Why President Obama Reads Books



photo by US Embassy New Delhi


It is so true that a reader’s takeaway is very individual. We all get something different from the books we read. Mainly because it connects back to our personal experiences, both positive and negative.

Some people choose the act of reading as an escape from their daily life, or for pure entertainment, or to learn. It’s widely known that President Obama is an avid reader of books. This article in the New York Times: Obama’s Secret to Surviving the White House Years: Books, explains why. “At a time when events move so quickly and so much information is transmitted,” he said, reading gave him the ability to occasionally “slow down and get perspective” and “the ability to get in somebody else’s shoes.”

Learned empathy has long been recognized as one of the wonderful rewards of reading, so it’s no surprise that Obama, ever empathic, seeks to do just that by reading. But my favorite part of this was hearing what Obama learns from reading Shakespeare: “His embrace of artists like Shakespeare who saw the human situation entire: its follies, cruelties and mad blunders, but also its resilience, decencies and acts of grace. The playwright’s tragedies, he says, have been “foundational for me in understanding how certain patterns repeat themselves and play themselves out between human beings.”

Read books. Any kind of books. Short ones. Long ones. Easy ones. Hard ones. Illustrated ones. Goofy ones. Serious ones. The upside is limitless. Not least of which is learning about the human condition. If the President can make time to read on the daily, so can we!


No Comments

    • Mary Roth

    • 7 years ago

    So true! Thank you Eva

    1. Thanks for stopping by, Mary!

  1. I know I do…read books daily. And for a shameless plug: if you haven’t read The Memory Box by Eva Lesko Natiello, you are missing out. ~nan

    1. I can always count on you, Nan! Thanks!

  2. I have frequent strong disagreements with people who tell me that books aren’t the only way to acquire information and culture. Of course… BUT!
    Many years ago, I read an article in the NYT (can’t find it now) that said one of the most prestigious medical faculties in the US (Columbia?) was advocating something they called “narrative medicine”. i.e. encouraging medical students to read fiction because it helped not only develop empathy, but also to phrase things in such a way that patients would actually understand.
    Much truth can be told in novels, as opposed to non-fiction, because one can easily conceal it under the guise of fiction.
    Thank you for this wonderful article, Eva!

    1. Oh, that is very interesting, Katia. If you ever find that article I would love to read it. I also find it interesting that fiction helps develop empathy. I wonder if that means, opposed to non-fiction? Because that’s where I thought it would be naturally occurring. Thanks for your comment, Katia!

        1. Wow, that was a great article. Isn’t it funny how you (or I) just automatically think people are good listeners. I mean, what kind of skill is needed for that? But, it’s so true. And again we see how literature is teaching empathy, listening skills, and so much more. Well, bravo to the medical world for seeing its value and for making it part of their training. Thanks for this, Katia. I loved it.

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