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A Promised Land

5 stars
108,956 (51%)
4 stars
75,062 (35%)
3 stars
19,753 (9%)
2 stars
3,387 (1%)
1 star
3,372 (1%)
Displaying 1 - 30 of 19,248 reviews
Profile Image for Angela M .
1,308 reviews2,191 followers
May 8, 2021
Our expectations for elected officials aren’t always very realistic, and none more than for those elected to the highest office in our country. We’ve never had a perfect President and never will, but there are certain qualities that I believe are essential. Intelligence, a respect for the office and more importantly a reverence for our democracy, a strong sense of responsibility for protecting our nation and its citizens, leadership skills that bring together qualified people in the government, a recognition that we have a role to play as citizens of the world, to name a few. Former President Barack Obama was not a perfect President, but I believe that he embodied all of these things that I expect in a President and I believe that even more now, after listening to this book.

No matter what you think about Barack Obama, the man can write! It’s illustrated in this first volume of his memoir, as well as the other books he’s written. There are beautiful descriptions of walking along the promenade from the White House residence to the West Wing, the Rose Garden, the Oval Office, intimate descriptions of his family life, his love for his wife and daughters, his love for his deceased mother and grandparents. My favorite introspective passage is the following quote which I played over and over to be sure I got the words right, but also because they represent in such a meaningful way how he viewed his enormous responsibility. “ I would never fully rid myself of the sense of reverence I felt when ever I walked Into the Oval Office, the feeling that I entered not an office, but a sanctum of democracy. Day after day it like comforted and fortified me reminding me of the privilege of my burdens and my duties. “

My favorite parts of the book were early on when he talked about making the decision to run and the stories of the campaign were just so fascinating, funny at times and so informative. Michelle asked him just before he announced that he would run , “Why you?” Obama responded that if he became President, “the world would look at America differently, that kids , Black and Hispanic or kids who don’t fit in will see themselves differently, their horizons lifted, their possibilities expanded .” I enjoyed so much hearing about the grass roots campaign, using the internet, how the field organizers in Iowa worked was just fascinating. With love and respect, he tells of his relationships with David Axelrod, Robert Gibbs, the young Reggie Love and David Pfluffe, who Obama thought was so brilliant that he became his Campaign Manager and so many others. I loved hearing the origins of “Fired up ! Ready to Go ! “ Always prepared, he wrote both a concession and acceptance speech.”

The book is also laden with dense discussions on the economic crisis the country was facing when he took office, his first G20 conference, foreign policy, health care and the passage of the Affordable Care Act, the war in Afghanistan. I have to admit that there were some chapters where I sped up the audio, but for anyone who is a policy wonk, these might be more interesting. These chapters, though, reflect the complexity of the issues before him and the country at this time. They also reflect the intelligent, pragmatic yet caring ways he approached things.

Barack Obama always felt the weight of the office and the responsibility to protect the nation, the huge responsibility of being Commander in Chief, the casualties of troops in Afghanistan, writing letters to their families. He read security briefings every morning, and then had meetings with security staff right after - imagine that ! (Couldn’t help myself.) This narrative reflects part of his first term and I can’t wait for the second volume. I love this man . I cried when he won in 2008, a good, heartfelt cry and I cried when his second term was over, a sad and horrified cry. ( Again , I couldn’t help myself.) I have missed him every single day since January 20, 2017. Clearly, I’m biased so you might want to read it yourself, and I do highly recommend it .
Profile Image for Holly.
1,449 reviews1,090 followers
June 30, 2021
I am 'reading' this via audiobook because even though it's 29 hours long, just listening to Obama's steady voice is reassuring during this current insanity (November 2020).

(Also, this ended up being my 100th book I have read this year, officially meeting my reading goal!)

I am not sure what I enjoyed most about this book. Was it the insight into how Obama got into politics and then decided to run for President? Was it the look into his primary run against Hillary Clinton? Was it his eventual win against John McCain and his crazy VP pick Sarah Palin? Was it the behind the scenes look into some of his biggest pieces of legislation, namely Obamacare? Or was it his REAL thoughts on certain events that happened during his first 4 years of his Presidency?

Honestly, it's all the above, but that last one had me cackling with sarcastic cynical laughter, when Obama details what he really wanted to say during a certain press conference.

Go pick up this audiobook. Go listen to what a real President should sound like - basically a reasonable, intelligent human being. And then mourn those good ole' days as we finish this hellscape of the last 4 years. Oh and did I also mention that there's an unfortunate reveal about Biden's judgment in the very last chapter? *sigh*

Thanks, Obama. (meant sincerely)
Profile Image for Shivani Patel.
Author 14 books73 followers
Want to read
December 1, 2020
Once again I have to let people on here know they should not mess with the rating system. You don't have to like Obama or read his book but please do not leave ratings on Goodreads just to make that known.

You are allowed to have your opinions but no reason to mess with the GR rating system by giving it a one star (or a 2,3,4,5) if you haven't actually read the book. And that goes for all books. Please do not rate without reading because some people genuinely want to filter and search through ratings for honest reviews - not to see what trolls and haters say. That is all. Hope you have a great day!
Profile Image for Jack Waters.
261 reviews96 followers
Currently reading
September 18, 2020
The $45 cover price is only steep if you don’t consider the implied number humor
Profile Image for Selim Batti.
Author 3 books328 followers
Want to read
July 12, 2023
One thing I want to mention. This is Goodreads.
For those who don’t know what this app is, it’s a planet for readers, not a battlefield for competitors.
You can’t just create multiple accounts, copy and paste same review, and rate a book you haven’t read.
We are here to review books, not people. We are here to share knowledge and literal thoughts and opinions, not to fight for political backgrounds.
Please guys be logical.
You can express your political opinions in demonstrations and protests... but definitely not here.

Please don’t rate a book you haven’t read.

Profile Image for Gabby.
1,304 reviews27.9k followers
December 1, 2020
This book was so incredible and it gave me so much hope for America. I miss Obama so much, he's so well-spoken and he has such a way with words, I listened to the audiobook which is definitely the way to go for this book. This is one of the only political books I have ever read, but it was absolutely captivating to hear about all the experiences he went through as President and all the tough decisions he had to make. I love that throughout it he sprinkles in his stories of his family and I loved hearing about Michelle and the girls, their family is the cutest.

It brought tears to my eyes reliving him being the first Black man elected President of the United States, it was so beautiful to hear about it from his POV. I was in 8th grade when Obama got elected President and I really wish I would have understood the significance of that then. I never got super involved in politics until I was in college, but wow what a historical moment in time.

Obama is just so down to Earth and so cool. He's so jarringly different from the President we currently have (Trump) that it's kind of heart breaking to think how much things have changed in the last four years. I miss Obama's laid back attitude and positivity so much. This book really inspired me so much, just the way he talks is so motivating and empowering.

Obama is a reminder to me and to everyone that your dreams can be achieved, and he really is a symbol of hope for this country. I can't wait to read the second book whenever it eventually comes out.

That's all I have to say, I'm just going to leave you with this quote that really moved me and gave me so much hope for America:
“I don’t know. What I can say for certain is that I’m not yet ready to abandon the possibility of America—not just for the sake of future generations of Americans but for all of humankind. For I’m convinced that the pandemic we’re currently living through is both a manifestation of and a mere interruption in the relentless march toward an interconnected world, one in which peoples and cultures can’t help but collide. In that world—of global supply chains, instantaneous capital transfers, social media, transnational terrorist networks, climate change, mass migration, and ever-increasing complexity—we will learn to live together, cooperate with one another, and recognize the dignity of others, or we will perish. And so the world watches America—the only great power in history made up of people from every corner of the planet, comprising every race and faith and cultural practice—to see if our experiment in democracy can work. To see if we can do what no other nation has ever done. To see if we can actually live up to the meaning of our creed.”
Profile Image for Dr. Appu Sasidharan (Dasfill).
1,271 reviews2,442 followers
June 18, 2022
This book tells us the journey of a young man who was a student in Hawaii to Harvard University and then ultimately to the White House. This is the first volume of his autobiography and ends in May 2011, describing Operation Neptune spear. It gives us hope in a democracy when he divulges empathy as one of the most critical pillars on which democracy is built.

According to Obama,
“More than anyone, this book is for the Young people-an invitation to once again remake the world, and to bring about, through hard work, determination, and a big dose of imagination, an America that finally aligns with all that is best in us.”

What I learned from this book
1) Race and Class
Obama’s childhood was arduous due to absence of his father. He also had to face quandaries related to race like everyone else growing at that time.

“I started asking questions about how it was I’d come to live in a place where few people looked like me. A lot of the questions center’s on race: Why did Blacks play professional basketball but not coach it? What did that girl from school mean when she said she didn’t think of me as Black? Why were all the Black men in action movies switchblade- wielding lunatics except for maybe the one decent black guy- the sidekick, of course- who always seemed to end up getting killed?

