A Promised Land // Book (Review) Rave

This has been one of my most anticipated reads for the year, and even though it was very VERY long, it was also very good. Regardless of whether you follow politics religiously or not, I think Obama does a really good job of providing a thorough account and feelings throughout his political career and the first four years in the Oval Office. I’m obviously biased, but I still believe it’s worth checking out.

Goodreads Synopsis

A riveting, deeply personal account of history in the making—from the president who inspired us to believe in the power of democracy.

In the stirring, highly anticipated first volume of his presidential memoirs, Barack Obama tells the story of his improbable odyssey from young man searching for his identity to leader of the free world, describing in strikingly personal detail both his political education and the landmark moments of the first term of his historic presidency—a time of dramatic transformation and turmoil.

Obama takes readers on a compelling journey from his earliest political aspirations to the pivotal Iowa caucus victory that demonstrated the power of grassroots activism to the watershed night of November 4, 2008, when he was elected 44th president of the United States, becoming the first African American to hold the nation’s highest office.

Reflecting on the presidency, he offers a unique and thoughtful exploration of both the awesome reach and the limits of presidential power, as well as singular insights into the dynamics of U.S. partisan politics and international diplomacy. Obama brings readers inside the Oval Office and the White House Situation Room, and to Moscow, Cairo, Beijing, and points beyond. We are privy to his thoughts as he assembles his cabinet, wrestles with a global financial crisis, takes the measure of Vladimir Putin, overcomes seemingly insurmountable odds to secure passage of the Affordable Care Act, clashes with generals about U.S. strategy in Afghanistan, tackles Wall Street reform, responds to the devastating Deepwater Horizon blowout, and authorizes Operation Neptune’s Spear, which leads to the death of Osama bin Laden.

A Promised Land is extraordinarily intimate and introspective—the story of one man’s bet with history, the faith of a community organizer tested on the world stage. Obama is candid about the balancing act of running for office as a Black American, bearing the expectations of a generation buoyed by messages of “hope and change,” and meeting the moral challenges of high-stakes decision-making. He is frank about the forces that opposed him at home and abroad, open about how living in the White House affected his wife and daughters, and unafraid to reveal self-doubt and disappointment. Yet he never wavers from his belief that inside the great, ongoing American experiment, progress is always possible.

This beautifully written and powerful book captures Barack Obama’s conviction that democracy is not a gift from on high but something founded on empathy and common understanding and built together, day by day.

My Review

Their experiences pointed me back to why I’d gone into government in the first place, toward the taproot idea that maybe politics could be less about power and positioning and more about community and connection.

I honestly didn’t know how to feel when I finished the last page of this book. Overwhelmed? Inspired? Hopeful? Doubtful? My brain was still trying to piece together how much effort and energy this man had put into his position to try and make what he believed would be a better world for his daughters. I loved this book, but I also understand that this book is definitely not for everyone. If you are tired of political drama and the constant news cycle updates, I would recommend you to read Michelle Obama’s autobiography, Becoming. If you want to dive deep into campaign drama, get an insight into what it’s like to run the United States for four years, or enjoy watching the political drama West Wing (1999 – 2006), this book is for you.

As someone who loves to root for the underdog, my favorite parts of this narrative focuses on Obama’s early campaign for Illinois state senator and when he decided to run for president in 2007. It was really inspiring to read about all the work that he had put into connecting with individuals (and he still remembers them by name!), families, and communities that ultimately elected him to Office.

Barack and Michelle Obama’s relationship in this book is literally #couplegoals. It was pretty amusing to hear how Michelle was always against the idea of him becoming involved in politics. She wanted nothing to do with the entire process and exposing her family to public scrutiny but still joined the campaign to support Barack (#couplegoals). One of my favorite parts of the book was when Barack Obama won the Nobel Peace Prize via an early morning phone call. When he told the news to Michelle, she simply said “That’s wonderful, honey,” and rolled over in bed. It’s all the little moments that matter!

This book is elegantly and beautifully written! Reading his narrative, it’s obvious that Obama is very well-read and knows his way around the political arena. Sometimes, in the middle of a list of descriptions, he would sprinkle in some humor to keep the readers engaged in the content. Additionally, he strikes the perfect balance between providing just the right amount of background information for the readers to understand the problem and his own opinions on the affair. Not going to lie – before reading this, I knew close to nothing about international policies, and I work as a Policy Analyst. After reading this book, I would like to think I learned a thing or two about the Palestinian-Israeli conflict and the Middle Eastern wars. I was conveniently reading about the history of the Afghan Wars and Obama’s complex decisions to ultimately send more troops into the Middle East while President Biden was withdrawing troops from Afghanistan this year. So it was really interesting to see how political decisions that were made 10+ years ago still have an impact on our everyday news cycles.

Between reading or listening options, I would highly recommend trying to find an audiobook copy! I mean, Obama is narrating the book! If you like listening to his speeches, this was like listening to him tell you a 20+ hour life story. And boy oh boy, the narrative was soooooooo good! His passion bleeds through his words when he talks about how he felt morally obligated to stand up for people’s healthcare and finding a solution to climate change. The entire experience was honestly so inspiring!

Overall Stats

A Promised Land by Barack Obama

Rating: 4.5 / 5 Stars

Series: 1 (it’s not official on Goodreads, but I believe there is supposed to be a companion novel)

Genre: autobiography

Pages: 768

If you have read this or plan to read this book, let me know what you think!

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