Candidate Barack Obama revealed himself to be one of the most read people running for President in 2008 when he revealed some of the books and writers he called most significant to him to the New York Times. Here are five of the books we think are some of his best recommendations.
Wealth of Nations by Adam Smith
One of the classic books of all time, Wealth of Nations is perhaps the most famous work of Adam Smith, one of the most famous economists of all time. Wealth of Nations is a book that explores the origin and uses of money, how money relates to labor, and nearly every other topic that relates to how an economy is developed in a modern nation. Smith was writing right around the time of the Industrial Revolution, from Scotland during the period of the Scottish Agricultural Revolution. It is interesting that Obama chose this book because Adam Smith is not as progressive as many of the other economic writers chosen by Obama.
All the King’s Men by Robert Penn Warren
You know your book is pretty good when it wins a Pulitzer Prize and gets made into a movie twice. That is exactly what happened to Robert Penn Warren’s All the King’s Men which tells the story of a socialist Governor’s rise to power in the south in the 1930s. The main character in the book starts out as an uninspiring lawyer but ultimately morphs into a powerful and incredibly corrupt governor. The first movie adaptation of the book was so well received that it won three Oscars, so you can’t go too wrong whether you choose to watch the movie or read the book like President Obama did.
For Whom the Bell Tolls by Ernest Hemingway
One of the most famous works by Ernest Hemingway, perhaps the most famous American writer of all time, For Whom the Bell Tolls is a classic story about the Spanish Civil war, written from the perspective of an American who was living there at the time and fought against Franco’s forces. One of the most horrible and frequently forgotten wars of the 20th century, the pain of the Spanish civil war has appeared in the art of many of the most spectacular artists such as this hemingway book or Pablo Picasso’s guernica.
The Souls of Black Folk by W. E. B. Du Bois
W. E. B. Du Bois is one of the most important writers on African American identity. The Souls of Black Folk covers everything from 19th century history, to the founding of HBCUs, to foundational problems in society that cause some of the many disparities seen between the caucasian and African American communities in the United States. The Souls of Black Folk is an interesting read and it clearly captured at least some of the lived experience of President Obama for him to throw it on his list.
The Power and the Glory by Graham Greene
British novelist Graham Greene surprisingly made several appearances on Obama’s lists and clearly is a writer the President and then candidate appreciates. The Power and the Glory is an interesting book about a Roman Catholic priest living in the Mexican state of Tabasco at a time in the 1930s when the government in Mexico was trying to suppress the practice of Catholicism. It is a bit hard to guess why this book and author were so intriguing to the President, but it is an interesting read nonetheless.