But I wasn’t concerned only with race. It was class as well. I became attuned to the not-so-subtle hierarchies amount my prep school classmates, mostly having to do with how much money their parents had. And then there was the unsettling fact that, despite whatever my mother might claim, the bullies, cheats, and self-promoters seemed to be doing quite well, while those she considered good and decent people seemed to get screwed an awful lot. I understood that unless I could stitch my life together and situate myself along some firm axis, I might end up in some basic way of living my life alone.”

2) What is the one thing that Obama wants to do if he could travel back in time?
When Obama joined Columbia University after sophomore year, he lived like a monk in New York for three years, only reading, writing, filling up journals, rarely bothering with college parties, or even eating good food. Obama in this book is saying that this is the period he wants to amend in his life if he ever could zip back in time

“I might urge the young man I was to set the books aside for a minute, open the windows, and let in some fresh air (my smoking habit was then in full bloom). I’d tell him to relax, go meet some people and enjoy the pleasures that life reserves for those in their twenties. I was like a young Walter Mitty; a Don Quixote with no Sancho Panza.”

3) Perfection alone is not the cornerstone of success
Obama is mentioning that during the JJ Dinner, he was convinced that he could win Iowa. Obama’s victory in Iowa helped him establish as one of the Democratic frontrunners of 2008. His journey to that victory was not perfect; in fact, it had lots of drawbacks. This clearly shows that we can win even if we are not the best candidate. Obama says in this book that

“I became convinced that we would win Iowa. Not necessarily because I was the most polished candidate, but because we had the right message for the time and had attracted young people with prodigious talent to throw themselves behind the cause.”

4) Biggest mistake committed by Obama in his campaign
When someone asked Obama why so many working-class people in Pennsylvania continued to vote for Republican’s Obama gave a reply which he considers as his biggest mistake during his campaign. He told,

“You go into some of the small towns in Pennsylvania, and like a lot of small towns in the Midwest, the jobs have been gone now for twenty-five years, and nothing’s replaced them. So it’s not surprising then that they get bitter, they cling to guns or religion or antipathy toward people who aren’t like them, or anti-immigrant sentiment, or anti-trade sentiment as a way to explain their frustrations.”

5) Obama’s debate-day rituals
Obama’s debate-day routine was a riveting one, and every one of us can try to emulate in our own style when we are facing stressful situations like Obama.

"Morning- giving over strategy and key points

Early Afternoon- Some light campaigning.

Four o’clock- Quick workout to shed excess adrenaline

Ninety minutes before heading to the venue- Shave and take a long hot shower, before putting on the new white shirt, tie (blue or red), and freshly pressed blue suit.

Dinner- Comfort food: steak cooked medium-well, roasted or mashed potatoes, steamed broccoli

Half an hour ahead of the debate- Glancing at my notes and listening to music delivered through earbuds or a small portable speaker. It was rap that got my head in the right place, two songs, especially: Jay-Z’s “My first song” and Eminem’s “Lose Yourself.” Both were about defying the odds and putting it all on the line.”

6) How Mahatma Gandhi influenced Obama ?
Mahatma Gandhi was one of Obama’s role models. He mentions how Mahatma Gandhi influence him
“Along with Lincoln, King, and Mandela, Mahatma Gandhi had profoundly influenced my thinking. As a young man, I’d studied his writings and found him giving voice to some of my deepest instincts. His notions of satyagraha, or devotion to truth, and the power of nonviolent resistance to stir the conscience, his insistence on our common humanity and the essential oneness of all religion; and his belief in every society’s obligation, through his political, economic, and social arrangements, to recognize the equal worth and dignity of all people- each of these deals resonated with me. Gandhi’s actions had stirred me even more than his words; he’d put his beliefs to the test by risking his life, going to prison, and throwing himself fully into the struggles of his people. He hadn’t just helped overcome an empire and liberate much of the subcontinent, it had set off a moral charge that pushed around the globe. it became a beacon for tether dispossessed, marginalized groups- including Black Americans in the Jim Crow south-intent on securing their freedom.”

7) What did Obama learn from Operation Neptune Spear?
Operation Neptune Spear was a precision strike operation executed by the United States Navy seals that eliminated Osama Bin Laden undercover in Abbottabad. It was one of the most important events that happened during Obama’s first term. He had a different view regarding this operation compared to many others.

“Was that unity of effort, that sense of common purpose, possible only when the goal involved killing a terrorist? The question nagged at me. For all the pride and satisfaction I took in the success of our mission in Abbottabad, the truth was that I hadn’t felt the same exuberance I had on the night the healthcare bill passed. I found myself imagining what America might look like if we could rally the country so that our government brought the same level of expertise and determination to educating our children or housing the homeless as it had to getting Bin Laden; if we could apply the same persistence and resources to reducing poverty or curbing greenhouse gases or making sure every family had access to decent daycare. I knew that even my own staff would dismiss these notions as utopian. And the fact that this was the case, the fact that we could no longer imagine uniting the country around anything other than thwarting attacks and defeating external enemies, I took as a measure of how far my presidency still fell short of what I wanted it to be-and how much work I had left to do.”

8) Obama, the family man
Even though there are many layers for this biography, the best part of this book will be when he mentions his love for his family. It is easy to get carried away when you have a high profile job requiring an intense amount of time and dedication. But, Obama was very particular about the family time in his schedule, and he dedicated some time for the family every day. He thoroughly enjoyed the quality time he spent with them. He was also fortunate to have a very understanding wife and children. He was also ready to sacrifice anything for the wellness of the family. We can see it in the passage where he is talking about his smoking habit.

“There was a final stress reliever that I didn’t like to talk about, one that had been a chronic source of tension throughout my marriage. I was still smoking five (or six, or seven) cigarettes a day.

At Michelle’s insistence, I had quit several times over the years, and I never smoked in front of the kids.

Initially, the pool game had also given me an excuse to duck out and have a cigarette on the third- floor landing. I had made the decision to quit smoking a few weeks earlier, when Maria, smelling a cigarette on my breath, frowned and asked if I’d been smoking. Faced with the prospect of lying to my daughter or setting a bad example, I called the White House Doctor and asked him to send me a box of nicotine gum. It did the trick for I haven’t had a cigarette since”

9) Some other important topics discussed in this book
1) Role of books in forming the personality of an individual
2) How his grandparents and parents helped him to become a mentally strong person?
3) How Obama’s actions helped in tackling H1N1 virus and Ebola virus?
4) How drug and insurance companies are trying to control American Politics?
5) Obamacare- pros and cons.
6) Obamas response when he won the Nobel peace prize
7) How Obama dealt with the BP oil spill (which is considered as the worst oil spill in U.S. history)?
8) How Obama saved the economy from a likely depression?
9) How Obama stabilized the global financial system and yanked the U.S. auto industry back from the brink of collapse?
10) How tens of billions of dollars that had once gone into bank coffers were used in reforming student loan programs and to make investments in clean energy?
11) His measures to protect public lands and reduce air pollution.
12) His measures to tackle the Middle East crisis

Three things I didn’t like in this book
1) Bulk
This is a 751 page book and this is just the first volume.

2) Obama’s behavior towards his opponents
Obama is one of the few individuals that the world has seen who totally respects his opponents. We can see his respect for those opposing him in multiple parts of this book. But there is one portion in this book where he lambasted his opponents harshly.

“The dark spirits that had long been lurking the edges of the modern Republican Party- xenophobia, anti-intellectualism, paranoid conspiracy theories, and antipathy toward Black and Brown folks- were finding their way to Center stage.”

There are indeed certain leaders in the modern Republican Party with the above demerits. But, I still feel it was a little harsh to generalize it over the whole modern Republican Party, especially from Obama, who almost always respected his opponents.

3) Obama’s opinion about world leaders .
This is the portion of this book that caused a whole lot of controversies in many countries. I also felt that some parts of it should have been edited out.

“A) Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva (Brazil President at that time)- He also reportedly had the scruples of a Tammany Hall boss, and rumors swirled about government cronyism, sweetheart deals, and kickbacks that ran into the billions.

B) Rahul Gandhi (A Congress leader from India)- There was a nervous, unformed quality about him, as if he were a student who’d done the coursework and was eager to impress the teacher but deep down lacked either the aptitude or the passion to master the subject.

C) Vladimir Putin (Russian Prime Minister at that time, now he is again the President)- Vladimir Putin is the leader of what resembled a criminal syndicate as much as it did a traditional government- a syndicate that had its tentacles wrapped around every aspect of the country’s economy. (We can see him mentioning about Russia and its politics using the controversial words of Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn) The lie has become not just a moral category but a pillar of the State.”

