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Ethiopian-American novelist Dinaw Mengestu’s book on Obama’s Summer Reading List

Former U.S President Barack Obama has shared his annual summer reading list, which includes How to Read the Air, a book by Ethiopian-American novelist Dinaw Mengestu. The list includes seminal works by various celebrated writers including Toni Morrison, Téa Obreht, Colson Whitehead, Ted Chiang, Haruki Murakami, and Hilary Mantel.



Barack Obama, the former U.S President has shared his annual summer reading list, which includes How to Read the Air, a book by renowned Ethiopian-American novelist and writer, Dinaw Mengestu. 

“It’s August, so I wanted to let you know about a few books I’ve been reading this summer, in case you’re looking for some suggestions,” Obama wrote in a Facebook post. “To start, you can’t go wrong by reading or re-reading the collected works of Toni Morrison. Beloved, Song of Solomon, The Bluest Eye, Sula, everything else — they’re transcendent, all of them. You’ll be glad you read them. And while I’m at it, here are a few more titles you might want to explore”.

Read: 6 books you should read this summer recommended by Barack Obama

The list is a mix of novels, short stories, and nonfiction works from celebrated writers from across the world, touching on, and interrogating various themes, and pertinent issues that continue to define, and affect the world. The books Obama recommend deal with diverse issues such as race, love, friendship, impact of technology on human life, immigration, identity, gender and class.


Apart from Toni Morrison, and Dinaw Mengestu’s books, Obama’s recommended reading list includes seminal works by various other writers including Téa Obreht, Colson Whitehead, Ted Chiang, Haruki Murakami, Lauren Wilkinson, Stephanie Land, Hope Jahren, Nicholas Carr and Hilary Mantel.

Author and journalist Dinaw Mengestu speaking at a reception in Toronto. A recipient of a 2012 MacArthur Fellowship, Mengestu was in Canada on a three-city speaking tour discussing African Diaspora Literature. Born in Ethiopia he moved to the U.S. at a young age and writes of the internal and external interplay such members of the African Diaspora experience concerning their homeland and adopted countries. Photo: Flickr/US Embassy Canada

In his recommendation of How to Read the Air, which was published in 2010, Obama writes: “You’ll get a better sense of the complexity and redemption within the American immigrant story with Dinaw Mengestu’s novel”. The book chronicles the story of Jonas, the son of Ethiopian immigrants in the the Midwest, U.S and he struggles with understanding his past, his relationship with his parents, and his parents life in the Midwest. 

Listed below are the books Obama recommends reading this summer:

The Collected Works Of Toni Morrison: Beloved, The Bluest Eye, The Song Of Solomon, Sula, Etc. 

The Nickel Boys by Colson Whitehead

Exhalation by Ted Chiang


Wolf Hall by Hilary Mantel­

Men Without Women by Haruki Murakami

American Spy by Lauren Wilkinson

The Shallows: What The Internet Is Doing To Our Brains by Nicholas Carr

Lab Girl by Hope Jahren


Inland by Téa Obreht

How to Read the Air by Dinaw Mengestu

Maid: Hard Work, Low Pay And A Mother’s Will To Survive by Stephanie Land