It’s finally here. Former President Barack Obama has released his summer book list for 2022, and we can’t wait to read through it from start to finish. And like all of his lists from the past, they include a blend of fiction and non-fiction, an amazing 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, along with any comments the president has made about his favorite reads. It’s up to you to pick a place to start — and to see how many you can check off your list before next year.
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‘Sea of Tranquility’ by Emily St. John Mandel
Right away, Obama starts off his list with a Scary Mommy Book Club favorite — author Emily St. John Mandel, who’s written some of our favorite books around, like Station Eleven and The Glass Hotel. He’s picked her newest effort, Sea of Tranquility, which is a sci-fi time travel jaunt that ties isolated characters together by their humanity, despite time and space. It’s capital-R Relevant to our times and a beautiful read.
‘Why We’re Polarized’ by Ezra Klein
It’s easy to see why a former president might be interested in this title (and it also made Bill Gate’s must-read list this year, too). A (dare I write?) fair and balanced look at exactly why the right and the left are becoming further and further apart and more and more extreme, this book provides a framework for understand politics today — and what we might do to take steps back toward the middle.
‘The Candy House’ by Jennifer Egan
Everyone is talking about the newest book from the author of A Visit From The Goon Squad, including the former president. In this sci-fi pick, a country is seized by new technology that allows you to “download” and access all of your memories — and to experience the memories of others. Like her previous efforts, this one feels a little like connected short stories and a little like a novel, and readers are enchanted by the web she weaves.
What’s more impressive: to be a National Book Award Finalist or to be carried around in the knapsack of Barack Obama? It’s hard to know, but this book gets both honors. An exploration of Black excellence in America, this book of essays covers the history of some of the most outstanding people in our history, including Michael Jackson, Patti LaBelle, Billy Dee Williams, the Wu-Tan Clan, and more.
‘To Paradise’ by Hanya Yanagihara
Okay, so everyone is still crying over Yanagihara’s last tearjerker of a novel, A Little Life. But it’s time to move on and cry over something new. To Paradise is another long read, at 720 pages, but like all of her other books, it’s worth every page. This one spans the past, present, and future with three separate story lines, and each one will tear you apart. Enjoy!
‘Silverview’ by John le Carré
An instant New York Times bestseller, and the last completed novel by famed British spy novelist John le Carré, this book transcends genre to make for an enjoyable, thoughtful, and action-packed read for anyone. And since the author passed 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 Who Came In From The Cold and Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy.
‘Black Cake’ by Charmaine Wilkerson
I can absolutely not say enough about this book, which was also a 2022 Scary Mommy Book Club pick. A family drama filled with culture, mystery, a lot of hard work, and a little bit of lying, the debut novel from Charmaine Wilkerson revolves around a Caribbean recipe that brings all of the far-flung members of a family back together after decades of drama. This is an emotional, satisfying page-turner that will sweep you away.
‘The Family Chao’ by Lan Samantha Chang
Yes, I will order one piping hot literary mystery, please. This delightful but thoughtful novel revolves around a Chinese family famous for their America Chinese restaurant in the Midwest, and all that unfold when the patriarch is murdered and the three biggest suspects are his three adult sons. Strap in for a book that is both serious and comedic — and one that will keep you guessing until the end.
‘Velvet Was The Night’ by Silvia Moreno-Garcia
From the acclaimed author of Mexican Gothic, which Scary Mommy also loved, comes a pulpy noir novel that takes place in the 1970s — because author Silva Moreno-Garcia is amazing at switching genres at the drop of a hat. This has been named a best book of the year by every publication you can put in italics, but you can read it for yourself.
‘Mouth To Mouth’ by Antoine Wilson
Obama likes 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 intertwined. What happens next is what all the reviewers 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 this title might end up on Obama’s nightstand. He’s probably fascinated by the history of democracy as well as the current climate of our own — and who isn’t? What a joy it was to have a president that read tons of books, especially intricately researched ones like this.
This is one of Scary Mommy’s favorite books of 2022 too! Can’t recommend it enough — in fact, I’ll go out on a limb and call it a modern classic that we’ll be hearing about for years. In it, follow Frida, a mom like any mom who tries her best, but who still makes mistakes. What happens in a society where the government doesn’t stand for women to make mistakes or go their own way? They just might send them away to learn their lessons...
‘Razorblade Tears’ by S. A. Cosby
This book has been on every list in the last year and it’s not surprising it made another one. A mystery-thriller, this book centers on two murdered boys — one Black, one white — and what their surviving fathers do to find revenge. A gothic Southern read that will fill your senses and keep you up at night, don’t pass this one up.
Obama loves basketball, and this book is clearly the best basketball book of the year. A bestseller and a must-read for anyone who loves hoops, this definitive history takes you back to the nostalgic 90s and the height of the New York Nicks. Readers have loved getting to know the colorful and diverse cast of characters — and how this team figured out how to win.