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Barack Obama: The Story Hardcover – June 19, 2012

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 672 pages
  • Publisher: Simon & Schuster; First Edition edition (June 19, 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 9781439160404
  • ISBN-13: 978-1439160404
  • ASIN: 1439160406
  • Product Dimensions: 6.2 x 1.5 x 9.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 2.4 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 3.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (145 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #360,053 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews


“…this is a revelatory book, which anyone interested in modern politics will want to read, and which will certainly shape our understanding of President Obama’s strengths, weaknesses and inscrutabilities. Every few pages Maraniss offers a factual nugget that changes or enlarges the prevailing lore….a richer view of the man we have become familiar with, without really knowing…. after this book we know one public figure much better.” The New York Times Book Review

“Maraniss delivers….The power of Maraniss’s reporting becomes apparent in his treatment of the future President’s ‘dark years’…. Maraniss captures Obama’s search for purpose and the kindling of his ambition with an intimacy unlike that of other biographers—including Obama….[The book] offers the rawest account of his early life and a deeper understanding of his origins. Three and a half years and countless publications after Obama’s Inauguration, that is a remarkable feat.” —TIME

“Book is full of riveting stories, shrewd observations, and fascinating details. It’s like reading Michener….There is something quite searching and wonderful about seeing much of history as a chaos of chance.” The New Yorker

“‘Barack Obama’ is a biography at its best. A prodigiously researched and exquisitely written multigenerational account….Almost without exception, Maraniss' assessments are judicious and persuasive….With subtlety and sophistication, Maraniss captures and conveys Obama's sensibilities and sensitivities.”—San Francisco Chronicle

“This biography possesses a richness and scope that cannot be captured in short-form journalism, magazine excerpts or a mere review. Maraniss has written a global, multigenerational saga that culminates in the emergence of a young man who is knowable, recognizable and real....Maraniss approaches the task with deep research, crisp, clean writing and judicious reflection that never seems intrusive. He not only succeeds, he makes it look easy.” —The Washington Post

"It's not often that a book has the potential to change the course of political history, which is why this one is probably the most eagerly anticipated American book of the year." —

“By showing us the young Barack Obama—breathing, moving across the world, traversing the bloodknot of race in America alongside family, relationships, and the hurly-burly of Chicago—David Maraniss has shown us a human soul growing almost inch by inch. This is a work of literature, and it possesses the kind of brilliance and verve that would have made James Baldwin himself proud.”
Wil Haygood, author of King of the Cats: The Life and Times of Adam Clayton Powell, Jr.

“The books of David Maraniss are like majestic rivers rolling to the sea, gathering in all the other confluences as they go, gaining their incredible subsurface force. But here, in a multigenerational portrait of a young man owning the most improbable history, Maraniss has outdone himself. Finally, you can understand the man who became the 44th president.”
Paul Hendrickson, author of Hemingway’s Boat: Everything He Loved, and Lost, 1934-1961

“Maraniss offers not just a beautifully written book, but a real insight into what goes on behind the veil.”
The Hill

“This is a highly textured and intimate look at the family stories behind Obama …A thoroughly fascinating, multigenerational biography that explores broader social and political changes even as it highlights the elements that shaped one man’s life.”—Booklist, starred review

“Another in the author’s line of authoritative biographies…Maraniss’ portrayal…is masterful and moving.”—Kirkus Reviews

About the Author

David Maraniss, an associate editor at The Washington Post, is the author of critically acclaimed bestselling books on Bill Clinton, Vince Lombardi, Vietnam and the sixties, Roberto Clemente, and the 1960 Rome Olympics. He won the 1993 Pulitzer Prize for his coverage of Clinton, was part of a Post team that won the 2007 Pulitzer for coverage of the Virginia Tech tragedy, and has been a Pulitzer finalist three other times, including in the nonfiction history category for They Marched Into Sunlight: War and Peace, Vietnam and America, October 1967. He lives in Washington, D.C., and Madison, Wisconsin.

Customer Reviews

Book far too long and far too detailed.
J. Philip Geddes
It is comforting to realize our president is a human being shaped by the very institutions of the country he leads.
I should say that although I own a copy of the book I listened to it on an audio copy from the library.

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

95 of 119 people found the following review helpful By jem on June 28, 2012
Format: Hardcover
Maraniss has the ability and the commitment to confront the age-old issue: how is our unique identify defined by our genes and our environment? Barack Obama is an exceptionally rich, but difficult, subject. The author is not writing a typical biography, but delivers the deepest and most revealing analysis of Obama that I've read.

However, this book is not for everyone. If you firmly believe Obama was not born in Hawaii, save yourself arguing with an author determined to discover truth. If you are an Obama loyalist who will be distressed to find that in "Dreams From My Father" he compressed chronology and assigned pseudonyms save yourself the disappointment.

