No public figure in the 21st century has been as scrutinized, praised and criticized as Barack Obama. No person has ever been so unlikely to be elected president of the United States. Born in Hawaii of a white mother and Kenyan father, the child with the foreign sounding name spent his years in Kenya, Indonesia and Hawaii, moving to New York to earn his degrees at Columbia University and Harvard Law School. His meteoric rise in politics took everyone by surprise. As president, he took on some of the biggest problems America has faced. Seen as a savior by some and a villain by others, Obama continually ranks as the world’s most popular leader.

Scores of volumes have been written about Obama, good and bad, pro and con. Here are 50 books that look, from various perspectives, at one of the most important political figures in American history

#1 – Dreams from My Father: A Story of Race and Inheritance

Barack Obama

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In his autobiography, Barack Obama describes growing up as the son of a black African father and a white American mother. After his father, who he barely knew, was killed in a car crash, the young Obama traveled to Kansas, Hawaii and Kenya in search of his roots and himself. His story is jarring, bittersweet and inspiring.

#2 – The Audacity of Hope: Thoughts on Reclaiming the American Dream

Barack Obama

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At the 2004 Democratic National Convention, a young senator, Barack Obama, introduced “the audacity of hope.” The phrase, and Senator Obama’s speech, struck a chord with Americans. Using the phrase as a springboard, Obama, in this book, calls for a new order in politics, one that includes faith, inclusiveness, honesty and acceptance. While he didn’t achieve his total vision during his eight years as president, The Audacity of Hope remains an inspirational guide to reclaiming the American political system.

#3 – Words That Changed A Nation: The Most Celebrated and Influential Speeches of Barack Obama

Barack Obama

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This is a collection of the 11 of Obama’s most significant speeches. Included is the speech that put him in the national spotlight, “The Audacity of Hope.” Obama has a knack for finding catch phrases and slogans that stick, around which he masterfully winds his carefully crafted addresses. Many of his speeches will stand up with the best presidential speeches in history, including “Take Back America” and “Yes We Can.”

#4 – Of Thee I Sing: A Letter to My Daughters

Barack Obama

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Barack Obama has spent his life encouraging people to find their potential and pursue their dreams. In this letter to his daughters, he includes tributes pioneering courageous Americans such as Georgia O’Keefe, Jackie Robinson and George Washington. He makes it clear that he sees these traits in all American children. It’s illustrated by award-winning artist Loren Long.

#5 – Obama: From Promise to Power

David Mendell

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Chicago Tribune reporter David Mendell has covered Obama since the beginning of his political career. He provides a detailed portrait of Obama based on years of interviews with Obama, family members and advisors. He shows the personal and professional side of a complex, inspirational figure.

#6 – Barack Obama: A Biography

Casey Allen

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In this biography, Allen traces Barack Obama’s childhood, education, his years as a community organizer, attorney, and professor. He details Obama’s years as senator, his presidential victory against John McCain and his efforts and accomplishments during his presidency. It’s a good look at the amazing successes the Obama administration had in the face of constant opposition.

#7 – Renegade: The Making of a President

Richard Wolffe

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Barack Obama rose from a childhood of tragedy and confusion to become the first African American president. Based on Wolffe’s unprecedented access to Obama, Wolffe sets out to get beneath the layers of self-discipline, a quiet personality that some describe as aloof, and a mastery at storytelling. The young, fairly inexperienced senator managed to take on the attacks of McCain and the Clintons in an amazingly successful bid for the White House. Calculated risk-taking, a keen intellect and a trusted inner circle all played important parts in one of America’s greatest success stories.

#8 – Revival: The Struggle for Survival Inside the Obama White House

Richard Wolffe

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Like the Phoenix, Obama has suffered defeat on several occasions and somehow rose from the ashes to attain success. In Revival, reporter Richard Wolffe analyzes the dynamics, quarrels and personalities who shape the Obama administration. The Revivalists wanted to return to the inspirational spirit of the presidential campaign. The Survivalists believed government needed to be set of compromises and combat. In the middle was Obama, cool, calculating and often distant, and bent on overcoming all the forces against him.

