Book List

Celebrating A Promised Land

We’ve been warned against offering the people of this nation false hope. But in the unlikely story that is America, there has never been anything false about hope. For when we have faced down impossible odds; when we’ve been told we’re not ready, or that we shouldn’t try, or that we can’t, generations of Americans have responded with a simple creed that sums up the spirit of a people: ‘Yes we can.’

Barack Obama, New Hampsire Primary Speech, 2008

Tomorrow’s the day – A Promised Land is finally making it’s debut on our shelves here at Towne. It’s been four years in the writing, and is the first of a two volume series. Today, in addition to celebrating Barack Obama’s book birthday, we’re sharing some of our favorite political memoirs and biographies from the past few years, from Michelle, to president-elect Joe Biden, to Obama’s former staffers, there are many poignant and funny stories to be found within these collective pages.

A Promised Land by Barack Obama

A riveting, deeply personal account of history in the making—from the president who inspired us to believe in the power of democracy.
In the stirring, highly anticipated first volume of his presidential memoirs, Barack Obama tells the story of his improbable odyssey from young man searching for his identity to leader of the free world, describing in strikingly personal detail both his political education and the landmark moments of the first term of his historic presidency—a time of dramatic transformation and turmoil.
Obama takes readers on a compelling journey from his earliest political aspirations to the pivotal Iowa caucus victory that demonstrated the power of grassroots activism to the watershed night of November 4, 2008, when he was elected 44th president of the United States, becoming the first African American to hold the nation’s highest office.
Reflecting on the presidency, he offers a unique and thoughtful exploration of both the awesome reach and the limits of presidential power, as well as singular insights into the dynamics of U.S. partisan politics and international diplomacy. Obama brings readers inside the Oval Office and the White House Situation Room, and to Moscow, Cairo, Beijing, and points beyond. We are privy to his thoughts as he assembles his cabinet, wrestles with a global financial crisis, takes the measure of Vladimir Putin, overcomes seemingly insurmountable odds to secure passage of the Affordable Care Act, clashes with generals about U.S. strategy in Afghanistan, tackles Wall Street reform, responds to the devastating Deepwater Horizon blowout, and authorizes Operation Neptune’s Spear, which leads to the death of Osama bin Laden.
A Promised Land is extraordinarily intimate and introspective—the story of one man’s bet with history, the faith of a community organizer tested on the world stage. Obama is candid about the balancing act of running for office as a Black American, bearing the expectations of a generation buoyed by messages of “hope and change,” and meeting the moral challenges of high-stakes decision-making. He is frank about the forces that opposed him at home and abroad, open about how living in the White House affected his wife and daughters, and unafraid to reveal self-doubt and disappointment. Yet he never wavers from his belief that inside the great, ongoing American experiment, progress is always possible.
This beautifully written and powerful book captures Barack Obama’s conviction that democracy is not a gift from on high but something founded on empathy and common understanding and built together, day by day.

The Audacity of Hope by Barack Obama

In July 2004, four years before his presidency, Barack Obama electrified the Democratic National Convention with an address that spoke to Americans across the political spectrum. One phrase in particular anchored itself in listeners’ minds, a reminder that for all the discord and struggle to be found in our history as a nation, we have always been guided by a dogged optimism in the future, or what Obama called “the audacity of hope.”
The Audacity of Hope is Barack Obama’s call for a different brand of politics—a politics for those weary of bitter partisanship and alienated by the “endless clash of armies” we see in congress and on the campaign trail; a politics rooted in the faith, inclusiveness, and nobility of spirit at the heart of “our improbable experiment in democracy.” He explores those forces—from the fear of losing to the perpetual need to raise money to the power of the media—that can stifle even the best-intentioned politician. He also writes, with surprising intimacy and self-deprecating humor, about settling in as a senator, seeking to balance the demands of public service and family life, and his own deepening religious commitment.
At the heart of this book is Barack Obama’s vision of how we can move beyond our divisions to tackle concrete problems. He examines the growing economic insecurity of American families, the racial and religious tensions within the body politic, and the transnational threats—from terrorism to pandemic—that gather beyond our shores. And he grapples with the role that faith plays in a democracy—where it is vital and where it must never intrude. Underlying his stories is a vigorous search for connection: the foundation for a radically hopeful political consensus.
Only by returning to the principles that gave birth to our Constitution, Obama says, can Americans repair a political process that is broken, and restore to working order a government that has fallen dangerously out of touch with millions of ordinary Americans. Those Americans are out there, he writes—“waiting for Republicans and Democrats to catch up with them.”

