Former U.S. President Barack Obama has always had a passion for books.
"I loved reading when I was a kid, partly because I was traveling so much, and there were times where I'd be displaced, I'd be the outsider," Obama told The New York Times in 2017. "The idea of having these worlds that were portable, that were yours, that you could enter into, was appealing to me."
In his role as president, Obama would turn to books for solace. "The ability to slow down and get perspective, along with the ability to get in somebody else's shoes — those two things have been invaluable to me," Obama explained of his penchant for reading.
Now as a private citizen, he's still a voracious reader. In a Facebook post Saturday, Obama shared five non-fiction book titles he is currently reading on topics ranging from economics to political philosophy.
"I'm often asked what I'm reading, watching, and listening to, so I thought I might share a short list," he writes.
These books aren't the only things he's reading, and "It's admittedly a slightly heavier list than what I'll be reading over the summer," Obama says in his post.
Journalist Alex Wagner, who often reported on immigration in her role as a former anchor for MSNBC and current co-host of Showtime's "The Circus," researches her own tangled family history in "Futureface."
For Obama, the 2018 book appeals as a story of self-discovery.
"I once wrote a book on my own search for identity, so I was curious to see what Alex, daughter of a Burmese mother and Iowan Irish-Catholic father — and a friend of mine — discovered during her own," Obama writes. "What she came up with is a thoughtful, beautiful meditation on what makes us who we are."
In his 2012 book, "The New Geography of Jobs," University of California Berkeley economist Enrico Moretti explores the power of location on financial outcomes. For example, he considers why cities like San Jose and Austin have seen economic booms in the last decade, while others have not.
"It's six years old now, but still a timely and smart discussion of how different cities and regions have made a changing economy work for them — and how policymakers can learn from that to lift the circumstances of working Americans everywhere," Obama writes.
University of Notre Dame political philosophy professor Patrick Deneen argues that liberalism — an ideology based on equal rights, free elections and individual choice — is "a system whose success is generating its own failure," in this 2018 book.
While Obama writes that he doesn't hold the same viewpoint as the author, he found the book to be, "thought provoking," he explains. "I don't agree with most of the author's conclusions, but the book offers cogent insights into the loss of meaning and community that many in the West feel, issues that liberal democracies ignore at their own peril."
The history, culture and racial divisions of the American South are up for examination by New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu in his 2018 book, "In the Shadow of Statues," which centers in part on Landrieu's efforts to remove Confederate monuments from New Orleans.
For Obama, the book stirred memories of giving a eulogy for Reverend Clementa C. Pinckney, who was killed in 2015 in the shooting at Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, South Carolina.
"I'll never forget something Clem said while he was alive: 'Across the South, we have a deep appreciation of history. We haven't always had a deep appreciation of each other's history,'" Obama writes. "That's something Mitch takes to heart in this book, while grappling with some of the most painful parts of our history and how they still live in the present. It's an ultimately optimistic take from someone who believes the South will rise again not by reasserting the past, but by transcending it."
In "Truth Decay," published by the Rand Corporation, authors Jennifer Kavanagh and Michael Rich research the trends and converging influences behind society's diminishing interest in the pursuit of truth.
"The title is self-explanatory, but the findings are very interesting," Obama writes. "A look at how a selective sorting of facts and evidence isn't just dishonest, but self-defeating to a society that has always worked best when reasoned debate and practical problem-solving thrive."
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