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What to Read Next (No. 271): A Couple Enjoyable Memoirs + April's Most Anticipated
Barack Obama's "A Promised Land" + Stanley Tucci's "Taste"
Happy Friday, readers!
At the beginning of the year, I mentioned my desire to read more memoirs in ‘23. Though I’ve gone big on fantasy and sci-fi this year, I’ve also followed up on consuming more memoirs than I usually do — particularly on audio. It’s a perfect genre for listening: since they’re often narrated by the authors, it feels like I’m being told a story in a more intimate way than reading a paper book.
In the last couple weeks, I’ve finished a couple great memoirs that I’m excited to share: Barack Obama’s A Promised Land lived up to its immense hype, and Stanley Tucci’s Taste was perfect for a road trip.
I’ve also included a list of the April titles I’m most excited about. Let’s jump in!
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A Promised Land by Barack Obama
Presidential memoirs are guaranteed bestsellers, but they’re hardly guaranteed to be well-written or make for enjoyable reading — Bill Clinton’s My Life, for example, was a world-class snoozefest (and Hillary’s What Happened? wasn’t much better).
Luckily for us, Barack Obama is a deep thinker and a genuinely talented writer. His literary merits are obvious, which made A Promised Land easily among the best political memoirs I’ve read.
There were two things I appreciated most about how Obama approached this book:
First, he rarely cast blame for things that didn’t go his way. When he did, the blame was spread far and wide, including towards himself — for speaking too dryly, for being naive about the political process, for not thinking far enough ahead.
Second, Barack Obama comes across as a deeply human figure, which is so rare in this type of book. He laments the lack of normalcy for his wife and daughters, he admits to needing a stiff martini on particularly hard days, he even swears and uses some casual language that just isn’t often found in books by politicians. It felt incredibly relatable, despite coming from one of the most recognizable names and faces on the planet.
A Promised Land is well worth reading if you’ve had any inclination to pick it up in the last few years — perhaps even if you haven’t.
April Releases I’m Most Excited About
Next month is as stacked as I’ve seen in terms of new releases that are on my must-read list. These are all folks whose books I’ve enjoyed in the past:
In the Lives of Puppets by TJ Klune — Uplifting fantasy sounds perfect for my current mood.
Tress of the Emerald Sea by Brandon Sanderson — Sanderson has gotten all kinds of press lately; I’m excited to finally read less about him and more of his own work.
Taste: My Life Through Food by Stanley Tucci
Delight is magnified when it’s shared with people you love.
Which is both how Stanley Tucci experiences food, as well as how Jane and I experienced this book.
We often listen to a podcast with shared AirPods on long road trips while the kids watch something on their tablets. This time around, I thought it’d be fun to try an audiobook together, which we’ve never done before.
Taste came up in a recent book club vote and we were both rather intrigued by it. This lighthearted, funny, and engaging memoir details actor Stanley Tucci’s life through the lens of food — nostalgic meals from his childhood, the quality (and lack thereof) of catered meals on movie sets, even how food has shaped the course of his life on some occasions.
On its own, removed from the context of consuming it, I’d probably give Taste 4 stars. But because the experience itself was so lovely — on the road with my wife and kids in the midst of a stellar vacation — it earned 5 stars in my spreadsheet.
Overall, Tucci’s mouth-watering descriptions, laugh out loud anecdotes, and even his reading of recipes were pure delight for all ~7 hours of listening.
And if nothing else, Taste — in both content and consumption — reminded me that the very best things in life are those that are shared. I’m looking forward to the next book we listen to together.
That’s all I have for today. Thanks so much for the time and attention — I deeply appreciate it.