Becoming by Michelle Obama

In a life filled with meaning and accomplishment, Michelle Obama has emerged as one of the most iconic and compelling women of our era. As First Lady of the United States of America—the first African American to serve in that role—she helped create the most welcoming and inclusive White House in history, while also establishing herself as a powerful advocate for women and girls in the U.S. and around the world, dramatically changing the ways that families pursue healthier and more active lives, and standing with her husband as he led America through some of its most harrowing moments. Along the way, she showed us a few dance moves, crushed Carpool Karaoke, and raised two down-to-earth daughters under an unforgiving media glare. 
In her memoir, a work of deep reflection and mesmerizing storytelling, Michelle Obama invites readers into her world, chronicling the experiences that have shaped her—from her childhood on the South Side of Chicago to her years as an executive balancing the demands of motherhood and work, to her time spent at the world’s most famous address. With unerring honesty and lively wit, she describes her triumphs and her disappointments, both public and private, telling her full story as she has lived it—in her own words and on her own terms. Warm, wise, and revelatory, Becoming is the deeply personal reckoning of a woman of soul and substance who has steadily defied expectations—and whose story inspires us to do the same.

Barack & Joe by Steven Levingston

A vivid and inspiring account of the “bromance” between Barack Obama and Joe Biden.
The extraordinary partnership of Barack Obama and Joe Biden is unique in American history. The two men, their characters and styles sharply contrasting, formed a dynamic working relationship that evolved into a profound friendship. Their affinity was not predestined. Obama and Biden began wary of each other: Obama an impatient freshman disdainful of the Senate’s plodding ways; Biden a veteran of the chamber and proud of its traditions.
Gradually they came to respect each other’s values and strengths and rode into the White House together in 2008. Side-by-side through two tension-filled terms, they shared the day-to-day joys and struggles of leading the most powerful nation on earth. They accommodated each other’s quirks: Biden’s famous miscues kept coming, and Obama overlooked them knowing they were insignificant except as media fodder. With his expertise in foreign affairs and legislative matters, Biden took on an unprecedented role as chief adviser to Obama, reshaping the vice presidency. Together Obama and Biden guided Americans through a range of historic moments: a devastating economic crisis, racial confrontations, war in Afghanistan, and the dawn of same-sex marriage nationwide. They supported each other through highs and lows: Obama provided a welcome shoulder during the illness and death of Biden’s son Beau.
As many Americans turn a nostalgic eye toward the Obama presidency, Barack and Joe offers a new look at this administration, its absence of scandal, dedication to truth, and respect for the media. This is the first book to tell the full story of this historic relationship and its substantial impact on the Obama presidency and its legacy.

The Adventures of Barry & Joe by Adam Reid

Brothers from different mothers, bromancing history to save us from Trump. 
These are the continuing adventures of Barack Obama and Joe Biden, time traveling superheroes in search of a brighter future for America. 
Moments after the inauguration of our 45th President, best friends Barack Obama and Joe Biden were escorted to a secret lab run by the world’s greatest scientists. They were asked to take off all their clothes and hold very still in a fetal position until they felt a painful tingling sensation. Then they vanished. They would awake to find themselves apart, and inside their younger bodies—driven to find each other and change history for the better. Their faithful guide on this journey is Samuel L. Jackson, a brilliant actor from the present who appears in the form of an augmented reality that only they can see and hear. And thus, they find themselves leaping through time, striving to right injustice wherever they find it, looking for a world which they can proudly call home.
A visual feast that’s both graphic and novel, this book is a love letter to cheesy science fiction and the two men who can still be counted on to inspire us.  Featuring comics produced by Titmouse Inc (Big Mouth, The Venture Bros.), it’s 224 pages of adventure that will melt your snowflake brain and give you hope for humanity at the same time.

Promise Me, Dad by Joe Biden

I liked Joe Biden as a politician before reading his memoir–and I like him even more after finishing it. This is an emotional story of a man who already had gone through terrific loss and now was losing his son, Beau. I have admiration for Biden’s love for his family, our country, and his faith. In this combination of personal and political memoir, I learned how difficult a time it was for Biden as he dealt with the challenges of being Vice President and an international politician, while dealing with profound loss. I hope he gets to be President after all.

