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Barack Obama: The Story

4.04  ·  Rating Details ·  829 Ratings  ·  133 Reviews
From the author of First In His Class, the definitive biography of Bill Clinton, and When Pride Still Mattered, the bestselling biography of Vince Lombardi, and They Marched Into Sunlight, the classic saga of the Vietnam era—a stunning new multigenerational biography of Barack Obama.

From one of our preeminent journalists and modern historians comes the epic story of Barack
Hardcover, 672 pages
Published June 19th 2012 by Simon & Schuster (first published June 1st 2012)
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The title of David Maraniss' well-researched tome doesn't reveal all that much about its contents. As he mentions in the introduction, we won't be seeing our Obama (aka Barry, aka POTUS 44) until chapter seven of this eighteen-chapter volume, and the narration stops with his departure for Harvard Law in 1988. So, this is some pretty deep background; as it is described in various summaries, a multi-generational epic.

Obama graphic by Lincoln Agnew

Two points about yours truly before I proceed- I have not read Dreams from My
Jun 19, 2012 Darlene rated it it was amazing
This biography of President Barack Obama by David Maraniss is incredibly well- researched and is presented without bias. Having read Dreams From my Father and The Audacity of Hope written by President Obama, I already possessed knowledge of his personal story and what influenced and shaped his belief system. This book, however, took me on an incredible journey starting a couple of generations before President Obama's birth in Hawaii. Mr. Maraniss traveled to Kansas, Kenya, Indonesia and Hawaii t ...more
Jun 17, 2012 Susan rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This book was excerpted in Vanity Fair, which focused on his relationships before he went to Harvard Law. But that's only one small part of this epic story of his parents' and grandparents' experiences. It's a sad story on both sides, which makes the President's incredible success all the more remarkable. I was so touched by the events in this book that I made another donation to his campaign!

Aug 13, 2012 Toni rated it liked it
This was okay, but disappointing. David Maraniss digs up some interesting / juicy stuff, especially on Obama's New York years. But he also spends waaaayyyy too long on Obama's genealogy, which (beyond maybe his parents) I, for one, could care less about. More annoying still was this tick he has of dwelling far too long on the little coincidences, chance encounters, and twists of fate that color all of our lives, Obama being no exception. As a former history major, I found this sort of chaos theo ...more
Sep 20, 2012 Linda rated it it was amazing
I am about halfway into the book but find it fascinating. It is SO detailed starting with the background of both grandparents on both sides of the family and the family of the 2nd husband his mother married from Indonesia. Despite all the myths, Barack Obama's father was not a Muslim but an atheist. Barack's (Barry as a child) mother had the strongest influence on shaping his spiritual and ethical grounding. This is a a very good read and can hardly put it down... still reading and to be continu ...more
Catherine Woodman
Dec 28, 2012 Catherine Woodman rated it liked it
Well, this book is massive in scope. Maraniss has writtena global, multigenerational saga that spans decades and ends right before Obama goes off to Harvard Law School—but in the end, I am not sure that it culminates in the emergence of a young man who is knowable, recognizable and real. Recognizable and perhaps more real, but I am not sure how much more knowable he really is at the end of the day.
The book goes back to his great grandparents on both sides, and ironically, there are almost more p
Oct 11, 2012 Jim rated it really liked it
David Maraniss is one of those people who reminds his readers of what good journalism looks like. He's also one of the better biographers working today. In this book, Maraniss has produced a solid, informative account of the events that shaped the character of Barack Obama. Overall, this is a critical but positive assessment of Obama's youth. While some of the more irresponsible pundits have combed the book for out-of-context "gotcha" nuggets, anyone who actually reads this book will quickly see ...more
Corey Preston
Apr 20, 2013 Corey Preston rated it it was ok
A lot of things to be frustrated with here, including (in order of escalating frustration):
(a) absence of PBO for more than half the book--way too much focus on individuals who had no impact on his life whatsoever;
cutting off just when things start to get interesting (pre-law school);
(b) constantly rehashing and hammering the same, simple thesis (PBO has always been cautiously bold--excuse my french, but no shit...);
and (c) constantly "fact checking" PBO's prior biographies--there are a few
Oct 13, 2012 Bobbettylou rated it it was amazing
Wow, what a book! Exhaustive, at times exhausting, yet hard-to-put-down. Everything you ever wanted to know about our 44th president from four generations before his birth to his inauguration. In 641 pages of prose.