I can point out at least five more instances where he was very harsh in commenting about world leaders and their countries. Obama was indeed trying to write honest opinions from his heart without any filters. But it is still sad to see a man of Obama’s stature writing against leaders of other countries in such a manner that too based on rumors (like the case of Lula Da De Silva) and generalizing as a whole about a country based on very few factors.

Compared to the overall scope of this book and the knowledge it provides, these minor negatives are negligible.

My favourite three lines from this book
“My interest in books probably explains why I not only survived high school but arrived at Occidental College in 1979”

“Enthusiasm makes up for a host of deficiencies.”

“There is not a Black America and a White America and a Latino America and an Asian America. There’s the United States of America.”

5/5 It might be one of the bulkiest biographies I came across with. But it is also one of the best autobiographies or memoirs I ever read. There is no surprise that it gathered a huge number of votes in just a few days after it was released to win the best memoir and autobiography award in Goodreads. I am sure this book will win many more hearts and awards. This is a must-read book for everyone.

Profile Image for Jeffrey Keeten.
Author 3 books248k followers
December 25, 2020
”’Whatever you do won’t be enough,’ I heard their voices say.
‘Try anyway.’”

Obama had just been drubbed in an election against a popular candidate when he made the absolutely crazy decision to run for the US Senate. Michelle thought he was out of his mind. He was talking about “magic beans” and shit, but he assured her that this was it. If he lost, he was done with politics. Their credit cards were maxed out, and their overall financial picture was dire...let’s just say, the Star Trek klaxon bells were sounding, and Scotty was screaming at Kirk that he couldn’t hold it together much longer.

Would he really have done with politics if he’d lost? Hell no. I don’t believe it, and as reassuring as the words probably sounded to Michelle, I seriously doubt she believed it either. He had a fire in his belly, and that candle was burning hot. He had a dream, and he wasn’t going to hide it under a bushel. Unh uh!

So in March of 2004, he won the senate election, and in July he was tapped by John Kerry to give the keynote address at the Democratic National Convention. I can remember looking over at my wife and going...who is this guy? I’m a pretty savvy political person. I can remember watching LBJ’s funeral when I was six. I was nine and can remember feeling sorry for President Gerald Ford, even though I had supported President Jimmy Carter in the 1976 Presidential election. Let’s just say that I tuned into United States politics...early on. So I was thinking...this guy...for the keynote?

A guy named Barack Hussein Obama?

I love this conversation he had in the White House with his team, but it sort of sums up the dream-like quality of his rise to the presidency. Spoiler alert...he wins the presidency in 2008.

”’I guess the question for you, Mr. President, is, Do you feel lucky?’*

I looked at him and smiled. ‘Where are we, Phil?’

Phil hesitated, wondering if it was a trick question. ‘The Oval Office?’

‘And what’s my name?’

‘Barack Obama.’

I smiled. ‘Barack Hussein Obama. And I’m here with you in the Oval office. Brother, I always feel lucky.’”

*Phil Schiliro may have watched too many Dirty Harry movies.

I admit, when the Kansas caucus came around, I was sitting in a small room of people supporting Hillary Clinton. I thought Obama was running a cycle early. It was time to elect our first female president, and who knew how long it would be before another woman with the name recognition of Clinton would emerge from the process? I was flabbergasted at the number of people, mostly younger people! who caucused in the gym for Barack Obama. I kept thinking to myself, If these people would actually vote, we could turn Ford County blue. To give you an idea of how red the county is that I live in, 41% of Kansans voted for Joseph R. Biden, but Ford County came in at 33%. In Phillips County, where I grew up, only 11% voted for Biden. Needless to say, my extended family are not only Republicans but are unabashed Trumpsters. I am the black sheep of the family, or should I say the blue sheep of the family.

Obama ran a terrific, revolutionary, grass roots campaign and, against all odds, won the primary and electrified a nation in the process.

So this book primarily covers the election campaign and his first term in office. The second book will cover his second presidential campaign and term in office. Normally, I wouldn’t read this book this soon. I ordinarily like history to get smaller in my rearview mirror before I read any books about it, but after a bruising four years of Trump and an election campaign that slenderized my Facebook friends, mostly family, list, I decided that I needed some time with a voice of reason. I needed to experience our future by reading about the past because I do feel that Obama was the future, even when he was our president of the present.

I like the way he was self-deprecating about his mistakes. Even Obama made some gaffes while speaking...remember “cling to guns or religion?” Stating the stark truth isn’t always the best strategy. I love this little scene with David Axelrod while prepping for a debate.

”’Your problem,’ he said, ‘is you keep trying to answer the question.’

‘Isn’t that the point?’ I said.

‘No, Barack,’ Axe said, ‘that is not the point. The point is to get your message across. What are your values? What are your priorities? That’s what people care about. Look, half the time the moderator is just using the question to try to tip you up. Your job is to avoid the trap they’ve set. Take whatever question they give you, give ‘em a quick line to make it seem like you answered it...and then talk about what you want to talk about.’

‘That’s bullshit,’ I said.

‘Exactly,’ he said.”

Okay, we were all distracted by the fly that flew into Vice-President Mike Pence’s hair and died from toxic embalming fluid during the debate with Vice-President Kamala Harris...I can say that now! Yeah!...but I have never seen a politician during a debate completely ignore any of the questions he was asked like he did. It was hilarious.

If you have been pining for the days when Obama was your president, you will absolutely love reliving those sometimes rocky roads as Obama tried to change our world for the better, despite the best efforts of the Republicans to block anything he tried to do. The Republicans made it very clear from the beginning that they were going to put the party first over the country. The Obama years, despite the obstructions, were certainly halcyon days compared to the last four years. The behind-the-scenes stuff that he shares made me respect and like him even more. He is genuine and cares about the same things that all of us care about, our family, our friends, our dogs, and our need for a sustainable future. He has some of the same fallacies and self-doubts that the rest of us have, but he was determined to become someone who could make a difference.

And he did.

Let’s hope President Joseph Biden and Vice-President Kamala Harris, after getting the White House fumigated and clearing away all the McDonald’s hamburger wrappers, can start driving the car in the right direction.

I’m ridin’ with Biden.

President Obama also answered my question on GR. Check it out at this link:

If you wish to see more of my most recent book and movie reviews, visit I also have a Facebook blogger page at: and an Instagram account
Profile Image for Nilufer Ozmekik.
2,308 reviews44k followers
Currently reading
January 12, 2022
Yes! When I see the winner announcement, I got more and more excited to get this amazing journey into my hands! I'm so thankful to Mimi Chan and fantastic Goodreads team for sending this remarkable novel's copy to me! I'm already hooked! This is one of the most precious gift I have ever gotten for a long time!
Profile Image for Malia.
Author 6 books569 followers
December 4, 2020
My first thought: The editor's red pen was notably absent here! Goodness, this was long; long but not at all boring.
I listened to the audiobook, which Obama reads himself, and there was a sort of comfort in hearing his voice (for 30 hours😳). Whatever you want to say about him, and he seems quite willing to admit his mistakes, Obama is an example of a truly decent man, such a vast contrast to the one currently occupying the White House. I won't go into details of the content of the book, but while I expected to find that nothing much would come as new information, I finished it feeling I have a much deeper insight into Obama's first term as well as the life and responsibilities of a president. If Trump could read, I'd suggest he start here. He might learn something.

Find my book reviews and more at
Profile Image for Yun.
521 reviews21.8k followers
December 14, 2020
A Promised Land is the first volume of Barack Obama's widely anticipated presidential memoir. In it, he details his political rise, the 2008 campaign for president, and what his administration accomplished in their first 2.5 years in office. Filled with his characteristic intelligence and thoughtfulness, it vividly portrays all that his administration has accomplished and the ways they fell short. It also calls attention to how fragile our democracy is and how easily it can be derailed.

Clocking in at more than 700 pages, this was a real doozy of a tome. And it's only the first volume! But reading it, it didn't feel overly long because of the sheer amount of content covered. It's actually quite concise on each topic and is balanced by the fact that the Obama administration accomplished a lot, even during just the initial 2.5 years of his presidency covered in this book. Obama is a terrific writer, succinctly hitting upon all the highlights and lowlights of his journey so far.

(As an aside, I started out reading the hardcover version of this book, which has beautiful pictures, but it's super heavy. I couldn't get comfortable with it in my hands, so I quickly switched over to the eBook, which I stuck with for the remainder of the book. I've also heard that the audiobook is absolutely stellar, as it's read by Obama himself. Just some quick thoughts, if you're trying to decide which medium to go with.)

Though my favorite parts of the memoir are the ones where Obama shares personal anecdotes about himself and his family (and their dog Bo!), or observations about what it's like to be president, those were just a small part of this book. The major focus is on his policies and accomplishments throughout his political career and during his campaign for president.

