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President Obama in the Oval Office during an interview with Michiko Kakutani on Friday. Not since Lincoln has there been a president as fundamentally shaped — in his life, convictions and outlook on the world — by reading and writing as Barack Obama. Last Friday, seven days before his departure from the White House, Mr. During his eight years in the White House — in a noisy era of information overload, extreme partisanship and knee-jerk reactions — books were a sustaining source of ideas and inspiration, and gave him a renewed appreciation for the complexities and ambiguities of the human condition.

Whether they’ve made me a better president I can’t say. The writings of Lincoln, the Rev. So sometimes you have to sort of hop across history to find folks who have been similarly feeling isolated, and that’s been useful. President Obama in the Oval Office in 2012. Obama taught himself how to write, and for him, too, words became a way to define himself, and to communicate his ideas and ideals to the world.

In fact, there is a clear, shining line connecting Lincoln and King, and President Obama. It just serves you well to think about Recommended new books trying to navigate through World War II. The scope of it was immense.

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To this day, reading has remained an essential part of his daily life. Other novels served as a kind of foil — something to argue with. And I genuinely believe that it was part of the way in which I was able to integrate all these pieces of myself into something relatively whole. Obama taught himself to write as a young man by keeping a journal and writing short stories when he was a community organizer in Chicago — working on them after he came home from work and drawing upon the stories of the people he met.

That experience underscored the power of empathy. This lesson would become a cornerstone of the president’s vision of an America where shared concerns — simple dreams of a decent job, a secure future for one’s children — might bridge differences and divisions. He had lunch last week with five novelists he admires — Dave Eggers, Mr. He not only talked with them about the political and media landscape, but also talked shop, asking how their book tours were going and remarking that he likes to write first drafts, long hand, on yellow legal pads. 16, 2017An earlier version of a photo caption with this article misstated when a photo of President Obama in the Oval Office was taken. It was taken in 2012, not Friday.

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