4 PRH Titles Make Barack Obama’s 2023 Summer Reading List
Just last week, Barack Obama released his 2023 Summer Read List. As book banning continues across the country, Obama also penned a letter to librarians thanking them for defending the right to read. The titles selected are meaningful reads and Penguin Random House is proud to have four of its titles and one Penguin Random House Publisher Services client title make Obama’s 2023 Reading List! Discover the titles below.
POVERTY, BY AMERICA by Matthew Desmond (Crown)
The United States, the richest country on earth, has more poverty than any other advanced democracy. Why? Why does this land of plenty allow one in every eight of its children to go without basic necessities, permit scores of its citizens to live and die on the streets, and authorize its corporations to pay poverty wages?
In this landmark book, acclaimed sociologist Matthew Desmond draws on history, research, and original reporting to show how affluent Americans knowingly and unknowingly keep poor people poor. Those of us who are financially secure exploit the poor, driving down their wages while forcing them to overpay for housing and access to cash and credit. We prioritize the subsidization of our wealth over the alleviation of poverty, designing a welfare state that gives the most to those who need the least. And we stockpile opportunity in exclusive communities, creating zones of concentrated riches alongside those of concentrated despair. Some lives are made small so that others may grow.
HELLO BEAUTIFUL by Ann Napolitano (Dial Press)
William Waters grew up in a house silenced by tragedy, where his parents could hardly bear to look at him, much less love him—so when he meets the spirited and ambitious Julia Padavano in his freshman year of college, it’s as if the world has lit up around him. With Julia comes her family, as she and her three sisters are inseparable: Sylvie, the family’s dreamer, is happiest with her nose in a book; Cecelia is a free-spirited artist; and Emeline patiently takes care of them all. With the Padavanos, William experiences a newfound contentment; every moment in their house is filled with loving chaos.
But then darkness from William’s past surfaces, jeopardizing not only Julia’s carefully orchestrated plans for their future, but the sisters’ unshakeable devotion to one another. The result is a catastrophic family rift that changes their lives for generations. Will the loyalty that once rooted them be strong enough to draw them back together when it matters most?
WHAT NAPOLEON COULD NOT DO by DK Nnuro (Riverhead)
When siblings Jacob and Belinda Nti were growing up in Ghana, their goal was simple: to move to America. For them, the United States was both an opportunity and a struggle, a goal and an obstacle. Jacob, an awkward computer programmer who still lives with his father, wants a visa so he can move to Virginia to live with his wife—a request that the U.S. government has repeatedly denied. He envies his sister, Belinda, who achieved, as their father put it, “what Napoleon could not do”: she went to college and law school in the United States and even managed to marry Wilder, a wealthy Black businessman from Texas.
Wilder’s view of America differs markedly from his wife’s, as he’s spent his life railing against the racism and marginalization that are part of life for every African American living here. For these three, their desires and ambitions highlight the promise and the disappointment that life in a new country offers. How each character comes to understand this and how each learns from both their dashed hopes and their fulfilled dreams lie at the heart of what makes WHAT NAPOLEON COULD NOT DO such a compelling, insightful read.
THE WAGER by David Grann (Doubleday)
On January 28, 1742, a ramshackle vessel of patched-together wood and cloth washed up on the coast of Brazil. Inside were thirty emaciated men, barely alive, and they had an extraordinary tale to tell. They were survivors of His Majesty’s Ship the Wager, a British vessel that had left England in 1740 on a secret mission during an imperial war with Spain. While the Wager had been chasing a Spanish treasure-filled galleon known as “the prize of all the oceans,” it had wrecked on a desolate island off the coast of Patagonia. The men, after being marooned for months and facing starvation, built the flimsy craft and sailed for more than a hundred days, traversing nearly 3,000 miles of storm-wracked seas. They were greeted as heroes.
But then… six months later, another, even more decrepit craft landed on the coast of Chile. This boat contained just three castaways, and they told a very different story. The thirty sailors who landed in Brazil were not heroes – they were mutineers. The first group responded with countercharges of their own, of a tyrannical and murderous senior officer and his henchmen. It became clear that while stranded on the island the crew had fallen into anarchy, with warring factions fighting for dominion over the barren wilderness. As accusations of treachery and murder flew, the Admiralty convened a court martial to determine who was telling the truth. The stakes were life-and-death—for whomever the court found guilty could hang. THE WAGER is a grand tale of human behavior at the extremes told by one of our greatest nonfiction writers.
BLUE HOUR by Tiffany Clarke Harrison (Soft Skull Press, distributed by PRHPS)
Our narrator is a gifted photographer, an uncertain wife, an infertile mother, a biracial woman in an unraveling America. As she grapples with a lifetime of ambivalence about motherhood, yet another act of police brutality makes headlines, and this time the victim is Noah, a boy in her photography class. Unmoored by the grief of a recent devastating miscarriage and Noah’s fight for his life, she worries she can no longer chase the hope of having a child, no longer wants to bring a Black body into the world. Yet her husband Asher—contributing white, Jewish genes alongside her Black-Japanese ones for any potential child—is just as desperate to keep trying.
Throwing herself into a new documentary on motherhood, and making secret visits to Noah in the hospital, this when she learns she is, impossibly, pregnant. As the future shifts once again, she must decide yet again what she dares hope for the shape of her future to be. Fearless, timely, blazing with voice, Blue Hour is a fragmentary novel with unignorable storytelling power.