Barack Obama Shares His 13 Favorite Books of 2021

Former President Barack Obama in 2019.
Former President Barack Obama in 2019. / Hannes Magerstaedt/Getty Images

Like any good content creator, former President Barack Obama takes to social media every December to recommend his favorite books of the year to his millions of followers. And this year’s list runs the gamut from heart-wrenching memoirs and historical fiction to thrilling heist novels and socially conscious dramas.

Among the highlights is Dawnie Walton's debut novel The Final Revival of Opal & Nev about the formation and demise of a fictional interracial rock group from the 1970s. This book garnered positive attention pretty much across the board when it was released in the spring. Outlets ranging from NPR to The Washington Post gave the book glowing reviews, while New York Times book critic Alexandra Jacobs recently noted it as one of her favorite titles of the year.

Those looking for a memoir have plenty to choose from on this list, but one of the most notable entries is Crying in H Mart by Japanese Breakfast musician Michelle Zauner. This book was born from a 2018 New Yorker article penned by the indie rockstar and explores the ideas of food, identity, and family in the face of grief. It debuted at No. 2 on The New York Times Best Seller list back in April.

There are plenty of other titles that made the cut, and you can check out all 13 below. After that, you can also see the 11 books President Obama recommended earlier this year as part of his summer reading list.

Barack Obama’s Favorite Books of 2021

  1. Matrix by Lauren Groff
  2. How the Word Is Passed: A Reckoning with the History of Slavery Across America by Clint Smith
  3. The Final Revival of Opal & Nev by Dawnie Walton
  4. The Lincoln Highway by Amor Towles
  5. Invisible Child: Poverty, Survival & Hope in an American City by Andrea Elliott
  6. Harlem Shuffle by Colson Whitehead
  7. Cloud Cuckoo Land by Anthony Doerr
  8. These Precious Days by Ann Patchett
  9. Crying in H Mart by Michelle Zauner
  10. Aftershocks by Nadia Owusu
  11. Crossroads by Jonathan Franzen
  12. The Love Songs of W.E.B Du Bois by Honorée Fanonne Jeffers
  13. Beautiful Country by Qian Julie Wang

Barack Obama’s 2021 Summer Reading List

  1.  At Night All Blood Is Black by David Diop
  2. Land of Big Numbers by Te-Ping Chen
  3. Empire of Pain: The Secret History of the Sackler Dynasty by Patrick Radden Keefe
  4. Project Hail Mary by Andy Weir
  5. When We Cease to Understand the World by Benjamín Labatut
  6. Under a White Sky: The Nature of the Future by Elizabeth Kolbert
  7. Things We Lost to the Water by Eric Nguyen
  8. Leave the World Behind by Rumaan Alam
  9. Klara and the Sun by Kazuo Ishiguro
  10. The Sweetness of Water by Nathan Harris
  11. Intimacies by Katie Kitamura