Mary, summer 2020

In November 2014, thirteen members of the Biden family gathered on Nantucket for Thanksgiving, a tradition they had been celebrating for the past forty years; it was the one constant in what had become a hectic, scrutinized, and overscheduled life. The Thanksgiving holiday was a much-needed respite, a time to connect, a time to reflect on what the year had brought, and what the future might hold. But this year felt different from all those that had come before. Joe and Jill Biden’s eldest son, Beau, had been diagnosed with a malignant brain tumor fifteen months earlier, and his survival was uncertain. “Promise me, Dad,” Beau had told his father. “Give me your word that no matter what happens, you’re going to be all right.” Joe Biden gave him his word.
Promise Me, Dad chronicles the year that followed, which would be the most momentous and challenging in Joe Biden’s extraordinary life and career. As vice president, Biden traveled more than a hundred thousand miles that year, across the world, dealing with crises in Ukraine, Central America, and Iraq. When a call came from New York, or Capitol Hill, or Kyiv, or Baghdad—“Joe, I need your help”—he responded. For twelve months, while Beau fought for and then lost his life, the vice president balanced the twin imperatives of living up to his responsibilities to his country and his responsibilities to his family. And never far away was the insistent and urgent question of whether he should seek the presidency in 2016.
The year brought real triumph and accomplishment, and wrenching pain. But even in the worst times, Biden was able to lean on the strength of his long, deep bonds with his family, on his faith, and on his deepening friendship with the man in the Oval Office, Barack Obama.
Writing with poignancy and immediacy, Joe Biden allows readers to feel the urgency of each moment, to experience the days when he felt unable to move forward as well as the days when he felt like he could not afford to stop.
This is a book written not just by the president, but by a father, grandfather, friend, and husband. Promise Me, Dad is a story of how family and friendships sustain us and how hope, purpose, and action can guide us through the pain of personal loss into the light of a new future.

Promises to Keep by Joe Biden

Joe Biden has both witnessed and participated in a momentous epoch of American history. In Promises to Keep, Joe Biden reveals what these experiences taught him about himself, his colleagues, and the institutions of government.
With his customary candor and wit, Biden movingly recounts growing up in a staunchly Catholic multigenerational household in Scranton, Pennsylvania, and Wilmington, Delaware; overcoming personal tragedy, life-threatening illness, and career setbacks; his relationships with presidents, with world leaders, and with lawmakers on both sides of the aisle; and his leadership of powerful Senate committees.
Through these and other recollections, Biden shows us how the guiding principles he learned early in life—to work to make people’s lives better; to honor family and faith; to value persistence, candor, and honesty—are the foundation on which he has based his life’s work as husband, father, and public servant.
Promises to Keep is an intimate series of reflections from a public servant who surmounted numerous challenges to become one of our most effective leaders and who refuses to be cynical about politics. It is also a stirring testament to the promise of the United States.

The Truths We Hold by Kamala Harris

From Vice President-Elect Kamala Harris, one of America’s most inspiring political leaders, a book about the core truths that unite us, and the long struggle to discern what those truths are and how best to act upon them, in her own life and across the life of our country.
Vice President-Elect Kamala Harris’s commitment to speaking truth is informed by her upbringing. The daughter of immigrants, she was raised in an Oakland, California community that cared deeply about social justice; her parents–an esteemed economist from Jamaica and an admired cancer researcher from India–met as activists in the civil rights movement when they were graduate students at Berkeley. Growing up, Harris herself never hid her passion for justice, and when she became a prosecutor out of law school, a deputy district attorney, she quickly established herself as one of the most innovative change agents in American law enforcement. She progressed rapidly to become the elected District Attorney for San Francisco, and then the chief law enforcement officer of the state of California as a whole. Known for bringing a voice to the voiceless, she took on the big banks during the foreclosure crisis, winning a historic settlement for California’s working families. Her hallmarks were applying a holistic, data-driven approach to many of California’s thorniest issues, always eschewing stale “tough on crime” rhetoric as presenting a series of false choices. Neither “tough” nor “soft” but smart on crime became her mantra. Being smart means learning the truths that can make us better as a community, and supporting those truths with all our might. That has been the pole star that guided Harris to a transformational career as the top law enforcement official in California, and it is guiding her now as a transformational United States Senator, grappling with an array of complex issues that affect her state, our country, and the world, from health care and the new economy to immigration, national security, the opioid crisis, and accelerating inequality.
By reckoning with the big challenges we face together, drawing on the hard-won wisdom and insight from her own career and the work of those who have most inspired her, Kamala Harris offers in THE TRUTHS WE HOLD a master class in problem solving, in crisis management, and leadership in challenging times. Through the arc of her own life, on into the great work of our day, she communicates a vision of shared struggle, shared purpose, and shared values. In a book rich in many home truths, not least is that a relatively small number of people work very hard to convince a great many of us that we have less in common than we actually do, but it falls to us to look past them and get on with the good work of living our common truth. When we do, our shared effort will continue to sustain us and this great nation, now and in the years to come.

