It is finally here. Former President Barack Obama has released his summer book list for 2022, and we can’t wait to read it cover to cover. And like all of his past lists, they include a mix of fiction and non-fiction, an incredible amount of diversity, and, of course, some of the most exciting books published of the year.
Here’s a rundown of what’s on the list and what each book is about, plus all the comments the president has made about his favorite reads. It’s up to you to pick a starting point and see how many you can tick off your list before next year.
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‘Sea of Tranquility’ by Emily St. John Mandel
Right away, Obama starts his list with a Scary Mommy Book Club favorite – author Emily St. John Mandel, who wrote some of our favorite books, like station eleven and The glass hotel. He chose his last effort, sea of tranquility, which is a sci-fi jaunt through time that connects characters isolated by their humanity, despite time and space. It’s a capital R relevant to our times and a great read.
“Why We’re Polarized” by Ezra Klein
It’s easy to see why a former president might be interested in the title (and he also made Bill Gate’s must-have list this year, too). A (dare I write?) fair and balanced look at exactly why the right and the left are increasingly drifting apart and increasingly extreme, this book provides a framework for understanding politics today – and what what we could do to take a step back towards the middle.
“The Candy House” by Jennifer Egan
Everyone is talking about the latest book by the author of A visit from the Goon Squad, including the former president. In this sci-fi pick, a country is gripped by new technology that allows you to “download” and access all of your memories – and discover the memories of others. Like her previous efforts, this one feels a bit like connected short stories and a bit like a novel, and readers are enchanted by the web it weaves.
What could be more impressive: being a National Book Award finalist or being carried around in Barack Obama’s backpack? It’s hard to know, but this book gets both honors. An exploration of black excellence in America, this book of essays covers the stories of some of the most notable people in our history, including Michael Jackson, Patti LaBelle, Billy Dee Williams, the Wu-Tan Clan, and more.
“In Paradise” by Hanya Yanagihara
OK, so everyone’s still crying over Yanagihara’s latest tearful novel, A little life. But it’s time to move on and cry over something new. In Paradise is another long read, at 720 pages, but like all his other books, it’s worth every page. This one covers the past, present, and future with three distinct storylines, and each one will tear you apart. Enjoy!
“Silverview” by John le Carré
A moment New York Times The best-selling and final completed novel by acclaimed British spy novelist John le Carré, this book transcends genres to make it an enjoyable, thoughtful and action-packed read for everyone. And since the author’s passing in 2020, it’s the last time the world will enjoy a masterful story from the writer (and real-life spy) of classics like The spy from the cold and Tinker Tailor Spy Soldier.
‘Black Cake’ by Charmaine Wilkerson
I absolutely cannot say enough about this book, which was also a Scary Mommy Book Club Pick of 2022. A family drama filled with culture, mystery, hard work and a bit of lies, Charmaine’s debut novel Wilkerson revolves around a Caribbean recipe that brings together all the estranged members of a family after decades of drama. This is an emotional and satisfying page-turner that will blow you away.
“The Chao Family” by Lan Samantha Chang
Yes, I will order a burning literary mystery, please. This charming yet thoughtful novel revolves around a Chinese family famous for their American Chinese restaurant in the Midwest, and it all takes place when the patriarch is murdered and the three biggest suspects are his three adult sons. Buckle up for a book that’s both serious and comedic – and one that’ll keep you guessing until the end.
“The Velvet Was Night” by Silvia Moreno-Garcia
From the acclaimed author of mexican gothic, which Scary Mommy also loved, comes a pulpy noir novel set in the 1970s — because author Silva Moreno-Garcia is amazing at switching genres in the blink of an eye. It was named best book of the year by every publication you can italicize, but you can read it for yourself.
Mouth to Mouth by Antoine Wilson
Obama loves a suspenseful thriller as much as the rest of us, it seems. In Mouth to mouth, a man saves another man from drowning at the beach – and their lives become irreversibly linked. What happens next is what all critics call “shocking.” We haven’t read this one yet, but it’s going on our TBR list pronto.
Again, it’s pretty clear how a book with that title could end up on Obama’s bedside table. He’s probably fascinated by the history of democracy as well as the current climate of ours – and who isn’t? What a joy it was to have a president who read tons of books, especially the intricately researched ones like this.
It’s also one of Scary Mommy’s favorite books of 2022! I can’t recommend it enough – in fact, I’m going to go out on a limb and call it a modern classic we’ll be hearing about for years. Inside, follow Frida, a mom like all moms who does her best, but still makes mistakes. What happens in a society where the government does not tolerate women making mistakes or going their own way? They might just send them back to learn their lessons…
“Razorblade Tears” by SA Cosby
This book made it to every list last year and it’s no surprise it made another one. A mystery thriller, this book centers on two murdered boys – one black, one white – and what their surviving fathers do for revenge. A Southern Gothic read that will fill your senses and keep you awake at night, don’t pass it up.
Obama loves basketball, and this book is clearly the best basketball book of the year. A best-seller and must-read for anyone who loves hoops, this definitive story takes you back to the nostalgic ’90s and the heyday of the Nicks of New York. Readers loved learning about the colorful and diverse cast of characters — and how this team figured out how to win.