As First Lady Michelle Obama prepares to say farewell to the White House, she’s also celebrating her 53rd birthday. In honor of her support for education and literacy initiatives, here are five of the First Lady’s favorite books, complete with publishers’ descriptions.
Life of Pi by Yann Martel
After the sinking of a cargo ship, a solitary lifeboat remains bobbing on the wild blue Pacific. The only survivors from the wreck are a 16-year-old boy named Pi, a hyena, a wounded zebra, an orangutan — and a 450-pound royal bengal tiger. The scene is set for one of the most extraordinary and beloved works of fiction in recent years. Universally acclaimed upon publication, Life of Pi is a modern classic.
Mrs. Obama’s recommendation: In an interview with her husband in 2012, they discussed their favorite movies of the year. The President said, “Life of Pi was good — because we had read that book together.”
Song of Solomon by Toni Morrison
Milkman Dead was born shortly after a neighborhood eccentric hurled himself off a rooftop in a vain attempt at flight. For the rest of his life he, too, will be trying to fly. With this brilliantly imagined novel, Toni Morrison transfigures the coming-of-age story as audaciously as Saul Bellow or Gabriel García Márquez. As she follows Milkman from his rustbelt city to the place of his family’s origins, Morrison introduces an entire cast of strivers and seeresses, liars and assassins, the inhabitants of a fully realized black world.
Mrs. Obama’s recommendation: “That book helped me love reading, because before then, reading was kind of like something you did when you had to do it. But that book, it like grabbed me and pulled me and I just kept reading and kept reading.”
Goodnight Moon by Margaret Wise Brown
In a great green room, tucked away in bed, is a little bunny. “Goodnight room, goodnight moon.” And to all the familiar things in the softly lit room — to the picture of the three little bears sitting on chairs, to the clocks and his socks, to the mittens and the kittens, to everything one by one — the little bunny says goodnight.
In this classic of children’s literature, beloved by generations of readers and listeners, the quiet poetry of the words and the gentle, lulling illustrations combine to make a perfect book for the end of the day.
Mrs. Obama’s recommendation: When asked her favorite book on Take Your Child to Work Day in 2011, the First Lady listed Goodnight Moon is one of the many kids books she enjoys.
The Light of the World by Elizabeth Alexander
In The Light of the World, Elizabeth Alexander finds herself at an existential crossroads after the sudden death of her husband. Channeling her poetic sensibilities into a rich, lucid price, Alexander tells a love story that is, itself, a story of loss. As she reflects on the beauty of her married life, the trauma resulting from her husband’s death, and the solace found in caring for her two teenage sons, Alexander universalizes a very personal quest for meaning and acceptance in the wake of loss.
The Light of the World is at once an endlessly compelling memoir and a deeply felt meditation on the blessings of love, family, art, and community. It is also a lyrical celebration of a life well-lived and a paean to the priceless gift of human companionship. For those who have loved and lost, or for anyone who cares what matters most, The Light of the World is required reading.
Mrs. Obama’s recommendation: In an interview with People magazine, she revealed Alexander’s book as her favorite read of 2015.
Where the Wild Things Are by Maurice Sendak
Max is sent to bed without supper and imagines sailing away to the land of “Wild Things,” where he is made king.
In the 40 years since Max first cried “Let the wild rumpus start,” Maurice Sendak’s classic picture book has become one of the most highly acclaimed and best-loved children’s books of all time.
Mrs. Obama’s recommendation: This is a perennial favorite for the First Lady to read to kids. She and the President even acted out the various wild things’ roars at the 2016 Easter Egg Roll.
Which of Mrs. Obama’s recommendations have you enjoyed? Let us know in the comments!
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