#9 – The Message: The Reselling of President Obama

Richard Wolffe

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Gearing up for his race for re-election, President Obama’s popularity was low. The economy had tanked and the hope he had inspired among the American people had faded. Obama’s team had spent years fighting with each other but now knew they had to find a way to repackage the image and the message – the Obama brand. This is the dramatic inside story of repackaging the president and the hard-won success of that gamble. finally found a way to make peace with themselves and work together. His marketers

#10 – The Center Holds: Obama and His Enemies

Jonathan Alter

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In 2012 the GOP had a good chance of controlling all three branches of government and destroying Democratic programs dating back decades. Obama battled big money, conservative media and efforts to suppress Democratic votes. With quiet but Herculean effort, he pulled the country back to the center. Alter tells the dramatic story of the nation at a pivotal point and the election whose success hinged on big data and good strategies. We share Obama’s successes and defeats and see how a simple, clandestine video brought down a major candidate.

#11 – Barack Obama: The Story

David Maraniss

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This biography uses information from hundreds of interviews, including with President Obama and a huge collection of letters, journals, diaries, and other documents. Maraniss follows Obama through his childhood, youth and his struggle to find his identity as a biracial adult. There are good insights into Obama’s character, hopes and his actions. Maraniss is the author of the acclaimed Bill Clinton study, First in His Class.

#12 – The Black Presidency: Barack Obama and the Politics of Race in America

Michael Eric Dyson

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Dyson explores the way the politics of race have shaped Barack Obama’s identity. It explores how he handled the many racial incidents during his presidency and the criticism he took for certain actions. Along with an interview with President Obama, also included are Eric Holder, Al Sharpton, Jesse Jackson, Andrew Young, and Maxine Waters, among others,

#13 – The Worst President in History: The Legacy of Barack Obama

Matt Margolis, Mark Noonan

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The authors contend that as Barack Obama’s presidential failures keep adding up, remembering them all can be a challenge. So they’ve compiled what they contend are Obama’s presidential failures. They include 200 “inconvenient truths” about Obama’s presidency concerning the economy, Obamacare, use of taxpayer dollars. They claim he ignored the Constitution and was responsible for a huge expansion of government power.

#14 – The Obama Victory: How Media, Money, and Message Shaped the 2008 Election

Kate Kenski, Bruce W. Hardy, Kathleen Hall Jamieson

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The authors content that three things helped Barack Obama’ win the 2008 presidential election: well-crafted messages delivered by a strategic use of money and an innovative use of media. One side used the message that McCain was too old. The other side tried to show that Obama was too young and inexperienced. We know who won. This book shows how.

#15 – The Stranger: Barack Obama in the White House

Chuck Todd

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Barack Obama won the presidency in 2008 partly because (like Donald Trump) he was a Washington outsider. Because he was an outsider, he found that it’s not easy to do battle with the insiders, partisans, and old guard networks allied to undermine his agenda—including members of his own party. The author follows Obama’s presidency from the early days of ineffectiveness to his final, triumphant stand against the Republican party.

#16 – Barack Obama: Son of Promise, Child of Hope

Nikki Grimes, Bryan Collier (Illustrator)

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The author says that ever since Barack Obama was young, he was full of hope. He knew he wasn’t quite like anybody else, but through his journeys he found the ability to listen to his inner hope and become a quiet force to bring people together. Nikki Grimes and illustrator Bryan Collier are both winners of the Coretta Scott King Award.

#17 – Alter Egos: Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama, and the Twilight Struggle Over American Power

Mark Landler

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Barack Obama and Hilary Clinton came from completely different backgrounds. Their unlikely alliance created great debates, especially over war and peace. Alter Egos follows their evolution from rivals to partners before they parted ways.

#18 – The Bridge: The Life and Rise of Barack Obama

David Remnick

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Pulitzer Prize-winner David Remnick interviewed friends, teachers, mentors, critics and Obama himself to create a portrait of Barack Obama. Remnick uses the country’s racial history to show how Obama as a young man built on the experiences of an earlier generation of black leaders in his own quest for success.

#19 – Fracture: Barack Obama, the Clintons, and the Racial Divide

Joy-Ann Reid

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MSNBC national correspondent Joy-Ann Reid shows that, despite progress, the U.S. is still a racially divided nation. Reid explores Obama’s complicated relationship with the Clintons and how their different approaches to the issue of race reflect the complexities of the issue within the Democratic party. By focusing on three of the most prominent figures in today’s politics, Reid sheds light on how race may have affected the 2016 election.

