Dinaw Mengestu. Photo by Eli Meir Kaplan/Getty Images for Home Front Communications.

Former US president Barrack Obama has revealed his summer 2019 reading list, and among his selections is the Ethiopian writer Dinaw Mengestu’s second novel How to Read the Air. Published in 2010 by Penguin Random House, the novel follows a man whose father’s death causes him to leave the US for Ethiopia in an attempt to retrace his family’s history. It received the 2011 Ernest J. Gaines Award for Literary Excellence.

Dinaw Mengestu is the author of two other novels: The Beautiful Things That Heaven Bears (2007), which won the 2007 Guardian Best First Book Award and a 2008 Los Angeles Times Book Prize, and is published in the UK as Children of the Revolution, and All Our Names (2014), which was nominated for the Prix Femina etranger. A winner of the MacArthur “Genius” Grant in 2012, he was named in the US National Book Foundation’s “5 under 35” list in 2007, The New Yorker’s “20 under 40” list in 2010, the Africa39 list in 2014, and Granta‘s “Best of Young American Novelists” list in 2017. A Professor of Creative Writing at Georgetown University, he chaired the judging panel for the 2018 Caine Prize.

Image from joydelire.wordpress.com.

In July 2018, ahead of his visit to Kenya, Obama listed some of his favourite books by Africans, including Chinua Achebe’s Things Fall Apart, Ngugi wa Thiong’o’s A Grain of Wheat, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s Americanah, and Nelson Mandela’s Long Walk to Freedom.