A Project of The Annenberg Public Policy Center

Obama’s Reading Material


Q: Was Obama reading an anti-America book written by a Muslim?

A: No. The book, a New York Times best-seller, is about America's role in a new global era. The author, a leading journalist, is a Muslim but describes himself as "not a religious guy."

FULL QUESTION

This will open your eyes.

What does Obama read?

The name of the book Obama is reading is called The Post-American World, written by a fellow Muslim. Post-America – The world After America ???

Please forward this picture to everyone you know, conservative or liberal to expose Obama's radical ideas and intent for this country!

FULL ANSWER

The original photo was published by the New York Times and taken by photographer Doug Mills as then-candidate Barack Obama walked off his campaign plane in Bozeman, Mont., in May 2008. The Times also featured the version with the zoom-in on the book title in its blog about books that month. This chain e-mail is likely just as old, but it's still making the rounds.

While the photo is real, the anonymous author jumps to conclusions about the subject matter of this book: "The Post-American World," by journalist Fareed Zakaria. If the author did grab the photo from the Times' books blog, he or she apparently didn't bother to read the three-paragraph description of what Obama was reading.

First off, Zakaria is the editor of Newsweek International, a Newsweek columnist and host of CNN's "Fareed Zakaria GPS." His renown increased with the publication of a post-9/11 Newsweek cover story titled "Why They Hate Us." As described in a New York magazine profile, Zakaria is "an Indian-born, Yale- and Harvard-educated Muslim. … He’s a conservative who is willing to question one of the most cherished principles of the West—democracy—but also a naturalized citizen who believes in America’s world-historical mission." While his family members were Muslims, he and his siblings sang Christian songs in school and also observed Hindu holidays. The Village Voice quoted Zakaria as being a touch uncomfortable about having become the media's go-to guy for Muslim perspective: " 'I do know a lot about the world of Islam in an instinctive way that you can't get through book learning,' he says thoughtfully, but admits he finds the role of token Muslim explainer in the American media slightly uncomfortable. 'I occasionally find myself reluctant to be pulled into a world that's not mine, in the sense that I'm not a religious guy.' "

The e-mail claims that Obama is a Muslim as well, but as we've pointed before, that's not true.

Zakaria's book, published last year, isn't some kind of apocalyptic vision of a world "after America," as the e-mail claims, but rather it posits that while countries such as China and India are rising, America has a leading role in the new global era. Zakaria writes in the first chapter: "This is a book not about the decline of America but rather about the rise of everyone else. It is about the great transformation taking place around the world, a transformation that, though often discussed, remains poorly understood."

He goes on to say:

"The Post-American World": We are now living through the third great power shift of the modern era. It could be called "the rise of the rest." Over the past few decades, countries all over the world have been experiencing rates of economic growth that were once unthinkable. …

At the politico-military level, we remain in a single-superpower world. But in every other dimension – industrial, financial, educational, social, cultural – the distribution of power is shifting, moving away from American dominance. That does not mean we are entering an anti-American world. But we are moving into a post-American world, one defined and directed from many places and by many people.

What kinds of opportunities and challenges do these changes present? What do they portend for the United States and its dominant position? What will this new era look like in terms of war and peace, economics and business, ideas and culture?

The New York Times Sunday Book Review described it as "a relentlessly intelligent book that eschews simple-minded projections from crisis to collapse. … Zakaria’s is not another exercise in declinism. His point is not the demise of Gulliver, but the 'rise of the rest.' ” And The Economist noted that Zakaria's thesis isn't new. British historian Paul Kennedy wrote a 1987 book, "The Rise and Fall of the Great Powers," which said, quoted The Economist, that "although America is 'still in a class of its own,' it faces the challenges of preserving its power 'from relative erosion in the face of the ever-shifting patterns of global production.' "

Publishers Weekly, which included Zakaria's work among its Best Books of the Year in 2008, called it "a largely optimistic forecast of where the 21st century is heading, predicting that despite its record of recent blunders at home and abroad, America will stay strong, buoyed by a stellar educational system and the influx of young immigrants."

The book was No. 2 on the New York Times best-sellers list in June 2008.

– Lori Robertson

Sources

Garner, Dwight. “What Obama Is Reading." Paper Cuts Blog – NYTimes.com. 1 Oct 2009.

Maneker, Marion. "Man of the World." New York magazine. 2003.

Press, Joy. "The Interpreter." The Village Voice. 9 Aug 2005.

Zakaria, Fareed. "The Post-American World," first chapter, as published in the New York Times. 6 May 2008.

Joffe, Josef. “The New New World.” New York Times. 11 May 2008.

PW's Best Books of the Year. Publishers Weekly. 3 Nov 2008.

Hardcover Nonfiction.” New York Times 1 Jun 2008.

"The Rise of the Rest; Geopolitics and America." The Economist. 24 May 2008.