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The Audacity of Hope: Thoughts on Reclaiming the American Dream (Vintage) Mass Market Paperback – July 15, 2008

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Editorial Reviews Review

Barack Obama's first book, Dreams from My Father, was a compelling and moving memoir focusing on personal issues of race, identity, and community. With his second book The Audacity of Hope, Obama engages themes raised in his keynote speech at the 2004 Democratic National Convention, shares personal views on faith and values and offers a vision of the future that involves repairing a "political process that is broken" and restoring a government that has fallen out of touch with the people. We had the opportunity to ask Senator Obama a few questions about writing, reading, and politics--see his responses below. --Daphne Durham
20 Second Interview: A Few Words with Barack Obama

Q: How did writing a book that you knew would be read so closely by so many compare to writing your first book, when few people knew who you were?
A: In many ways, Dreams from My Father was harder to write. At that point, I wasn't even sure that I could write a book. And writing the first book really was a process of self-discovery, since it touched on my family and my childhood in a much more intimate way. On the other hand, writing The Audacity of Hope paralleled the work that I do every day--trying to give shape to all the issues that we face as a country, and providing my own personal stamp on them.

Q: What is your writing process like? You have such a busy schedule, how did you find time to write?
A: I'm a night owl, so I usually wrote at night after my Senate day was over, and after my family was asleep--from 9:30 p.m. or so until 1 a.m. I would work off an outline--certain themes or stories that I wanted to tell--and get them down in longhand on a yellow pad. Then I'd edit while typing in what I'd written.

Q: If readers are to come away from The Audacity of Hope with one action item (a New Year's Resolution for 2007, perhaps?), what should it be?
A: Get involved in an issue that you're passionate about. It almost doesn’t matter what it is--improving the school system, developing strategies to wean ourselves off foreign oil, expanding health care for kids. We give too much of our power away, to the professional politicians, to the lobbyists, to cynicism. And our democracy suffers as a result.

Q: You're known for being able to work with people across ideological lines. Is that possible in today's polarized Washington?
A: It is possible. There are a lot of well-meaning people in both political parties. Unfortunately, the political culture tends to emphasize conflict, the media emphasizes conflict, and the structure of our campaigns rewards the negative. I write about these obstacles in chapter 4 of my book, "Politics." When you focus on solving problems instead of scoring political points, and emphasize common sense over ideology, you'd be surprised what can be accomplished. It also helps if you're willing to give other people credit--something politicians have a hard time doing sometimes.

Q: How do you make people passionate about moderate and complex ideas?
A: I think the country recognizes that the challenges we face aren't amenable to sound-bite solutions. People are looking for serious solutions to complex problems. I don't think we need more moderation per se--I think we should be bolder in promoting universal health care, or dealing with global warming. We just need to understand that actually solving these problems won't be easy, and that whatever solutions we come up with will require consensus among groups with divergent interests. That means everybody has to listen, and everybody has to give a little. That's not easy to do.

Q: What has surprised you most about the way Washington works?
A: How little serious debate and deliberation takes place on the floor of the House or the Senate.

Q: You talk about how we have a personal responsibility to educate our children. What small thing can the average parent (or person) do to help improve the educational system in America? What small thing can make a big impact?
A: Nothing has a bigger impact than reading to children early in life. Obviously we all have a personal obligation to turn off the TV and read to our own children; but beyond that, participating in a literacy program, working with parents who themselves may have difficulty reading, helping their children with their literacy skills, can make a huge difference in a child's life.

Q: Do you ever find time to read? What kinds of books do you try to make time for? What is on your nightstand now?
A: Unfortunately, I had very little time to read while I was writing. I'm trying to make up for lost time now. My tastes are pretty eclectic. I just finished Marilynne Robinson’s Gilead, a wonderful book. The language just shimmers. I've started Team of Rivals by Doris Kearns Goodwin, which is a great study of Lincoln as a political strategist. I read just about anything by Toni Morrison, E.L. Doctorow, or Philip Roth. And I've got a soft spot for John le Carre.

Q: What inspires you? How do you stay motivated?
A: I'm inspired by the people I meet in my travels--hearing their stories, seeing the hardships they overcome, their fundamental optimism and decency. I'm inspired by the love people have for their children. And I'm inspired by my own children, how full they make my heart. They make me want to work to make the world a little bit better. And they make me want to be a better man.

--This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

From Publishers Weekly

Ilinois's Democratic senator illuminates the constraints of mainstream politics all too well in this sonorous manifesto. Obama (Dreams from My Father) castigates divisive partisanship (especially the Republican brand) and calls for a centrist politics based on broad American values. His own cautious liberalism is a model: he's skeptical of big government and of Republican tax cuts for the rich and Social Security privatization; he's prochoice, but respectful of prolifers; supportive of religion, but not of imposing it. The policy result is a tepid Clintonism, featuring tax credits for the poor, a host of small-bore programs to address everything from worker retraining to teen pregnancy, and a health-care program that resembles Clinton's Hillary-care proposals. On Iraq, he floats a phased but open-ended troop withdrawal. His triangulated positions can seem conflicted: he supports free trade, while deploring its effects on American workers (he opposed the Central American Free Trade Agreement), in the end hoping halfheartedly that more support for education, science and renewable energy will see the economy through the dilemmas of globalization. Obama writes insightfully, with vivid firsthand observations, about politics and the compromises forced on politicians by fund-raising, interest groups, the media and legislative horse-trading. Alas, his muddled, uninspiring proposals bear the stamp of those compromises. (Oct. 17)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

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Product Details

  • Mass Market Paperback: 464 pages
  • Publisher: Vintage; Reprint edition (July 15, 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0307455874
  • ISBN-13: 978-0307455871
  • Product Dimensions: 4.2 x 1.2 x 6.9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1,126 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #26,690 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Barack Obama was elected President of the United States on November 4, 2008. He is the author of the New York Times bestsellers Dreams from My Father and The Audacity of Hope: Thoughts on Reclaiming the American Dream.

