Since today is President Obama's last full day in office, I thought it might be worthwhile to commemorate his presidency with a list of books and authors that he's either mentioned or recommended over the years.

Unlike the lists of business leaders (which are naturally heavy on the "how-to" and "productivity" scale), Obama's list consists primarily of novels, many of which provide an outsider's perspective.

1. Thinking, Fast and Slow

Author: Daniel Kahneman

Summary: A Nobel-prize winning economist explains when to trust (and distrust) our intuitions and when to tap into the benefits of slow thinking. The book provides insights into how choices are made in both our business and our personal lives--and how to use different techniques to guard against mental glitches that often get us into trouble. (Amazon)

2. The Sixth Extinction: An Unnatural History

Author: Elizabeth Kolbert

Summary: A Pulitzer Prize-winning description of what's proving to be the most devastating extinction event since the asteroid impact that wiped out the dinosaurs. Human beings have altered life on the planet in a way no species has before, causing a majority of the existing species to disappear before our very eyes, a devastation likely to be mankind's most lasting legacy. (Amazon)

3. Gilead

Author: Marilynne Robinson

Plot Summary: A winner of the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction, Gilead is an epistolary novel that is the fictional autobiography of the Reverend John Ames, an elderly congregationalist pastor in the small, secluded town of Gilead, Iowa, who knows that he is dying of a heart condition and is writing an account of his life for his 7-year-old son, who will have few memories of him. (Wikipedia)

4. Flight Behavior

Author: Barbara Kingsolver

Plot Summary: [The story of] a young wife and mother on a failing farm in rural Tennessee who experiences something she cannot explain, and how her discovery energizes various competing factions--religious leaders, climate scientists, environmentalists, politicians--trapping her in the center of the conflict and ultimately opening up her world. (Amazon)

5. The Three-Body Problem

Authors: Cixin Liu and Ken Liu

Plot Summary: In this Hugo Award-winning novel, a secret military project sends signals into space to establish contact with aliens. An alien civilization on the brink of destruction captures the signal and plans to invade Earth. On Earth, different camps start forming, planning to either welcome the superior beings and help them take over a world seen as corrupt or to fight against the invasion. (Amazon)

6. The Underground Railroad

Author: Colson Whitehead

Plot Summary: A slave on a cotton plantation in Georgia decides to take a terrifying risk and escape. She accidentally kills a young white boy who tries to capture her. Pursued by a relentless slave-catcher, she embarks on a harrowing flight, state by state, seeking true freedom. The narrative weaves the saga of America from the brutal importation of Africans to the unfulfilled promises of the present day. (Amazon)

7. A Bend in the River

Author: V.S. Naipaul

Plot Summary: An uprooted Indian comes to live in an isolated town at the bend of a great river in a newly independent African nation and becomes caught between the modern world and the country's own tenacious past and traditions. (Amazon)

8. The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao

Author: Junot Díaz

Plot Summary: A sweet but overweight "ghetto nerd" from New Jersey dreams of becoming the Dominican J.R.R. Tolkien and finding love. Unfortunately, he feel plagued by the fukú, a curse that has haunted Oscar's family for generations and through their epic journey from Santo Domingo to the USA. (Amazon)

9. The Namesake

Author: Jhumpa Lahiri

Plot Summary: After an arranged wedding, a couple from India settle in Cambridge, Massachusetts. The husband adapts to life in the U.S. while the wife resists all things American and pines for her family. Their child, named for the Russian author Gogol, stumbles with conflicting loyalties, comic detours, and love affairs. (Amazon)

10. A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius

Author: Dave Eggers

Summary: The memoir of a college senior who, in the space of five weeks, loses both of his parents to cancer and inherits his eight-year-old brother. The older brother struggles over his attempts to parent while attempting to lead a normal life as a young adult. Due to his parents' death and his duty to take care of his brother, he feels robbed of his youth, and this fuels his pursuit of sex and irresponsibility. (Amazon and Wikipedia)

Published on: Jan 19, 2017