Thanks, Obama by David Litt

Remember when presidents spoke in complete sentences instead of in unhinged tweets? Former Obama speechwriter David Litt does. In his comic, coming-of-age memoir, he takes us back to the Obama years – and charts a path forward in the age of Trump. 
More than any other presidency, Barack Obama’s eight years in the White House were defined by young people – twenty-somethings who didn’t have much experience in politics (or anything else, for that matter), yet suddenly found themselves in the most high-stakes office building on earth. David Litt was one of those twenty-somethings. After graduating from college in 2008, he went straight to the Obama campaign. In 2011, he became one of the youngest White House speechwriters in history. Until leaving the White House in 2016, he wrote on topics from healthcare to climate change to criminal justice reform. As President Obama’s go-to comedy writer, he also took the lead on the White House Correspondents’ Dinner, the so-called “State of the Union of jokes.”
Now, in this refreshingly honest memoir, Litt brings us inside Obamaworld. With a humorists’ eye for detail, he describes what it’s like to accidentally trigger an international incident or nearly set a president’s hair aflame. He answers questions you never knew you had: Which White House men’s room is the classiest? What do you do when the commander in chief gets your name wrong? Where should you never, under any circumstances, change clothes on Air Force One? With nearly a decade of stories to tell, Litt makes clear that politics is completely, hopelessly absurd.   
But it’s also important. For all the moments of chaos, frustration, and yes, disillusionment, Litt remains a believer in the words that first drew him to the Obama campaign: “People who love this country can change it.” In telling his own story, Litt sheds fresh light on his former boss’s legacy. And he argues that, despite the current political climate, the politics championed by Barack Obama will outlive the presidency of Donald Trump.
Full of hilarious stories and told in a truly original voice, Thanks, Obama is an exciting debut about what it means – personally, professionally, and politically – to grow up.

Who Thought This Was a Good Idea? by Alyssa Mastromonaco

Who Thought This Was a Good IDea? is a fun and enlightening read by Obama staffer Alyssa Mastromonaco. her stories are not only entertaining, but include wisdom about how to be professional, even when you don’t feel like a grown-up. It also includes stories of her own missteps and what not to do should you find yourself in the position to meet Queen Elizabeth!

Sarah, summer 2018

If your funny older sister were the former deputy chief of staff to President Barack Obama, her behind-the-scenes political memoir would look something like this . . .
Alyssa Mastromonaco worked for Barack Obama for almost a decade, and long before his run for president. From the then-senator’s early days in Congress to his years in the Oval Office, she made Hope and Change happen through blood, sweat, tears, and lots of briefing binders.
But for every historic occasion — meeting the queen at Buckingham Palace, bursting in on secret climate talks, or nailing a campaign speech in a hailstorm — there were dozens of less-than-perfect moments when it was up to Alyssa to save the day. Like the time she learned the hard way that there aren’t nearly enough bathrooms at the Vatican.
Full of hilarious, never-before-told stories, Who Thought This Was a Good Idea? is an intimate portrait of a president, a book about how to get stuff done, and the story of how one woman challenged, again and again, what a “White House official” is supposed to look like. Here Alyssa shares the strategies that made her successful in politics and beyond, including the importance of confidence, the value of not being a jerk, and why ultimately everything comes down to hard work (and always carrying a spare tampon).
Told in a smart, original voice and topped off with a couple of really good cat stories, Who Thought This Was a Good Idea? is a promising debut from a savvy political star.

