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on 14 April 2012
It's good to get an impression of how the perhaps most important executive in the world thinks. Obama deals with a diversity of topics: race, religion, politics, opportunities etc. I appreciate it best when he writes about his personal experiences: His life, his family, his stay and work in Washington. Obama possesses a fluent writing style and is an engaging talker and this works best for stories on his personal situation. His chapter on foreign politics is engaging while his somewhat legal writing about the American constitution is tedious. This was written before he became president although without a doubt he knew he was shortlisted for the job and one of many potentials. I'm sure some of the sections have been carefully reviewed and rewritten but still this comes across as genuine and honest. Overall I did get my good impression and I look forward to reading his next book which I'm sure he will write once he is no longer a president in one or hopefully five years time.
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on 4 November 2012
First published in 2006, before Barack Obama became the 44th President of The United States Of America, this grandly-titled bestseller doesn't quite have the same critical kudos as his first book, the memoir Dreams from My Father. However, I found it valuable for two reasons. Firstly, The Audacity Of Hope acts as a personal statement - presenting us with his reflections on faith, family and race - and as a carefully considered analysis of the contemporary political system - analysing the Democrat and Republican parties, looking at the constitution and assessing the place of the US in the world in terms of its foreign and economic policies. Obama's beliefs are shown to be consensual, grounded in common sense and informed by his Christian faith. Secondly, it is interesting to note how the high-minded ideals and solutions presented within it have sometimes been compromised or frustrated by the messy practicalities of the American political process.
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VINE VOICEon 14 September 2008
This is the first book by an aspirant politician, indeed the first political manifesto, (for that is what it is) that I have read cover to cover. (Perhaps, it occurs to me, I should read some of the works by serving British politicians, too, and not just rely on commentaries by journalists?) I bought the book the day after Barack Obama slipped up re-using the "lipstick on a pig" cliché, when, for the first time, McCain and Palin seemed to have achieved a significant lead in the polls.

Obama wrote this book to update his life story, including how he came to be elected senator for Illinois (he completed his first book "Dreams of my father" some ten years earlier), to offer an analysis of how modern American political life has become so polarised, but above all to state his personal and political principles. It would be easy to be cynical: his principles turn out to offer something to everyone, but this is the prerogative and the stategy of the political centrist. Economically, his liberalism demonstrates why Milton Friedman and others were forced to rebrand themselves as libertarians. He seems well versed in the pros and cons of state intervention, and clearly believes in the value of Keynsian-style state intervention, lamenting the breakdown of the New Deal consensus in the 1970s and 1980s. He does, however, go on record as recognising some of the limits of government. While he offers few concrete proposals as to what should be done, the reader does get the impression that this is a man who is aware of major issues and has thought them through in depth. Sadly but unsurprisingly he has not come up with any new solution to the problem that globalisation presents to American manufacturing and the American working class.

I was left with the impression that Barack Obama is a man of principle, but not one whose principles lead him to try to impose them on others. He recognises, for example, the abortion debate as being one of the most polarising in the US, and lays out his own pro-choice view very carefully, doing his best to respect the "social conservatives" who oppose his view. In one recollection he refers to how a pro-life doctor (but potential Democrat voter) who objected to Obama's implicit inclusion of him within the category of "right wing ideologues who wish to take away a woman's right to choose", and how, having thought the matter through, he changed this statement on his web site to a less confrontational one. Obama sketches out (but no more than sketches) a personal journey that led to his being baptised as an adult (his mother was not an adherent of institutionalised religion, but rather of spiritualist, new age inclinations). Cynically, perhaps, I was reminded of an oft-repeated statement that it would be impossible for an atheist to be elected to high office in the US. Obama believes in the separation of church and state, in accordance with the US Constitution; I do too, and perhaps therefore the privacy of his beliefs, whatever they actually are, should be respected.

Obama devotes a whole chapter to Race, although it is inevitably a backdrop to the whole book. He is of course aware that it is the colour of his skin that has given him the early prominence he has achieved. He tells us of his Kenyan cousins, the mainstream African American family of his wife Michelle, his Indonesian step-father and his white mother's family and mentions ethnic Chinese in-laws. He quietly implies that his background makes him both the epitome of the American dream and someone uniquely placed to deal with the domestic and international problems that confront the US, and to represent and to lead a multi-ethnic America. Not everyone is going to be convinced by that argument: he is certainly not guaranteed to succeed and, to be fair, he does not suggest that others with a less heterogeneous background could not succeed. His analysis of the condition of black America seems balanced - much progress made, but much more still to be made. My only concern for the US is that the programmes that he seems inclined to follow would involve a great deal more state expenditure. It is a shame that he has not put more effort into learning Spanish, acknowledging as he does the burgeoning Latino population of the US.

