News | Penguin Random House | New York/London/Munich/Barcelona, 11/18/2020

A Book For The World: ‘A Promised Land’ By Barack Obama

“A Promised Land” is the title of the long-awaited first volume of former U.S. President Barack Obama’s presidential memoirs, published yesterday by Penguin Random House in all its markets worldwide. The book was published simultaneously in 26 languages. In the U.S. alone, the initial print run is three million copies.

“With the first volume of his presidential memoirs, we are privy to a singular mind, writer, and voice – it truly is a memoir unlike any other,” wrote Penguin Random House CEO Markus Dohle yesterday in an email to his employees. “In a year fraught with global crises, there is comfort to be found in a familiar voice, wherein messages of hope and inspiration interweave with a stirring call to action for every one of us. I am honored we are the ones to bring this work to the world.”

In 2017, Dohle acquired the world rights to two books by Barack and Michelle Obama in one of the most spectacular book deals of recent years. The first, “Becoming” by Michelle Obama, became one of the biggest bestsellers of recent years. “A Promised Land,” the 768-page book by Barack Obama published yesterday, also virtually guaranteed to be a bestseller, is being published in the U.S. and Canada in hardcover by Crown, and the unabridged audiobook, read by the author, by Penguin Random House Audio. In the United Kingdom and Commonwealth territories, it is published by Viking, a Penguin Random House UK imprint. The German edition is published by Penguin Verlag, and the Spanish edition by Penguin Random House Grupo Editorial. In Brazil, Companhia das Letras is publishing the book, and in Portugal, Objectiva, a Penguin Random House Grupo Editorial imprint.

Barack Obama began writing his presidential memoirs shortly after the end of his presidency. With pen and paper and a clear outline in his head, he wanted to provide an honest rendering of his time in the White House, not just a historical record of key events that happened on his watch and important figures he met. It also aims to be an analysis of some of the political, economic, and cultural movements that underlay the great challenges his administration faced, and the choices he and his team made.

Beyond this, he wanted to offer readers a real sense of life in the White House and what it is like to be President of the United States, to remind us that, for all its power and pomp, the presidency is ultimately just a job and that the men and women who work in the White House experience the same daily mix of satisfaction, disappointment, friction, and small triumphs as their fellow citizens. And he sought to tell a more personal story, one that might inspire young people considering a life in public service, drawing upon his realization that his own political career “really started with a search for a place to fit in, a way to explain the different strands of my mixed-up heritage, and how it was only by hitching my wagon to something larger than myself that I was ultimately able to locate a community and purpose for my life,” as Obama says in the book.

This process culminated in “A Promised Land,” in which Barack Obama takes readers on a fascinating journey in seven chapters from his earliest political awakening to his pivotal Iowa caucus victory in early 2008, then the decisive night of November 4, 2008 when he was elected 44th President of the United States of America, becoming the first African American to hold the nation’s highest office.

“A Promised Land” is unusually intimate and reflective – the book describes the life journey of one man’s wager with history, the ideals of a community organizer tested on the world stage. Obama writes candidly about the balancing act of running for office as a black American. He is frank about how living in the White House affected his wife Michelle and their daughters, and about self-doubts and disappointments. And yet he never loses his belief that progress is always possible. In his book, Obama expresses his conviction that democracy is not something handed down to us, but is based on empathy and mutual understanding and something we create together day after day. 

Reflecting on the presidency, he offers an exploration of both the extent and the limits of presidential power, as well as singular insights into the dynamics of U.S. politics and international diplomacy. He takes readers inside the Oval Office and the White House Situation Room, and to Moscow, Cairo, Beijing, and many other places. We are privy to his thoughts as he assembles his cabinet, wrestles with a global financial crisis, his efforts to take the measure of Vladimir Putin, and overcoming the seemingly insurmountable odds to secure the passage of healthcare reform. He describes clashes with generals over U.S. strategy in Afghanistan, reforming Wall Street, responding to the devastating leak from the Deepwater Horizon drilling platform, and authorizing Operation Neptune’s Spear, which resulted in the death of Osama bin Laden. 

“At a time when America is going through such enormous upheaval, the book offers some of my broader thoughts on how we can heal the divisions in our country going forward and make our democracy work for everybody,” writes Barack Obama, “a task that won’t depend on any single President, but on all of us as engaged citizens.”