A Promised Land Book Review

A Promised Land by former President Barack Obama describes his journey to becoming the President of the United States. Additionally, it shows how he dealt with complex issues while in office.

It may be presumptuous to write a book review on a book written by a former President of the United States. However, A Promised Land provided a much-needed glimpse into the life of a United States President.

Although long, the book describes the circumstances surrounding the former President’s decisions and how he refined his political process while in office.

First, I’ll start with some general information about the book. Then, I’ll provide a brief synopsis, what I liked, what I didn’t like, then a conclusion.

General Information

Author: Barack Obama

Page Length: 1,136 pages

Audiobook Run time: 29hrs 10mins

Published by: Randomhouse Large Print


A Promised Land accounts for President Obama’s time before becoming president, the 2008 election, and his first four years in office. The book is organized into seven parts with twenty-seven chapters:

  1. Part One: The Bet. Four chapters
  2. Part Two: Yes We Can. Five chapters
  3. Part Three: Renegade. Four chapters
  4. Part Four: The Good Fight. Four chapters
  5. Part Five: The World as it is. Four chapters
  6. Part Six: In the Barrel. Three chapters.
  7. Part Seven: On the High Wire. Three chapters.
A Promised Land


Book Description

Naming each part helped to organize the book logically, even though chapters aren’t named.

Toward the beginning of the book, President Obama talked about his struggles with deciding to run while handling family life, which became a common theme in the book.

After the difficult 2008 election, A Promised Land outlined the litany of issues facing the incoming administration and how to solve them. In addition, several chapters either addressed or alluded to the 2008 financial crisis and holding banks accountable for their actions.

Later, the Affordable Care Act became the centerpiece to highlight as the book described political strife between parties to ensure the bill’s passage.

Foreign policy events included the events that led to the Arab Spring and the 2011 uprising against Egypt’s President Mubarak. A Promised Land included almost an entire chapter describing these events.

A pattern emerged in A Promised Land as well. Namely, the President or congressional Democrats would propose a bill, and Republicans would attempt to block it. Polls were a frequent topic when it came to popularity about bills and laws along with job approval ratings.

Finally, the book ended with the raid to kill Osama bin Laden called Operation Neptune Spear.

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Key Take Aways

A Promised Land was a well-thought-out account of what it’s like to be the President. As the audience, I believed that President Obama deeply believed in the things he was doing. Moreover, having the solidarity and character to embark on complex issues like health care, the economic downturn, and foreign policy complexities showed that he cared about the United States.

The book also described challenges to working with people who have different viewpoints. Despite the frustrations, A Promised Land did a good job describing these issues and the process of creating solutions. In addition, it humanized the political system in a way that made the audience (me) believe that compromise is necessary.

A Promised Land included a lot of description. Frequently, the book described in great detail how the White House garden looked, children’s activities, and spousal discussions. In addition, the President’s descriptions of the events around him made the book come alive. Although these elaborate descriptions significantly lengthened the book, I felt like they were well worth it.

Overall, the book humanized the office of the President of the United States. The person that occupies that seat is still a human being, subject to mistakes, follies, and successes. A Promised Land showed how the president is like any other person, and I enjoyed that refreshing perspective.

Also, the Audiobook performance was well-done. Read by the author, A Promised Land was a polished production with tonal variety. For instance, President Obama’s tone matched the circumstances he was reading. Meaning, he was excited when reading about a successful event, tense when addressing a serious topic, and gentle when talking about the family.

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Despite my grievances, which were more poignant than the other books I have reviewed, I highly recommend this book to anyone.

I firmly believe in humanizing the authors that write their books, which includes former presidents as well. A Promised Land completed its objective to paint the President of the United States as any other person on earth. For instance, President Obama mentioned his struggles between work and family, which is a fact of life we all endure.

You’ll find this book surprisingly relatable if you choose to read it.

Read this book if you haven’t already. To buy the book, click here.

Have you read A Promised Land? Let me know what you think in the comments section below. Thanks for reading!

Photo Credit

Featured Image: Unknown Author is licensed under CC BY. Modifications made.



8 thoughts on “A Promised Land Book Review”

  1. Hi Robert,

    It’s really good that I came across this review because I was thinking about buying Barack Obama’s book. As you know I am a leadership advocate too and I love to read about our most recent and best world leaders.

    As with all leaders, there are things that we don’t agree with. As you have expressed your couple of grievances. But, you still recommend it. So, I am going still get the book and I will give it my review too. I will let you know my thoughts on it.

    Thank you for sharing such a great review on a great book and I’m looking forward to reading it.

    All the best,


    1. Tom,

      I’m glad you enjoyed the review! It really was a good book. Let me know what you think when you’re done reading it! Thanks for your comment!


  2. Excellent review, I feel I have an understanding of what to expect when I read this book.
    I have been on a personal growth quest for many years and try and digest as many books as I can of individuals who have achieved great success, becoming president would certainly qualify. 🙂

    I like how you highlight some facts you did not like about the book as well. I feel politics are polarizing enough now, it is unfortunate that President Obama did not take more of a “high road” in this book, but I’m glad that you highlighted that.

    I also enjoy the fact he details the challenge with balancing family life when you attempt to achieve what he has done. I know for myself and many others that is a big challenge in our lives when we are trying to find success, I can only imagine what it’s like being president!

    1. Lee,

      Indeed, politics are polarizing. I felt like the book was a good representation of President Obama’s challenges and how he overcame them. I’m glad you enjoyed the article! Thanks for your comment.


  3. I have heard so much about this book and I want to read it. Personally, I always felt that he had the best intentions at heart and that he made the role of president look more human than most other presidents. I always loved to see him as a family man. I still remember his speech “yes, we can”. Obama was an excellent orator.

    1. Christine,

      It really is a good book for sure! And, humanizing each other is essential, especially in today’s leadership climate. Thanks for your comment!


  4. Hi Robert, thank you for sharing this review. I remember being in college when Obama was elected as President and at that time I didn’t really pay attention to politics, but you could see what it meant to so many people. As you mention, I’m sure that he truly believed in the things he was doing and how they were going to better America going forward. Now that enough time has gone by, I sometimes wonder if we are in a better place with some of the policies enacted. Nevertheless, policy opinions aside, the way he communicated with the American people and allies abroad, his calm demeanor, and even his youth was a welcome sight to see. I’m certain there are plenty of leadership qualities to be learned from a former President, so thank you for sharing your views on this book.

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