Brow Beat

Barack Obama Reveals His Favorite Books, Movies and TV Shows of 2019

Barack Obama in a striped shirt and suit jacket, smiling.
Time enough at last! Scott Olson/Getty Images

As 2019 lurches toward the finish line, critics are looking back at the year in culture and thinking about the works of art that moved them the most, from books to tv to movies to music and back to books again. Critics … and former Presidents of the United States of America. Over the weekend, Barack Obama has released his annual list of his favorite books, movies, and TV shows of 2019—music is coming soon. Obama posted his lists to Twitter and Facebook both, but only Facebook users got his full explanation of why he’s sharing his favorites:

Over the next few days, I’ll be sharing my annual list of favorites—books, films, and music—with all of you. This has become a fun little tradition for me, and I hope it is for you, too. Because while each of us has plenty that keeps us busy—work and family life, social and volunteer commitments—outlets like literature and art can enhance our day-to-day experiences. They’re the fabric that helps make up a life—the album that lifts us up after a long day, the dog-eared paperback we grab off the shelf to give to a friend, the movie that makes us think and feel in a new way, works that simply help us escape for a bit. To start, here are the books that made the last year a little brighter for me. Most of them came out in 2019, but a few were older ones that were new to me this year. I hope you enjoy them as much as I did.

Here are Barack Obama’s favorite books of 2019:

And here is the same list of books in handy text format, complete with links to purchase them, so that after you have read on Twitter or Facebook that Barack Obama enjoyed The Age of Surveillance Capitalism, you can click straight through to Amazon and purchase your own copy.

The Age of Surveillance Capitalism: The Fight for a Human Future at the New Frontier of Power, by Shoshana Zuboff.

The Anarchy: The Relentless Rise of the East India Company, by William Dalrymple.

Furious Hours: Murder, Fraud, and the Last Trial of Harper Lee, by Casey Cep. Cep discusses her book here.

Girl, Woman, Other, by Bernardine Evaristo.

The Heartbeat of Wounded Knee: Native America from 1890 to the Present, by David Treuer.

How to Do Nothing: Resisting the Attention Economy, by Jenny Odell.

Lost Children Archive, by Valeria Luiselli.

Lot: Stories, by Bryan Washington.

Normal People, by Sally Rooney. One of Slate’s book critic Laura Miller’s best books of the year. Slate’s review is here.

The Orphan Master’s Son, by Adam Johnson. David Plotz recommends the book here.

The Yellow House, by Sarah M. Broom. One of Slate’s book critic Laura Miller’s best books of the year.

Say Nothing: A True Story of Murder and Memory in Northern Ireland, by Patrick Radden Keefe. One of Slate’s book critic Laura Miller’s best books of the year.

Solitary, by Albert Wood.

The Topeka School, by Ben Lerner. Amy Brady writes about the book here.

Trick Mirror: Reflections on Self-Delusion, by Jia Tolentino. Slate’s review is here. Tolentino discusses her book here.

Trust Exercise, by Susan Choi. One of Slate’s book critic Laura Miller’s best books of the year. Slate’s review is here. Choi discusses her book here and here.

We Live in Water: Stories, by Jess Walter.

A Different Way to Win: Dan Rooney’s Story From the Super Bowl to the Rooney Rule, by Jim Rooney.

The Sixth Man: A Memoir, by Andre Iguodala.

And here are the books Obama recommended earlier in the year:

American Spy, by Lauren Wilkinson.

The Education of an Idealist, by Samantha Power. Slate’s review is here. Power discusses her book here and here.

Exhalation: Stories, by Ted Chiang.

Finding My Voice: My Journey to the West Wing and the Path Forward, by Valerie Jarrett. Jarrett discusses her book here.

Heartland: A Memoir of Working Hard and Being Broke in the Richest Country on Earth, by Sarah Smarsh.

How to Read the Air, by Dinaw Mengestu.

Inland: A Novel, by Téa Obreht. Obreht reads from her novel here.

Lab Girl, by Hope Jahren. Slate critics discuss the book here.

Maid: Hard Work, Low Pay, and a Mother’s Will to Survive, by Stephanie Land.

Men Without Women, by Haruki Murakami.

The Moment of Lift: How Empowering Women Changes the World, by Melinda Gates.

The Nickel Boys, by Colson Whitehead. One of Slate’s book critic Laura Miller’s best books of the year. Slate’s review is here.

Pachinko, by Min Jin Lee. Lee discusses her book here.

The Shadow of Sirius, by W.S. Merwin.

The Shallows: What the Internet Is Doing to Our Brains, by Nicholas Carr. Slate’s review is here.

Toni Morrison’s collected works. Each sold separately, but here’s a three-novel set. Slate’s coverage of Morrison and her work is here.

Tough Love: My Story of the Things Worth Fighting For, by Susan Rice.

The Warmth of Other Suns: The Epic Story of America’s Great Migration, by Isabel Wilkerson. Michael Moran recommends the book here. It also made Slate’s list of the 50 best nonfiction books of the last 25 years.

Wolf Hall, by Hilary Mantel. Slate’s critics discuss the book here.

On Sunday, Obama followed up with a list of his favorite movies and “TV shows [he] considered as powerful as movies,” a framing that has delighted television critics, who love hearing that their medium is, at its very best, sometimes as good as the movies. Here’s the list:

It’s worth noting here that American Factory is not the only project on the list that Obama is a part of. He also has an important cameo in the first season of Fleabag, a great show that Barack Obama is uniquely unqualified to recommend. See for yourself:

Wow, TV really can be as powerful as the movies! Here are Barack Obama’s favorite movies and TV shows of 2019, along with Slate’s coverage and information about where they can be seen:

• American Factory. Streaming on Netflix. Slate’s critics discuss it here.

Amazing Grace. Available on DVD and streaming. Slate’s Sam Adams discusses it here.

Apollo 11. Available on Blu-Ray and streaming.

Ash Is Purest White.* Available on Blu-Ray and streaming. Director Jia Zhangke discusses the film here.

Atlantics. Streaming on Netflix; runner-up for Slate’s film critic Dana Stevens’ best films of the year.

Birds of Passage. Available on Blu-Ray and streaming.

Booksmart. Available to stream; Slate’s review is here.

Diane. Available to stream; Slate’s critics discuss it here.

The Farewell. Available to stream. Slate’s review is here; director Lulu Wang discusses the film here.

Ford v. Ferrari. In theaters. Slate’s review is here.

The Irishman. Streaming on Netflix. Slate’s review is here.

Just Mercy. In theaters. Slate’s review is here.

The Last Black Man in San Francisco. Streaming on Amazon Prime. Slate’s review is here.

Little Women. In theaters. Slate’s review is here.

Marriage Story. Streaming on Netflix. Slate’s review is here.

Parasite. In theaters. Slate’s review is here; a profile of director Bong Joon-Ho is here.

The Souvenir. Streaming on Amazon Prime. Slate’s review is here; an interview with director Joanna Hogg is here.

Transit. Streaming on Amazon Prime.

Fleabag: Season Two. Streaming on Amazon Prime. Slate’s review is here.

Unbelievable. Streaming on Netflix. Slate’s review is here.

Watchmen. Streaming on HBO. Slate’s review is here; more coverage is here.

Those are the books, movies, and television shows endorsed by former president Barack Obama for the year 2019. If there are any you haven’t already read or watched, you’ve got 48 hours to catch up, or you’ll run the risk of disappointing Barack Obama. Good luck!

Correction, Dec. 30, 2019: This post originally misidentified the film Ash Is Purest White as Ash Is the Purest White.