If you’re remotely interested in politics or just curious about the life of the most influential politician on the planet, this book is a really good read.  Along with the rest of the world, I blogged about Barack Obama when he won the presidential election last year and a friend suggested I read his books to find out a little more about him.  

Published in 1995, Dreams From my Father tells the story of Obama’s early life, from childhood through college, his early work as an organiser amongst the poor of Chicago and finally his first trip to Kenya to unearth his family history on his father’s side.  It reads like a novel.  Obama writes beautifully in an open and engaging style that captivated me.  His concern for the poor and his desire to build a more compassionate, dynamic and coherent America permeates every chapter.

He is also disarmingly honest about what it meant for him to grow up in the United States.  Some of the language may offend you and while he is never explicit, his lifestyle as a young man is not hidden either.

Then he describes working among the poor in Chicago and his first visit to a church there.  In typical fashion he explains listening to the preacher’s talk (entitled “The Audacity of Hope” – the title of his second book) and how as people went forward to respond, “I felt a light touch on the top of my hand.  I looked down to see the older of the two boys sitting beside me, his face slightly apprehensive as he handed me a pocket tissue.  It was only as I thanked him that I felt the tears running down my cheeks.”

Barack Obama seems to me to epitomise the American dream.  A dream which has been distorted by racial tensions during a turbulent history, which even now is obscured by the gap between rich and poor.  But it is a dream that still stirs the hearts of men like Obama.  The dream that all men are born equal and that regardless of race or wealth we should all have the opportunity to improve our lives and the lives of the people around us.

His underlying values and beliefs are deeply attractive.  You may not agreee with all his conclusions – he wouldn’t expect you to – but he does engage in some very important conversations.  It’s well worth finding out what he has to say.