WASHINGTON DC — Freed from the daily pressures of the presidency, Barack Obama seems to have filled the time with reading and music. As he did during his time in office, Obama listed off what books and songs he’s been consuming in a Facebook post Sunday.
“With some extra time on my hands this year to catch up, I wanted to share the books and music that I enjoyed most,” Obama’s post read. “From songs that got me moving to stories that inspired me, here’s my 2017 list — I hope you enjoy it and have a happy and healthy New Year.”
Among his reading selections: politically charged novels like “The Power,” by Naomi Alderman, which depicts a dystopian world where women can emit deadly electrical jolts; and “Exit West,” by Mohsin Hamid, which was shortlisted for the Booker Prize and tells the story of refugees transported from their war-torn country through magical portals.
Obama has also retained his penchant for American non-fiction, like Ron Chernow’s biography of Ulysses S. Grant and Amy Goldstein’s account of the fallout of an automobile plant closing in Janesville, Wisconsin — House Speaker Paul Ryan’s hometown.
Other books on Obama’s list: “Evicted: Poverty and Profit in the American City,” by Matthew Desmond; “Five-Carat Soul,” by James McBride; “Anything Is Possible,” by Elizabeth Strout; “Dying: A Memoir.” by Cory Taylor; “A Gentleman in Moscow,” by Amor Towles; “Sing, Unburied, Sing,” by Jesmyn Ward; and two basketball-centered volumes, “Coach Wooden and Me,” by Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, and “Basketball (and Other Things),” by Shea Serrano.
In addition to reading books this year, Obama has also been writing one. Penguin Random House acquired rights to books by Obama and his wife, former first lady Michelle Obama, in February. They’re expected to be released in 2018,
Both Obama and his predecessor, George W. Bush, regularly released their reading lists while on vacation. Obama’s typically included a mix of literary fiction, biographies and historical accounts. Bush liked to consume presidential biographies, novels and even some young adult titles.
President Donald Trump, who has said he doesn’t have time to read books, has not released similar lists. Like Obama, he’s spent a substantial amount of time at the golf course.
Obama’s music selection, meanwhile, mirrors the hopeful tone he has been striking during a time of political turmoil.
Anthems like Harry Styles’ “Sign of the Times,” Andra Day’s “Rise Up” and U2’s “Ordinary Love,” which was written in honor of Nelson Mandela, are optimistic and reflective — two trademark characteristics of Obama’s own speeches as President.
The former President took to Twitter on Friday to “remind us what’s best about America.”
“As we count down to the new year, we get to reflect and prepare for what’s ahead,” he tweeted. “For all the bad news that seemed to dominate our collective consciousness, there are countless stories from this year that remind us what’s best about America.”
The list also includes tracks from some of Obama’s top supporters, including Kendrick Lamar and Jay-Z — both of whom released two of the top albums of 2017. Jay-Z’s “Family Feud,” in which the rapper confesses his sins to his wife Beyonce, has been going viral this week since the release of the Ava DuVernay-directed video starring Queen Bey herself.
Obama’s selection continues to include a wide variety of non-political favorites, which could be taken as a sign that the former POTUS is still connecting with America’s youth.
Notable selections include songs by R&B break-out star SZA, Young Thug, Travis Scott, Chance the Rapper and DJ Khaled, whose “Wild Thoughts,” featuring Rihanna and Bryson Tiller, which has been an unavoidable party anthem this year.