Dreams From My Father (Barack Obama, 1995)

A simple but beautiful narrative that showcases Obama’s gift with words and soul-searching bent.

It’s not a particularly political book. It’s a traditional autobiography, dealing with childhood and coming-of-age. It does, however, cover how Obama first got into politics and public life when he became an adult. For those interested in his entry to the political arena , it offers a valuable insight into the challenges of those early days, but it’s still very much tied in with his youth and the motivations that brought about his entry into this life.

Though it’s not by any means a lofty philosophical work, remaining accessible and simple in structure throughout, the most striking aspect of the work that lifts it out of being just a chronology  is Obama’s continuing preoccupation with questions of identity, belonging and change – about reconciling your self, your family, your past and your future.

Obama betrays a sensibility of the higher issues dealt with in philosophy and academia in relation to these issues, but never alienates the reader by becoming dry or impersonal in style or language.

Instead he shows that he feels keenly the same struggles that all men and women encounter in their hearts and asks himself the same questions we all ask of ourselves: about who they are, what they should do with their lives and where in the world they might belong.

And in his case, of course, the answer turned out to be extraordinary, but I think for that you have to read his next one, The Audacity of Hope.