Markus Gull

10 facts about how stories shape Barack Obama's life

As the saying goes: people don't write to explain the world to others, but to explain the world to themselves. Few things enrich a person's life as much as books. And writing (for oneself) also helps. This is exactly what US Presidents Abraham Lincoln, Theodore Roosevelt and Barack Obama have in common. They are passionate writers, great storytellers and storysharers. And enthusiastic readers!

In a recent interview, Barack Obama tells the New York Times how stories shaped his life, beliefs and vision. Books have helped him since childhood to understand life, what is important and to become the person he is today. And reading a wide variety of books often helped him cope with White House madness.

Here are ten insights into how stories enrich Barack Obama's and our lives.

  1. Stories are a constant source of ideas and inspiration.
  2. Stories give confirmation because you find your own thoughts and feelings again.
  3. Through reading, you step out of the hustle and bustle of life and find your own through the perspective of others.
  4. Through the great works of world literature, we understand the complex, often contradictory nature of the human condition and how patterns of human behaviour repeat themselves.
  5. In biographies and historical works we recognise connections and can better classify and judge events of today.
  6. Stories from a wide range of genres, including relaxing light literature, often unexpectedly change one's perspective.
  7. Stories change your own pace. You slip out of your thinking tunnel, your isolated bubble, and understand what people are dealing with in real life.
  8. Stories create connections to other people, problems, cultures and generations.
  9. Shared goals and values connect people with each other - common, shared stories build bridges, give courage and motivate action.
  10. Writing helps with one's own thought process, structures thoughts and shapes fragmentary insights into a whole picture.

Whether active or passive: the power of written, shared thoughts shapes our lives. It is the special sensitivity of the writer - the alert eye, the precise ear, the variety of language. It is the ability to stand in the moment and be an outside observer at the same time, which, captured between two book covers, takes wing through the reader and seeks a place between his ears ...

Here are three book tips from Barack Obama:

For all those who want to break out of reality: "The Three Body Problem" by Liu Cixin

Deceleration for thinkers: "Thinking, Fast and Slow by Daniel Kahneman

A programme of contrasts that provides potential for controversy: "A Bend in the River" By V.S. Naipaul

Click here for the New York Times articleand interview.


Image credit: Official White House Photo by Pete Souza [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

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