#20 – Barack Obama: The Comic Book Biography

J. Scott Campbell, Jeff Marriotte, Tom Morgan

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This comic book traces the-story of Obama from childhood through the first 100 days of his administration as president. The story documents the facts and most relevant details of his first 100 Days in office.

#21 – BARACK OBAMA: LIFE LESSONS: Challenges, solutions and lessons from the first African-American President

Michael Winicott

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Winicott lays out 10 life lessons to learn from America’s 44th president.

Laying the groundwork by reviewing Obama’s life, his communication skills, mastery of rhetoric and ability to inspire, the author presents the life lessons which include: There Is No Barrier Stopping your Way to Success; Strategy to Terminate Crisis; Be Proactive, Be Collaborative and Manage Yourself; Learn from your relationships. Even the Bad Ones; Create Time to be with your Family; Do not let anyone define you.

#22 – The Obamas

Jodi Kantor

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Barack and Michelle Obama planned a White House life that would be as normal and sane as possible. That turned out to be a bit naïve, of course. They were the first black President and First Lady. This book is a detailed, sometimes surprising portrait as the Obamas assumed their new roles, led the country, raised children and maintained relationships around the world.

#23 – Change We Can Believe In: Barack Obama’s Plan to Renew America’s Promise

Barack Obama

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Barack Obama came into the presidency as an outsider with a vision. Here, he bold and specific ideas about how to fix the economy and strengthen the middle class, make health care affordable for all, achieve energy independence, and keep America safe in a dangerous world. It’s an interesting look back on the hope and energy that drove Obama through his two terms.

#24 – The American Journey of Barack Obama

The Editors of Life Magazine

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This volume covers the candidate from his childhood and adolescence to his time as editor of The Harvard Law Review and his Chicago activist years, culminating with the 2008 Democratic National Convention. It includes a foreword by Senator Edward M. Kennedy, a biography and essays by such respected writers as Gay Talese, Charles Johnson, Melissa Fay Greene, Andrei Codrescu, Fay Weldon, Richard Norton Smith, Bob Greene and others.

#25 – Barack Obama: A Pocket Biography of Our 44th President

Steven J. Niven

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This is for anyone interested in a brief introduction to Barack Obama. Steven J. Niven of the W. E. B. Du Bois Institute at Harvard University chronicles Obama’s biography and examines his relationship with race. Included is an introduction by scholar Henry Louis Gates Jr. and a bibliography. It is topped off with a transcript of Obama’s “A More Perfect Union” speech on race in America.

#26 – Barack Obama’s Rules for Revolution: The Alinsky Model

David Horowitz

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Horowitz examines the work of one of Obama’s heroes—radical Chicago “community organizer” Saul Alinsky. The author discusses Alinsky’s work in the 60s and his advice to radicals to seize any weapon to advance their cause. The pamphlet is a bit dated but gives insights on how conservatives viewed the president.

#27 – The Presidential Difference: Leadership Style from FDR to Barack Obama

Fred I. Greenstein

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Greenstein, a keen observer of modern presidency, outlines the presidential qualities that have served presidents well and poorly beginning with Franklin D. Roosevelt’s first 100 days. He argues that emotional intelligence is important in predicting presidential success. Greenstein offers judgments on each of his 13 subjects as well as a theory of why presidents succeed or fail. He assesses President George W. Bush’s two terms and has a chapter on the leadership style of President Obama.

#28 – A Singular Woman: The Untold Story of Barack Obama’s Mother

Janny Scott

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Barack Obama has written extensively about his father, but little is known about Stanley Ann Dunham, the person he credits for what is best in him. Scott interviewed nearly 200 people for this book, which begins in a time when interracial marriage was still a felony in parts of the country. It culminates with Ms. Dunham’s son becoming the most powerful — and popular — leader in the world.

#29 – The Amateur

Edward Klein

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Klein argues that Obama’s combination of incompetence and arrogance ran the nation and his presidency off the rails. The rather subjective book includes sections about the Obama administration’s political inner workings and Barack and Michelle’s personal lives. Klein says that Michelle wields an inordinate influence over her husband. Published in 2012, the book presents Obama as a president whose ignorance and incompetence sabotaged himself, his presidency, and America.

#30 – The Executive Orders of Barack Obama Vol. I: The Complete Executive Orders Of President Barack Obama’s First Year

Meryl K. Janes

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This a cut-and-dried presentation of what Obama actually did during his first year as president, shown through his executive orders. This is about as real and objective as it gets.

