The sensible people I know are readers. So it’s not a surprise to me that Barack Obama is an avid reader. Michiko Kakutani from The New York Times interviewed Obama about literature and what books meant for him during his White House years.
In that same interview he also tells about his writing (in his journal and short stories):
Was writing partly a way to figure out your identity?
Yes, I think so. For me, particularly at that time, writing was the way I sorted through a lot of crosscurrents in my life — race, class, family. And I genuinely believe that it was part of the way in which I was able to integrate all these pieces of myself into something relatively whole.
For me, writing is not so much about integrating pieces of myself, but more about discovering what I actually think and believe. Only when I write it down on paper or screen, I really know what is going on inside. It took me a long time to acknowledge that writing is essential for my well-being. Whenever I have a period that keeps me from writing, I start to feel restless and unhappy.
Later on in the interview, Obama projects his role of storyteller into his next role in society:
When so much of our politics is trying to manage this clash of cultures brought about by globalization and technology and migration, the role of stories to unify — as opposed to divide, to engage rather than to marginalize — is more important than ever.
Look, I don’t worry about the survival of the novel. We’re a storytelling species.
I think that what one of the jobs of political leaders going forward is, is to tell a better story about what binds us together as a people.
What holds us together is an idea, and it’s a story about who we are and what’s important to us. And I want to make sure that we continue that.
I’m so glad to that he puts his storytelling and presidency skills to good use in the coming years:
And so in my post-presidency, in addition to training the next generation of leaders to work on issues like climate change or gun violence or criminal justice reform, my hope is to link them up with their peers who see fiction or nonfiction as an important part of that process.