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Presidential biographies are tricky bits when written while the president is still in office. They tend to fall broadly into three groups (two of which are generally to be avoided):
1. Political hit jobs (President Obama is a _(noun) _, set to secretly destroy America and all our _(plural noun)_.
2. Political puff pieces (President Obama is a brilliant knight in shinning armour hunted by desperate, but wicked forces).
3. Journalists looking to take a strong wack at the first draft of history-making (see also David Remnick's "The Bridge", Richard Wolffe's "Renegade", Alter's "The Promise").
Maraniss' biography is solidly in door three. He isn't interested in myth-making or saving us from (scaring us about) some secret Chicago conspiracy set on destroying the Republic. Maraniss is interested rather in grappling with who Obama is/was. On balance, he does this without boring me (the reader) or indulging in too many of the cliches of political journalism.
Obama's story, as told by Maraniss, is more commonplace and usual than both sides of this hyper-political world would have you believe. Maraniss shows, like all good journalism and writers of early biographies should, that we don't need fairy-tales or dark fantasms to tell a compelling story.
I also prefer it when writers read their own work, so I was happy about that too.
36 of 46 people found this review helpful
What could have made this a 4 or 5-star listening experience for you?
A bigography of Obama where the main character (the President) doesn't appear until over 6 hours into the story?! Yup that is right. You will hear the life story of his great grandparents etc - but then the book ends in the late 1980's except to say "oh yes, he got married and has 2 children"
Would you ever listen to anything by David Maraniss again?
NO - his reading of the book adds nothing to the story - but perhaps this is just because of the writing?
What do you think the narrator could have done better?
Instead of reading like he is dictating a story to be typed, he could have added some feeling.
If you could play editor, what scene or scenes would you have cut from Barack Obama?
The first 6 hours should just be cut totally - then after that heavy editing and you would have had a much better story.
Any additional comments?
The book reads like a dry newspaper account of something the writer has observed. There is very little explanation of the significance of any of the events and way too much of "he said" then "she said" My two star rating for this may be too generous and may just reflect my support of the President today rather than anything that the writer offers in this book.
1 of 1 people found this review helpful