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Title: A Promised Land

Writer: Barack Obama

Publisher: Crown (First Edition, 2020)

Pages: 751p

Bought at: Periplus.com (IDR 472k, disc 20%)

Barack Obama is a good writer. That’s one of my main impressions after reading his memoir. He can write about a very complicated period in his life, with many complicated issues, in a really clear, organized way, easy to understand but not oversimplified everything, and in between those packed topics, he can still write in his style, with lots of humors and sarcastic comments here and there.

This book covered the first half of his presidency, but started way before that time, with a hint of his family background and unconventional childhood, how politics creeped into his life and changed who he became, and of course, his fateful meeting with Michelle. Reading this part reminded me of Michelle’s memoir, Becoming, that also told story of his meeting with Barack, and how their relationship changed her life. But if Michelle wrote in more personal, emotional way, with many reminiscing of her childhood and talked a lot about her personal identity, Barack didn’t write that much about his personal life. I think his main purpose is to record his path in politics and how his presidency helped changing America into the state that’s getting closer with his ideals. Even though, of course, the reality is not that easy.

Although I have been working with American government program for more than 10 years now, there are still many things, especially related to social-politics-economy of the country that I don’t understand. Reading this book, I learned a lot about the issues that are important to American people: the economy gap, racial issues, universal healthcare, justice system, and even the relationship with other countries in the world, especially in the Middle East area (with the never ending wars), Russia, and China, and how the dynamics of their relationships shaped the global world situation.

Obama wrote in a very detailed way, thoughtful, with step by step guidance on his decision making process, very useful for younger generations who are interested in working in politics. He is a natural born leader, with very sharp mind, great decision making skills, and outstanding ability to choose the right people for the right position. I think even for those who are not interested in politics, this book still teaches a lot about how to become a great leader.

Another interesting thing is how detailed Obama described his daily life in White House, including his favorite room, his routine, and all the people he met, from the gardeners to the world leaders. What he and his team usually did inside Air Force One (playing cards!), their obsession with basketball, and the Dad stuff he still did even though his life was very busy.

And Obama is a fair writer. He wrote about his failures and bad judgments with the same precisions and details with his writing about his successes. And every time he wrote about his success stories, he always mentioned in detailed the roles of other people to bring the success.

Overall, this is a really good memoir, a bit long, but necessary, and better to savor it slowly. Like Obama said, he planned to write a 500-page book about his two-term presidency, but he failed tremendously XD This is only the first volume of his journey, and it already reached 700 pages, hahaha.. I can’t wait for the second volume though, and learn more from his journey.

Also – it’s good to read this book right after the US election, so at least I was not too frustrated with the fact that every achievement that Obama made – already ruined or canceled by Trump. Hopefully Biden and Harris will bring back some of the good policies that Obama has started. We’ll see.

Rating: 5/5

Recommended if you like: good memoirs, world leader autobiography, politics and social issues, American history, long book but not boring, serious issues tackled with understandable language and great sense of humor