#31 Barack Obama and the New America: The 2012 Election and the Changing Face of Politics

Larry J. Sabato, Editor

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This  book falls into the category of history now. Sabato collaborated with journalists and academics from across the political spectrum to examine aspects of the 2012 election, and what they thought it would mean for the nation. The essayists also speculate on the future of both the Democratic and Republican parties, and what recent geographic and demographic electoral realignments might mean for America’s politics. It’s interesting to look back and see who was right and who missed the boat.

#32 – Barack Obama and the Future of American Politics

Paul Street

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To many, Obama stood as a symbol for a hopeful future for America. He was the outsider. Street feels that under the carefully crafted Obama persona is a person who still stayed close to the traditional power structures and party doctrines. Within these structures, Street suggests ways Obama could have advanced democratic progress.

#33 – Barack Obama, Abraham Lincoln, and the Structure of Reason

David Hirsch, Dan Van Haften

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In January 2011, President Obama completely changed the structure of his speeches. The authors show how President Obama’s 2011 speeches have the same structure used by Abraham Lincoln in most of his great speeches, including The Gettysburg Address. They analyze Obama’s speeches and demonstrate how structure conveys meaning. This book explains the structure and technique of these speeches.

#34 – Yes We Can: A Biography of President Barack Obama

Garen Thomas

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In kindergarten, Barack Obama wrote an essay titled, “I Want to Become President.” Garen Thomas takes surveys throughout Obama’s life, from his struggle to fit in with classmates, and concern about not knowing his biological father, through his term as an Illinois senator, and his long, victorious campaign to become president.

#35 – Michelle Obama: A Life

Peter Slevin

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Michelle Obama’s story is one of obstacles, strength and determination. She grew up in a working-class family on Chicago’s largely segregated South Side. She studied at Princeton University and Harvard Law School during the racially charged 1980s. She built a successful career of her own, then supported her husband in his race for the presidency. This is a detailed portrait of a unique and determined professional woman, wife and mother.

#36 – The Faith of Barack Obama

Stephen Mansfield

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Mansfield explores the claims of Obama’s detractors and supporters alike, while examining how the challenges of the presidency have helped shaped Obama’s religious beliefs. We see Obama’s friendship with the controversial Jeremiah Wright and profiles of the Christian leaders who have offered guidance and support to the president.
Mansfield explains the faith elements within Obama’s politics, while acknowledging the questions about his beliefs that remain unanswered.

#37 – Barack Obama: The Burden of His Kenyan Roots

David Karanja

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Barack Obama’s extended family has attracted considerable debate in the United States. The debate has mostly focused on the birther movement, fueled by Donald Trump, which claims that Obama was not born in the U.S. Karanja, a Kenyan journalist, looks at the nuances of the Obama-Kenya relations and the burden that Obama carries because of his Kenyan roots.

#38 – A Slobbering Love Affair: The True (And Pathetic) Story of the Torrid Romance Between Barack Obama and the Mainstream Media

Bernard Goldberg

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Goldberg details how the left -leaning media moved from media bias to media activism in the 2008 presidential election campaign. The New York Times bestselling author says that the media ignored, downplayed, or sanitized the rantings of the Reverend Jeremiah Wright, Obama’s long-standing “spiritual” adviser, and the radicalism of Bill Ayers. Goldberg argues that the mainstream media’s surrender of integrity could endanger democracy.

#39 – I Am the Change: Barack Obama and the Future of Liberalism

Charles R. Kesler

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Kesler contends that Obama’s political thought shows that he represents either a new birth of liberalism—or its demise. Blending philosophy, psychology, and history, Kesler analyzes Obama’s writings, speeches, and interviews. Kesler sees Obama as a gifted and intelligent progressive who worked to become the greatest president in the history of modern liberalism. He argues that while Obama tried to revive the liberal faith, he failed to understand its fatal contradictions.

#40 – Barack Obama: The Making of a President

Dawne Allette

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This biography, supplemented with Obama’s own writings, traces the people, places and experiences that helped make Obama the most powerful man in the world. His story runs from Kenya to Hawaii and Indonesia to Chicago, embracing many cultures. It also reaches from the past to the present, with photographs of Obama growing up and a timeline of significant events in black history.

