A Promised Land

Random House Audio. 2020. 768p. 29:10 hrs. ISBN 9780525633716. $65. MEMOIR
In the first volume of his presidential memoirs, Obama shares, in great detail, the story behind his historic run and first term as the first Black president of the United States. Beginning with his early years in Hawaii with his maternal grandparents and mother, Obama gives a glimpse into his inner world and his mind. He recounts the stories behind the headlines of his first presidential campaign, and the challenges, missteps, and successes of his first term. Listeners will learn what he thinks about the people who shaped and inspired him over the years, from his family and close friends, to his advisors, political allies, and adversaries. Obama’s narration moves the story along quickly, through various events that marked his first administration: the economic crisis, the passage of the landmark Affordable Care Act (also known as Obamacare), Wall Street reform, climate change action, and the killing of Osama bin Laden. His effort to put situations into historical context can sometimes drag down the narrative’s momentum. He readily admits, “A more gifted writer could have found a way to tell the same story with greater brevity,” but he didn’t want to “relegate that background to footnotes or endnotes.” Always a master orator, Obama reads his memoir with perfect cadence and intonation and captivates his audience; this skill helps guide listeners through the 29 hours of the audiobook.
VERDICT Although it’s lengthy, this memoir is a must-have for any collection. Obama successfully carries out the task he set himself for this volume: to “offer readers a sense of what it’s like to be the president of the United States.”
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