One wonders and marvels at how Maraniss uncovered and organized all the information. It must have been several years, at least, of unrelenting work to interview the hundreds of people who make up the story, including the main caracter himself in an oval office interview(s). All of tha
Sep 06, 2012 Nita rated it liked it
I thought this would be a biography of President Obama, and in a way it was, but it was more a biography of the people instrumental in making him who he is. This book was a little hard for me to read; I wish I had had the time to really settle into it. It had a lot of pretty dry narrative (much of which, I regret to say,I skimmed over) interspersed with (MUCH more interesting!)first person stories of Obama's family and upbringing. Actually, the man who becomes our President doesn't become a majo ...more
Stan Lanier
Sep 02, 2012 Stan Lanier rated it it was ok
This was an awful lot of work for less than expected payback. Maraniss certainly can write educated and attractive sentences. I had some difficulty understanding the conceptuality controlling his narrative. Perhaps the MASS of detail was supposed to verify Maraniss's conclusions about President Obama's psychological make-up. Too often, however, I found myself wondering when would a chapter end, and I had to make a conscious decision to finish the book. In the end, I cannot say that Maraniss offe ...more
David Tracey
Dec 21, 2012 David Tracey rated it liked it
We may never run out of new books explaining Barrack Obama. Or rather attempting to. This one gets full marks for research, even if too many of the facts end up on the page. The level of detail may be exhausting for some readers, particularly when delving into the lives of people such as grandparents. The meticulous approach is more welcomed for periods of Obama's life that seem more likely to reveal psychological information, such as his school years in Hawaii. But maybe because it ends before ...more
Jul 26, 2012 Jerry rated it liked it
Shelves: biography
This is an interesting and fairly even-handed account of the family background and early life of Barack Obama. It has more about the ancestors than about Barack Obama II. And I was disappointed that the book ends before Obama entered Harvard Law School, thus omitting some of the interesting Chicago political background. This leaves us with Edward Klein’s book The Amateur to fill in the later years.

The main thread of the book is Obama’s struggle to establish his own identity. It reaches far in h
Sep 25, 2012 Michael rated it really liked it

Perhaps no American’s racial identity has been parsed so publically and in such great depth as Barack Obama’s. We forget, in the heat of the current election and Mitt Romney’s inscrutability, that the major stumbling point for Obama’s primary campaign against a well-known and well-defined Hilary Clinton, and then against the ubiquitous curmudgeon John McCain, was his lack of public identity. Anyone who read his 1995 memoir Dreams from My Father, which by t
Byron Edgington
Jul 02, 2013 Byron Edgington rated it it was amazing
Cool head; Main thing. This simple aphorism, almost too short to contain any wisdom, goes a long way in explaining the 44th President of the United States. If there’s one salient criticism of Barack Hussein Obama, from the day he entered the Oval Office, it is and has been that he’s aloof, distant, ice cold in a town where schmooze is the ultimate verb, the essential skill. BHO doesn’t do schmooze. Reading Maraniss’s book we begin to understand, if not the why of it, at least the how and because ...more
Sep 07, 2012 Lori rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition

David Maraniss is a journalist who thoroughly researches every word he prints. He in past has written about Clinton and it is not stretch to assume his loyalties lie with the Democrats. But Maraniss is fair and I've never found a lie in anything Maraniss has ever written.
This book sheds light on the formative years of Obama. This book also sheds light on many "misrepresentations" that Obama has written about himself in his "Dreams from my Father" book. Maraniss gives details to make clear what a
Oct 03, 2012 Rike rated it it was ok
Shelves: regal, sanja2
Finally! I finished all 571 pages of this dull book. But at least I cannot say I haven't been warned. On page 19 of the introduction the author mentions that Barack Obama himself will not appear until the 7th of the 18 chapters of the book. Although family history might give clues about a persons character, I doubt that the psychoanalysis of the great-grandparents will get the reader that far in getting to know the one person he is actually interested in.

Talking about psychoanalysis: The author
David Fox
Sep 08, 2012 David Fox rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: Obama fans
Looking for Obama

Maraniss believes that to fully grasp the totality of someone's character it is not only necessary to peel back that individual's psychic epidermis, but also, of utmost importance, to conduct a genealogical probe of that person's ancestors. We really do not even get to meet Barry Obama (it would be years before "Barack" replaces "Barry") until more than halfway through the book. And even then, the narrative weaves back & forth, referencing his father, paternal grandfather &a
Lit Folio
Aug 02, 2012 Lit Folio rated it it was amazing
This is a substantive, well-researched and extensive exploration of the man who has become our current President. What made him, through the influences of both his African and American roots is fascinating reading. I thoroughly enjoyed the broad and vast exploration of the grandparents who ended up having so much to do with shaping Barack's disciplined character. And what's impressive here are the women. The grandmother, Madelyn, and mother, Stanley, were the real force behind any strengths this ...more
Jun 16, 2013 Julia rated it liked it
This was clearly very extensively researched, and it provided some context and stories not covered by David Remnick's The Bridge, which I overall liked better. Obama's parents both have interesting stories, and I learned somethings about Kenyan politics that I hadn't known. However, I found the overall idea that Obama's existence was a highly coincidental, one-in-a-million-chance highly problematic. Plenty of people are born into short marriages, or, more to Maraniss' point, inter-cultural ones. ...more
If you are looking for a book on Reptilians, Islamofascism, massive yet somehow plausible conspiracies, Stalino-Fascism, and 'reverse racism', this is not for you.