Going in, I thought there would be some surprises in here, now that Obama is no longer president and can say what he really feels. But nothing in here surprised me. During his administration, I followed current events pretty closely, so everything he talks about (the financial crisis, bailout of banks and auto industry, healthcare reform, climate treaty, Frank-Dodd, the middle east, Israeli–Palestinian conflict, Arab Springs, repeal of DADT, raid on bin Laden, etc.) are all events I already know pretty thoroughly.

Even though there were no surprises, Obama is still a skilled writer. He's great at explaining and summarizing fairly complex ideas in a few short paragraphs. It's also enlightening to see his take of the events that transpired under him and his process in coming to the decisions that he ultimately made.

During his presidency, Obama elevated discourse and gave us the hope of not just a better America, but a better democracy, one that could be free from injustice, inequality, and partisan deadlock. To read his memoir is like reliving the history of this nation during its heyday, when it felt like we were on a trajectory of limitless possibility and progress.

Still, I wouldn't say this has been an easy read. It was actually hard and frustrating to read about all the obstructions and malice that he, his administration, and his family faced. And considering what happened once he left office (and is still happening), reading it triggered a fair bit of anxiety in me. But it's a vital part of history, and knowing it helps me form a more comprehensive understanding of our nation.
Profile Image for Mehrsa.
2,234 reviews3,649 followers
December 5, 2020
Let me first tell you about me: I was an Obama diehard and an Obama apologist. I was hooked when I read Dreams of My Father and watched the 2004 speech. I was one of those people knocking doors in PA and other swing states during the 08 primary. I was elated when he won the primary and the night he won the national probably ranks as the happiest night of my life.

During the presidency, there were MANY things I did not like about the Obama administration--most of them had to do with the Geithner treasury and their handling of the crisis. But I have been an Obama apologist on that (they inherited the crisis, it was Summers' fault, Obama spent his energies elsewhere, etc etc).

So I've been waiting for this book for a long long time. I've been waiting to hear from Obama himself about what happened. And I have been completely willing to give him the benefit of all my doubts if he could give us his point of view.

And now, I am getting off the Obama train. I still love him and his family. I still think that every other GOP candidate would have been an absolute disaster for the country. But I am no longer defending Obama.

In this book, Obama shows the downside and the weakness inherent in being the most self-reflective person in the universe. He takes every important decision (troops in Iraq, homeownership crisis, gitmo, healthcare) and On the one hand-on the other hand's it to DEATH! And then he basically says at the end of the day, the choice that Summers or Geithner or Gates told me I had was the only choice and so I did it and I would do it again. UGH. He didn't fight! He didn't push back. He just went along with the status quo as presented to it. That actually would have been fine (again, I am an Obama diehard), but at least have the awareness and humility to say "Hey, I regret that the only people giving me options on what to do with homeowners were Geithner and Summers. Maybe Warren should have been in the room." Something like that.... Instead, he calls Warren a grand-stander and just defends his decisions.

Maybe you have to do that if you're an ex-president, but if you are going to write a 600 page memoir chock full of self-reflection, go a little bit further and throw us diehards a bone.
Profile Image for Helene Jeppesen.
688 reviews3,625 followers
January 26, 2021
Wow… Just wow!
Is this one of the best books written out there? No, it certainly isn’t. Obama says himself in the prologue that a better author would probably do a better job at cutting down this story – a story that seemed to keep on growing as he was writing. And this autobiography certainly has its share of long sentences (I counted 10 lines in one!) and extensive digressions (however fascinating).
I certainly stared at the book with big eyes when I received it in the mail and realized that it’s 800+ pages (the Danish version) and big enough to hit down a thief in the night – and then I realized that this is only PART ONE!? I had my apprehensions, but then I started reading the prologue, and from that moment I was engrossed.
What this is is a unique insight into one of the world’s most interesting jobs (in my opinion). Not everyone can write this book, and I was – and still am – furthermore a big fan of Obama and his views, personality, person. I knew I wanted to read this even though I’ve already read Obama’s two previous autobiographies AS WELL AS Michelle’s autobiography (I was a big fan of that one as well!). Now that I’ve read “A Promised Land”, I can say that this one made for a whole different reading experience, and it gave me a whole other insight into Obama the person.
I loved this book because it’s been a long while since I was last this inspired by one man and his actions. Obama’s calm reflections and views on how to grabble even the most horrifying incidents was truly an inspiration to me, and I found myself thinking about him and his book when I was not reading it – when I was dealing with things in my own life.
One chapter took another. Had you asked me a month ago, I would’ve thought this would be an enjoyable, but also somewhat dry read that I would at time drag myself through to get to the interesting parts. But no, having just turned the last page I find myself LONGING for the next (and final!) installment. It can only be published too late, in my opinion.
I’ll leave it at this and hope that I’ve inspired some of you to pick up this monster of a book if you have somewhat of an interest in reading it, but – like me – have your apprehensions about it. Read it! You won’t regret it! (And if you do, don’t blame me) :-)
Profile Image for Susanne.
1,168 reviews37.3k followers
December 19, 2020
Review posted on: https://books-are-a-girls-best-friend...

What makes a Great Leader?

When I ask myself that question, the characteristics I look for (to name a few) are Compassion, Dedication, Hard Work, Honesty, Integrity, Intellect, Manners, Mastery, Responsibility, and Reverence.

For me, Barack Obama, former President of the United States was and is the quintessential leader, he exudes integrity, and is the epitome of Presidential and grace under pressure. In addition, his dedication to the job and to the people was evident throughout his Presidency.

Though I thought I knew a lot about him prior to both reading and listening to “A Promised Land,” I learned so much more as I delved into his memoir.

I switched between physically reading the book and listening to the audiobook, to mainly listening because I found President Obama’s voice to be extremely soothing. I could listen to him speak for hours (and in fact I did, considering that the audiobook is 29 hours!).

First and foremost, I was impressed by how kind and considerate President Obama was and is. Always recalling the names of campaign staffers and their families as well as the entire White House staff. Always checking in to make sure that everyone was hanging in. Responding to letters from the American People who had questions and concerns and trying to allay their fears whenever possible.

Always checking on his family no matter what was going on and being there for dinner, whenever possible. His love for them was always ever-present.

Barack Obama’s relationships with his team (which included Axe, Plouffe, Reggie, and Ben, etc.) spoke volumes. What was evident here was the amount of admiration, appreciation, and respect everyone had for each other.

What struck me as I was reading and listening was how hard he worked to get where he is. Reading, studying, gaining advice from aides, scholars, and government officials, even going so far as to reach across party lines to ensure that he was doing the best job he possibly could for the Nation.

From what I could tell, he always went into every situation prepared.

I was truly impressed by the attention to detail given by Barack Obama in “A Promised Land” and how he was able to recall key events and quotes from years prior with such accuracy.

Based on his descriptions of trying to get the Affordable Care Act passed, addressing the financial crisis, climate change (aka saving the tigers), and terrorism, there was nary a moment where I doubted how tirelessly President Obama worked during the first years of his Presidency to deliver as much as he possibly could.

To say that I miss this man doesn’t describe my feelings. I miss his compassion, his dedication, his morality, and his responsiveness. I miss the Obamas, plain and simple.

Reading this brought me peace. Remembering the feeling of being sheltered in a storm, when someone had our best interests at heart, made me feel safe, if only for a minute. I miss that feeling immensely and I look forward with hope, to the days ahead.

Published on Goodreads on 12.14.20.
Profile Image for Regina.
1,136 reviews3,332 followers
January 7, 2021
Well that was... thorough.

At more than 750 pages, this is just volume one of Obama's presidential memoirs. He takes readers behind the scenes from his childhood through the raid to kill Osama bin Laden. And then it just abruptly ends, leaving us to anticipate the next installment.

The parts I appreciated most were glimpses at his family life, particularly how he spent time with his wife and daughters in the White House. Those segments highlight cracks and vulnerabilities in his polished veneer, revealing the man behind the rhetoric.

On the whole, I view presidential memoirs as historical documents and try not to allow my political leanings to color my judgment on them. I considered omitting a star rating for this text, but ultimately I do believe 44 was successful in his goal of providing an honest accounting of his time in office. At least for the time he managed to cover in volume one. 4.5 stars.
Profile Image for Ahmad Sharabiani.
9,564 reviews33 followers
April 3, 2022
A Promised Land, Barack Obama

Barack Hussein Obama II is an American politician, academic, author, and attorney who served as the 44th president of the United States from 2009 to 2017.

What a beautiful name they have chosen for his book. This is life, they have done an incredible job, and he won, this book is also, a memento for future peoples, to look at their ways, and his words, and read them, and hope, that they will always be victorious. The memoir, remaining focused on Obama's political life, begins with his early life, details his first campaigns, and stretches through most of his first term as President.

The book concludes with the events surrounding the killing of Osama bin Laden in May 2011, ending with a meeting between Obama and The United States Navy Sea, Air, and Land (SEAL) Teams, commonly known as Navy SEAL's who conducted the raid. While the book remains focused on politics, the first 200 pages of the book, approximately, are devoted to Obama's life and career up through his time in Chicago.

