Editor’s Note: Dean Obeidallah, a former attorney, is the host of SiriusXM radio’s daily program “The Dean Obeidallah Show” and a columnist for The Daily Beast. Follow him @DeanObeidallah. The opinions expressed in this commentary are his own. View more opinion articles on CNN.
Former President Barack Obama has published his list of favorite books of 2019. The former president, who was known to read an hour a day toward the end of his presidency, has curated a selection that he noted on Instagram is part of the “fabric that helps make up a life” and can hopefully “enhance our day-to-day experiences.”
What a contrast to President Donald Trump’s list of books, which he recently promoted on Twitter.
While the books that Obama recommends will make readers more well-rounded and informed, Trump’s list is filled with books that will make the reader angrier and more supportive of Trump. (Even as President, when Obama released his summer reading list, the titles ranged from books about former President John Adams to novels like, “The Bayou Trilogy.” None were explicitly about Obama’s political agenda or attacking his political rivals.)
Let’s take a closer look at Obama’s 2019 list. They include works of fiction, such as “Normal People,” a story of two starkly different people from the same small town who must confront how far they will go to support each other. There’s also the award-winning novel, “Trust Exercise,” by Susan Choi, the story of students in the 1980s at a competitive performing arts high school that the Amazon description notes “will leave readers with wiser understandings of the true capacities of adolescents and of the powers and responsibilities of adults.”
Obama also highlights numerous thought-provoking non-fiction books, such as the New York Times best seller, “Say Nothing: A True Story of Murder and Memory in Northern Ireland,” that has been described as a “mesmerizing book on the bitter conflict in Northern Ireland and its aftermath.” And then there’s the “The Heartbeat of Wounded Knee: Native America from 1890 to the Present” by David Treuer, a brutally honest examination of how Native Americans flourished for generations until European powers and the United States government enslaved, killed and displaced these proud people from their ancestral homes.
What a contrast to Trump’s recommended books, which are almost all designed to do one thing: help Trump, politically, that is. In October, Trump praised the book, “Resistance (At All Costs): How Trump Haters Are Breaking America” by Wall Street Journal columnist Kim Strassel, tweeting, “A great book by a brilliant author. Buy it now!” This book, per the Amazon summary, argues that it’s not Trump who is a threat to our democracy, but those who criticize Trump, claiming that “the president’s foes have thrown aside norms, due process and the rule of law.” (It sounds like a Trump tweet in book form.)
In November, Trump took to Twitter to praise the new book, “The Plot Against the President: The True Story of How Congressman Devin Nunes Uncovered the Biggest Political Scandal in U.S. History” by Lee Smith. This book tells the story of how the California representative and vocal Trump defender allegedly uncovered an operation to bring down Trump. Obviously this book furthers Trump’s narrative that he’s the victim of a “witch hunt,” which makes it no surprise that Trump tweeted, “great new book” adding, “Shows very bad and corrupt people on the other side. Check it out!”
Also making Trump’s recommended reading list in November was the book written by his son Donald Trump, Jr., bearing a title that is quintessential Trump: “Triggered: How the Left Thrives on Hate and Wants to Silence Us.” The younger Trump’s book, according to the online summary, promises to “expose all the tricks that the left uses to smear conservatives and push them out of the public square.”
And let’s not overlook Trump’s recommended books in 2018 that fit this same mold. There was Fox News host Judge Jeanine Pirro’s book titled, “Liars, Leakers and Liberals, the Case Against the Anti-Trump Conspiracy.” Trump tweeted at the time of its release, “fantastic” – adding, “Go get it!” And who can forget Fox News commentator Gregg Jarrett’s book, “The Russia Hoax, The Illicit Scheme To Clear Hillary Clinton And Frame Donald Trump,” which Trump promoted before its release and then again praised later, adding that the Russia investigation was “illegally started by people who have already been disgraced.”
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In short, Trump only promotes books he believes will support his political tenure. Many of them achieve this by furthering the narrative that Trump is a victim of a corrupt establishment and that he alone can save the country from a Democratic Party hellbent on his demise.
While Obama’s recommended books are designed to make life a “little brighter,” Trump’s books are designed to do the exact opposite – inspiring fear and anger in the next election cycle.