#41 – Fast and Furious: Barack Obama’s Bloodiest Scandal and the Shameless Cover-Up

Katie Pavlich

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For a time, Operation Fast and Furious was a large scandal. It included the killing of Border Patrol Agent Brian Terry, who was gunned down with a weapon that the federal government put in the hands of Mexico’s narco-terrorists. Pavlich explains just what this operation conducted by the ATF, under the supervision of the Justice Department, entailed. It also digs into the cover-up of wrongdoing by the Obama administration. She reveals the documents that undermine the White House’s claims of ignorance about Fast and Furious. She shows how Attorney General Eric Holder, under oath, repeatedly changed his testimony. She looks at the death toll from Fast and Furious and the retaliation against Fast and Furious whistle-blowers. This book provides a good look at a scandal that the Obama administration would probably rather forget.

#42 – Barack Obama: This Improbable Quest

John K. Wilson

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Obama was the first presidential candidate from Generation X. Young people supported him as he skillfully outlined a new kind of progressive politics. This biography looks at Obama’s ideas about race, religion and politics. It also looks at reaction to Obama from the left and right, as well as the media.

#43 – Barack Obama:2008 Presidential Campaign Speeches

Barack Obama

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It’s generally agreed, whether you agree with him or not, that Barack Obama is a skillful orator and communicator. This book includes his speeches that address universal health care, the Iraq war, energy independence and his famous A More Perfect Union speech. Many of these will be studied for generations to come, alongside those of Lincoln.

#44 – The Obamians: The Struggle Inside the White House to Redefine American Power

James Mann

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Mann looks at the Obama administration’s efforts to enact policies in a time of global turmoil. At the center of this struggle were the generational conflicts between traditional Democratics — such as Robert Gates, Hillary Clinton, and Joe Biden—and Obama and his circle of young advisers.

#45 – Obama and China’s Rise: An Insider’s Account of America’s Asia Strategy

Jeffrey A. Bader

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Jeffrey Bader was a diplomat and Asia analyst. He was named the senior director for East Asian affairs on the National Security Council under Obama. Bader explains the administration’s efforts to develop solid relations with China while improving relationships with international partners worried about Beijing’s assertiveness. This is an insider’s explanation of the creation of American foreign policy during these years.

#46 – The Oath: The Obama White House and the Supreme Court

Jeffrey Toobin

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Toobin looks at the confrontational relationship between the John Roberts Supreme Court and the Obama administration. Both men were young, brilliant, charismatic, and disagreed with each other on almost every major constitutional issue. The battles were long and the stakes were high. This is a behind-the-scenes study of a battle of American ideals.

#47 – The Best “Worst President”: What the Right Gets Wrong About Barack Obama

Mark Hannah, Bob Staake (Illustrator)

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Political analyst Mark Hannah and renowned New Yorker illustrator Bob Staake debunk conservative lies and disinformation meant to negate the president’s accomplishments over his two terms. The authors highlight the administration’s often underappreciated triumphs, including stabilizing the economy and restoring America’s respect around the world.

#48 – Blood Feud: The Clintons vs. the Obamas

Edward Klein

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Klein, former New York Times Magazine editor-in-chief, studies the often tumultuous relationship between the Obamas and Clintons. It’s a Shakespearean tale rife with animosity, jealousy, and competition between America’s two most powerful, skillful and determined political couples

#49 – BARACK OBAMA: LIFE LESSONS: Challenges, solutions and lessons from the first African-American President

Michael Winicott

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This book itemizes 10 life lessons to learn from Barack Obama. It begins with a brief overview of his life story, ranging from the often challenging circumstances of his birth and early life to being elected president. Whether or not you supported Obama, it’s hard to deny his polished speaking style, uplifting rhetoric, and his ability to create enthusiasm among young voters.

#50 – Barack Obama: Out of Many, One

Shana Corey, James Bernardin

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This is a book for children who are ready to read on their own. Young readers can learn how the love from Obama’s mother and grandparents shaped him; the influence of the places where he lived; and how he turned his feeling of being an outsider into a positive force that put him on the path to the presidency.

Other Books of Interest

  • Black Man, White House: An Oral History of the Obama Years – D. L. Hughley
  • Inaugural Presidential Address Official Transcript Kindle Edition -Barack Obama
  • The Complete Obama Timeline – Volume 19

If you’ve enjoyed your list of 50 books about Barack Obama, you may also like: Top 10 Books About the American Dream