عنوانهای چاپ شده در ایران: «آن سرزمین موعود»؛ «سرزمین موعود‬‏‫»؛ «یک سرزمین موعود‏‫»؛ نویسنده: باراک اوباما؛ تاریخ نخستین خوانش: روز بیست و هشتم ماه ژانویه سال2012میلادی

عنوان: آن سرزمین موعود؛ نویسنده: باراک اوباما؛ مترجم: محمد معماریان؛ تهران، امیرکبیر‏‫، سال1399؛ در798ص؛ شابک9789640021590؛ موضوع: روسای جمهور -- ایالات متحده -- سرگذشتنامه از نویسندگان و ریاست جمهوری پیشین ایالات متحده آمریکا؛ سده21م

عنوان: ‏‫سرزمین موعود‬‏‫؛ نویسنده: باراک اوباما‬‏‫؛ مترجم: حمید دهقانان؛ ‏‫تهران‬‏‫: جاجرمی‬‏‫، سال1399؛‬ در818ص؛ شابک9786008631262؛

عنوان: یک سرزمین موعود‏‫؛ نویسنده: باراک اوباما‬‏‫؛ مترجمها: پوریا حسنی، زهرا نوربخش، معزالدین باباخانی‌تیموری‬‏‫؛ ویراستار مهدی سجودی ‌مقدم؛ تهران، مهراندیش، سال1399؛ در دو جلد؛ شابک جلد نخست9786227471335؛ ‬ شابک جلد دوم9786227471403؛

عنوان: یک سرزمین موعود؛ نویسنده: باراک اوباما؛ مترجمان پوریا حسنی...[و دیگران]؛ ویراستار مهدی سجودی‌مقدم؛ تهران، مهراندیش، سال1399؛ در833ص؛ شابک9786227471410؛

عنوان: سرزمین موعود: ‏‫خاطرات باراک اوباما؛ نویسنده: باراک اوباما؛ مترجم علی‌اصغر تقوی؛ تهران، فراهنر، سال1399؛ در سه جلد، شابک دوره9786227267402؛

عنوان: سرزمین موعود؛ نویسنده: باراک اوباما؛ مترجم: امیرحسین رزاق؛ تهران، مون، سال1399؛ در1060ص؛ شابک9786227585193؛

نقل از برگردان امیرحسین رزاق: (از میان تمام اتاق‌ها و سالن‌ها و نقاط تاریخی کاخ‌سفید، رواق غربی را، بیش از همه دوست داشتم؛ این رواق روباز، هشت سال تمام، مسیر پیاده‌‌ روی یک دقیقه ‌‌ای من، از خانه، به محل کار بود؛ در این راهرو، هر روز می‌توانستم، وزش باد سرد زمستانی، یا هرم داغ تابستان را، روی صورتم حس کنم؛ در آنجا، افکارم را پیش از آغاز دیدار‌های بعدی، سر و سامان می‌دادم، استدلال‌هایم را برای اعضای بدبین کنگره، و هیئت انتخاب ‌کنندگان، آماده می‌کردم، و عزمم را، جزم می‌کردم، تا از پس تصمیم‌گیری‌ها، و بحران‌های پیش رو، بربیایم؛ در نخستین روزهای «کاخ‌سفید»، دفاتر اجرایی، و اقامتگاه خانواده، همه در یک ساختمان، قرار داشت، و رواق غربی، چیزی جز مسیری، به ‌سمت اسطبل اسب‌ها نبود؛ اما وقتی «تئودور روزولت»، به ریاست ‌جمهوری رسید، باور داشت، یک ساختمان به ‌‌تنهایی، نمی‌تواند کارکنانی مدرن، و شش کودک پر سر ‌‌و ‌‌صدا را در خود جا دهد، و در عین‌ حال، سلامت عقل او را، تأمین کند؛ از همین رو، دستور ساخت قسمت‌هایی را داد، که امروزه، به‌ اسم بال غربی، و دفتر بیضی می‌شناسیم؛ در طول دهه‌ های بعدی، و رئیس‌‌ جمهورهای پس از او، رواق، به ‌‌تدریج ظاهر کنونی خود را یافت: راهرویی، که قسمت غربی و شرقی باغ «رز» را، به یکدیگر متصل می‌کند، در شمال آن، دیواری قطور و ساده، با پنجره ‌های گنبدی، و در غرب، ستون‌های سفیدی وجود دارد، که مانند گاردی افتخاری، امنیت رهگذران را، تأمین می‌کند)؛ پایان نقل

عنوان: سرزمین موعود؛ نویسنده: باراک اوباما؛ مترجم: فرزاد مرتضایی؛ مرسل؛ هنوز منتشر نشده؛

کتاب «سرزمین موعود» در هفت بخش، و بیست و هفت فصل، نگارش شده است؛ قلم روان، و متن ساده و خودمانی این کتاب را، میتوان از جمله نقاط قوت بارز این اثر، دانست؛ «باراک اوباما»، در این کتاب، تنها به بازگویی یامانهای سیاسی خود، در «کاخ سفید» بسنده نکرده اند، و وجوه گوناگون زندگی یک فرد عادی را، که سر از شغلی بزرگ درمیآورد، به تصویر میکشند: «من امیدوارم، که بتوانم، در این کتاب، صادقانه به وقایع زمان حضورم، در کاخ سفید بپردازم؛ وقایعی که، نه فقط به سابقه ی تاریخی وقایع کلیدی آن دوران، و شخصیتهای مهمی که، با آنها ارتباط داشته ام، میپردازد، بلکه گزارشی خواهد بود، از برخی جریانهای سیاسی، اقتصادی، و جریانهای متقابل فرهنگی، که فراروی دولت من بودند، و من و دولتمردانم را، به چالش کشیدند.»؛

ایشان در ادامه مینویسند: «هرجا که فرصتی دست دهد، میخواهم تصویری، از اینکه رئیس جمهور ایالات متحده بودن، چه حالی دارد، ارائه کنم؛ میخواهم پرده ها را، کمی عقب بزنم، و به مردم یادآوری کنم، که، علیرغم تمام قدرت، و شکوهی که در اینکار، وجود دارد، ریاست جمهوری هم، همچون همه ی مشاغل دیگر، تنها یک شغل است، و تمام دولت فدرال، تنها یک کسب و کار انسانی است، که کارکنان آن نیز، همانند همه ی مردمان کوچه و بازار، همان رضایتمندیها، ناامیدیها، فراز و فرودها، پیچ و خمهای پیروزیها، و شکستهای کوچک و بزرگ، و رویدادهای معمولی روزانه را، تجربه میکند»؛

آقای اوباما می‌نویسند: «سخت است که من بخواهم، درباره ی سرگذشت سیاسی خود بنویسم، و اتفاقات همان هفته ‌های نخست ریاست جمهوری، ذهن مرا به خود درگیر نکند؛ اینکه چقدر سریع، جمهوری ‌خواهان در موضع مقاومت، و مخالفت درآمدند، فارغ از اینکه حرف ما چه بود، و اینکه آن مقاومت، چگونه به تصویر ما در مطبوعات، و در نهایت در افکار عمومی، رنگی متفاوت داد.»؛

در بخشی از یادمانی که، از مادر خویش بیان میکنند، مینویسند: «یکبار، وقتی فهمید، که من در گروهی بوده ام، که در مدرسه، بچه ای را، مورد اذیت و آزار قرار داده ایم، مرا در مقابلش نشاند، و در حالیکه لبهایش، از ناراحتی خشک شده بود، و میلرزید، گفت: (میدانی، «باری»، افرادی در دنیا هستند، که فقط، به خود فکر میکنند؛ آنها اهمیتی نمیدهند، که چه اتفاقی، برای افراد دیگر میافتد، تا زمانیکه، آنچه را که میخواهند، بدست آورند؛ آنها افراد دیگر را به زیر میکشند، تا خودشان، احساس مهم بودن کنند؛ در مقابل، افراد دیگری نیز، وجود دارند، که احساسات دیگران را، درک میکنند، و تمام تلاش خود را به کار میگیرند، تا مطمئن شوند، به کسی ظلم نمیکنند، و کاری نمیکنند، که منجر به رنجش کسی شود)؛ سپس در چشمان من خیر شد، و پرسید: (تو میخواهی جزو کدام دسته باشی؟)؛

تاریخ بهنگام رسانی 10/11/1399هجری خرشیدی؛ 13/01/1401هجری خورشیدی؛ ا. شربیانی
Profile Image for Meike.
1,591 reviews2,815 followers
November 24, 2020
"Do we care to match the reality of America to its ideals? (...) I recognize that there are those who believe that it's time to discard the myth - that an examination of America's past and an even cursory glance at today's headlines show that this nation's ideals have always been secondary to conquest and subjugation, a racial caste system and rapacious capitalism, and that to pretend otherwise is to be complicit in a game that was rigged from the start. (...) I'm not yet ready to abandon the possibility of America."

