Outgoing President of the United States Barack Obama says that the one thing which helped him spend all those years in the White House were books.
In an interview to the New York Times on Friday, eight days before he officially steps down from the White House , Obama talked about how books shaped his identity and helped him understand people he had never physically met.
The voracious reader said that every night he would spend an hour or so reading anything and everything--- from sci-fi fiction “The Three-Body Problem” by the Chinese writer Liu Cixin to biographies of American presidents, to black writers like James Baldwin and Malcom X.
He said that biographies of former presidents helped him find his way out through the daily grind his position demanded. “It just serves you well to think about Roosevelt trying to navigate through World War II,” he told New York Times.
He said he recently gave a Kindle (e-book) to his daughter Malia with some of his favourite books including One Hundred Years of Solitude, The Golden Notebook, and the Woman Warrior.
He quotes V.S.Naipaul’s novel ‘A bend in the river’. “The world is what it is; men who are nothing, who allow themselves to become nothing, have no place in it.”
He says the harshness of this particular writer strikes him every time, especially when he is making crucial decisions on foreign policy, and he tries to fight it.
Obama has been a writer, much before he became president, or joined the government. His memoir ‘Dreams from my Father’ published in 1995 maps his life as a black boy growing up in Hawaii, and later New York and Chicago. His battle for identity, his Kenyan heritage, and survival.
His second book ‘The Audacity of Hope’ was published in 2006 and details his life as a Senator working in the United States.
His Kenyan father left him at 2, and his mother took him to live in Indonesia—he says the experience empowered him with empathy- and he says he realized what it felt to be an outsider. Also that Americans had a simple dream- a decent job and secure future for their children.
As he made his farewell rounds, he had lunch with five novelists he admires- Dave Eggers, Mr. Whitehead, Zadie Smith, Mr. Díaz and Barbara Kingsolver. He told them he likes to write his first drafts on yellow legal pads.
As he steps down as President, Obama intends to go back to what he loves most- writing his memoirs drawn from the journals he kept at the White House .