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Barack Obama: The Story Paperback – January 15, 2013

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Editorial Reviews


“This is a revelatory book . . . 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.” (The New York Times)

“[This] book is full of riveting stories, shrewd observations, and fascinating details.” (The New Yorker)

Barack Obama is biography at its best. A prodigiously researched and exquisitely written multigenerational account…. With subtlety and sophistication, Maraniss captures and conveys Obama's sensibilities and sensitivities.” (San Francisco Chronicle)

“Remarkable . . . 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)

Barack Obama is a work of monumental ambition. …Maraniss’ exhaustive research and lucid writing expands exponentially our knowledge of the president’s history.” (Chicago Tribune)

“There's far more to this revealing and deeply reported coming-of-age story, a term usually applied to novels….[It] reads like a novel filled with stories too unlikely for fiction . . . which makes it the best kind of political biography.” (USA Today)

“Impeccably researched…. Stunning in its detail… Maraniss… gets out of the way and lets his first-rate reporting tell the story. . . . It is like watching a magician at work” (Milwaukee Journal Sentinal)

About the Author

Born in Detroit, David Maraniss is an associate editor at The Washington Post. Maraniss is a Pulitzer Prize–winning journalist and bestselling author of First in His Class: A Biography of Bill Clinton; Rome 1960: The Olympics that Stirred the World; Barack Obama: The Story; Clemente: The Passion and Grace of Baseball’s Last Hero; They Marched into Sunlight: War and Peace, Vietnam and America, October 1967; and When Pride Still Mattered: A Life of Vince Lombardi, which was hailed by Sports Illustrated as “maybe the best sports biography ever published.” He lives in Washington, DC and Madison, Wisconsin.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 672 pages
  • Publisher: Simon & Schuster; Reprint edition (January 15, 2013)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1439160414
  • ISBN-13: 978-1439160411
  • Product Dimensions: 6.1 x 1.1 x 9.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.5 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (155 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #237,667 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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.

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

105 of 132 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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24 of 28 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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97 of 122 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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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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