In the first part of his memoir, Obama gives a short account of how he paved the road to the White House and then proceeds to lay out his first term. People who mainly expect personal anecdotes about his family and motivational speeches will probably be disappointed, as the 44th President dives deep into policy and politics, talking about healthcare reform, Iraq, the intricacies of the financial crisis and many other issues.

Looking at the way he frames his (self-)portrayal, two things stand out: Obama identifies instances and tendencies that, from his perspective, lead to the rise of Trumpism, like Republican obstruction politics or the normalization of figures like Sarah Palin. Frequently, he is also very critical of himself (should his reform of the financial sector have been more thorough? did he handle the oil spill right? why didn't he manage to close Guantanamo? etc.) and openly reflects his own anger and frustration over fast news cycles and spins, fellow politicians, and the paradoxical behavior of the American people (they want cheap oil, huge cars AND environmental protection, to name one example). This kind of openness and critical impetus is admirable - Obama does not try to gloss over all the things that didn't go smoothly.

But needless to say, Obama tends to defend his decisions and standpoints - which is totally fine, he wouldn't have acted the way he did in the first place if he wasn't convinced that he took the best measures possible at the time. Still, for a European like me, some arguments sound...well, weird. Obama's way to downplay the American idea of exceptionalism while at the same time ventilating it (to a degree at least), his statement that the USA crafted the world order by implementing NATO, UNO, GATT (really? the US did that, single-handedly?! that will come as a surprise to many other countries) or the way he talks about the Dresden firestorm, an event that until today is instrumentalized by the far-right in East Germany, are a little questionable for a non-American. And I have to admit that it's a little upsetting that such a beloved President still sometimes leans toward an imperial worldview that is, sorry America, outdated.

Still, Obama generally comes across as a humble, intelligent and morally upright person, a somewhat normal family man who fought hard to make the most of one of the most difficult jobs on the planet. He still stands for an idea of America that people all around the world want the US to live up to. Unsurprisingly, his writing is eloquent, easy to follow and captivating - this text shows why political non-fiction is exciting. I can't wait to read pt. 2.
1 review2 followers
November 17, 2020
Can somebody please go through the troll comments and remove the 1 star ratings of the person continuously posting the same, factually incorrect political statement - and any troll reviews for that matter. Other sites that connect to GoodReads receive a misleading rating due to this troll continuously posting 1 star ratings.
Profile Image for Jessica J..
1,027 reviews2,048 followers
November 22, 2020
First of all, how grateful am I that I get to read this after Donald Trump has been voted out of office? If I was worried about four more years of marching towards authoritarianism, I think reading Obama's memoir would have made me more sad than anything else.

My early thoughts on this:

1. He is a fantastic writer. Yes, I know a lot of that is probably due to editors and assistants. The fact remains, though, that this is an incredibly well-written book.

2. He acknowledges that one of the biggest concerns that many had about his early runs for office was that he tended to be overly verbose and spent more time on policy detail than messaging. That's definitely true of this book. He spends a lot of time discussing finer points of the 2008 financial crisis or even the history of Saudi Arabia that probably wasn't necessary for most readers but is also relatively skimmable. The downtick in the rating is largely due to this.

3. All of the qualities that I loved about Obama before shine through here: his thoughtfulness, his optimism, his compassion.
7 reviews
June 25, 2021
65 million dollars in advance paid for this book! It’s ridiculous to call a book that’s given this kind of funding even before it has been penned down as anything other than a corporate investment.

The author has given his opinion on other global/national leaders without having had any meaningful interaction with them. So I will offer a similar type of surface review of what I think about this author and his time in the White House, as it has been skipped by mainstream media during his term. Neither does his book examine any of the points below.

Black Lives Matter......yes, they definitely do matter. I wept when America voted the first black President as a moment of change for all black Americans. The author had 8 years in office, if that wasn’t enough time to bring a drastic change in the lives of black Americans, this man is unfit for the job. He didn’t do the needful or even the bare minimum for black people when he had the opportunity, otherwise there would be no need for BLM movement now.

Sanders had a healthcare plan that covered all Americans. An education plan to relieve students of debt. A climate plan that would have changed the American approach to the environment for the better. Yet Obama endorsed Hillary Clinton in 2016. He is more comfortable encouraging other corporate stooges. He knows that Sanders in the White House for a single day would eclipse his 8 years of governance. Talk about letting personal insecurities obstructing what’s right for the people!

Obama endorsing Clinton is cronyism. What was particularly empowering for women to vote for Hillary Clinton? If a husband cheats on his wife, it’s perfectly fine for her to stay by his side. Many average women do it in reality. It takes a woman of spunk to have more self-respect, walk away from such a partnership and independently create an identity for herself. When a country such as America has a woman for President, hopefully she will be an exemplary woman that the rest of the world will take note. Someone who wants to stay with a cheating husband is better suited to embroider cushions at home (nothing wrong with that either), not to run the most powerful country. Set higher standards in choosing a President. Otherwise the outcome is obvious.

America slipped into recession in 2008. The author’s wife was parading around the White House in designer clothes, that too customised, at a time when the average American was suffering from lower living standards and lack of decently-paid employment. There was much emphasis laid on Obama’s middle class roots during campaigns, but no attempt to relate to the common American after getting the votes! Yet the next First Lady, who was actually a model before entering White House, maintained more decorum in office.

The author’s daughter interned with Harry Weinstein, when she literally had every opportunity to intern in any organisation in the world. With her free-pass to prove her mettle by having access to any organisation in the world, she chose Harry Weinstein as her role model. So much for the author’s upbringing and the values he passed on to his daughter!

The author is the reason why Americans were led to put Trump in the White House. I rest my case. And this man wants to comment on other leaders! He will go down in history as nothing other than the man who put Trump in the White House.
Profile Image for Elle.
587 reviews1,399 followers
December 9, 2020
Now a Goodreads Choice winner in Memoir/Autobiography!

I’ve done a lot of complaining while reading A Promised Land, mostly because of the length. Despite having written two previous books, Dreams from My Father and The Audacity of Hope, the third by our former president is already very long, sitting at a rotund 751 pages. So I was genuinely surprised when I found out this was only volume one of his presidential memoirs, covering primarily his first four year term in office. I went into this thinking, how can someone possibly write that many pages about such a compact period of time. I’m 27, and if I wrote the amount Obama did for each year of my life I would have an over 5000-page memoir.

I guess part of my expectations there stem from the fact that I don’t read political biographies & autobiographies for the most part. I think they are very boring and since most popular ones are accounts from the Civil War or World War II or other endlessly discussed periods of American history, I (probably wrongly, but whatever) feel like there really isn’t much of a new or fresh take that I absolutely *need* to read up on.

The other reason is because I read Michelle Obama’s Becoming last year and it was one of the best memoirs I’ve ever read. Michelle comes off as genuine and brilliant and warm and hilarious, and I loved her perspective on her and her family’s time in the White House. She was also able to cover her entire life, from early childhood until current day, in a cool 426 pages, while her husband is likely to need at least 5 times that number. Barack mentions in the prologue that Michelle didn’t read his book before he finished, which might be why nobody made any significant cuts.

The hero we need, but don’t deserve.

But if I had read a few more presidential autobiographies I may have found A Promised Land resembles those more than Michelle’s book for a very simple reason. This isn’t a book just about Barack Obama’s thoughts or feelings during his time as president, but is intended as a documentation of his official position as President of the United States. It’s now an account of American history, a record of his decisions and time in office. Though it is written by the man himself and likely holds a lot of personal significance, its importance stretches beyond him individually as a citizen and instead is now a component of a larger institution.

So from that angle, I believe this book is enormously successful. I was a teenager when Obama took office in 2009 and though I do remember many of the events he described, I just wasn’t aware of a lot of the broader tones and the implications of what these things meant. The level of obstruction from House and Senate Republicans in particular went completely over my head, as I’m sure it did for a lot of the country, which is definitely intentional on their part. The ruthlessness of Mitch McConnell is nothing new over the past few years, and his crusades during this period are a major contributor towards many of the issues our country is facing today. So many things, by and large universally good things, did not happen during the Obama years simply because McConnell threw himself in front of progress out of a compulsive need to prevent giving the first Black President of the United States even the mere perception of a ‘win’.

Similarly, it makes me empathize with Obama’s struggle to reconcile his ambitious, but still reasonable policy objectives with the realities of the political system he has to work within. I know personally I have fallen back on frustration with the Democratic establishment and how reluctant they seemed to be to ‘push harder’ during the first term, especially the first two years, of his presidency. I think people further left on the spectrum have a right to that frustration, but directing it solely at Obama, who was also being attacked by a racist portion of the Tea Party and right-wing media, seems misplaced now. I don’t agree or even approve of every action taken by his administration, but in a lot of cases it appears that, unfortunately, he did the best he could do with the hand he was dealt.

