The Bridge: The Life And Rise Of Barack Obama (Quick Book Review)
In spite of multiple policy disappointments, I remain a big fan of Barack Obama. Combine that with a propensity to make impulse purchases courtesy of Amazon Prime, and this 572 page biography of Obama landed with a rather intimidating thud on my desk a few weeks ago. The book is written by David Remnick, the editor of hoity-toity mag The New Yorker.
The book is compelling for a variety of reasons, but the primary reason to pick it up is that its not a singularly focused bio of Barack. It actually interleaves Barack’s rocket rise in the American body politic against the backdrop of the civil rights movement and the narrative of race in this country. It paints a rich picture of African-American autobiographical styles, for example (when discussing Dreams From My Father) that you’d normally not come across unless you were widely read in African American studies.
Coming back to the purely biographical aspects of the book, Remnick is horribly well sourced and researched on his primary subject. The book is richly detailed and textured, beginning all the way back from Barack’s ancestral home of Kogelo, Kenya and culminating with his inauguration in January 2009. Remnick has interviewed key characters like Valerie Jarrett, David Axelrod, high school friends, colleagues from The Illinois State Senate, etc. in significant detail and is able to present a relatively complete picture of 44.
The book also shines in outlining Obama’s key temperamental qualities and how he came to acquire them. In a world that generally celebrates leaders and alpha dogs who scream like a banshee (Jamie Dimon, Ari Gold), it is simply wonderful to see Obama in action in a variety of circumstances large and small. It should give young aspiring leaders hope and pause before they flout The Asshole Rule.
The book is definitely VERY light on issues of the 2008 race so if you’re looking for a blow-by-blow on the campaign, the book will be a waste of your time. In fact, the book actually covers the 2008 campaign exclusively through the lens of race – a jarring shift as you’re reading but a worthwhile one for the narrative in the end.
All in all, a wonderful read for anyone that considers themselves a student of leadership and American history.