Barack Obama pays tribute to Toni Morrison in summer reading list

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BERLIN, GERMANY – APRIL 06: Former U.S. President Barack Obama speaks to young leaders from across Europe in a Town Hall-styled session on April 06, 2019 in Berlin, Germany. Obama spoke to several hundred young people from European government, civil society and the private sector about the nitty gritty of achieving positive change in government and society. (Photo by Sean Gallup/Getty Images)

Former President Barack Obama unveiled his much anticipated summer reading list on social media Wednesday, keeping up the tradition he started while in office. He also paid tribute to Nobel laureate and acclaimed author Toni Morrison, who died this month at age 88.

Mr. Obama recommended several works that range from a spy thriller to short stories, but encouraged readers to take on Morrison’s “transcendent” books to begin. 

“To start, you can’t go wrong by reading or re-reading the collected works of Toni Morrison,” he wrote. “Beloved, Song of Solomon, The Bluest Eye, Sula, everything else — they’re transcendent, all of them. You’ll be glad you read them.”

Next, Mr. Obama suggested reading Colson Whitehead’s new novel, “The Nickel Boys.” “Sometimes difficult to swallow, The Nickel Boys by Colson Whitehead is a necessary read, detailing the way Jim Crow and mass incarceration tore apart lives and wrought consequences that ripple into today,” he wrote. 

Also on Mr. Obama’s list: “Men Without Women,” a 2014 short story collection by Japanese writer Haruki Murakami. “Haruki Murakami’s Men Without Women examines what happens to characters without important women in their lives; it’ll move you and confuse you and sometimes leave you with more questions than answers,” he said.

The 44th president also recommended a book that should resonate with a nation divided on how to handle immigration: “You’ll get a better sense of the complexity and redemption within the American immigrant story with Dinaw Mengestu’s novel, How to Read the Air.”

The other works include in his list include: 

  • “Lab Girl,” by Hope Jahren
  • “The Shallows,” by Nicholas Carr
  • “Inland,” by Téa Obreht
  • “American Spy,” by Lauren Wilkinson
  • “Wolf Hall,” by Hilary Mantel
  • “Exhalation,” by Ted Chiang
  • “Maid,” by Stephanie Land

Aside from his annual literature picks, Mr. Obama has largely stayed out the limelight even as the nations political rhetoric ramps up ahead of the 2020 presidential campaign. He and former first lady Michelle Obama are working with Netflix on an array of fiction and non-fiction film and TV projects.

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