President Obama and the Importance of Books

A couple months ago in January, I read a New York Times article that was about a man who holds a high-level job position. His job requires him to be in constant contact with government officials, business executives and world leaders. Most days he only gets six hours of sleep. However, he still finds time to read every day for an hour.


That man is President Obama.


If the most powerful (and perhaps busy) man in the free world can find time to read a hour a day, so can everyone else. This article talks about the importance of books and why everyone should find time to read. 


President Obama reading in the Oval office.  Image from Damon Winter/ The New York Times.

President Obama reading in the Oval office. Image from Damon Winter/ The New York Times.

In the article, Michiko Kakutani (an American Pulitzer Prize-winning literary critic for The New York Times), sits down with President Obama to discuss the indispensable role books have played in his presidency and throughout his life.

For Obama, books provided him with ‘these worlds that were portable’ and companionship during this youth while he took him to figure out who he was and what was important in his life.

During his eight years in the White House — in a noisy era of information overload, extreme partisanship and knee-jerk reactions — books were a sustaining source of ideas and inspiration, and gave him a renewed appreciation for the complexities and ambiguities of the human condition.

These days there is a constant stream of information from television, social media, and new sites. However, reading allowed Mr. Obama to ‘slow down and get perspective’ and ‘the ability to get in somebody else’s shoes.’ He goes on to say that ‘these two things have been invaluable to me.’


Whether you are a student, manager or business leader, life can at times be overwhelming. Books allow us to take some time for ourselves, become someone else and experience life from a new perspective. Often times, by learning about others, we end up learning more about ourselves.

President Obama reading in a garden. Image from  Obama White House.

President Obama reading in a garden. Image from Obama White House.

When facing particularly difficult moments in his life, Mr. Obama looks to the past for assistance. He read the writings of Lincoln, Gandhi, Nelson Mandela and Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. More likely than not, the problems in the lives our not unique. Others have been in similar situations and have found ways to succeed (I discuss this point in my Indispensable article).

To this day, reading has remained an essential part of his daily life…every night in the White House, he would read for an hour or so late at night — reading that was deep and ecumenical, ranging from contemporary literary fiction to classic novels to groundbreaking works of nonfiction.

Here is a man who is considered the most powerful man in the free world and he still find times to read books every night. Read on your kindle during your commute to work. Read at your local coffee shop or park. Read during your lunch break. Read during the weekend. Read before going to bed at night. Finding time to read is always a good idea.



The NYT is a great source for World, Business and Technology news. You can get the NYT for your kindle by clicking the link below.

First 14 days are free: The New York Times - Daily Edition for Kindle

Read the original article on The New York Times. Follow The New York Times on Twitter. The article is copyright of The New York Times.