Dreams from My Father, by Barak Obama
Here is what I loved about this book: I loved that it was written way before he even entered politics- the first edition was published in 1994. The other two autobiographies I’ve read (Clinton and W) were obviously written with the idea in mind that this was going to become historical record and when they looked back on their childhood, it was always with a sense of “this is the set of decisions that lead me to this huge place of power” which is fine, but I loved that since Obama’s was written long before that was on his mind, it is wonderfully unencumbered by politics and is transparent in a way that the other two just weren’t. I liked that.
I also think that, without a doubt, Obama is a fantastic writer. I thought that the stories were entertaining, the point was clear and it was all wrapped up in a nice little package. I genuinely enjoyed reading it and filling in gaps in my knowledge.
Here’s what was less than great for me: The middle really drug for me. I understand that his community focus in Chicago was huge in his life but reading about it was just dull. I loved the beginning and the end but felt like the middle was just a little blah.
And I’m looking forward to reading a more definitive biography after his presidency is over. This one is hyper-focused on Obama coming of age and finding out what race means to him, a man with a Kenyan father and American mother. Which was wildly interesting, but left me wanting more.
So, in short, I loved that this was incomplete but wanted it to be more complete. Admit it, you’re going to miss my reviews 😉
And with that, I’m done with the Presidential Challenge! I’m looking forward to going back and reading some historical biographies of people that kept creeping into my Presidential Challenge bios, but as far as presidents, I’m done… at least for the next couple of years!
Decision Points, by George W Bush
You guys. I don’t even know how to write this review. I feel like it confuses my brain to even try to talk about it. Because here’s the thing: I think it was well written. I genuinely enjoyed reading it and could hear it in W’s Texas twang the whole time. I thought that it was a transparent look at some really hard decisions.
But those decisions…. they were just so awful. Even hearing him talk about them years later I feel like I cannot even wrap my head around saying, “Yeah, go ahead and torture that dude.” and then talking about not using stem cells because they are life. That is backwards, right?! Gah. It made steam come out of my ears on the regular.
I really did learn so much about some of these issues and saw them from a completely different perspective. I knew that Katrina relief was FUBAR but didn’t know exactly how it went down- this is one decision making process that I feel like I genuinely judged Bush too hard for and reading this was clarifying.
I went into this thinking I was going to hate it because during Bush’s presidency was when I really started paying more attention to politics and don’t generally agree with much that he did, but was surprised about how much I enjoyed his voice and writing style. I liked that instead of being a straight chronology, it was set up in chapters about each big decision. I thought that this gave him more space to really flesh out each issue and go into detail on why he made the decisions he did. I respected that there were decisions that he made that he regretted later and some that he still stands by one hundred percent.
I am looking forward to a more definitive biography of him to come out, when we have a little more perspective on his time in office, but for now this was a great choice and I would highly recommend it.