"At the moment that we persuade a child, any child, to cross that threshold, that magic threshold into a library, we change their lives forever, for the better. It’s an enormous force for good.” —President Barack Obama
Say what you will about his politics and policies (just please don't say it here...we're a partisan-free zone, hallelujah), but when President Obama credits books for helping him survive the White House, we take notice. In an interview that reads more like an ode to literature, Mr. Obama shares with Michiko Kakutoni how "these worlds that were portable" provided companionship in an often lonely childhood, helped him navigate his youth, and figure out who he was and what mattered to him. During difficult times in his presidency when the job felt particularly isolating, books were again his solace—allowing him to "hop across history" and find solidarity with those who had known that same isolation.
Nearly every night of his sojourn as leader of the free world, Mr. Obama found time to read for at least an hour. (May the words "I'm too busy to read" never again escape my lips.) Those late hours found him reading a range of genres: contemporary fiction, classics, historical writings, and groundbreaking nonfiction—even indulging in some good ol' escape reads now and again. Kakutoni writes:
“At a time when events move so quickly and so much information is transmitted,” he said, reading gave him the ability to occasionally “slow down and get perspective” and “the ability to get in somebody else’s shoes.” These two things, he added, “have been invaluable to me. Whether they’ve made me a better president I can’t say. But what I can say is that they have allowed me to sort of maintain my balance during the course of eight years, because this is a place that comes at you hard and fast and doesn’t let up.”