Book Nook: A Promised Land, by Barack Obama

The first of what is expected to be at least a couple of volumes of post-presidency reflection, A Promised Land is former President Barack Obama’s third full book, following The Audacity of Hope (2006) and Dreams From My Father (1995).

A Promised Land explores his younger years some–growing up within a multitude of backgrounds, the passion for learning that started at a young age, meeting his wife, the girls, etc. He spends a decent amount of time on it actually. He can. This book is a time investment. 768 pages of reflection. Or, if you are like me, 29-plus hours on Audible, ready by the author. And yet, it feels like he barely scratches the surface.

Ultimately, this book is about his presidency and policy. At times, apologetic, at times explanatory. Almost always with some good-natured humor worked in for levity. A Promised Land makes one wonder if we took the man more seriously than he takes himself.

The family stuff keeps the mood light. There is a good chance it is many people’s favorite parts. Unless you are a policy wonk. And there is plenty of that to dive into as well. A Promised land covers largely the scope of his first term. While the book starts with his childhood, it poignantly ends in…Kentucky, as he chose to end volume one with his meeting with the Navy SEALS team that had just killed Osama Bin Laden.

In between, there is a lot of exposition on the 2008 financial crisis and how his team steered the US through that debacle. This was probably actually my favorite moments of the book–just exactly how we walked that tight rope. Wonky, but enjoyable for wonks.

There was plenty of background on getting the ACA approved, starting with the lifting of Romney Care and the wheeling and dealing that followed. The Gulf Coast oil leak is in there. The Nobel Peace Prize he won basically gets brushed aside, implying a belief on his own part it was not deserved. Obama spends much of the book dancing around trying to glorify much of his presidency, in fact. The Dream Act is covered. Handling Republican opposition, led by Mitch McConnell. Middle East policy and the Arab Spring.

It is, to be honest, and honest reflection. Often self-indicting, reflective without aggrandizing.

It is also not a stretch to say it might be one of the last decent books we get post-presidency, aside from the follow up volume. I struggle to imagine either of the two who followed matching it after their terms are up. I guess we will have to see what President Kanye has for us after his run. That being said, I am the kind of guy who would read a post-presidency book by either.

NYT Review



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