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.
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:
- Part One: The Bet. Four chapters
- Part Two: Yes We Can. Five chapters
- Part Three: Renegade. Four chapters
- Part Four: The Good Fight. Four chapters
- Part Five: The World as it is. Four chapters
- Part Six: In the Barrel. Three chapters.
- Part Seven: On the High Wire. Three chapters.
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.
What I Liked
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.
What I Didn’t Like
For me, there were two glaring issues in the book. First, I felt like the book glossed over the Benghazi incident. I didn’t want to hear the media rhetoric behind it. Instead, I wanted to understand the administration’s perspective on circumstances surrounding a tumultuous time in American history. Also, the death of a U.S. ambassador in J. Christopher Stevens is a significant event that could have been described better.
Second, A Promised Land villainized several people in the government for attempting to sabotage the passage of certain bills. The book’s descriptions misled the audience to despise senior-ranking senators and representatives that detracted from the humanization message A Promised Land was trying to make.
Further, describing opponents to certain bills was off-putting for an audience not interested in partisan banter. In this case, complete descriptions of how someone talks to defame an opponent took away from the book’s focus on how the President should work with people to solve problems. Several examples of this occur, and it drew the audience away from the book’s message.
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.
I give this book a solid 7/10. 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!