If you find yourself both amazed and frustrated by Obama's abilites to function in interracial and international environments, his negotiating and compromising skills in problem-solving situations, his inspiring speeches and his aloof coolness, you will be rewarded with deeper understanding of a very complicated person.

Maraniss relies heavily on personal interviews rather than secondary sources and he finds many, many details not previously published. Traveling to Kenya, Kansas, Indonesia, Hawaii, California, New York, Chicago and Washington,DC he questions relatives, friends, and competitors, to create a thorough perspective of his very diverse subject. This book does not extend into Obama's political career, but focuses on his formative years moving through family, school, and community environments in which he is invariably -- and feels he is -- an outsider trying to find his place in the world.

I turned the final page feeling thankful for such an objective viewpoint during a time of high partisanship. It is comforting to realize our president is a human being shaped by the very institutions of the country he leads.
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102 of 129 people found the following review helpful By Z on June 26, 2012
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This book reminds me in a way of Robert Penn Warren's masterpiece, "All the King's Men." WIth its gripping writing, color, characters and narrative, David Maraniss' "Barack Obama: The Story" feels like a great American novel.

Yet it is a meticulously researched, journalistic and true account of the forces that shaped our president's life. It begins decades before Obama was born and ends when he is still in his 20s. At a time of fleeting accounts of political figures, this book is for history.

Individual chapters could stand on their own as masterful tales of shifting politics and culture in places like Kansas, Kenya, Hawaii and Chicago in the years preceding and following Obama's birth. But they are all tied together by Obama's journey, and you find yourself moving through time and place, seeing it all through Obama's eyes -- as well as those of his family, friends, romantic partners.

This isn't an anti- or pro-Obama book. Maraniss does not praise or criticize the president. He doesn't throw bombshells. Nor does he need to. Rather, Maraniss has found every fact he can about Obama's history, pieced them together in a story that finds drama in Obama as a regular human being struggling with the question of who he is.

In short, Maraniss has pulled back every layer of artificiality about Obama's past -- promulgated by both Republicans and Democrats -- and written the truest account of the young life that shaped today's president.
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23 of 27 people found the following review helpful By Joseph Palen on August 30, 2012
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
This is a very well researched story of the young Barack Obama, his father, Kenyon Barack Obama Sr. (whose brilliance was compromised by arrogance and alcohol), his mother Anne, (who gave him the genes of an explorer of life, as an escapee from Kansas ), and the before-Michelle women in his life (notably, all white). It not only digs much deeper into his early life than Obama's "Dreams from My Father", it also spends a lot of time (too much I think) correcting and explaining the 1995 autobiography, which was a work of art, but by Obama's own admission played fast and loose with timelines and characters. The theme of the book is how, through a first class education, life experiences in Hawaii, Indonesia, Kenya, California, New York, and Chicago, Barack Obama became the person he is today, with the brilliance and ambition of his father, and the compassion infused fix-the-world-spirit of his mother.

Obama's mother's Midwest roots did not come from exactly an ideal white picket fence family, and included a grandmother who committed suicide, a father who was a big talker, but could not hold a job, and a mother who worked - something unheard of in Kansas, until WW II made it more necessary and then respectable. Moving many times for father to find a new job, and gradually moving west, they all ended up in Hawaii where Obama's mother briefly married his father from Kenya and bore him, then married an Indonesian and moved with Barack to Jakarta. Barack later went back to school in Hawaii, and on from there to Occidental, Columbia, and eventually to Harvard, where his father also studied.

His Father from Kenya was recognized by everyone he knew as exceptionally brilliant, but somewhat arrogant and difficult to deal with.
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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful By John C. Garrett on December 14, 2012
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Very well researched, objective and non-partisan, with several well-written lyrical passages. Reading the book left me with the feeling that I now "personally" know our president. Indeed, this book should be "must reading" for the electorate in general and Obama's critics in particular (I'm a Republican)..

The 5th star would be there except for the couple of parts of the book which were simply "too much information", even for a semi-scholarly work like this one, viz., Obama Sr.'s tribal lineage, history, culture, etc., and (too a lesser extent) Ann's personal history.
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More About the Author

David Maraniss is an associate editor at The Washington Post. He is the winner of the 1993 Pulitzer Prize for National Reporting and has been a Pulitzer finalist two other times for his journalism and again for They Marched Into Sunlight, a book about Vietnam and the sixties. The author also of bestselling works on Bill Clinton, Vince Lombardi, and Roberto Clemente, Maraniss is a fellow of the Society of American Historians. He and his wife, Linda, live in Washington, DC, and Madison, Wisconsin.

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