- Yuri Gripas/Reuters
Former President Barack Obama has made it a yearly tradition to share his favorite books from the previous year on Facebook.
On New Year’s Eve, the 44th president listed 10 titles (and two bonus titles) that he thinks are worth picking up – ranging from short stories to memoirs to biographies.
Here’s the full list.
‘The Power’ by Naomi Alderman
Set in an alternate reality where teenage girls have the power to effortlessly cause others tremendous pain and suffering, “The Power” imagines what effects this titular ability might have on society.
The book tackles issues of gender equality, resonating with many readers as a kind of counterpoint to Margaret Atwood’s “The Handmaid’s Tale,” in which women are effectively powerless.
‘Grant’ by Ron Chernow
Chernow, a veteran biographer of George Washington and Alexander Hamilton, chronicles Ulysses S. Grant’s life in his lastest biography.
Chernow captures the 18th US president’s tumultuous life, replete with fortunes, falls from grace, humble Midwestern roots, lifelong alcoholism, and extraordinary achievements. It’s a portrait of a man that history has gravely misunderstood.
‘Evicted: Poverty and Profit in the American City’ by Matthew Desmond
Harvard sociologist Matthew Desmond follows eight families on the brink of poverty in Milwaukee, Wisconsin in “Evicted.” The stories firmly disprove the stereotype that poverty stems from a deficiency of willpower, work ethic, or intellectual rigor.
Desmond sheds light on the profound economic challenges faced by poor people and how people accustomed to the finer things in life can become poor through no fault of their own.
‘Janesville: An American Story’ by Amy Goldstein
In the middle of the Great Recession, America’s largest General Motors plant in Janesville, Wisconsin shut down.
In “Janesville,” reporter Amy Goldstein immerses herself in the town to capture the aftermath of the closure, along with the slow and gradual rebuild that eventually arrived.
Readers meet everyday folks such as teachers, bankers, and politicians to learn how such a change impacts the everyday lives of those dependent on one company’s success.
‘Exit West’ by Mohsin Hamid
- Penguin Books
Hamid’s novel tells the story of two polar-opposite characters, Nadia and Saeed, who meet and fall in love amid civic unrest in their home city.
Tensions begin to escalate and soon Nadia and Saeed look for a way to escape the turmoil. They catch wind of mysterious “doors,” which supposedly have the power to whisk people away to safety.
Published amid a growing refugee crisis, “Exit West” uses magical realism in a tale of hope for those who seem to have no way out of their nations’ tumult.
‘Five-Carat Soul’ by James McBride
A collection of short stories, “Five-Carat Soul” serves up a wide-ranging set of narrators and voices.
The pieces describe the adventures of a pre-teen band, an antique toy dealer with the ultimate score, and the inside of a lion’s mind.
Many of the stories poignantly discuss matters of race and class in offbeat ways that avoid preaching directly to the reader.
‘Anything Is Possible’ by Elizabeth Strout
Though less than 300 pages, “Anything Is Possible” wraps up a handful of people’s stories into one cohesive narrative united by themes of loss, rediscovery, and the search for the self.
The collection of chapter-length novellas chronicles the story of a janitor, a grown daughter, two sisters, and an adult version of one of Strout’s former characters.
Each story can be read in isolation or viewed as an integral part of the whole.
‘Dying: A Memoir’ by Cory Taylor
In the span of a few weeks, Australian writer Cory Taylor sat down to write what it was like to be on the verge of death.
Taylor, afflicted with a fatal form of brain cancer, captured her final feelings, the complicated expectations she had for death, her memories of loved ones, and a preferred code of conduct for speaking about dying.
The memoir is at turns darkly funny and profoundly moving.
‘A Gentleman in Moscow’ by Amor Towles
Towles’ novel describes the 1922 house arrest of Count Alexander Rostov, who is forced to live inside the attic at the Metropol, a luxurious hotel opposite the Kremlin.
From his perch, Rostov plays witness to some of Russia’s most turbulent decades.
Befitting any novel set in the early 20th century, the story includes a host of tantalizing plot elements, including secret compartments, mysterious vials, special keys, and highly coveted jewelry.
‘Sing, Unburied, Sing’ by Jesmyn Ward
Ward’s novel addresses themes of identity, family, and heritage through the eyes of 13-year-old Jojo and his mother, Leonie.
Jojo comes from a mixed-race family, and his parents are not always present in his life. He and his young sister search for a sense of home, intimacy, and belonging wherever they can.
Sometimes that means toughing out the hard times with their mother, who frequently uses drugs. At other times it means finding refuge in a kindly grandfather.
The resulting story lays bare the struggles of figuring out who you are in a fractured world – one in which voices of the past remain real and present.
BONUS: ‘Coach Wooden and Me’ by Kareem Abdul-Jabbar
Former NBA star Kareem Abdul-Jabbar began his rise in the basketball world at UCLA, under the guidance of Coach John Wooden. Over the years, the two men grew to be great friends.
As the NBA legend writes, Wooden guided the young athlete and shaped his philosophies on life.
Wooden helped Abdul-Jabbar navigate the Civil Rights Movement in the 1960s and ’70s, served as a sounding board during difficult times, and acted as a fatherly figure when it was needed of him.
BONUS: ‘Basketball (and Other Things)’ by Shea Serrano
“Basketball (And Other Things)” may be the ultimate controversy-starter for all things hoops-related.
The reference guide delves into the nitty gritty of Michael Jordan’s dominance, the all-time-best championship series, and a slew of other topics that will likely rile up even casual basketball fans.
Instead of arguing over the Bulls and the Celtics for the 1,000th time, fans can turn to “Basketball (And Other Things”) to create new disagreements for decades to come.