The 17 Best Books of 2020, According to Barack Obama

Following the release of his latest book, the former president shares his favorites released this year from other authors.

The 17 Best Books of 2020, According to Barack Obama

Several of Obama’s picks also landed on AFAR’s lists of book recommendations this year for travelers.

Courtesy of the publishers

Need a last-minute gift idea? Something to entertain yourself over the holiday break that isn’t a screen? Former President Barack Obama shared his annual list of favorite books on Thursday, December 17, and it’s full of some of the year’s best releases.

“I’ll start by sharing my favorite books this year, deliberately omitting what I think is a pretty good book—A Promised Land—by a certain 44th president. I hope you enjoy reading these as much as I did,” Obama joked on Twitter about leaving his latest release off his list.

Written by mostly women and authors of color, the 17 books that did make Obama’s list cover a wide range of genres and topics. There’s Homeland Elegies, the latest novel from Pulitzer Prize–winning author Ayad Akhtar, and Memorial Drive, a memoir from former U.S. poet laureate Natasha Trethewey. There’s also Luster and How Much of These Hills Is Gold from up-and-coming authors Raven Leilani and C Pam Zhang.

You may recognize a few of these titles from AFAR’s own recommendations for 2020. The Glass Hotel by Emily St. John Mandel and The Vanishing Half by Brit Bennett were both on our summer reading list, while Sharks in the Time of Saviors by Kawai Strong Washburn represented Hawaii in AFAR’s Bookish Tour Across America.

See Obama’s full list below:

While we’ve included links to order from, which has raised more than $10 million for local and independent bookstores in 2020 alone, consider shopping directly from Black-owned bookstores in your community.

>> Next: What’s on Barack Obama’s Africa-Inspired Summer Reading List

Lyndsey Matthews is the senior commerce editor at Afar who covers travel gear, packing advice, and points and loyalty.
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