86 Books Barack Obama Recommended During His Presidency

Getty Images
Getty Images

The entries were pulled from places like Obama’s summer reading lists, his childhood favorites, and recommendations made for his daughter, Malia. They include plenty of classics such as One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel García Márquez and The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald as well as many contemporary works. And, of course, he made time to brush up on the lives of his predecessors, reading biographies of John Adams, Theodore Roosevelt, and Abraham Lincoln.

In an interview with WIRED last year, President Obama cited several titles that significantly shaped him, including: The Collected Works of Abraham Lincoln; The Power Broker: Robert Moses and the Fall of New York by Robert A. Caro; The Fire Next Time by James Baldwin; Andy Grove: The Life and Times of an American by Richard S. Tedlow; Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind by Yuval Noah Harari; Thinking, Fast and Slow by Daniel Kahneman; The Sixth Extinction: An Unnatural History by Elizabeth Kolbert; In Dubious Battle by John Steinbeck; and Behind the Beautiful Forevers: Life, Death, and Hope in a Mumbai Undercity by Katherine Boo. They’re just a fraction of the full list, but WIRED calculated that it would take the typical reader 89 hours to get through those 10 books alone. Let’s see if you can finish all 86 in time for our country’s next Inauguration Day.

1. The Naked and the Dead, Norman Mailer
2. One Hundred Years of Solitude, Gabriel García Márquez
3. The Golden Notebook, Doris Lessing
4. The Woman Warrior, Maxine Hong Kingston
5. Brown Girl Dreaming, Jacqueline Woodson
6. Heart of Darkness, Joseph Conrad
7. Nora Webster, Colm Toibin
8. The Laughing Monsters, Denis Johnson
9. Age of Ambition: Chasing Fortune, Truth and Faith in the New China, Evan Osnos
10. Being Mortal: Medicine and What Matters in the End, Dr. Atul Gawande
11. Cartwheeling in Thunderstorms, Katherine Rundell
12. The Narrow Road to the Deep North, Richard Flanagan
13. Redwall series, Brian Jacques
14. Junie B. Jones series, Barbara Park
15. Nuts To You, Lynn Rae Perkins
16. Barbarian Days: A Surfing Life, William Finnegan
17. H Is for Hawk, Helen Macdonald
18. The Girl on the Train, Paula Hawkins
19. Seveneves, Neal Stephenson
20. The Underground Railroad, Colson Whitehead
21. All That Is, James Salter
22. The Sixth Extinction, Elizabeth Kolbert
23. The Lowland, Jhumpa Lahiri
24. Between the World and Me, Ta-Nehisi Coates
25. Washington: A Life, Ron Chernow
26. All the Light We Cannot See, Anthony Doerr
27. Treasure Island, Robert Louis Stevenson
28. Of Mice and Men, John Steinbeck
29. The Great Gatsby, F. Scott Fitzgerald
30. Where the Wild Things Are, Maurice Sendak
31. Moby Dick, Herman Melville
32. Self-Reliance, Ralph Waldo Emerson
33. Song Of Solomon, Toni Morrison
34. Parting The Waters, Taylor Branch
35. Gilead, Marylinne Robinson
36. Best and the Brightest, David Halberstam
37. The Federalist, Alexander Hamilton
38. Souls of Black Folk, W.E.B. Du Bois
39. The Power and the Glory, Graham Greene
40. The Quiet American, Graham Greene
41. Cancer Ward, Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn
42. Gandhi’s autobiography
43. Working, Studs Terkel
44. Wealth of Nations, Adam Smith
45. Theory of Moral Sentiments, Adam Smith
46. All the King’s Men, Robert Penn Warren
47. Cutting for Stone, Abraham Verghese
48. To the End of the Land, David Grossman
49. Purity, Jonathan Franzen
50. A Bend in the River, V. S. Naipau
51. Fates and Furies, Lauren Groff
52. Lush Life, Richard Price
53. Netherland, Joseph O’Neill
54. Two Years Eight Months and Twenty-Eight Nights, Salman Rushdie
55. Redeployment, Phil Klay
56. Invisible Man, Ralph Ellison
57. Plainsong, Kent Haruf
58. The Way Home, George Pelecanos
59. What Is the What, Dave Eggers
60. Philosophy & Literature, Peter S. Thompson
61. Collected Poems, Derek Walcott
62. In Dubious Battle, John Steinbeck
63. Gone Girl, Gillian Flynn
64. The Three-Body Problem, Liu Cixin
65. Harry Potter series, J.K. Rowling
66. The Rise of Theodore Roosevelt, Edmund Morris
67. John Adams, David McCullough
68. Lincoln: The Biography of a Writer, Fred Kaplan
69. Defining Moment: FDR’s Hundred Days and the Triumph of Hope, Jonathan Alte
70. FDR, Jean Edward Smith
71. Team of Rivals: The Political Genius of Abraham Lincoln, Doris Kearns Goodwin
72. The Collected Works of Abraham Lincoln
73. Hot, Flat, and Crowded: Why We Need a Green Revolution and How It Can Renew America, Thomas L. Friedman
74. Ghost Wars: The Secret History of the CIA, Afghanistan, and Bin Laden, from the Soviet Invasion to September 10, 2001, Steve Coll
75. Unequal Democracy: The Political Economy of the New Gilded Age, Larry Bartels
76. The Power Broker: Robert Moses and the Fall of New York, Robert A. Caro
77. Age of Ambition: Chasing Fortune, Evan Osnos
78. Thinking, Fast and Slow, Daniel Kahneman
79. Moral Man And Immoral Society, Reinhold Niebuhr
80. A Kind And Just Parent, William Ayers
81. The Post-American World, Fareed Zakaria
82. Lessons in Disaster, Gordon Goldstein
83. Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind, Yuval Noah Harari
84. The Fire Next Time, James Baldwin
85. Andy Grove: The Life and Times of an American, Richard S. Tedlow
86. Behind the Beautiful Forevers: Life, Death, and Hope in a Mumbai Undercity, Katherine Boo

