Love or hate his politics, you can’t deny that President Barack Obama adores children – almost as much as he loves to read. Throughout the years, President Obama has talked about his favorite books he grew up reading in the 1960s and 70s. Most of the books on this list were reported by the Washington Post, after President Obama spoke with a group of students at local library. From comics to classics, I think you’ll see a recurring theme in the books that inspired the 44th President of the United States.
|The Lorax by Dr. Seuss
Forget about Hop on Pop and Cat in the Hat. When President Obama says Dr. Seuss is one of his favorite children’s authors, we’re assuming he means the Seussical tales with deep political messages. It’s pretty easy to see where his concern for the environment may have started, if young Barack was reading The Lorax, back in the day.
|Spder-Man by Stan Lee
In an email encouraging student activism, Obama revealed his childhood love of comic books. “Back in the day, I was pretty into Conan the Barbarian and Spiderman. Anyone who reads comics can tell you, every main character has an origin story — the fateful and usually unexpected sequence of events that made them who they are.”
|The Hardy Boys by Franklin W. Dixon
Teen sleuths, Frank and Joe Hardy have gone through 3 major book revisions since The Hardy Boys detective series was first introduced in the 1920s. Presumably, President Obama grew up reading the 2nd edition that lost much of its previous racial stereotypes. If you want to read the series most current version, try Hardy Boys Casefiles.
|Treasure Island by Robert Louis Stevenson
“X” marks the spot on this book, if you’ve ever wondered where so many of today’s pirate stereotypes came from. A fictional coming-of-age story, you can add all kinds of reading sidetrips to this novel as you wander off exploring real-life pirate facts written into the story.
|Harry Potter by J.K. Rowling
Hogwarts hadn’t been created yet when young Barack was perusing the library for a new read. But, when the President of the free world makes time to read aloud a 7-book series to his daughter while living in the White House, it must be magic.
|The Hobbit by J. R. R. Tolkien
If you’ve already read Harry Potter, then you’ll be certain to enjoy Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings trilogy, as well as The Hobbit – all of which rank high on President Obama’s all-time favorite book list of magical adventures. Bonus points if you track similarities between the Harry Potter series and Tolkien’s original works.
|The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald
Maybe it was a reaction to the austerity of some of his younger years or maybe it was due to his love of jazz, but The Great Gatsby and all its 1920s excess made President Obama’s favorite book list.
|Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck
A classic story of the struggles of disenfranchised folks – and one of the most banned books in American schools.
|For Whom the Bell Tolls by Ernest Hemingway
Without much explanation, President Obama lists this is as one of 3 books that have inspired him most in life. It is a war-time novel of courage and loyalty.
|Song of Solomon by Toni Morrison
An award winning novel – including the Nobel Prize for Literature – the Song of Solomon grapples with African-American identity and relationships within families and the wider world.
|Hamlet and Macbeth by William Shakespeare
Sure, they’re plays rather than novels, but President Obama has noted the significant influence Shakespearean tragedies have had on him. It might be safe to say that “This above all: to thine ownself be true” may have been one bard’s lesson that young Barack has carried with him throughout life. Not sure you have it in you to translate all that Olde Englysh? Check out No Fear Shakespeare for side-by-side text-to-modern-English translations and footnotes.
Did you love them or hate them?