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The Bridge: The Life and Rise of Barack Obama Paperback – January 11, 2011

4.1 out of 5 stars 81 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Remnick (Lenin's Tomb), editor of the New Yorker, offers a detailed but lusterless account of Barack Obama's historic ascent. As a piece of "biographical journalism," the book succeeds ably enough and offers familiar commentary on Obama's cosmopolitan childhood with strains of isolation and abandonment straight out of David Copperfield-rootless, fatherless, with a loving but naïve and absent mother, he suffered racial taunts and humiliations at the hands of his schoolmates. We read how Obama's famous composure was hard-won, how he constructed his personality in opposition to his father's grandiose self-regard, his transformation from "Barry" to "Barack," the drug use, the burgeoning racial and political consciousness-rehashing events that the subject himself has covered in his frank memoirs. But for the scope (and size) of the book, Remnick's interest is ultimately limited to a study of Obama's relationship with blackness, and Obama as the student and fulfillment of the civil rights movement-it's a rich vein but impersonal, and in the author's handling, slightly repetitive. Remnick is in deeply respectful court scribe mode, but he does shine in his treatment of more peripheral characters such as Jesse Jackson and Hillary Clinton, both of whom emerge as figures of Shakespearian psychological complexity. A well-researched biography that pulls many trends of Obama-ology under its umbrella but stints on fresh interpretations.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

From Bookmarks Magazine

Most reviewers were pleasantly surprised to find that anyone could find anything new to say about the president, since he is one of the most scrutinized people on the planet and has already written two memoirs. But Remnick pulls off The Bridge, in part, through innovative and exhaustive research. Several critics remarked how Remnick's reporting expanded their views of the Obama of Dreams From my Father; others were grateful for the author's elucidation of the president's crucial years in Chicago. But the book's key trait, and what may even find it some readers among skeptics of the president, is Remnick's nuanced reading of how Obama discovered an identity in the struggles of African American history--before he went on to be a part of that history. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 704 pages
  • Publisher: Vintage; Reprint edition (January 11, 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 037570230X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0375702303
  • Product Dimensions: 5.2 x 1.4 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 15.2 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (81 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #536,370 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By William Mahoney on April 7, 2010
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Despite the fact that President Obama might be the best known living human, only two general categories of books have previously appeared about him. The first type has been shoddily whipped together by journalists and is usually little more than a 300 page magazine article providing the general outline of the election. While entertaining, the de minimus research means that beyond one or two added details (probably about Reille Hunter), these works are usually little more than unoriginal and unsourced recapitulations of a tale that has been told hundreds of times on the front pages of every newspaper in the country. The other sort has been written by supporters or opponents of Obama; the strong bias of these works usually makes them appealing only to close-minded partisans.

Dreams From My Father, while a more revealing book than most, clearly falls into the category of a pro-Obama work. While it certainly included many of the warts of the President's early life, the ones that found their way into the story were usually carefully chosen anecdotes designed to shape the narrative he has sold to the public.

The Bridge is the first book that moves beyond this and can be called a "history." It relies heavily on Dreams, but doesn't take what was written as gospel. Scores of interviews with former classmates or colleagues are included, corroborating or refuting the tales that were told in this memoir. When the Robert Caros and Edmund Morrises of the next century write the "defining" Obama biographies, these primary sources will be heavily cited.

This work does a fantastic job of pointing out Obama's key role in American civil rights history while still maintaining a reasonable air of detachment as to the man and his policies.
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Format: Hardcover
Barack Obama's been pretty well covered and I would have passed over this book as another tome praising or debasing the man's stature and accomplishments. But I saw David Remnick was authoring it. In addition to being editor of The New Yorker, Remnick authored one of the best biographies on another transcendental figure- Muhammad Ali in "King of the World." So I gave this book a chance and found a thoroughly engaging work that details Obama's background, the different stages of his life in Hawaii, Chicago as a community organizer, Harvard law school, Chicago redux and his meteoric rise in national politics.

What makes this book worth reading and a book that will be referred to long after Obama has left office, is Remnick's ability to weave the person Barack Obama into a larger cultural context. In this case, the post-civil rights era and the new generation politics recently arisen. This skill of Remnick's is what struck me in "King of the World."

This is done by detailing important external components beyond Obama. In particular, the civil rights movement, social organizers, the political climate in Chicago pre- and post- Mayor Harold Washington, and the Clinton machine are all explored. The divergences to explicate these things are never too long-winded. The focus of the book remains Obama. But the attention paid to creating a full picture makes the book successful in rendering how improbable and significant Obama's rise was. Thus, Remnick illustrates that Obama's rise is both a consequence of his own volition and the perfect socio-political climate. In other words, the stars were perfectly aligned for this all to take place.

Obama's human nature is revealed through consistent anecdotes.
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Format: Hardcover
Ideal for Obama fans, history buffs (especially the history of civil rights) and political junkies, The Bridge tells the story about how Barack Obama became the link from the past to the future.

In a literal sense, the bridge is the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma, Alabama, site of the "Bloody Sunday" march in 1965. In a more spiritual sense, Obama is the bridge himself. Author David Remnick's book gives Obama's political rise context, by analyzing the setting in which his rise occurred. Examined in vivid detail: the civil rights battles in the south before he was born; the volatile mix of race and politics in Chicago, where Obama first ran for office; his successes and failures in the Illinois State Senate; skirmishes with older black politicians; and the bitter presidential campaign--in particular the primary fight against Hillary Clinton.

Included are many quotes from Obama's friends, family and associates, and powerful recollections of events from his life. A childhood classmate remembers an incident when Obama's skin was deemed too "dirty" to touch a draw sheet before a tennis tournament: "the implication was absolutely clear: Barry's hands weren't grubby; the message was that his darker skin would somehow soil the draw." Obama's former college roommate recalls the party-time atmosphere in the dorm, even listing the some of the music pounding out of the future chief executive's room: the B-52s, Talking Heads, Bob Marley, Billie Holiday. Remnick gives indelible accounts of Obama's wife Michelle--including her insistence that he do his share of grocery shopping and car-pool duties--and his closely fought duel with Hillary Clinton over the nomination.

Richly detailed and full of life, The Bridge will not disappoint.
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