What I’m hoping for in his next book, beyond more chronicling, is a push towards that more leftist contingent, instead of rooting himself in the center. It should have become obvious to most people in America by this point that the Republican party is really, on the whole, too far gone to try to appease any longer. It hasn’t gotten us where we hoped it might, and they have been resolutely unwilling to reciprocate in any meaningful way. He may have had to play peacemaker while holding the highest office in the country, but he no longer carries that burden. I want President Obama to not just champion his old centrist friends like President-Elect Joe Biden, but make allies with the progressive wing of his party, think Representitives Ocasio-Cortez, Omar, Tlaib, Pressley & C. Bush.

The president has an opportunity to reach out those who feel uninspired and tired of being promised more then given the same. And like he did in 2008, I believe he still has the ability to speak to people on that level. The second volume is likely to end with a rallying cry, and the hope that I have is that he gives us more than platitudes and “snappy slogans”.
Profile Image for Henk.
875 reviews
May 2, 2023
Loved seeing the former president yesterday in Amsterdam, what an inspiring speaker!
A fascinating account of the rise of a president and the enormously diverse task facing him, told in an easy to read manner
I realized that for all the power inherent in the seat I now occupied, there would always be a chasm between what I knew should be done to achieve a better world and what in a day, week, or year I found myself actually able to accomplish.

A very easily written and compelling account of the rise of Barack Obama to public office and the majority of his first term of president. Already you can see how much time has passed, the internet and digitisation almost don't come back (somewhat in his campaign, but a video with 1 million views is called viral) but topics of racial tension, #metoo and especially polarisation are already clearly present. Of the world leaders described by Obama only Merkel, Vladimir Putin and Joe Biden in a different capacity come back in our 2021 world.

I liked the first part of A Promised Land most, it was interesting to see the other side from Becoming, and Barack coming to terms with his ambitions and potential to make an impact (You can spend a lifetime working outside institutions. But you might get more done trying to change those institutions from the inside).
It is striking how his earlier political career contains a virtuous cycle of attention and opportunity, leading him to be the only African American senator (which is wild).
His community organizing is clearly influential in getting elected in the state legislature but his role as US senator gives him a change to really get involved in international affairs like al-shabaab and nuclear sites in the former USSR and earn credentials.

When he is elected the financial crisis takes up a lot of legislative effort, his personal story in respect to subprime loans is also interesting and a real case of storytelling, but I can imagine for people with less of financial background this might be of putting. In general this is much more a political story than Michelle Obama her account of the same period, and the glances at the personal life of the Obama's and his true feelings about the people he works with are scant versus the techniques being described to get anything done in gridlocked Washington.
Also facts like a 1.000 extra troops in Afghanistan cost $1 billion a year makes you aware of the scale of the problems facing ambitions and campaign promises, as acknowledged by Obama: I knew a time would come when I would disappoint them, falling short of the image that my campaign and I had helped to construct.

Presidential power, and control of both houses, is relative with arcane firebreaks as the filibuster being abused for partisan goals. I didn’t like the deal. But in what was becoming a pattern, the alternatives were worse muses Obama in respect to the compromising required to get the Affordable Healthcare Act through, even though the Republicans earlier said:
Let me ask you a question, Chuck, I said finally. If Max took every one of your latest suggestions, could you support the bill?
Are there any changes - any at all - that would get us your vote?
There was an awkward silence silence before Grassley looked up and met my gaze.
I guess not, Mr. President.
or muse the following before the mid term elections:
“I hate to say it” a Republican senator told me when he came by the White House for another matter, “but the worse people feel right now, the better it is for us”.

Trust me he said. The presidency is like a new car. It starts depreciating the minute you drive it off the lot.
Despite this Obama looks back quite positively to his managing the possible and avoiding calamities (The absence of catastrophe, the preservation of normalcy, wouldn’t attract attention.) which in a sense might be fair but also feels a little defensive compared to all the things I can imagine him wanting to achieve. This is partly acknowledged in the below:
I was learning yet another difficult lesson about the presidency: that my heart was now chained to strategic considerations and tactical analysis, my convictions subject to counterintuitive arguments; that in the most powerful office on earth, I had lesson freedom to say what I meant and act on what I felt than I’d had as a senator- or as an ordinary citizen disgusted by the sight of a young woman gunned down by her own government.

Somehow I feel this book could have been more personal and vulnerable, despite how it made me think back quite longingly to a time the leadership of the US in the world seemed predominately a competent force for good in the world.

More than anyone, this book is for those young people - an invitation to once again remake the world, and to bring about, through hard work, determination, and a big dose of imagination, an America that finally aligns with all that is best in us.

But you don’t choose the time. The time chooses you.

“Sometimes” she told me “you just do what needs to be done”

How useful is it to describe the world as it should be when efforts to achieve that world are bound to fall short?
Profile Image for morgan.
142 reviews77 followers
January 15, 2021
this book was phenomenal to me. I found myself giggling, nodding with agreement, gasping with shock and crying throughout this book. In an alternate dimension, I truly believe Barack and I are best friends. I've always loved Obama's writing, since I read Dreams of My Father in my teens, so of course I will be preordering his next book as soon as I can.
Profile Image for Karen.
593 reviews1,197 followers
December 9, 2020
This is the first volume of Barack Obama’s presidential memoirs and I thoroughly enjoyed it.
This is an intimate look into his journey.. as a young man up until May 2011, when US Special Forces captured Osama bin Laden.
This is a lengthy book but I so looked forward to my daily date with Barack.. I just had to listen to the audio!
Cannot wait for the next volume!
I love this man!
Profile Image for Mark  Porton.
417 reviews366 followers
March 24, 2021
A Promised Land by Barack Obama is the first of two books detailing the life and two terms of President Barack Obama, or Bar (pronounced ‘Bear') as his Mum and family called him. His childhood is detailed in the early chapters and is quite interesting to be sure. This includes his time being raised in Indonesia and Hawaii. The fact he came  from a family where the father was largely absent and he and his sister were raised by his Mum, would have had a profound effect on little Bar. He also touches on his relationship with Michelle , but in nowhere the same detail as Michelle mentioned in her 5 star effort Becoming.
The rest of the book is devoted to his political career from his early days in Chicago to most of his first term , up until the time Osama Bin Laden was killed in 2011.
I had some real problems with this book and, I’ll dot point them, otherwise I’ll bang on all night (it’s night time here):
·        He spent way, way, way too much time detailing the passage of various (admittedly) important Bills through Congress and the Senate.

·        As he did this Barack produced a limitless conga-line of politicians, and hangers on, only a political junkie would ever know, remember or care about.

·        The previous two points mean this book is really suited to domestic consumption (Hello World!).

·        Obama was very timid with his opinion of characters from the US – I assume the reader would really want to know what the man thought of some of these people (even the unknown ones) – in detail, I did. However he was a little more open about international politicians, but again not nearly enough.

·        This is essentially a transcript of political action, and personal details , thoughts and opinions took a back seat. Way too sterile for an autobiographical account.

·        I spent my entire time comparing this to Michelle's book – Becoming, which was far more interesting and revealing on the personal front.

·        The fact this is the first part of two, isn’t really obvious. Sure this fact is written on the inside sleeve cover. But I would have been mightily miffed if I had spent $45 on this one to realise I was only half-way to becoming utterly underwhelmed.
I do love this man and his politics, oratory skills, thinking, values and ethos immensely. But I don’t really like this book, maybe my expectations were too high.
2.5 stars rounded up because I borrowed it.
3 Stars
Profile Image for Char.
1,681 reviews1,555 followers
December 3, 2020
It was so refreshing to hear a politician speak humbly, passionately, honestly and with dignity.

To be honest, I didn't think it was possible for me to like this as much as I did Michelle Obama's BECOMING, but I did.

The only fault I can find with this is that it's a tad too long, but that didn't take away from enjoyment in listening.

I look forward to reading his next book, and I look forward to seeing him more in the news as Joe Biden becomes our next president. (I'm hoping that the Obamas will be part of our political life again. A girl can dream.)

My highest recommendation!

