Former President of the United States Barack Obama just released his 2023 summer reading list and you will not believe which African novel is on it!

Ghanaian-American author DK Nnuro’s What Napoleon Could Not Do made it to the reading list. It is a story about a Ghanaian man and his struggles to relocate to the US. The novel is currently longlisted for the 2023 New American Voices Award as well as the Center for Fiction 2023 First Novel Prize.

Obama’s Instagram caption read, “Here’s some books that I’m reading this summer. Check them out and let me know what I should be reading next.”


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Nnuro commented on Obama’s Instagram post, saying: “I am still numb 3 hours later. This is, without a doubt, the greatest joy of my life. Thank you, Mr. President!”

For those of you who are interested in Nnuro’s debut novel, here’s a quick synopsis:

When siblings Jacob and Belinda Nti were growing up in Ghana, their goal was simple: to move to America. For them, the United States was both an opportunity and a struggle, a goal and an obstacle.

Jacob, an awkward computer programmer who still lives with his father, wants a visa so he can move to Virginia to live with his wife—a request that the U.S. government has repeatedly denied. He envies his sister, Belinda, who achieved, as their father put it, “what Napoleon could not do”: she went to college and law school in the United States and even managed to marry Wilder, a wealthy Black businessman from Texas. Wilder’s view of America differs markedly from his wife’s, as he’s spent his life railing against the racism and marginalization that are part of life for every African American living here.

For these three, their desires and ambitions highlight the promise and the disappointment that life in a new country offers. How each character comes to understand this and how each learns from both their dashed hopes and their fulfilled dreams lie at the heart of what makes What Napoleon Could Not Do such a compelling, insightful read.

What Napoleon Could Not Do was published by Riverhead Books on February 7. Buy the book here.

Congrats to Nnuro!