[h/t Entertainment Weekly]

10 Amazing Facts About Harriet Beecher Stowe

Public Domain, Wikimedia Commons
Public Domain, Wikimedia Commons

Over 41 issues, Harriet Beecher Stowe’s novel Uncle Tom's Cabin was published as a serial in the abolitionist newspaper The National Era, the first installment on June 5, 1851. It was first followed by a only small group but its audience steadily grew as the story unfolded.

“Wherever I went among the friends of the Era, I found Uncle Tom’s Cabin a theme for admiring remark,” journalist and social critic Grace Greenwood wrote in a travelogue published in the Era. “[E]verywhere I went, I saw it read with pleasant smiles and irrepressible tears.’” The story was discussed in other abolitionist publications, such as Frederick Douglass’s Paper, and helped sell $2 annual subscriptions to the Era.

The popularity of Uncle Tom’s Cabin exploded once it was made available in a more accessible format. Some publishers claim the book edition is the second best-selling title of the 19th century, after the Bible.

1. Harriet Beecher Stowe's father and all seven of her brothers were ministers.

Harriet Elisabeth Beecher was born on June 14, 1811, in Litchfield, Connecticut. Her mother, Roxana Beecher, died five years later. Over the course of two marriages, her father, Calvinist preacher Lyman Beecher, fathered 13 children, 11 of whom survived into adulthood. He preached loudly against slavery. All seven of his sons followed him into the ministry. Henry Ward Beecher carried on his father’s abolitionist mission and according to legend sent rifles to anti-slavery settlers in Kansas and Nebraska in crates marked “Bibles.”

The women of the Beecher family were also encouraged to rise to positions of influence and rally against injustice. Eldest child Catharine Beecher co-founded the Hartford Female Seminary and Isabella Beecher Hooker was a prominent suffragist.

2. The Fugitive Slave Act—and a surprise $100 gift—inspired Uncle Tom's Cabin.

In 1832, Harriet Beecher moved to Cincinnati with her father, who assumed the presidency of Lane Theological Seminary. According to Harriet Beecher Stowe: A Life by Joan D. Hedrick, the Ohio city introduced her to former slaves and African-American freemen and there she first practiced writing, in a literary group called the Semi-Colon Club.

