by David Maraniss
If you meet any of the following criteria, you should read this book:
- You love biographies. For me, the best biographies go beyond a simple exploration of the events in one person's life. They pick you up in the sweep of historical events and take you for a ride. This book makes that grade. On your ride you'll learn about rural America during World War II, tribal politics at the time of Kenya's independence, the political pressures faced by Indonesians in the 1960s, and much more. The common thread is how each of these factors impacted the trajectory of Barack Obama's life. It's a good ride.
- You can look past politics. This book does not judge Obama's performance as president. Rather, it unravels the series of events over the last century, from the ones with global significance to small, chance human encounters, that brought Obama to the Presidency. I believe that even if you are not an Obama fan, or are disillusioned with his performance in office, you will enjoy this book if you can put aside what you think about Obama politically.
- You love a good yarn. Maraniss takes real-life events and gives them a great narrative arc. He constructs his stories in a way that puts you right there alongside the characters.
- You want the cold, hard facts. This book is exhaustively researched. I was amused the first time in the book that Maraniss corrected Barack Obama's own facts about his family history as presented in his memoir, Dreams from my Father. Then it happened a number of other times. Even where Maraniss could have gotten away with cheating a little on his homework, he goes the extra mile to present the truth.
- You don't mind a big book. Barack Obama is big, and the level of detail can at times detract from the quality of the narrative. Clocking in at 571 pages, this book could easily have been slimmed down to a lean, mean 400 and still left the reader satisfied.
- Andy Best