10 Great Book Recommendations for President Obama from One Great Indie Bookstore

Shortly before President Obama left office, Powell’s—the great independent bookstore in Portland, Oregon—sent him a going-away present: 10 books, thoughtfully selected by Powell’s customers and curated by their booksellers. We love this informative, entertaining, and inspirational reading list so much that we are sharing with it you. Now that President Obama has a little more time on his hands, perhaps he can start a book club so we can read them all together!

As a farewell to our favorite reader-in-chief, we shared a list favorite fiction titles straight off President Obama’s bookshelf. Click here for the full list.

A Full Life
by Jimmy Carter

This poignant and detailed memoir by our 39th commander-in-chief will be the perfect companion for President Obama as he reflects on his time in the White House and on what’s to come. In it, Carter discusses what he’s most proud of (and what he’s not), what he regrets, and what he’s found to be the most rewarding moments of his long life.

The Undoing Project
by Michael Lewis

Michael Lewis’s latest about two Israeli psychologists who completely changed the way we perceive the decision-making process will surely appeal to President Obama’s intellectual side. It’s a fascinating and original story of leadership, collaboration, and human intuition.

The Sellout
by Paul Beatty

If he hasn’t read it already, President Obama will likely enjoy this Man Booker Prize–winning satire, which centers around a young man’s isolated upbringing and a race trial that sends him to the Supreme Court. It’s a perfect blend of politics, civil rights, and—if you can believe it—comedy.

The Empathy Exams
by Leslie Jamison

Since 2008, our former commander-in-chief had to lead us through some of the greatest national tragedies in recent memory. Leslie Jamison’s collection of essays asks important questions: How do we take care of each other? How do we experience pain? Ranging from poverty tourism to phantom diseases, illness to reality television, there’s something here for everyone to consider.

by Ann Patchett

In case he’s in need of a good escape, here's Ann Patchett’s newest novel about how one moment joins together and changes the lives of two families forever. Spanning 5 decades, it explores the effects of a decision on 4 children and six parents involved and the role of interpretation on memory.

Born to Run
by Bruce Springsteen

During his 8 years in office, the former president didn't kept his love of The Boss a secret. Bruce Springsteen sang his hit song “The Rising” at the first inauguration, and “The Land of Hope and Dreams” closed out President Obama’s farewell address. And while he was in office, Obama awarded Springsteen both a Kennedy Center Honor and the Presidential Medal of Freedom.

by Claudia Rankine

A chronicle of the ongoing racial aggression that seems to make headlines every day across our country, Claudia Rankine’s book is a crucial read for anyone, but especially someone who has had to experience it firsthand as a leader and a person. Using essays, images, and poetry, it is a powerful testament to the individual and collective effects of racism in our society.

The Soul of an Octopus
by Sy Montgomery

From New England aquarium tanks to the Gulf of Mexico, naturalist Sy Montgomery has befriended octopuses of varying personalities around the world, while revealing their impressive levels of cognition. Funny, touching, and profound, this National Book Award finalist explores how different minds can meet and understand one another, something the former president has always advocated.

My Beer Year
by Lucy Burningham

President Obama will have some time on his hands now, which can only mean one thing: more beer summits! Lucy Burningham’s memoir is not only a recounting of her journey to become a beer master, it is also a love note to the brewers, festivals, and farmers that make it all possible.

When Breath Becomes Air
by Paul Kalanithi

At age 36, neurosurgeon Paul Kalanithi was diagnosed with stage IV lung cancer, making him the patient instead of the practitioner. Determined to come to terms with his fate, Dr. Kalanithi began asking himself some of the most difficult questions we have to ask as human beings: What makes life worth living? What do you do when there is no real future? It is a powerful look at life and legacy that we’re sure President Obama will enjoy.