There is always a caveat on writing biographies about the living: they could always do something big to surprise you and change the whole 'narrative' of the life, so to speak. Maraniss has taken the long view, spending a large portion of the book on Obama's ancestors, and concluding this volume before he was to enter Harvard Law School
Seth Kolloen
Jan 20, 2013 Seth Kolloen rated it it was amazing
I quite enjoyed this broad scope look at the forces that shaped Barack Obama's life, going all the way back to his great-grandparents. Maraniss did some amazing research for the fascinating story that stretches from Kansas to Kenya. In the course of reading this book, I found out that a good friend's father was Obama's mom's landlord! Craziness...there are so many names and dates and places it wouldn't surprise me if everyone in America would lessen their degrees of separation from Obama by read ...more
Jun 24, 2012 Lori rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
So far I find it fascinating how often this book, written by a Washington Post reporter, proves that the book by Obama himself is exaggerated and false at times. I've laughed out loud at times with the inconsistencies. Since this reporter has done the research himself and talked to those who were close to Obama, you would hope their stories would be the same, but alas they are not. One example is when the reporter spoke to the coach and members of his high school basketball team. Obama claimed t ...more
Sep 22, 2013 wade rated it really liked it
This is an exhaustive study of the family background and early life of Barack Obama. That statement tells you both the strengths and weaknesses of this book. The author has left no stone unturned in delving into the President's past dispelling many myths that his political enemies have used against him. The book also develops just why the President seems to have some of the personality traits he does including coolness and caution. The downside of the book is that the author never found a shred ...more
Oct 22, 2012 Mlg rated it really liked it
Shelves: non-fiction
Very readable book about the childhood and young adulthood of our current president. The genealogical information at the beginning is okay, it went on a bit too long. Obama's life was certainly not an easy one. His biological father had little relationship with his mother, never supported him and saw him only once. His mother was a good person, who had horrible taste in men and who basically abandoned her son seeking a career in Indonesia. Both Obama Sr. and her Indonesian husband were abusive. ...more
Nov 20, 2012 Robert rated it it was amazing
I don't give a top rating to many books, movies, or other things. I think that is because as I get older I am increasingly protective of my time, and I am less forgiving of low quality work that wastes that diminishing quantity of time. I hope I'm not just becoming a curmudgeon. I am giving a five-star rating (or at least a 4-1/2), however, to David Maraniss' biography of Barack Obama because it is compelling reading from start to finish, is rigorously researched, and succeeds enormously at what ...more
Paul Leegard
Jul 14, 2012 Paul Leegard rated it really liked it
When I was reading it I thought it was too detailed and too much about his ancestors. Then about aa week of thinking about the book it was weird. It was weird because I started thinking about how my parents and grandparents lives have influenced me. How the people I have met over the years have changed my life. I thought how often what I think is true influences me more than what may actually true. SO I would recomment this book but with the qualification that one should think about all of the i ...more
Jun 27, 2012 Patricia rated it liked it
A very detailed look at Barack Obama and his grandparents, parents and extended family that takes his story to just before he enters Harvard Law School at age 27. Obviously a lot of research was done and many interesting little stories were told. I was a bit uncomfortable with some of the personal revelations of people interviewed for the book, for example an extensive selection of excerpts from personal letters written from a girlfriend. Maraniss spends a lot of time speculating and proving/dis ...more
Jan 27, 2013 Megan rated it really liked it
If you ever wondered the three or so possible ways the young Barak Obama walked from his shabby apartment to Columbia U, this is the book for you! Actually, it's really thought-provoking, and it made his second inauguration, so much more subdued yet no less momentous than his first, hit me at a deeper level. The sight of Obama deliberately stopping to look out at the view of the Mall: that said a lot about him, and having read Maraniss's book let me understand that poignant moment even more. The ...more
Jan 05, 2013 Mmiller400m rated it liked it
Shelves: presidents
I'm trying to read a biography of each president going backwards starting with President Obama. I think I should have picked a different book because this never reached any of his political life or decisions. I'm amazed by Obama and will most likely read something else about him as well. Going into it just know that this will be largely about his family history and he won't even enter the story until about 100 pages in or so. The book takes you through his early life and into his college years. ...more
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David Maraniss is an associate editor at The Washington Post and the author of four critically acclaimed and bestselling books, When Pride Still Mattered: A Life of Vince Lombardi, First in His Class: A Biography of Bill Clinton, They Marched Into Sunlight War and Peace, Vietnam and America October 1967, and Clemente The Passion and Grace of Baseballs Last Hero. He is also the author of The Clinto ...more
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“In this dream, as he recounted it in Dreams from My Father, Barack rode a bus across a landscape of “deep fields and grass and hills that bucked against an orange sky” until he reached a jail cell and found “father before me, with only a cloth wrapped around his waist.” The father, slender, with hairless arms, saw his son and said, “Look at you, so tall—and so thin, gray hairs, even,” and Obama approached him and hugged him and wept as Barack Hussein Obama Sr. said the words Barack Hussein Obama II would never hear in real life: “Barack, I always wanted to tell you how much I loved you.” Genevieve remembered the morning he awoke from that dream: “I remember him being just so overwhelmed, and I so badly wanted to fix him, help him fix that pain. He woke up from that dream and started talking about it. I think he was haunted.” She” 0 likes
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