I’m informed by the press that a book I reviewed, Barack Obama’s A Promised Land (Crown, 2020), is currently outselling all other books on the market. That’s a first for me.
In my estimation, the book deserves its sales. It’s the best nonfiction I’ve read for many years and a book I’ll long remember. You can read my review at http://www.washingtonindependentreviewofbooks.com/bookreview/a-promised-land
I liked the book for all the obvious reasons—superbly written, subject matter thoroughly explored, historical accuracy meticulously respected. But my fondness was also more personal. I find Obama himself likeable. He is, like me, a disciplined researcher, intrigued as much with the history and depth of the topic he’s writing about as with the breadth of his view. I remarked in the review on his flair for similes. And his occasional forays into humor were so subtle that I often only appreciated them in retrospect.
I can’t claim that I write like Obama. His style, like his subject matter, is complex and intricate. I, as a novelist and short story writer, stress simplicity, brevity, and poetic construction. His very long sentences, while suitable to his milieu, would not work well in my prose. And I don’t see him consciously striving for musicality in his structures.
None of that is intended to be a criticism of Obama’s writing. His style and approach are ideal for subject matter. I’m delighted at his success. I continue to believe he is a great man that we all can learn from.