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President Obama's Top Books of 2020

President Obama shares his favorite reads of the year with us—and, of course, we included his own.

Playlist Tags: topic: favorites topic: best of

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Missionaries

A Novel

By Phil Klay
Narrated by: MacLeod Andrews, Cynthia Farrell, Henry Leyva & Anthony Rey Perez
Length: 14 hours 28 minutes

One of President Obama's Favorite Books of the Year
New York Times Notable Book
One of the Wall Street Journal Ten Best Books of the Year

“Mr. Klay’s bravura novel homes in on the ground-level consequences of American interference in Colombia’s ongoing civil war and tumultuous peace process. But the engrossing local conflict is only part of the...
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Sharks in the Time of Saviors

By Kawai Strong Washburn
Narrated by: Jolene Kim, Tui Asau, Kaleo Griffith & G.K. Bowes
Length: 10 hours 37 minutes

Sharks in the Time of Saviors

“Night Marchers, gods, goddesses, and the dead all walk Hawaii with the Flores family, if only they can stop struggling to survive long enough to see them. At seven years old, Nainoa falls into the Pacific only to be brought back to his mother in the mouth of a shark, unharmed and now burdened with the rumor of legend. Noa struggles to understand his gift and what he is supposed to do with it, and each of his family members grapples with their role as well. Every character is imbued with the truths of family and the magic of legend and you will not close this book unchanged. Beautiful and a must read! The readers on Libro.fm grant entrance in to this world with an authenticity difficult to obtain otherwise.”

Cellar Door Books image Linda, Cellar Door Books
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The Ministry for the Future

A Novel

By Kim Stanley Robinson
Narrated by: Jennifer Fitzgerald, Fajer Al-Kaisi, Ramon de Ocampo, Gary Bennett, Raphael Corkhill, Barrie Kreinik, Natasha Soudek, Nikki Massoud, Joniece Abbott Pratt, Inés del Castillo & Vikas Adam
Length: 20 hours 40 minutes

From legendary science fiction author Kim Stanley Robinson comes a remarkable vision of climate change over the coming decades. 

The Ministry for the Future is a masterpiece of the imagination, using fictional eyewitness accounts to tell the story of how climate change will affect us all. Its setting is not a desolate, postapocalyptic world, but... Read more »

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Hidden Valley Road

Inside the Mind of an American Family

By Robert Kolker
Narrated by: Sean Pratt
Length: 13 hours 8 minutes

OPRAH’S BOOK CLUB PICK
#1 NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER
ONE OF THE NEW YORK TIMES TOP TEN BOOKS OF THE YEAR
ONE OF THE WALL STREET JOURNAL TOP TEN BOOKS OF THE YEAR
PEOPLE'S #1 BEST BOOK OF THE YEAR
Named a BEST BOOK OF THE YEAR by The New York TimesThe Washington Post, NPR, TIME, SlateSmithsonian, The New York Post, and Amazon 


The heartrending story...
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The Glass Hotel

A novel

By Emily St. John Mandel
Narrated by: Dylan Moore
Length: 10 hours 28 minutes

The Glass Hotel

“In this ghostly story of ignoring what’s right in front of you, a group of characters try to grapple with what seems like inevitable choices. Mandel’s book is like the glass in the title: her language glitters while offering clarity and reflection, and her characters are like broken shards, mesmerizing in one light and dangerously ordinary in another. Combining the humanity and structure of Station Eleven with the brutal realism of her earlier works, The Glass Hotel is an exceptional novel.”

Porter Square Books image Marika McCoola, Porter Square Books
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The Vanishing Half

A Novel

By Brit Bennett
Narrated by: Shayna Small
Length: 11 hours 33 minutes

The Vanishing Half

“Brit Bennett’s second novel broke my heart. She doesn’t shy away from the sadness inherent in each character’s life, yet she left me feeling better for having met all of them. I read The Vanishing Half with a sense of hope, despite my dread that terrible things might befall the characters. Desiree and Stella’s story unfolds with a deft delicateness in a book that is astonishingly accomplished and sweeping, and yet so very intimate.”

Women & Children First image Jamie Thomas, Women & Children First
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The Undocumented Americans

By Karla Cornejo Villavicencio
Narrated by: Karla Cornejo Villavicencio
Length: 4 hours 53 minutes

NATIONAL BOOK AWARD FINALIST • One of the first undocumented immigrants to graduate from Harvard reveals the hidden lives of her fellow undocumented Americans in this deeply personal and groundbreaking portrait of a nation.

“Karla’s book sheds light on people’s personal experiences and allows their stories to be told and their voices to be... Read more »

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Deacon King Kong

A Novel

By James McBride
Narrated by: Dominic Hoffman
Length: 14 hours 5 minutes

Deacon King Kong

Deacon King Kong is a quintessential New York story. Set in the Brooklyn projects in 1969, a perpetually inebriated deacon called Sportcoat aims a gun at the neighborhood’s main drug dealer in the public plaza and pulls the trigger. Incredibly well-constructed and hilarious at times, McBride’s story entwines a number of storylines that are kickstarted by this central event. The local Italian gangster, the veteran cop, the meddling churchgoers, and the drug pushers all have their own agendas, hopes, and dreams that are affected. And though Sportcoat doesn’t remember his actions and is always under the influence of gut-rot moonshine, I couldn’t help but root for him as I was reading this. His delightful ineptitude and absence of clarity made this book impossible for me to put down. If you’ve never read McBride before, this is a great introduction.”