She married Calvin Ellis Stowe, a professor at Lane, and eventually relocated to Brunswick, Maine, when he went to work at Bowdoin College. By then, Stowe had published two books, Primary Geography for Children and the short story collection New England Sketches. She was also a contributor to newspapers supporting temperance and abolitionism, writing “sketches,” brief descriptive stories meant to illustrate a political point.

Following a positive response to her The Freeman’s Dream: A Parable, Gamaliel Bailey, editor of the anti-slavery paper The National Era, sent her $100 to encourage her to continue supplying the paper with material. The 1850 passage of the Fugitive Slave Act, obligating authorities in free states to re-enslave refugees, took the slavery fight northward. It also encouraged Stowe to step up her game.

“I am at present occupied upon a story which will be a much longer one than any I have ever written,” Beecher Stowe wrote in a letter to Bailey, “embracing a series of sketches which give the lights and shadows of the ‘patriarchal institution’ [of slavery], written either from observation, incidents which have occurred in the sphere of my personal knowledge, or in the knowledge of my friends.” For material, she scoured the written accounts belayed by escaped slaves.

3. Uncle Tom's Cabin made her rich and famous.

According to Henry Louis Gate Jr.’s introduction to the annotated edition of Uncle Tom's Cabin, The National Era paid Stowe $300 for 43 chapters. Before the serial’s completion, Stowe signed a contract with John P. Jewett and Co. to publish a two-volume bound book edition, and that’s when it really took off. Released on March 20, 1852, the book sold 10,000 copies in the U.S. in its first week and 300,000 in the first year. In the U.K., 1.5 million copies flew off the shelves in the first year. Stowe was paid 10 cents for each one sold. According to a London Times article published six months after the book’s release, she had already amassed $10,000 in royalties. “We believe [that this is] the largest sum of money ever received by any author, either American or European, from the sales of a single work in so short a period of time,” the Times stated.

4. She went to court to stop an unauthorized translation of Uncle Tom's Cabin ... and lost.

Immediately after Uncle Tom’s Cabin became a literary sensation, a Philadelphia-based German-language paper, Die Freie Presse, began publishing an unauthorized translation. Stowe took the publisher, F.W. Thomas, to court. American copyright laws were notoriously weak at the time, irking British writers whose work was widely pirated. As someone who overnight became America’s favorite author, Stowe had much at stake testing them.

The case put her in the Philadelphia courtroom of Justice Robert Grier, a notorious enforcer of the Fugitive Slave Act. “By the publication of Mrs. Stowe's book, the creations of the genius and imagination of the author have become as much public property as those of Homer or Cervantes,” Grier ruled. The precedent set by Stowe vs. Thomas meant that authors had the right to prevent others from printing their exact words, but almost nothing else. “All her conceptions and inventions may be used and abused by imitators, play-rights and poet-asters,” ruled Grier.

5. Beecher Stowe visited Abraham Lincoln.

Though Stowe had criticized what she saw as his slowness in emancipation and willingness to seek compromise to prevent succession, Stowe visited President Abraham Lincoln at the White House in 1862, during the early days of the Civil War. Reportedly, Lincoln greeted her with, “So this is the little woman who brought on this big Civil War,” but scholars have dismissed the quote as Stowe family legend spread after her death.

Details of their conversation are limited to vague entries in their respective diaries. Lincoln may have bantered with her over his love of open fires (“I always had one to home,” he reportedly said), while Stowe got down to business and quizzed him: “Mr. Lincoln, I want to ask you about your views on emancipation.”

6. Beecher Stowe wrote a lot of things that weren't Uncle Tom's Cabin.

Stowe wrote more than 30 books, both fiction and nonfiction, plus essays, poems, articles, and hymns.

7. The Stowes wintered in the former slave state of Florida.

The influx of wealth from Uncle Tom’s Cabin and the end of the Civil War allowed the Stowes to purchase a winter home in Mandarin, Florida, in 1867. It may have seemed strange—and perilous—for a famous anti-slavery crusader to buy 30 acres in a former slave state so soon after the war, yet six years after the purchase, she wrote to a local newspaper, “In all this time I have not received even an incivility from any native Floridian.”

