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Barack Obama shares his list of favorite books from 2019

As 2019 comes to an end, former American president Barack Obama continued his annual tradition of sharing his literary highlights of the year.

The eclectic book list features nineteen fiction and nonfiction titles that “made the last year a little brighter,” with two books specifically tagged for sports fans.

Barack Obama
Former U.S. President Barack Obama speaks during the Bits & Pretzels start-ups festival in Munich, southern Germany, on Sept. 29, 2019. Image: AFP/Christof Stache via AFP Relaxnews

“Outlets like literature and art can enhance our day-to-day experiences. They’re the fabric that helps make up a life — the album that lifts us up after a long day, the dog-eared paperback we grab off the shelf to give to a friend, the movie that makes us think and feel in a new way, works that simply help us escape for a bit,” Obama wrote about his annual book list on Instagram.


Among the titles that made this year’s list are Sarah M. Broom’s National Book Award-winning memoir, “The Yellow House”, which chronicles her upbringing in a shotgun house in New Orleans East and Albert Woodfox’s “Solitary”, in which the activist reflects on his four decades in solitary confinement.

Additional highlights include Sally Rooney’s award-winning “Normal People”, Jia Tolentino’s “Trick Mirror”, Valeria Luiselli’s “Lost Children Archive” and Casey Cep’s “Furious Hours: Murder, Fraud and the Last Trial of Harper Lee”, which takes a look at the Alabama murder case that novelist Harper Lee attempted — and failed — to chronicle.

Earlier this year, the former United States president singled out nineteen other books, including Hilary Mantel’s “Wolf Hall”, Colson Whitehead’s “The Nickel Boys” and Min Jin Lee’s “Pachinko”.

At the time, Obama also mentioned the collected works of late Nobel-winning novelist Toni Morrison, to whom he awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2012.

See the full list of Obama’s favorite books from 2019 below:

  • “The Age of Surveillance Capitalism: The Fight for a Human Future at the New Frontier of Power”, by Shoshana Zuboff
  • “The Anarchy: The Relentless Rise of the East India Company” by William Dalrymple
  • “Furious Hours: Murder, Fraud and the Last Trial of Harper Lee” by Casey Cep
  • “Girl, Woman, Other” by Bernardine Evaristo
  • “The Heartbeat of Wounded Knee: Native America From 1890 to the Present” by David Treuer
  • “How to Do Nothing: Resisting the Attention Economy” by Jenny Odel
  • “Lost Children Archive” by Valeria Luiselli
  • “Lot: Stories” by Bryan Washington
  • “Normal People” by Sally Rooney
  • “The Orphan Master’s Son” by Adam Johnson
  • “The Yellow House” by Sarah M. Broom
  • “Say Nothing: A True Story of Murder and Memory in Northern Ireland” by Patrick Radden Keefe
  • “Solitary” by Albert Woodfox
  • “The Topeka School” by Ben Lerner
  • “Trick Mirror: Reflections on Self-Delusion” by Jia Tolentino
  • “Trust Exercise” by Susan Choi
  • “We Live in Water: Stories” by Jess Walter



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