Becoming by Michelle Obama
Published by Crown
Publication date: November 13, 2018
Genres: Book Clubs, Debut, Memoir, Non-fiction
Your Local Book Store, Amazon
Leave it to Michelle Obama, an untested writer, to achieve something that has never happened in my reading history. I finished her memoir, Becoming, on January 15th and had no hesitation in ranking it 5 stars. This makes it not only the first time I’ve found a 5-star book in January, but the only time my first 5-star rating of the year has been given to nonfiction. I just don’t read that much nonfiction—maybe 4 books a year, so the odds are stacked against it. Now, I know this is not a statistic that Michelle is going to see, much less put on her list of achievements, but for me it is huge. And for anyone reading my blog, it should also go a long way to recommending this book.
Michelle breaks her life down into segments that correspond with “becoming” and each is eminently relatable. For me, it is her journey as a goal-oriented woman, striving and wanting to be taken seriously, but often diminished and overlooked. Her challenge was even greater because even more roadblocks were thrown in her way because of her race. She doesn’t waste time bemoaning the fact, just shares how it felt and how she pushed past it. She does the same thing with the often-vicious words used against her and Barack once they were in the public eye.
It’s important to note that despite the fact Michelle is best known for her role in the political world, this is not a political memoir. It’s about her life, her marriage, her career, motherhood. All aspects of her life I knew nothing about and that she shares with a down-to-earth attitude and a welcome dose of humor. And even though Becoming goes through the 2016 election, it’s not a tell-all or a counterpoint to everything that occurred before or after the election. She is a reasonable, articulate woman of integrity—she states her opinion and the facts, leaving it to the reader to decide what they think.
Becoming presents a dilemma for readers: do you read the print version because there are photos or do you listen to the audiobook because Michelle narrates it? I went with the audio, even though it is a full 19 hours. That’s a lot of dedicated listening time—especially if you got it from the library where there’s a hold list of hundreds of people (yes!) and you can’t renew it. The reason I did this is that it gave me 19 hours of listening to a voice and a life that reminded me of a time when the biggest drama in the White House was President Obama wearing a tan suit. No corruption, no scandal, just grace, humor, and dignity.
Ahhh! I’ve been wanting to read this so badly. So many people I know have read it and loved it! I’m on the waiting list at my library for the print and audiobook versions, but I have my fingers crossed that the audiobook will be available first. I will always remember watching Michelle Obama at the inauguration in 2009. Integrity is a good word to describe her. Hoping my copy comes in soon. Glad you liked it!
She really is the epitome of grace. She perfectly combines dignity with humor and this comes out in the novel. It was wonderful getting to know her!
Susie | Novel Visits says
I knew you’d love Becoming and I’m so glad we share that. For me, the entire listening experience was 19 hours of comfort, tinged with as little sadness and longing. Truly a great memoir.
Longing is the perfect word. Even when she’s talking about the current president she is articulate and reasonable- hard to be when discussing him.
Sarah's Book Shelves says
I’m on the library hold list for the audio. I’m sure I’ll get it in like 2020 – haha. But, I’m interested in reading it because it’s not a political memoir. I’ve found I really love political-adjacent memoirs (is that a real term?!)…people writing about their overall lives that happen to work in politics, but the actual politics isn’t the main focus.
That’s a great term! It isn’t until 2015/16 that she gets more into politics- for obvious reasons.
Lauren O'Brien says
I also loved this book and decided to listen to the audio for similar reasons. I know it would have taken me forever to cram a book of that length into my schedule. Plus “book of that length” gives me hives. It was hard enough to do the audiobook, where I can up the playback speed. I’m sure this says a lot about me that know one cares to know. 🙂 I loved hearing Michelle’s voice and loved her story. It went into a bit too much detail/depth for me a few times (catch-22 – on audio you can up playback, but you can’t really “skim” parts you might skim in a print book). This is sounding like a book therapy session. I need help, Catherine. Your $90 therapist co-pay is in the mail.
I had a couple of places that I fast forwarded through- mostly because I was terrified I wouldn’t finish the book in time and I knew there was no way I could renew it!
Ha! Your ‘therapy’ fees are paid by the fact you still read my reviews after all these years!
Lauren O'Brien says
How long is your checkout period? I have friends in Los Angeles who only get a week, which I find outlandish. I hope it doesn’t keep people from reading.
I’m getting the better end of that bargain.
Our normal checkout period is 28 days even for bestsellers, but this is so long and I don’t spend much of my day listening (ha!- take that any way you want) so I had to hustle.
Lauren O'Brien says
I “hear” you (ha, we could do this schtick forever). That’s what my checkout period is as well. I don’t often find it a challenge since I usually stick to 9-12 hour audiobooks and playback at 1.25 minimum. Becoming was pushing it on all fronts.
Allison | Mind Joggle says
I am almost done listening to this and I have enjoyed every moment! She really is the epitome of grace under fire; I appreciate her reflections on the public reactions to her “missteps.” I cannot even imagine how frustrating it would be to have every word, every gesture scrutinized. The president (and family) are by nature under so much pressure–and theirs was exponentially greater by that need to “work twice as hard to get half as far.” I don’t think anyone could have done it better.
And that so many of the public criticisms were deeply personal and offensive. I can’t imagine how difficult it must have been.
The Paperback Princess says
I just finished this today! I can’t believe you read non-fiction and liked it! Although, of course you liked this one, it was wonderful. I was talking to a friend about this one today and she told me I had to listen to the audiobook – I like the idea of spending time with her voice. Maybe it will be the first ever audiobook I listen to?
You should- it’s 19 hours of bittersweet listening. She is an amazing woman.
The Cue Card says
Yeah I miss the tan suit days so much! Wonderful review. I was given it for Christmas (the hardback) and have it on my stack and must move it more to the top. Interesting to note … when I went to my local indie bookstore in Orange County over Christmas the owner there said it was the biggest selling book there in his 15 or 20 years of owning the store. Wow. Orange County goes blue! Some GOP patrons etc. are totally furious that it’s sold so much (he told me) … I can only say: go girl.
That is SO funny! I’m sure there are GOP haters who are seething over her sales and the fact that she sold out arenas on her book tour. They can suck it.
The Cue Card says
I miss them so much. I am on hold for this one as well and I can’t wait to read it. She’s so utterly warm and charming.
You will love it- even if by the end you’re crying. I am so glad she wrote it. It really gives you better understanding of her as a person.