November 21, 2016

23 Books Obama Should Buy On His Annual D.C. Bookstore Trip

By Tayla Burney

Since Small Business Saturday was launched in 2010 to encourage holiday shopping at small, local businesses, D.C. resident (and, you know, U.S. President) Barack Obama has celebrated by shopping trip around the city the Saturday after Thanksgiving. Over the years, his stops with daughters Malia and Sasha have always included one of D.C.’s independent bookstores, including Politics & Prose, One More Page Books, Kramerbooks and Upshur Street Books. Last year, I missed the trio at Upshur Street Books by MERE MINUTES. It’s okay, though, I like to think they’re buying holiday presents for FLOTUS, though news coverage of their purchases could spoil the surprise.

Recently, I talked with Eileen McGervey of One More Page Books in Arlington about the effect the visit had on her then-new business:

As Obama’s time in the White House come to a close, the big question is: where will he go on his last Small Business Saturday as president? There’s a new shop in the D.C.’s Eastern Market, East City Bookshop, that would probably very much like for him to stop by.

Whether he heads to the newest shop in town or revisits one of his old favorites, the good news for all local businesses is that the Obamas are staying in D.C. after leaving the White House and might drop by anytime once they’re private citizens! (We would like to recommend swinging by a #WAMUbooks event sometime.)

As they prepare to make that shift, we asked each of the shops he’s visited in the past to suggest books for the soon-to-be former president. Here’s what they recommended:

From Upshur Street Books in Petworth, D.C.

Pre-January 20, we decided that Obama is already an expert in our usual recommendations (“The Underground Railroad,” “Hillbilly Elegy,” “Strangers in Their Own Land,” etc.), but he may not have had a chance to read these indispensable books:


  • The Fire This Time” edited by Jesmyn Ward 
    Upshur Street’s first recommendation is an amazing collection of essays that capture contemporary voices on race. Obama included the book’s inspiration, James Baldwin’s “The Fire Next Time,” on his list of essential reading. We also love that the book is divided into three sections: history, our current struggle and a vision for the future. Seems like reading about hope for the future is in order right now.
  • Behold the Dreamers” by Imbolo Mbue
    This amazing debut offers an engaging and fresh look at the immigrant experience, the 2008 financial crisis, and the inspiring determination of people striving against long odds.
  • Washington, DC Michelin Guide” 
    After January Obama should read whatever he damn well pleases. His favorite novel over and over again or back issues of “Sports Illustrated.” But if he asked us for a suggestion, we’d recommend D.C.’s first Michelin guide! Since the Obamas are staying in the city and may finally have time to enjoy a good meal, this guide should definitely be on their shelf.
  • Meditations” by Marcus Aurelius, How to Stay Sane” by Philippa Perry and Happiness” by Frederic Lenoir
    It’s time for some calming, philosophical self-care, Obama. These are our favorites for tough times.


From East City Bookshop at Eastern Market in D.C.

East City Bookshop staff put their heads together and talked about our favorite books of this year, ones that we thought would be of special interest to President Obama and books that our Capitol Hill readers have loved.

  • All Aunt Hagar’s Children” by Edward P. Jones
    East City Bookshop staffer Jennifer recommends this Pulitzer Prize winning collection of stories set in Washington, D.C.
  • Dodgers” by Bill Beverly
    Shop book buyer Emilie adds a dark and moving coming-of-age tale by a local author.
  • The Black Panther” by Ta-Nehisi Coates:
    The first paperback of Coates’ instant hit is an empowering reboot of a classic graphic novel by one of East City Bookshop’s most beloved authors.


From Kramerbooks in Dupont Circle, D.C.


  • How to Relax”  by Thich Nhat Hanh
    It’s been a long eight years and we think the President deserves some R and R!
  • Good Clean Fun” by Nick Offerman
    With all his new free time, perhaps President Obama would like to take up a new hobby?
  • The Red Rooster Cookbook” by Marcus Samuelsson
    No more White House chef!


From One More Page Books in Arlington

These books were recommended by book seller Rebecca Speas, book buyer and seller Lelia Nebeker, book seller Amanda Quain and owner Eileen McGervey.


  • The Secret History of Wonder Woman” by Jill Lepore
    President Obama deserves a fun and engaging read after he becomes D.C.’s newest private citizen, so I recommend this fascinating dive into American pop culture, early feminism, and the absolutely bonkers backstory of one of the most popular superheroes in DC (Comics) history.
  • Milk and Honey” by Rupi Kaur 
    Rupi Kaur’s collection of poetry (interspersed with snippets of prose and some drawings) is a beautiful and striking contemplation of abuse, resilience, grief, and being a woman.
  • A Guinea Pig Pride and Prejudice” by Alex Goodwin and Tess Newall 
    Have you been working the world’s most high stress job for eight years? Do you finally, FINALLY need to unwind? Then read this retelling of Pride and Prejudice told entirely in pictures of guinea pigs in period dress. Just make sure Bo and Sunny don’t get jealous.
  • The Mindfulness Coloring Book: Anti Stress Art Therapy for Busy People” by Emma Farrarons 
    “Color your way to peace and calm, wherever you go.” This adult coloring book is exactly what President Obama needs (and the drawings are small so will not take all day since we know he’s busy).
  • The Other Wes Moore: One Name, Two Fates” by Wes Moore 
    This true story of two boys growing up fatherless in Baltimore with the same name explores decisions made that lead one to be a Rhodes Scholar and the other a convicted murderer.
  • Droll Pranks for Rich Boys: The Wealthy Man’s Guide to Horseplay” by Dan Bulla
    We couldn’t resist adding one for Vice President Joe Biden (inspired by the latest series of Joe Biden memes)!


From Politics & Prose

These holiday recommendations come from Politics & Prose staffers Jon, Michael, Amanda and Keith.

  • Born a Crime: Stories from a South African Childhood” by Trevor Noah
    Trevor Noah overcame seemingly insurmountable challenges to ultimately become host of “The Daily Show,” and his story is one of hardship, resilience and hope. As the president reflects upon his final days in office, he might see similarities in the pivotal role that Trevor’s mother plays in his story and, in a climate of growing fear and suspicion, be encouraged by the fact that others are determined to beat the odds. It’s also just really funny.
  • Unmentionable: The Victorian Lady’s Guide to Sex, Marriage, and Manners” by Therese Oneill
    Mr. President now that you’ve left the White House kick back and take a load off with an absolutely fascinating book about the perils of life during the Victorian era. It’s filled with so much hilarity you won’t stop laughing, we promise.
  • The Door” by Magda Szabo
    Hungarian writer Magda Szabo explores the fierce bond as well as the conflict between two fundamentally different but equally strong women in her stirring, must-read memoir.
  • A Year in Rock Creek Park” by Melanie Choukas-Bradley
    President Obama and family should get to know the beautiful park near their new home in Kalorama. If he needs a tour guide, there are eager Politics & Prose staffers happy to be of service!


From Team Kojo

Team Kojo would like to offer up one more suggestion, and not just because one of the authors is our favorite resident analyst.

There you have it – a reading list fit for a president, D.C. resident and you! Happy holidays.


comments powered by Disqus