Wednesday, November 19, 2008

The American Journey of Barack Obama

Little, Brown and Company was kind enough to send a copy of The American Journey of Barack Obama, by the editors of Life Magazine. I was really excited about this book purely for the gorgeous photographs. It's an oversized book--coffee table sized--with glossy photos throughout. I've always been fond of the dramatic shots of Obama that I see on news programming, so I was banking on a keepsake to remember the years between the 2004 Democratic National Convention--Obama's coming out party--and the 2008 election.

Given my voracious reading about Obama to this point, I never expected this book to actually give any new biographical information. It's an account from his childhood right on up to the time before the election, and I was delighted to learn a wealth of new information.

I found this book gave a much broader view of Obama's father's side of the family than what I've read before. His father, Barack Obama, Sr., was married multiple times...married when he took up with Obama's mother, Ann, as a matter of fact. Polygamy was not unusual in Kenya, and Obama's mother seemed not to have much of a problem with it at first. It was unclear to me if Obama, Sr.'s marriage would've been considered legal in the U.S., but ultimately Ann would have a big problem with the situation and the distance between the two as Obama, Sr. left her in Hawaii to pursue a PhD on the east coast. I was also unaware just how many half brothers and sisters Obama has in Africa, and it was nice to learn more about his relationships with those relatives.

Given the ongoing excitement about Obama since the 2004 Democratic National Convention I expected this book to be mostly roses and daisies. Ultimately I found it a very fair account of his life in politics including his failings and flounderings along the way. The book was quick to point out his underdog status in the early stages of the primaries when Obama's lack of experience was expected to be a detriment to his campaign.

One of the meatiest and most telling portions of the book is a collection of essays about Obama from some fantastic writers including Gay Talese, Charles Johnson, Melissa Fay Greene, Andrei Codrescu, Fay Weldon, Richard Norton Smith, Bob Greene, and others. They're dense, they're funny, they're thoughtful. They're all very telling and make a nice accompaniment to Obama's life in pictures.

If you're in the market for a keepsake or a deeper understanding of the life of our 44th President, I would highly recommend this book for the stunning photos, quality construction, and the story between the covers. You'll have a nice souvenir and a good biography.

This is my first book for the U.S. Presidents Reading Project.

10 comments:

  1. I got a copy of this in one of my Hachette Books wins. It's near the top of the list of books I want to read soon. Ish. Soonish.

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  2. LOL, you're quick with that "ish," but I understand. I'm an "isher" myself.

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  3. What a great book to start the project with! :-) BTW-I'm glad I'm not alone in thinking Washington seemed to be a jerk.

    Lezlie

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  4. I thought it was a good way to kick off, Lezlie! As for Washington...SUCH a jerk! He strikes me as one of those guys that it took a reallyyyy long time to grow up. lol

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  5. Oh! I forgot to tell you, if you want to, you can leave a link to your review in the comments on the Obama page of the Presidents Project site. There aren't any review links on the site at all yet.

    Lezlie

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  6. Awesome! I'm gonna check this book out!! Great synopsis Andi.

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  7. Lezlie, done! :)

    Funky, I hope you like it! It's gorgeous.

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  8. Hey! I just read this book Friday. It's still sitting here next to me on my couch. :)

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  9. Woohoo, Dewey! Great minds think alike, right? :)

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  10. This sounds teriffic! I'll admit to browsing through the photos at the store (amazing!) but didn't check out the text. Thanks for the review.

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