This is an excellent book. As a commentary on politics in the US over the past 30 years it is easy to read precisely because it is not done to any real depth. As a memoir by someone who is, at the very least, a remarkable man from a very unusual background it is uplifting. Whichever way we might prefer to see the Americans vote, I would hope that all would think it a loss to his country and the world if 2008 turns out to have been the high point in Obama's career. I was convinced that Obama is more than just an excellent public speaker or a politician riding high because of the novelty of his background. He is less beholden to interest groups than most contenders for the presidency. The USA could do a lot worse than bet on Barack Obama for the next 4 years - and I say that as someone who sees a good man in John McCain, too, (although I cannot but feel that he would have made a better president 8 years ago). As we enter the last 8 weeks of the US elections, this is the time to read "Audacity of Hope" if you have not yet done so.
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I don't really know what I was expecting when I started to read this book, but what I wasn't expecting was a genuinely interesting, even-handed and thoughtful portrayal of the American democratic system. While I have obviously seem Obama on the Teevee, I can't say that he ever really energised me in the same way he did so many others. However, upon finishing this book I started to understand a bit more why people find his message so resonant. He writes with compassion and respect for differing opinions, and with the obvious intelligence he displays in speeches and interviews.

It's a refreshing book - I don't know if it's an honest book, because I don't know the man in person - but it certainly comes across as honest. It's well worth reading no matter your views on Obama himself or his political positions - even those at opposite ends of the spectrum should find his gentle humanity somewhat inspiring.
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on 26 February 2011
When writing a review of a President's book, written two years into his Senate term, while he is two years into his Presidency, is not necessarily the ideal circumstance for an objective review. Those on the left may have the predisposition to denounce this book as an article of unfulfilled promises; others would denounce this as nothing more than a propaganda piece and a launch pad for a Presidential campaign. It is the intention of the following review to take neither of the aforementioned positions, and rather to review the book on its own merits and the circumstances under which it was written, turning a blind eye to the author's Presidency.
While The Audacity of Hope is clearly a political book, but what is not so clear is what kind of political book it is. Is it a memoir, a political manifesto, a historical analysis, or a current affairs analysis? In many ways it is all of the aforementioned, and ably weaves its components into a highly readable narrative.
The political memoir aspect of the book is essentially its beginning and its end. Throughout the book Obama provides many insights from his own life that has shaped his view of the world, but essentially the sections of the book that are most purely a retelling of the author's political experience occur both at the beginning and the end. The author was familiar with the events taking place, perhaps the most familiar being the controversy in 2005 over the stalling of President Bush's judicial nominees, and the suggested remedy "the nuclear option" (the use of a political officer, most likely the Vice President, to remove the filibuster on judicial nominees) and the compromise crafted by 7 Senators of each party to preserve the filibuster and not use it except in "extraordinary circumstances" (the ambiguity of such a term was perceived by both the author and this reader).
Within the early chapters are contained insights into Barack Obama's own legal philosophy, essentially of the "Living Constitution" school of thought, as opposed to the Strict Constructionist approach. While this reader has been more beholden, and in many ways still am, to the Strict Constructionist model of judicial thinking, this was undoubtedly the best written, and most compelling argument for the Living Constitution this reader has yet read, and it is a clear strength of the book.
The following chapters, those on Society, Economy, Race, Religion, and World Affairs give a great insight into the political thinking of its author. The extent to which they have been exercised within the offices the author has held this reader cannot adequately analyze, and nor is it the purpose of this review to do so, however they do give insight into the author's then political leanings.
The author makes a very good case for the benefits of Globalization and the fruitlessness of protectionism and other attempts to isolate oneself from the World Economy. He recalls this with his disaffected constituents in mind, explaining that he always had thought of those who were at the losing end of Globalization, those losing work, whenever he thought out his policy positions.
The chapter on Race clearly does not read like it was written by Jesse Jackson or Al Sharpton. While recalling events such as the funeral of Rosa Parks, the author makes a case over how the current status of minorities in the USA requires a break from precedence as much for the minorities themselves as it does from society and government.
The chapter on Religion is one of the books strengths. Herein the author reveals himself to be very much a centrist on this matter. In no way does he adopt any far left positions against prayer in schools, public displays of religious symbols, but at the same time makes a very good case of the importance of rendering unto Caesar. With insight from his own faith, this chapter contains no condescension or self-righteousness, or at least none that this reader can discern, and deserves to be quoted and referenced at any debate regarding the role of religion in society.
The chapter that most strongly struck a chord with this reader was the chapter on World Affairs. Beginning with the author's experience in Indonesia, and an overview of the world's fourth most populous country, Obama draws on the role of Globalization, the threats facing the United States and the world at large, and America's role in the world. While he is clearly a multi-lateralist, he makes a very pragmatic argument. He understands the failings and outdated structure of the United Nations, but at the same time speaks of the merits of drawing consensus and the importance of the international community. Those who would term him an appeaser or "soft" on particular issues of national security or proliferation, will find it hard to do so at least from this chapter. The author clearly shows his understanding of history, and writes a very pragmatic treatise on foreign policy.
The final chapter on family is very autobiographical, drawing on his own experiences in balancing family commitment with his various roles, from being a community organizer, a lawyer, a State Senator, and a United States Senator, but at the same time reveals a pragmatic approach to the breakdown of family relations within the United States, and how society and government can offset certain trends.
The Epilogue is in many ways a recount of his early days as a United States Senator, in some ways tying in with the opening of the book.
In all a very readable and thoughtful book, which should be approached by all, regardless of political persuasions. This book dispels many of the caricatures, which his opponents have sought to personify him as, and proves that he is indeed a patriot in his own way. A thoughtful and readable book that should be approached without preconceptions and read as the thoughtful narrative it is.
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on 16 June 2010
The second work by Barack Obama shows how the politician has matured, but is still learning and developing his ideals and strategies. It is as well written as the first book, Dreams of My Father, and is difficult to put down, although it is clearly aimed at American citizens and is, therefore, not always as interesting for non-American readers.