Novel. image Stuart McCommon, Novel.
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Twilight of Democracy

The Seductive Lure of Authoritarianism

By Anne Applebaum
Narrated by: Anne Applebaum
Length: 5 hours 15 minutes

Named a BEST BOOK OF THE YEAR by The Washington Post and The Financial Times 

"How did our democracy go wrong? This extraordinary document . . . is Applebaum's answer." —Timothy Snyder, author of On Tyranny

A Pulitzer Prize–winning historian explains, with electrifying clarity, why elites in democracies around the world are turning toward...
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Memorial Drive

A Daughter's Memoir

By Natasha Trethewey
Narrated by: Natasha Trethewey
Length: 5 hours 9 minutes

Memorial Drive

“When poets write memoirs, I read them. And this shocking coming-of-age reflection on violence, race and motherless daughters evoked a subtle rage that later boiled and then recoiled in me by the end of the book. I am so grateful to witness Threthewey's survival on the page and in her own voice, as read in the audiobook. Unforgettable. ”

Bookworm of Edwards image Nicole, Bookworm of Edwards
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Long Bright River

A Novel

By Liz Moore
Narrated by: Allyson Ryan
Length: 13 hours 18 minutes

Long Bright River

“This was a great book to listen to on audio. Based in the heart of the opioid epidemic in Philadelphia, this book was well-crafted with very realistic characters that made it feel and read like a memoir. It is suspenseful and unpredictable and kept me guessing (incorrectly) until the end. I recommend this for people looking for a somewhat atypical thriller/suspense story.”

Tattered Cover image Chelsea, Tattered Cover
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How Much of These Hills Is Gold

A Novel

By C Pam Zhang
Narrated by: Joel de la Fuente & Catherine Ho
Length: 9 hours 8 minutes

How Much of These Hills Is Gold

“In post-Gold Rush California, a Chinese-American family struggles to make money to improve their lives. When bad things get even worse, 10 and 11-year old Lucy and Sam take off on a stolen horse and head east, living off the land. Sam takes off on her own, and Lucy ends up in a town but never feels really at home. The two sisters meet up again several years later and decide to try to fulfill their mother's dream—traveling to China where they might finally find Home. With lyrical style that cloaks the narrative of a chain of miserable events in a dream-like quality, Zhang's writing evokes the real sense of alienation that many immigrants and displaced people feel as they search for a place to belong. The writing is beautiful. Recommended.”

Blue Willow Bookshop image Alice, Blue Willow Bookshop
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Luster

A Novel

By Raven Leilani
Narrated by: Ariel Blake
Length: 6 hours 39 minutes

Luster

“Luster is a hand grenade disguised as a coming of age novel. It's everything you want in a bildungsroman -- it's intimate, funny, and daring -- but in Raven Leilani's skilled hands it is also volatile and complex, a profound meditation on the intersection of race and loneliness, a thorny examination of sexuality and trauma, of power and privilege, and the subtle interplay between all of the above. It's also so absorbing and compelling that it's hard not to read it in one sitting. With 4 months to go, this is my favorite book published in 2020 so far.”

The Book Table image Rachel, The Book Table
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The Splendid and the Vile

A Saga of Churchill, Family, and Defiance During the Blitz

By Erik Larson
Narrated by: John Lee & Erik Larson
Length: 17 hours 48 minutes

The Splendid and the Vile

“An excellent account of the darkest hour through the intimate details of the Churchill family, and accounts and diaries of staff and English, German and American leaders and soldiers. Larson expertly shows Churchill's highs and lows and how his oration skills, charisma and spirit buoyed society at the exact right time. Excellent for WWII buffs or if you are new to reading about defining moments of history. Great audiobook!”

Bookworm of Edwards image Karin, Bookworm of Edwards
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Caste (Oprah's Book Club)

The Origins of Our Discontents

By Isabel Wilkerson
Narrated by: Robin Miles
Length: 14 hours 25 minutes

#1 NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER • OPRAH’S BOOK CLUB PICK • NATIONAL BOOK AWARD LONGLIST • “An instant American classic and almost certainly the keynote nonfiction book of the American century thus far.”—Dwight Garner, The New York Times

The Pulitzer Prize–winning, bestselling author of The Warmth of Other Suns examines the unspoken caste system that... Read more »

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Jack (Oprah's Book Club)

A Novel

By Marilynne Robinson
Narrated by: Adam Verner
Length: 10 hours 26 minutes

"Robinson’s slow prose is the star here, and narrator Adam Verner gives great depth of emotion to Jack’s raw suffering and ethical dilemmas...Come for the love story; stay for a couple who learn to find the beauty in broken humanity, and what grace can look like for those who love each other." -- Booklist

This program includes a bonus...

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Homeland Elegies

A Novel

By Ayad Akhtar
Narrated by: Ayad Akhtar
Length: 10 hours 19 minutes

Homeland Elegies

“A masterful blend of memoir and fiction, this is an unforgettable journey through the lives of a Muslim family finding their place in a post-9/11 America. A searing navigation of the loves we try to reconcile — familial, religious, societal — and the definition of home. Written with wisdom, wit, and unsparing honesty, this an important book that you will continue to contemplate for a very long time. Both intimate and epic, this is a must-read.”

East Bay Booksellers image Pam Stirling, East Bay Booksellers
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A Promised Land

By Barack Obama
Narrated by: Barack Obama
Length: 29 hours 9 minutes

A Promised Land

“No one really needs my blurb to help sell this book, but I wanted to give it anyway, especially for the audiobook, narrated by Barack Obama himself. If you want to know his incredible knowledge and wisdom that guided him through major decisions, and also hear him drop a few F-bombs, you need to listen to this fantastically written book. ”

Quail Ridge Books image Amber, Quail Ridge Books
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