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Inside Obama's Brain Hardcover – December 1, 2009

2.9 out of 5 stars 10 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

This breezy, engaging book does not explicitly attempt biography; instead journalist Abramsky dissects the personality of Barack Obama, examining the qualities—focus, self-confidence and curiosity—that fueled his meteoric rise. The book, the fifth in this series, draws on an impressive number of interviews with Obama's friends and associates—though not one with the president himself—and includes illuminating anecdotes from every phase of the president's life. Case studies of the Iowa caucus, the Rev. Jeremiah Wright controversy and the appointment of Hillary Clinton as secretary of state bring the book's arguments into focus. Abramsky does little to conceal his enthusiasm for Obama, comparing him repeatedly to Lincoln and Kennedy and labeling him a potential once-in-a-generation leader. Skeptics are likely to find the author's praise off-putting (he includes dissenting views but generally dismisses them). None of the book's insights are revelatory—for example, Obama's poise and calm under pressure have been fodder for journalists and talking heads since the primaries began—but supporters are likely to enjoy the book's concision and fresh approach to familiar material. (Dec.)
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From Booklist

What is it about Obama that has allowed him, a relative political neophyte and a black man, to achieve the pinnacle of world power? Political journalist Abramsky attempts to answer that question in this psychological profile of a man of polyglot cultural background and great intellect, oratorical skills, and charisma. Abramsky draws on Obama’s writings and speeches, as well as interviews with friends and colleagues, to offer a portrait of an idealistic, ambitious man driven to ever higher achievements. Abramsky focuses on Obama’s role as a community organizer and its impact on him and his ability to bridge differences and reach consensus. Interview subjects recount scenes of ambition tempered by idealism, liberal ideals tempered by pragmatism. The book begins with a look at the inner workings of Obama’s mind, his methods and motivations. Later chapters examine his political persona as affected by his life experiences. Finally, Abramsky takes a broader view of what Obama’s election says, not only because of his race but also because of the contours of his personality, about the U.S. at this point in its history. --Vanessa Bush
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 224 pages
  • Publisher: Portfolio; First Printing edition (December 1, 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1591843022
  • ISBN-13: 978-1591843023
  • Product Dimensions: 7.1 x 5.2 x 1.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 10.6 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 2.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (10 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #3,765,348 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By J. Davis on January 30, 2010
Format: Hardcover
Inside Obama's Brain is a decent, if sympathetic, overview of the political/social career of the 44th president. I would have liked to have read a few more interviews with his political opponents. But, overall, the book does show some negative aspects of Obama's personality and career. Obama looks like a opportunist in more than a few instances; Abramsky discusses his cynical embrace of the Daley machine, the vote for a symbolic border fence he didn't really support, and his abandonment of campaign finance reform during the 2008 election. I classify the book in the category of not quite good enough to buy, but worth checking out at the library.
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Format: Hardcover
Sasha Abramsky likes Barack Obama... make that he REALLY likes Barack Obama. He calls Obama "a once-in-a generation political leader." This book is mostly a listing of Obama's good qualities, based on the author's interviews with people who knew Obama and Obama's books and speeches. Let me be clear that I also like Barack Obama, and while I think the author got the big picture right (yes Obama is smart, charismatic and works hard at listening and bringing people together), he is not infallible. He's had an extraordinarily huge helping of problems and crises to deal with early in his Presidency, and he's taken on more issues at once than most Presidents have done. It would be great if he were our Moses, leading us out of the wilderness of terrorist threats, broken health care, and financial disaster, but can anyone actually live up to such an expectation?

Obama does possess the qualities we need in a leader, and, as the author points out, his experience as a community organizer (despite ignorant sneers from the likes of Sarah Palen) has equipped him to listen to the peoples' needs and to work with all the stakeholders involved to seek solutions to our many problems. The trouble is, on the health care issue, the Republicans had no interest in solving the nation's health care problems, only in "breaking Obama." Obama also cozied up to the health insurance industry, hoping they would not mount an attack against reform. But being who they are, when time came to actually pass something, the insurance industry, of course, attacked. So much for bringing everyone together.

But that brings me to what impresses me most about Obama. He doesn't fade, he doesn't crash, he doesn't flinch when things are going badly.
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Format: Hardcover
The book attempts to explain influences on Barack Obama's thinking with anecdotes. A journalist, he interviews many persons acquainted with Obama to derive insights, but his remark that Obama was "confined by his many heritages" misses the essential role of multicultural Hawai`i in liberating him from stereotypic thinking of the kind that the author displays. Abramsky assumes that Obama's experience as a community organizer in Chicago is central to his demeanor and outlook, completely missing the fact that even Illinois friends and political mentors see him as primarily influenced by Hawai`i.
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Format: Hardcover
Regardless of your political leanings, INSIDE OBAMA'S BRAIN is a fascinating window into what has shaped the personality and character of our 44th President. I approached the book with an open mind, not having read much about the life of Barack Obama. Author Sasha Abramsky seems to have written his book in a way that was for people like myself, incorporating writings from Obama as wel as conversations with those who seem to know him best.

The book highlights not just his rise to fame in the world of politics, but the journey he took to understand himself. Pres. Obama's mixed heritage may have been seem by some as just another obstacle for the young man to overcome, but Abramsky highlights it this way: "His very existence challenges social codes and prevailing orthodoxies. Obama is, in many ways, a walking one-man diaspora, a man who can't be defined, or rather confined by his many heritages... To a peculiar degree, he is, as a result, his own creation."

That sums up in many ways the 'out of the box' thinking that seems to lead the man who would become America's Commander-In-Chief. Through each challenge and difficulty, there seems to be a "glass half full" approach that kept him striving, achieving and overcoming.

INSIDE OBAMA'S BRAIN has all the ingredients needed for a worthwhile read. Above all it reminds us that no matter how dark things may appear around us at any given time, we have to always be on the hunt for the light within us all.
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Format: Hardcover
Sasha Abramsky's new book, Inside Obama's Brain (Portfolio Books), offers a thoughtful analysis of Obama through the eyes of his friends and colleagues interviewed by Abramsky. If Abramsky does not quite get us inside Obama's brain, he does allow us to explore some of the nearby territory.

There is nothing earth-shattering in Abramsky's book, no politically salacious detail that explains who Obama is and why he has governed this country in the past year the way he has. But the book does offer a lot of insights about Obama that serve as an important antidote to the wailing of complaints that occupy the responses to the news of the day. A year after Obama's inauguration, Abramsky gives us back some of the hope that has dissipated in the face of practical politics.

To some on the left, Inside Obama's Brain might seem like a historical artifact by this point, written as it was in the late stages of Obama's 2008 campaign and the early months of his presidency, when so many people had high hopes and, Abramsky wrote, "Obama seemed largely to be retaining his appeal."(218) However, these dark days of populist, anti-incumbent anger during the depth of the Bush recession are likely to dissipate this year as the economy recovers. And when the pundits have proven wrong again, Abramsky's book will offer a lot of insights about Obama.

The author may strike some on the left as naïvely donning several pairs of rainbow-colored glasses. But this picture of Obama, if sometimes gauzy, is an important story to remember when so many progressives and independents get caught up in the political moment, when compromise is inevitable and high-minded ideals fall a long distance before the power of sleazy senators. Abramsky is not naive.
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