There is some imbalance in the book. For instance, The World beyond Our Borders has more emphasis on certain parts of the world such as Indonesia and Vietnam, rather than others. On the other hand the chapters that deal with issues such as values are thought provoking.

Despite the shortcomings, I rate this as a 5 star book because it has the potential to be a great asset to readers.

The chapter on race is particularly interesting to the reviewer who is from a diverse background, and is conscious of the debates in Britain about issues of race and culture. As is typical of the book, this chapter is not a systematic analysis of Obama's views on race. But it is even more significant because he analyses where and why debates on multicultural issues are where they are. There is a lot that British politicians and activists on racial issues can learn from that.

This is a very honest account of how Obama, before he took over the office of the President, experienced and understood how the political system in the USA works. In many ways it reminds us of The Prince, by Machiavelli. The first few chapters contain descriptions and observations that begin to give a voter, in any democratic country in the world, an insight into how the system is operated for the interests of a few, supported by the majority. One can read about how the media is a great manipulator, how political parties can become rigid and almost autocratic, and how politicians make decisions about how to vote, not in a chamber for debates, but behind the scenes.

Some writer can make a study guide for a democratic political system out of this book.
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on 13 July 2016
An intelligent, thoughtful, measured book setting out Obamas political take in his country as well as some personal background. My impression was that he comes across as genuine and sincere despite knowing that this book was written in mind of winning over voters. At times Obama displays a cautious pragmatic side to himself, I felt this came more dominant later on in his presidency. The book is nicely set out but also has a lucid style so many themes flow together. He offers a critique of the current (as of 2008) political situation in the US and criticizes both the Right and sometimes the Left for the faults he thinks they have. Obama explains quite well the federal nature of the US government and how the senate and the high courts can block measures that the president wishes to put through. On the foundation of the US he doesn't really have an answer as to how such a fine declaration of liberty and human rights co-existed with slavery, I felt he sounded rather weak and unconvincing in this part.

There's an interesting chapter on Politics, Obama writes about the town hall meetings he attends and the ordinary concerns that people often raise. He addresses the challenges that the media present and how important name recognition becomes when running for office. Funding is a well known problem in US politics, Obama sees nothing wrong with accepting donations from interest groups but not wealthy hedge fund mangers. He also talks about the cliff, the gulf that a Politian has to fall when they fail, most of us can hide our misfortunes but politians have to live it all out in the open, no wonder they become cautious and hesitant Obama thinks.