Yes We (Still) Can by Dan Pfeiffer

From Obama’s former communications director and current co-host of Pod Save America comes a colorful account of how politics, the media, and the Internet changed during the Obama presidency and how Democrats can fight back in the Trump era.
On November 9th, 2016, Dan Pfeiffer woke up like most of the world wondering WTF just happened. How had Donald Trump won the White House? How was it that a decent and thoughtful president had been succeeded by a buffoonish reality star, and what do we do now?
Instead of throwing away his phone and moving to another country (which were his first and second thoughts), Pfeiffer decided to tell this surreal story, recounting how Barack Obama navigated the insane political forces that created Trump, explaining why everyone got 2016 wrong, and offering a path for where Democrats go from here.
Pfeiffer was one of Obama’s first hires when he decided to run for president, and was at his side through two presidential campaigns and six years in the White House. Using never-before-heard stories and behind-the-scenes anecdotes, Yes We (Still) Can examines how Obama succeeded despite Twitter trolls, Fox News (and their fake news), and a Republican Party that lost its collective mind.
An irreverent, no-BS take on the crazy politics of our time, Yes We (Still) Can is a must-read for everyone who is disturbed by Trump, misses Obama, and is marching, calling, and hoping for a better future for the country.

The World as It Is by Ben Rhodes

For nearly ten years, Ben Rhodes saw almost everything that happened at the center of the Obama administration—first as a speechwriter, then as deputy national security advisor, and finally as a multipurpose aide and close collaborator. He started every morning in the Oval Office with the President’s Daily Briefing, traveled the world with Obama, and was at the center of some of the most consequential and controversial moments of the presidency. Now he tells the full story of his partnership—and, ultimately, friendship—with a man who also happened to be a historic president of the United States.
Rhodes was not your typical presidential confidant, and this is not your typical White House memoir. Rendered in vivid, novelistic detail by someone who was a writer before he was a staffer, this is a rare look inside the most poignant, tense, and consequential moments of the Obama presidency—waiting out the bin Laden raid in the Situation Room, responding to the Arab Spring, reaching a nuclear agreement with Iran, leading secret negotiations with the Cuban government to normalize relations, and confronting the resurgence of nationalism and nativism that culminated in the election of Donald Trump.
In The World as It Is, Rhodes shows what it was like to be there—from the early days of the Obama campaign to the final hours of the presidency. It is a story populated by such characters as Susan Rice, Samantha Power, Hillary Clinton, Bob Gates, and—above all—Barack Obama, who comes to life on the page in moments of great urgency and disarming intimacy. This is the most vivid portrayal yet of Obama’s worldview and presidency, a chronicle of a political education by a writer of enormous talent, and an essential record of the forces that shaped the last decade.

West Winging It by Pat Cunnane

The West Wing meets The Office in this “funny, moving story about working in the White House that is a must read for anyone who misses having Barack Obama as President” (Dan Pfeiffer, cohost of Pod Save America), directly from his senior writer and former Deputy Director of Messaging.
West Winging It is the “fitfully funny…warm and observant” (Kirkus) story of Pat Cunnane and his journey from outsider to insider—from his dreary job at a warehouse to his dream job at the White House. Pat pulls the drapes back on the most famous and exclusive building in the United States, telling the story of the real West Wing with compelling and quirky portraits of the people who populate the place, from the President to the press corps. Pat takes you into the Oval Office, providing a “snappy, sunny” (USA TODAY) insider’s glimpse of what it’s really like—from the minutiae to the momentous—to work at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue.
Along the way, Pat draws an intimate portrait of the side of President Obama that few were privy to—the funnyman, the nerd, the athlete, the caring parent. He describes both the small details—the time he watched in horror as the President reached over the sneeze guard at Chipotle—and the larger, historic moments, such as watching the President handle the news of the 2015 terrorist attacks in Paris. In some ways, working at the White House is a lot like every office, and in some ways, it’s like no office ever. Pat recounts the time he accidentally slammed a door on Joe Biden, plotted to have the Pope bless him by faking a sneeze, and almost killed America’s First Dog.
West Winging It is a fun, poignant reminder that the best part about working in the Obama White House was the people working with you, and knowing that everyone was there for the right reason: to try to do as much good, for as many people, as we possibly could” (Jay Carney, former press secretary). At its core, it’s a fish-out-of-water story—only these fish are trying to run the United States of America.

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