*I purchased this audiobook with my hard earned cash. It was worth every. single. penny.) *
Profile Image for Matt.
3,821 reviews12.8k followers
February 24, 2021
The true mettle of a person comes from the ability to overcome adversity and present themselves in as positive a light as possible, or at least I think so. With so much that has happened over the last four years in American politics, one might be able to extend that to the world’s population, or at least those who spent any time impacted by the country in some way. When February began, I sought to spend some time looking at three men who had fought through the trenches of American politics and risen to the position of President of the United States. This memoir, the first of two parts, by President Barack Obama, serves as the final piece in this brief study. It was both refreshing and awe-inspiring, as well as whetted my appetite for the second part. While it is both laudatory and humbling, it does serve to prove that America fell into quite an abyss from 2017 until earlier this year, as we look back at the first term of a man who sought to change the rules and protect the country he loved while doing so. Some may disagree with this, which is their prerogative, though few can discount that the election of Barack Hussein Obama ushered in much change from the way things were done in Washington before. Gripping and enlightening, I was riveted with each page turn and cannot wait for the second volume to complete the story!

Born to modest means, Barack Obama was an outsider from the outset. With a Caucasian mother and Kenyan father whose relationship deteriorated early, Obama was never one to fit into any single group, which he mentions proved to be a yoke of his throughout those` ` formative years. Added to that, the boy who was born in Hawaii was soon travelling to Asia where he began his scholastic learning. He was passionate about education and did not allow himself to be shaped by the perception of others at any point.

When he finished public school in the United States, Obama had aspirations to make a difference, though he was also still in the mindset of many young people, wanting to balance fun with studying. He got passable grades and soon found himself before he landed in law school and found a passion he did not know was there. With the fire lit within him, Obama settled in Chicago and sought to make a difference in the lives of those around him as a community organiser, while also teaching at the law school. He met a lovely woman named Michelle Robinson, who changed his life and taught him the importance of being grounded. Obama speaks at length about their connection and quickly burgeoning relationship, which led to marriage, even if it was not always blissful.

As the Obamas laid down some roots and started a family, the enticement of politics soon crossed Barack’s path. While not the life she pictured for herself, Michelle supported her husband as best she could for his run for a seat in Illinois’ State Senate, a post he won. Balancing the workload with being a young father, Obama did his best to make a difference in the lives of many, while also trying to keep his narrative together. It was not always easy, but the Obamas made it work, somehow.

Testing the power of their relationship, Barack soon devised a plan to take his local advocacy onto a larger stage and sought to win a seat in the US Senate. Less than impressed and trying to carve out a career of her own, Michelle agreed to the venture, but set limits on campaigning and ensured that the Obama household would never have to come second to the electorate. Obama explores the run for a seat in DC and the struggles that he had to overcome, all while he was being noticed on the national stage. His invitation to speak at the 2004 Democratic National Convention proved to electrify a young Barack Obama, but also made a name for him amongst the heavy hitters in the party. He was a man whose name would cross their lips again soon.

The Obamas tried to get used to the national stage and life in DC, struggling at times with the dual households and added responsibilities. A newly-minted senator, Barack Obama had a great deal to learn, though received significant support on both sides of the aisle. Obama illustrates both the great help he received as well as struggles he was forced to overcome on such a large stage, all while trying to carve out his own niche. He sought to push for change, so much so that he would soon be a name people put forward for the 2008 presidential election, surprising because of his lack of experience.

As Obama explains, it was the idea of running for president that almost derailed his relationship. Michelle was wholeheartedly against it, having enough trouble keeping their girls away from the spotlight. It was a stressful time, as Barack wanted a larger taste of the limelight and knew he could make a difference. Backers and political heavyweights continued to press for him to run and Michelle did eventually agree, but set strict guidelines for any run. Thus began the monumental run for president by a man who would smash glass ceilings along the way.

Obama does not hold back about the 2008 campaign for the Democratic nomination. It was a gloves-off affair, with a number of well-known heavy hitters, including: Hilary Clinton, Joe Biden, and John Edwards. They all had experience and name recognition on the national scene, though Obama had something that appealed to voters throughout the campaign. Keen on making himself known and advocating for what he believed was right, Obama was able to capture the nomination with some difficulty, as is described at length in one portion of the book.

The stage was set for a run against John McCain and the Republican base for the role of president. With the George W. Bush presidency entering its final year, the heat was on for both men to explain how they would bring America into a new era. No one could have predicted the issue that hid in the shadows, the massive financial crisis, though Obama explores it at length and how it shaped the campaign that summer and into the final stretch. Both Obama and McCain had their own way of handling it, walking a fine line as President Bush tried to wash his hands of it. Grit and determination balanced against pure vilification of the current administration’s choices in the final weeks, while Obama and McCain locked horns. When all the ballots were counted, America had chosen its first African American president and change was on the horizon, the campaign slogan of “Yes, we can” resonating around the world. However, winning the position was the easy part, or so it seemed.

From the day he was president-elect, Barack Obama was in the hot seat, asked how he would now handle the burgeoning debt and bailouts that President Bush was leaving for him to solve. While Obama seeks to take the high road and tackle solutions, there is a degree of finger pointing and a somewhat high-brow blame game directed not only at his predecessor, but also the congressional Republicans who attempted to stymie progress on getting the country on its feet. Efforts were made to seek change, even during that interim time between the election win and Inauguration Day. It would not be an easy road for Obama as he started as America’s leader, as seen in some of the early meetings with Republican leadership.

Amidst much of the blood, sweat, and tears in the middle of the memoir, Obama does take some time to recount his swearing-in, a monumental event for the country as a whole. While some could still not accept the idea of an African American as POTUS, many celebrated the event and the day took on an special excitement. There is wonderful explorations of sentiments as well as depictions of how Washington prepared for the big day, including the flubbing of the Oath of Office. It was significant, to say the least, but only one day of reprieve before returning to making a difference.

Obama discusses some of his early international summits and sentiments about his new ‘international friends and foes’ in the form of world leaders. It is clear that some would be stronger allies than others, but Obama presents it as an attempt to get to know where he could turn and which leaders might be hiding knives up their proverbial sleeves. It is no shock which leaders fell into which categories, but I will leave it to the reader to uncover the list and Obama’s sentiments throughout the tome. Either way, there is an excellent exploration of international diplomacy as some of the world’s issues take the forefront of the discussion, including: the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, as well as global shifts in politics and those nations who sought to exert their own form of control.

Obama sought to create new and lasting relationships on the international front, including thawing of relations with some countries whose enemy status could not be disputed. Iran proved to be one such country, though the frigidity of the late 1970s and into the 80s would not be easily forgotten. Obama sought to engage along nuclear energy terms, with the Iranians remaining sceptical and tepid throughout. However, there was a determination for America to lead, rather than vilify and point fingers, which appears to be what Obama did.

The book contrasts this nicely with talk of some domestic issues, though the most recollected ‘home-based’ policy Obama had from his first term haunted him into the reign of America’s Autocratic Whiner. Healthcare had long been a sticking point for American administrations, especially something that proved to be affordable. He sought to walk the fine line, particularly as there was a need to ensure congressional passage of the legislation, though Obama was determined to make a difference. As a Canadian, I was enthralled with the rhetoric that emerged on both sides, as though the idea of affordable healthcare for all (let alone, universal) was as inviting as cutting one’s throat with a rusty tin can. Through some tugs and pulls, as well as serious negotiating to protect from a Republican filibuster in the Senate, a plan emerged with majority support in both houses.

Equally as troubling within America’s borders was how to handle the economy post-2008. Obama spends significant time exploring how he sought to rebuild America, through a stimulus package that could help the country get back on its feet. From disdain over corporate bailouts to helping the ‘little guy’ who was sucked into the mortgage market and left with nothing. While there was a degree of compassion to the Obama program, there had to be strict rules, some of which would not impress those within the Democratic Party. However, shouldering ahead was needed, while also trying to tackle many of the other issues left on the agenda.

This first volume of the memoir did not seek to defend Barack Obama as being correct all of the time, even when others refused to listen, but rather to give the reader a broad view of events and how they were seen from within. There were foibles throughout, something that Obama readily admits, but there were also some concrete plans to make things a great deal better, even if others blocked growth or success. Obama showed grit and determination, even as he admitted to being verbose. While the Obama Administration was sandwiched between two staunchly aggressive Republican presidents, they took action, rather than simply wandering around with a broom and dustbin. I believe that is one of the takeaways from this piece for me.

Much like his love to talk, Barack Obama shows that he enjoys putting words on the page. This is by no means a quick read, nor should it be. There is a significant amount of detail throughout the piece to educate and entertain the reader. Facts, perspectives, and raw sentiment cover many of the chapters, giving the reader the man’s personal view on things from congressional battles, world leaders, and international diplomacy. Blunt and surely peppered with some honest to goodness language, the book may turn some away who seek to paint murals of the 44th POTUS, but it is the honesty that sobers the reader throughout this journey. With strong chapters and a personal touch on each page, this memoir tells the story without the flourishes and filters, while making the wait for the second instalment all the more painful. Still, I’ll do it, as this book was so impactful, I cannot imagine what is yet to come!

Kudos, President Obama, for leading from the front. You made the hard decisions and did not rely on any news network to dictate how the winds were blowing or sycophants to pat your ego.

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