The next part of the book is about Opportunity, Obama visits Google and is surprised to find nearly all it's interims are Asian or Jewish, where are the blacks and Latinos Americans Obama wonders, the rep from Google says that in order to stay competitive they can only take the very best graduates. The book suggests improvements to policy to help narrow inequality, better schools, more investment in science, research and development. Obama decries the tax breaks given to the rich under Bush and sets out a vision for a more equal society.

Faith is the next topic in the discussion, Obama believes in pluralism and the separation of Church and State. He also believes that abortion should be legal under any circumstance and he is weary of Christian fundamentalism and Intelligent Design. Despite this Obama does say he believes in God, but that the Bible is not a blueprint for State politics. He notes that democrats in the past have been to cautious about embracing religious movements though and feels that the black church has served as an instrument for social justice over the years. He also appeals for calm and respect to be shown on both sides on the debate and that each side recognise the others are not as bigoted as they often suppose.

Race is next covered. Obama vows to finish the work of the civil rights movement and end discrimation. He believes sincerely though that the country is not as divided as many suppose and that there is much good will among people. Obama warns against a rising tide of xenophobia directed towards immigrants in the US and calls for fairer pay to make sure US workers are not being undercut. Many pages are spent addressing parts of Chicago which have been effectively 'lost.' The area has a high % of African Americas, the drop out rate from school is worryingly high, as is the crime rate, drug use and teenage pregnancy, joblessness is a major concern. Obama tells us that he is cautious about simply throwing money at the problem, he tells us that the majority of honest hardworking black families are just as fed up with the situation as the rest of the US, more so in fact, because they often have to live in these crime ridden communities. Still Obama thinks there are a few steps which ought to be taken by the government, such as ensuring that teenagers finish high school and also expanding programmes which have a proven record of reducing teen pregnancies.

The part on world affairs is a little rambling, I didn't think Obama was at his best here. It was more a description of what has happened rather than what he will do.
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'Audacity Of Hope' looks at some ideas in American politics and Obamas own take on them. It looks at things such as Democrat and Republican relations, Race, Faith, Americas relationship internationally and general politics. Obama comes across as someone with a great deal of integrity and common sense. He seems to want to work across political ideological lines for the benefit of America in general. I guess any self penned book will be slightly biased, but for an idea of what Obama believes in and a look at some of his ideas to remedy a selection of Americas ills, you can't go much wrong in starting with this book. Considering he may be the next President, and after reading this lets hope with all of our fibre that he is, it is well worth reading about the beliefs of who could be the worlds most influential man. Clear, eloquent, well reasoned and argued and insightful into his character and ideals. Well worth a read.

Feel free to check out my blog which can be found on my profile page.
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VINE VOICEon 26 May 2007
If you are interested in finding out more about the man behind the sound-bites for one of the front-running 2008 US presidential candidates, this is an excellent read.

The prologue contains a series of declarations. He believes in evolution, scientific inquiry, and global warning. He rejects politics based on racial identity, gender identity and sexual orientations. He highlights how he is ever mindful of how racism meant that people who looked like him were subjugated and stigmatized, and the effects of that continue.

The rest of the book gives his thoughts on a range of policital topics from the bear-pit that is politics in the age of 24 hour news coverage to his experiences of faith, race and family life as it affects Americans every day.

He is analytical, his 10 years as a lecturer in constitutional law giving rigour to his writing, but this is no dry scholarly work. This is a manifesto directed at those people who want a president who understands the complex issues, and is committed to public service.

In a cynical age, this is an articulate reminder that most politicians start with good intentions. And the charm and wit that top politicians must have to succeed comes through on every page. Well worth reading.
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on 11 January 2008
I frequently found myself grinning warmly from ear to ear while working through "The Audacity of Hope". The material was so refreshing, engaging, and uplifting - yet without becoming naive or sloppy. As a Brit, I didn't know much about Obama before, but I can now appreciate why so many people have been attracted to his presidential campaign.

The chapters on Family, on Race, and on Faith were especially poignant and refreshing. Barack is self-depracating, yet determined and focused. There's a great mix of personal history, the history of politics, and the philosophy of politics.

Some have said that there's little real content to the book. I disagree. There's serious political thought here, masterfully presented. What's more, Barack leads me to believe he'll be able to bring out the best of the people that he would bump up against in while in a position of leadership. So even if he himself lacks expertise in a particular topic, he'll be able to attract people who do know enough about the topic, to work closely and well with him.

In short, the book succeeds in generating strong hope.
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