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

2,168 of 2,570 people found the following review helpful By ProperGander News (Dr. Emil Shuffhausen) on October 17, 2006
Format: Hardcover
All too often here on Amazon, we review only those books and authors with which we totally agree...or totally disagree...and give little regard to the quality of the actual contents of the book. And then, our fellow Amazon viewers come along and rate our reviews strictly on the basis of their own partisan biases. This is not very helpful.

I set out to read and review Senator Barack Obama's latest book, not because I agree with everything he has to say, but because in some ways, I had respected him because he seemed to be a thoughtful and eloquent American with a compelling story. I give the book 4 stars for style and significance in our culture, but much less for substance.

The Senator has a generally warm and inviting style of communicating that portrays himself as an agent of change in American politics. In terms of writing style, THE AUDACITY OF HOPE is a good, though sometimes "preachy" read; at times, it seems a bit too earnest or striving for political correctness. Obama deserves credit for being able to discuss his values and faith in a manner that is more comfortable than many of his political contemporaries. And, in the book, he does a reasonable job of articulating why and how his faith and values cause him to think and act in the way that he does.

At times, the reader may wonder if he is too ambitious - or even naive. One can respect his energy and commitment to change, even as one firmly disagrees with his policies and plans.

And, I certainly do take issue with some of the Senator's actual policies and worldview that he discusses. His health care plans may sound noble, but they would likely lead to significantly decreased quality and choice for most Americans and soaring taxes and budget deficits...big government at its worst.
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7 of 8 people found the following review helpful By John Marks on February 7, 2012
Format: Mass Market Paperback
Ok, I am not a fan of President Obama. I am not anti-Obama either. I was soured on him when he won a Nobel Peace Prize just for being elected. I never understood why so many people who actually did something for the world were passed over and he got an award for basically running for president without yet acomplishing anything. I have to wonder if they had waited if he would still receive the award today. Well I am getting off on a tangent. That being said, I still gave the book an open minded read. What is in it is most of his catch phrases from speeches. I was hoping there would be some backing and research for his views but that was completely absent. As another reviewer said "it is a mile wide and an inch deep intellectually speaking."

That is my opinion too.
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32 of 43 people found the following review helpful By Bex on March 8, 2007
Format: Hardcover
I usually get through a book in a day or two; this book took over a month. I find Senator Obama's style of talking appealing; but he writes exactly as he talks - - - parenthetically. He has a soaring vision of emotional patriotism, freedom, and equality; but when it comes to practical solutions, not so much.
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Format: Hardcover
As the acknowledged rising star of the Democratic Party, Barack Obama has done an admirable job in maintaining the precarious balance between being a media lightning rod and a largely unproven senator out to establish his record. While it may speak to the current vacuity in the party's leadership, Hillary Clinton aside, Obama certainly cannot be underestimated for the political acumen he has displayed during key high-attention moments like his keynote speech at the 2004 Democratic National Convention. He wrote an insightful personal memoir over a decade ago before entering politics, "Dreams from My Father: A Story of Race and Inheritance", which I read a couple of years back and thought was quite lucidly written if rather guarded in exploring his racial dichotomy.

What came across in his first book was a unique voice, and even though he sticks primarily to politics this time out, his voice remains consistent, at least on the written page, and that's what makes this such a magnetic read. He has a personable way of tackling topics as diverse as foreign policy, religious faith and the U.S. Constitution without the taint of pandering that media-hungry pundits and other politicians seem to enjoy. There is no denying that Obama is an instinctive consensus builder and that quality may have alienated those who label him a centrist. However, we understand the genesis of this commitment through his journey to reconcile his own racial identity. The irony is that in this book, the senator presents a series of policy statements that hold a clarity in purpose lacking among his Democratic brethren while concurrently replicating the successful Republican approach of linking political beliefs to values.
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395 of 552 people found the following review helpful By Bryan Lemke on January 18, 2007
Format: Hardcover
Well written, but it feels like there is nothing new presented about politics. If you are from the left side of the spectrum, you will find yourself nodding in agreement with Senator Obama's views, and if you hail from the right side, you will likely be shaking your head throughout most of the book.

There is a lot of apparent chastisement of political parties in general, but the author specifically cites examples from the republican party. Though I hail from the left, I got frustrated that he would present an argument that would seem like common sense, talk about how we need to centralize our political system, and then rip the republican side apart... doing just the opposite of what he says we need to stop doing!

By the end of the book, it felt more like a political stunt to discredit republicans and get ready for the White House than a book about changing the country. Ironically, I felt more sympathy towards republicans than I felt at the beginning of the book. A nice subtitle to the book would have been "The Audacity of Hope: Why the Republican Party Is Supremely Evil and Powerhungry".

A little less ripping on the republicans and following his own advice to politicians would have netted 4 or 5 stars.
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