In his searching 1995 book Dreams From My Father, Mr. Obama recalls how reading was a crucial tool in sorting out what he believed, dating back to his teenage years, when he immersed himself in works by Baldwin, Ellison, Hughes, Wright, DuBois and Malcolm X in an effort “to raise myself to be a black man in America.” Later, during his last two years in college, he spent a focused period of deep self-reflection and study, methodically reading philosophers from St. Augustine to Nietzsche, Emerson to Sartre to Niebuhr, to strip down and test his own beliefs.As a community organizer in Chicago Obama not only read every day but also wrote stories, which he described as "reflective and melancholy."
In the White House Obama has tried to read for at least an hour every night. Among the books he seems to have read over the past eight years are Colson Whitehead, The Underground Railroad; Daniel Kahneman, Thinking, Fast and Slow; Elizabeth Kolbert, The Sixth Extinction; and Liu Cixin, The Three Body Problem; Lauren Groff, Fates and Furies; Gillian Flynn, Gone Girl. He recently invited five of his favorite novelists to lunch: Whitehead, Dave Eggers, Zadie Smith, Junot Díaz and Barbara Kingsolver, and in 2015 he traveled to Iowa to interview Marilynne Robinson in her home. Other writers he mentions include Hemingway, V.S. Naipaul, Saul Bellow, Philip Roth, Doris Lessing, Maxine Hong Kingston, Toni Morrison, M.L. King, Nelson Mandela, Teddy Roosevelt, Churchill, and Jhumpa Lahiri, and he says he has read a lot of presidential biographies.
Quite likely he is the greatest reader we have had as president since the nineteenth century.