britain were at war in the 18th century. This war was called the War of Jenkins’ Ear.

The Wager was deployed. Instead of reaching its target, it was wrecked. The survivors were stranded.

Humans in abnormal circumstances are fuelled by their will to survive. The same was the case with the crew of HMS Wager.

“…hunger is void of all compassion.”

The crew stood divided. The captain, David Cheap shot and killed one of his men. A group rebelled against the captain and decided to go their own way.

In the end, many died. But the survivors did return to Britain. There were hearings and trials but ultimately no one was punished.

The book also touches on the topic of British colonialism.

“Yet they were compelled onward by that mysterious narcotic: hope.”

The story of the Wager shows us the human ability to overcome unimaginable odds.

10 Recommended Books by Barack Obama That Will Expand Your Brain (No, I’m Not Kidding)

The real cause of poverty!

Poverty exists. And it seriously harms those who suffer from it.

Through real-life stories and data, the author lifts the curtain on poverty in America.

“A higher minimum wage is an antidepressant. It is a sleep aid. A stress reliever.”

The author says that America has more poverty than other developed nations. And this is the case despite the fact that there is a lot of budget allocated to social programs.

What is going wrong?

Welfare is received by those who need it the least.

“We need to ensure that aid directed at poor people stays in their pockets.”

The author invites all of the privileged ones to take a look at themselves. And he is not talking about the billionaires only.

The affluent people have more voting power. They have a greater influence on laws.

And they get them molded in their favor. All the while, the poor keep struggling.

“Most social problems are complicated, of course, but a retreat into complexity is more often a reflection of our social standing than evidence of critical intelligence.”

Desmond calls for policies that benefit those who are in fact poor instead of giving more breaks to those who don’t need them.

10 Recommended Books by Barack Obama That Will Expand Your Brain (No, I’m Not Kidding)

A novel based on reality.

The major part of this book is a fictionalized biography of John von Neumann.

Neuman was an accomplished physicist, mathematician, and polymath. He is known for his contributions to these fields.

In addition, he also worked on the Manhattan Project, the US codename for its nuclear program.

This book recounts his life through a series of interviews with the people who knew him.

“Lost faith is worse than no faith at all, because it leaves behind a gaping hole, much like the hollow that the Spirit left when it abandoned this accursed world.”

The book also discusses two other people. In the first chapter, the writer tells us about Paul Ehrenfest, a physicist.

In the last chapter, the author tells us about Lee Sedol, a professional Go player who ultimately lost to an AI program, AlphaGo. He also tells us about the founder of DeepMind, the company behind the creation of AlphaGo.

“He was almost consumed by his passion for logic, and during his entire life, that strange gift of his let him see things with remarkable clarity…”

This book will acquaint you with the life of brilliant minds.

10 Recommended Books by Barack Obama That Will Expand Your Brain (No, I’m Not Kidding)

Using technology for the people’s good.

This book discusses PIT, Public interest technology.

The authors define it as:

“…the application of design, data, and delivery to advance the public interest and promote the public good in the digital age.”

Public officials often have no idea of what people are going through. Due to the lack of grassroots planning, the public assistance programs don’t end up doing what they are intended for.

By involving the officials and using PIT principles, lasting change can come about.

An example of a cumbersome public process given in the book is the DHS-1171 form used for social assistance. It used to have 1,200 questions.

Through PIT and the dedication of people committed to making a change, this form was reduced and now takes under half an hour to fill.

“Anyone in Michigan in dire need of healthcare, food assistance, emergency cash, or childcare first needed to work their way through more than 1,200 questions.”

The importance of this book for people in politics and public policy cannot be impressed enough.


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If you enjoyed these book recommendations, check out the rest of my book lists on my blog-

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