The Obamas, in town over the weekend, took turns to address the Singapore audience and share their perspectives gleaned from their unique experiences as the 44th President of the United States and the First Lady. In Conversation with Barack Obama, which took place on Dec 16, saw him taking to the stage to share his views on leadership in the world.

Since stepping down, Obama has started a production house, Higher Ground Productions, which recently released American Factory, a documentary about a glass factory opened by a Chinese billionaire, with themes on culture clashes in a globalised economy. He has not been keeping idle, reading voraciously, taking up speaking engagements around the world, and is also in the process of writing another memoir, his fourth book. Indeed, books have been a source of comfort for the former president, who revealed to The New York Times shortly before he left The White House for the last time that they allowed him to gain a sense of solidarity with other leaders in history during the difficult moments of his presidency.

Today, the man who served as president from 2009 – 2017, continues to release his summer reading lists to the public, a practice he started in 2009. English philosopher Francis Bacon has said that “reading maketh a full man; conference a ready man; and writing an exact man.” Indeed, other thought leaders such as Bill Gates and Warren Buffett also share the habit of releasing recommendations – providing us with insights into the books that have touched them.

Here, we list four books that have got the thumbs up from Barack Obama and Bill Gates in recent years.


A Gentleman in Moscow

The basis of a soon-to-be major television series, this novel by Amor Towles is about Count Alexander Rostov who is ordered to spend the rest of his life under house arrest in a luxury hotel across the street from the Kremlin. Rostov, an indomitable man of erudition and wit, has never worked a day in his life, and must now live in an attic room while some of the most tumultuous decades in Russian history are unfolding outside the hotel’s doors. Unexpectedly, his reduced circumstances provide him entry into a much larger world of emotional discovery.


Evicted: Poverty and Profit in the American City

In Evicted, Princeton sociologist and MacArthur “Genius” Matthew Desmond follows eight families in Milwaukee as they struggle to keep a roof over their heads. Evicted transforms our understanding of poverty and economic exploitation, while providing fresh ideas for solving one of 21st-century America’s most devastating problems. Its unforgettable scenes of hope and loss remind us of the centrality of home, without which nothing else is possible.


Factfulness: Ten Reasons We’re Wrong about the World – and Why Things Are Better Than You Think

Written by Swedish Professor of International Health Hans Rosling, together with his son and daughter-in-law, this book offers a radical new explanation of why we systematically get the answers to simple questions about global trends wrong. They reveal the 10 instincts that distort our perspective of the world and prevent us from seeing it for what it really is – from the way we consume media to how we perceive progress.


An American Marriage

Newlyweds Celestial and Roy are the embodiment of both the American Dream and the New South. He is a young executive, and she is an artist on the brink of an exciting career. But as they settle into the routine of their life together, they are ripped apart by circumstances neither could have imagined. In this deft exploration of love, loyalty, race, justice, and both black masculinity and black womanhood in 21st century America, Tayari Jones achieves that most-elusive of all literary goals: the Great American Novel.

(Related: Most memorable quotes by Michelle Obama, who’s in Singapore)

(Book covers and summaries: Goodreads; Photo: Barack Obama Presidential Library)