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Michelle Obama: By the Book

Category: Art & Culture,Books

Are you a rereader? What books do you return to again and again?

I guess the answer is both yes and no. For most of my adult life, I haven’t had a lot of time to reread books, no matter how much I loved them. My days were scheduled down to the minute in the White House, but even before then, I was balancing a demanding career with two little girls and a husband who was often traveling back and forth to Washington, D.C., or the Illinois State Capitol. So, with limited reading time, I preferred to read new books.

But even with all of that said, yes, there are a few books that I’ve read more than once. When my daughters were younger, I tagged along with some of the books they’d been reading in class. For instance, I’ve now read Toni Morrison’s “Song of Solomon” three times. I reread “The Grapes of Wrath” and “Life of Pi” with the girls, too. Now that they’re older, we do less of it, but it was nice for a while to have a little Obama family book club.

What genres do you especially enjoy reading?

I’m pretty open to any form — I just want it to be good. I find that I often gravitate to fiction, books where I can lose myself in a new world. I’ve spent a large part of the last decade reading briefing materials and studying up on issues like global girls’ education, children’s health or military family policies. Those are all interesting topics to me, of course, but when I get time to read on my own, I prefer something that provides a bit of an escape. That said, I don’t need to escape too much — I’m not looking to travel to outer space or a fantasy world. Science fiction isn’t really for me.

Thankfully, I have a collection of reader-friends who keep me abreast of all the latest books and up-and-coming writers. My chief of staff is always in the middle of a new book, and of course Barack still devours books like he has since I met him. So that means I’m never really at a loss for suggestions on what to read next.

So what are you reading next?

“Educated,” by Tara Westover. This one came from Barack. I actually just finished it, and it is as phenomenal as he — and everyone else — says it is. It’s an engrossing read, a fresh perspective on the power of an education, and it’s also a testament to the way grit and resilience can shape our lives. Also, since I’ve just finished a memoir of my own, I love to see how people choose to tell their own story — the small moments that tell larger truths, the character development, the courage it takes to tell a story fully. Tara’s upbringing was so different from my own, but learning about her world gave me insight into lives and experiences that weren’t a part of my own journey. To me, it’s an example of the extraordinary power of storytelling.


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