Barack Obama’s long-awaited memoir comes out two weeks after the election

It will always be funny to me that Michelle Obama released her memoir, Becoming, went on a huge book tour, got a podcast and did like a million other things… all before her husband even finished his presidential-years book. Turns out, Barack Obama had so much to write, he’s doing a two-volume series. And the first volume will be released two weeks after the election. Obama announced the news on social media with this message:

There’s no feeling like finishing a book, and I’m proud of this one. I’ve spent the last few years reflecting on my presidency, and in A Promised Land I’ve tried to provide an honest accounting of my presidential campaign and my time in office: the key events and people who shaped it, my take on what I got right and the mistakes I made, and the political, economic, and cultural forces that my team and I had to confront then—and that as a nation we are grappling with still.

In the book, I’ve also tried to give readers a sense of the personal journey that Michelle and I went through during those years, with all the incredible highs and lows. And finally, at a time when America is going through such enormous upheaval, the book offers some of my broader thoughts on how we can heal the divisions in our country going forward and make our democracy work for everybody—a task that won’t depend on any single president, but on all of us as engaged citizens. Along with being a fun and informative read, I hope more than anything that the book inspires young people across the country—and around the globe—to take up the baton, lift up their voices, and play their part in remaking the world for the better.

[From BO’s IG]

I’m reminded of the fact that Hillary Clinton’s First Lady memoir was considered a much better book than her husband’s book – it’s because former presidents think they need to do detailed accounting of who said what and when, and they tend to get lost in the weeds. I bet it will be that way with A Promised Land – it will make news, I’m sure, and it will sell, but people will simply *like* Michelle’s book more, because it’s more readable and less wonky and procedural.

I’m curious about the timing too – surely, Obama’s publisher would have preferred for Obama to do a book tour in the final weeks of the election cycle? Surely everyone around Obama would have wanted him to repeatedly bait Trump in interview after interview in late October? It would drive up book sales AND help agitate the Democratic base. So why is the release date after the election? Hm.

Former US President Barack Obama in Berlin

Photos courtesy of Instagram, Avalon Red, Backgrid.

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18 Responses to “Barack Obama’s long-awaited memoir comes out two weeks after the election”

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  1. jessamine says:

    I remember when Clinton went on his book tour to “help” Kerry and just ended up sucking up all the press oxygen and rehashing old dem scandals … Teasing the release now keeps Obama relevant to the news and forward in people’s minds without stomping all over Biden’s new cycles. It also gives him legitimate cover to jump into one of Biden’s new cycles if (let’s be honest: *when* — and I love me some Grandpa Joe) he gets super gaffy.

    • Louise177 says:

      Agree that the attention would be on Obama and Trump not Biden. He would probably make a fool of himself but Trump’s name would be out there. People would forget about Biden. Plus people like Obama so much Biden wouldn’t look so favorable.

    • superashes says:

      Spot on jessamine! Plus, Obama’s book probably will inflame those same forces that came out in 2016 but then faded away in the 2018 mid-terms.

  2. Agirlandherdog says:

    Because Obama is a classy guy. For him, it’s probably more about not pulling attention away from Biden/Harris in the home stretch. I’m sure he’ll do whatever he can to support them, but he would want to shine the light on them rather than pull attention from them.

    • Silver Charm says:

      This. He’s a good man who is still trying to uphold presidential norms.

      While the book won’t be released until after the election I’m sure snippets and some reviews will come out. Maybe draw some of Trump’s attention away from Biden/Harris in the home stretch. Trump will be a disaster those final weeks and he’s always hated Obama as much as (if not more than) Hillary.

      • Chanteloup says:

        Obama is the best.
        Just the mention of his name sends the Tangerine Menace into a rage meltdown. The simple announcement of the book’s release might cause him a heart attack [oh well]. It’s not like he has the intelligence or attention span to actually read it.

  3. Case says:

    I hope it’s a celebratory read rather than a comfort read.

  4. Truthiness says:

    Michelle worked with a professional writer on her book. I hate to use the term ghost writer because I don’t want to diminish her role in any way. Her husband was already a distinguished writer before his presidency, he has to be THE writer on his, so I don’t feel we should compare. This is a follow up after books like The Audacity of Hope and Dreams From My Father. His journey is uniquely his and we can treasure it for history knowing that it was 100% his vision.

    • sassafras says:

      She did and they based it off of recorded conversations that she had throughout the eight years. Her process was likely simpler and more straightforward. If you’ve read Becoming, you’ll see that Barack is a man who wants to dive deep, sit with his thoughts and stack materials all around him. He probably also had help with researching and materials but he’s the type of guy who wants to take his time and be thorough.

      Both of them are creating history, though and excellence. Just different processes.

      • Truthiness says:

        100% agree, I want to add clarification though. There was an article in the Atlantic much earlier this year that said there have been only three Presidents who were real writers – the type to really labor over it as a writer, not as a President. John Quincy Adams, Abraham Lincoln and Barack. It is worth highlighting this rarity and putting the book’s gestation period in context.

    • BayTampaBay says:

      I heard the same thing.

      Michelle Obama had (and wanted) a co-writer as she likes to bounce ideas and discuss all before putting pen to paper. This allowed her writing process to go faster as it minimized the number of edits and re-writes necessary to putting out a great book.

  5. Chanteloup says:

    I’m enjoying the photos. That smile, the warmth, the confidence, the hope, the last time I felt safe in this world.

  6. Bibi says:

    Certainly Obama wouldn’t want to be interfering with the election. But I feel that if ever the polls wouldn’t be positive for outing trump, the book would be ready to ship out. The fact that he starts his announcement with “I’ve finished the book” is designed so that trump gets that it could be shipped out faster since he doesnt have enough attention span to read further.

  7. A says:

    As someone else pointed out in the comments, if you’ve read Becoming, you have some idea of what type of person Barack Obama is. The one anecdote that still sticks out in my mind is when Michelle Obama woke up at 3 in the morning one time and found him sitting up in bed, lost in thought. When she asked him what he was thinking about, he replied, “Income inequality.”

    So he is a thoughtful, measured, sort of person, who I think cares deeply about the words he puts down on paper and the thoughts he commits to ink. A memoir is not easy to write. It’s better to take the time to think about what to say, than to put it out in a rush and say the wrong thing. It’s not Twitter.

  8. Jay says:

    I think any content released before the election might draw attention away from the Biden Harris campaign unintentionally, or end up with people relitigating the Obama years, or Biden’s actions as VP. He (and Michele) can still do a lot to support and encourage people outside of a book tour.

  9. jferber says:

    I love you, Barack. America needs you now more than ever. I pray that when Biden wins, you will become a Supreme Court justice. It’s where you belong. Let’s end this farce and get back to the real deal, President Biden, Vice-President Harris and getting this country back on track.