8. Beecher Stowe and Mark Twain were neighbors.

The Stowes’ primary residence, beginning in 1864, was a villa in the Nook Farm section of Hartford, Connecticut, a neighborhood populated by prominent citizens, including Mark Twain. The homes of Nook Farm had few fences, and doors stayed open in sunny weather, creating an air of gentility. That did not prevent Twain from writing a somewhat unflattering portrait of Stowe, as she gave way to what was probably Alzheimer’s disease, in his autobiography:

“Mrs. Harriet Beecher Stowe who was a near neighbor of ours in Hartford, with no fence between. In those days she made as much use of our grounds as of her own in pleasant weather. Her mind had decayed, and she was a pathetic figure. She wandered about all the day long in the care of a muscular Irishwoman, assigned to her as a guardian.”

9. Beecher Stowe outlived four of her seven children.

While continuing a lucrative and prolific writing career, Stowe birthed and cared for seven children. When she passed away in 85 in 1896, she had outlived four of them, as bad fortune seemed to follow their offspring.

Their third, Henry, drowned in a swimming accident in 1857. The fourth, Frederick, mysteriously disappeared en route to California in 1870. The fifth, Georgiana, died from septicemia, probably related to morphine in 1890. (She was an addict.) The sixth, Samuel, died from cholera in infancy in 1849. These losses informed several of Stowe’s works.

10. There are several Harriet Beecher Stowe houses you can visit.

The Harriet Beecher Stowe House of Cincinnati is where she lived after following her father to Lane. The Harriet Beecher Stowe House on the campus of Bowdoin in Brunswick, Maine, is where she wrote Uncle Tom’s Cabin. It became a restaurant from 1946 to 1998 and is now a faculty office building, but one room is open to the public and dedicated to Stowe. The Harriet Beecher Stowe Center preserves her home in Hartford. Her home in Florida is gone but is marked by a plaque.

The Hidden Meaning Behind the Colors of Each of Harry Potter's Hogwarts Houses

Daniel Radcliffe and Emma Watson in Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire (2005).
Daniel Radcliffe and Emma Watson in Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire (2005).
© 2005 Warner Bros. Ent. Harry Potter Publishing Rights J.K.R.

Even 12 years after the publication of the last Harry Potter novel, fans are still trying to decipher hidden meanings within J.K. Rowling’s magical world. While young witches and wizards were sorted into Hogwarts’s four houses, fans attached associations to each group. There are some obvious ones, like Slytherin’s connection to the snake, but many fans may have missed the deeper meaning within the colors of each house.

As reported by Reader’s Digest, Rowling chimed in on Pottermore to clue us in on what the colors mean. “The four Hogwarts houses have a loose association with the four elements, and their colors were chosen accordingly,” the site reads.

Gryffindor, with its red and gold colors, has a connection with fire. Slytherin, which is green and silver, symbolizes water, while Hufflepuff, which is yellow and black, is connected to the Earth. And Ravenclaw, with its blue and bronze hues, is associated with the sky.

Fans have expanded on the houses’ color symbolism even further. On mugglenet.com, one fan commented on the metallic associations with three of the four houses and how Rowling might’ve used this as foreshadowing. Gryffindor is gold, Slytherin is silver and Ravenclaw is bronze. And in the final feast at the end of Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone (or Philosopher's Stone, outside of America), Dumbledore adjusts the houses’ points: “Gryffindor comes out on top with 482, with Slytherin in second place with 472, Ravenclaw in third with 426, and Hufflepuff in a distant fourth with 352.”

Pushing the symbolism even further, some fans have used Hufflepuff’s association with Earth and plants to mean it’s the “stoner” house. This theory also stems from the fact that the house is known for being easy-going and friendly, and that the head of the house teaches herbology.

Whether these outlier theories are true or not, Rowling was certainly conscious in her decision to connect each house with different colors, translating to the four elements so that each would have a close association with forms of nature.

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