Author Stephen King is famously quoted as having described books as ‘a uniquely portable magic’ and we would 100% agree with him! Books give us the ability to travel through time, space and the lives of others without so much as leaving the sofa! Therefore, we think it’s time to put reading (or listening!) back at the top of our to-do list and that is just what the hide & read book club is here to do. We can’t wait to share with you our major book crushes (and biggest book disappointments) over the coming months through this channel and hope to encourage you to share yours and your reviews in return. So grab your favourite mug, head to your happy hiding place and get ready for these books to cast a little magic in your life.
First up is ‘Becoming’ by Michelle Obama, which became the best-selling book of 2018 just 15 days after its release. Spoiler alert: it is INCREDIBLE.
Book title: Becoming
Author: Michelle Obama
About the author: American writer, lawyer, and previous First Lady of the United States of America, the first ever African-American First Lady, Michelle Obama is the inspirational wife of former President Barack Obama.
“Whether you come from a council estate or a country estate, your success will be determined by your own confidence and fortitude.” – Michelle Obama
‘Becoming’ is an autobiographical memoir that details the life of former First Lady, Michelle Obama, in great depth with a very open and honest tone. It tells her whole story, starting with her childhood where she recalls her hopes and dreams to take a step up from her parents’ circumstances, through to adolescence, her education in law at Princeton and Harvard, her life as a wife and mother as well as a very prominent public figure. It culminates in detailing the path she took to try to rediscover herself again once the presidency was over.
“So far in my life I’ve been a lawyer, I’ve been the vice president at a hospital, the director of a non-profit that helps women to build meaningful careers, I’ve been a working-class black student at a fancy, mostly white college, I’ve been the only woman, the only African-American in all sorts of rooms, I’ve been a bride, a stressed out new mother, a daughter torn up by grief and until recently, I was the first lady of the United States of America…” – Michelle Obama
It doesn’t matter if you know every detail of American politics or nothing at all: this inspiring, real-life story is an uplifting, educational and immersive experience that you’ll never want to end.
Judging the book by its cover
I listened to this as an audiobook because Michelle has the most relaxing voice, and yes, I feel like we’re on first-name basis after learning all about her life. 60 seconds of the 5-minute sample audio hooked me immediately - I learned about her aspirations as a young girl: to own a dog, a house with stairs (over at least two floors) a four-door station wagon and to be a paediatrician: I was sold.
The line that resonated with me most on this book was her thought on asking children what they want to be when they grow up:
“As if growing up is finite, as if at some point you become something and that’s the end.”
That one line had such power and truth that I just knew that this was the start of a new obsession; cue impulse *add to basket* and goodbye outside world, I’ll see you in 19 hours and 3 minutes.
The book itself
This is not like all the books you’ve read (or had read) before. From the very first page, you’re transported into a room to find yourself face to face with Michelle as she tells her life story with such raw emotion and intimate detail; you’re captivated and there’s no going back now.
It’s all too easy to make assumptions about figures in the public arena, fed by the media to create a bias for or against each personality. But this book will change your perceptions, show you the intimate feelings of Michelle and ultimately, remind us all that even the First Lady of America is a real person. We don’t often get the chance to see what’s beneath the surface of such public figures, but this rare glimpse is one of pure pleasure. In fact, you probably don’t even need to read the rest of this review, save time and get your own copy now!
Okay, so you’ve decided to stay with me so good on you. Now for the best bits…
Becoming is surprisingly relatable, not just because you feel like you’re re-living her life right by her side, but because she is just a regular, everyday woman: a mother, a daughter and a wife before anything else. It’s reassuring to hear about how such an amazing woman still struggles with real life problems, like trying to conceive a child, feeling alone, and failing to match the ever-increasing expectations of friends, family and the rest of them. I wish I had her rational, determined and committed approach to problem solving on so many levels – it’s certainly taught me a lesson or two (particularly on the health and wellness front, but more on that later).
Michelle doesn’t shy away from her dislike of politics throughout, which, considering her position shocked me, but at the same time was of comfort as I can’t say I’m a massive fan either.
One of my favourite segments is about the evolution of the White House Community Gardens from the Kitchen Garden. Michelle bought the community together to grow their own foods, to learn and to reap the plethora of rewards: there’s a reason urban gardens and growing your own is such a big thing these days! Starting from the seed of a growing childhood obesity problem in America, the gardens grew into a strong, healthy haven, thriving with the helping hands of locals and Michelle’s seemingly endless wisdom. I was so inspired by this that I now have my own allotment, (I’m 23 in case you’re wondering, proving gardening isn’t just for the retired!)
Reading this book will take you on a rollercoaster ride of emotions. I felt her struggle during piano lessons with her perfectionist great aunt, fell in love with her as she got to know Barack (well, I fell in love with her during the sample audio to be fair), I was overcome with emotion at the birth of each of her children and yes, I cried real tears when over the tragedies in her life. Then, I was left in giggles as she describes the simple pleasure of indulging in an oozing cheese toasty: the simplicities of normal life don’t seem at all trivial after everything we’d been through during ‘Becoming’; I certainly needed one of my own to console myself over the fact Michelle had finished reading to me.
Did it change my life?
Yes, this book definitely changed my life in a number of ways; it’s made me more determined to start (and actually finish) little projects to bring happiness to my life, like my allotment. It’s shown me how much power just one person trying to make a change has had, and it’s given me my first ever idol in life. She is a true inspiration and I won’t hear of anyone saying otherwise.
I couldn’t recommend this book more to anyone who feels lost, in need of motivation or to escape into someone else’s life for a few hours; I absolutely loved it. There are only about three books (out of quite literally hundreds) of books that I’ve read cover to cover more than once, and this is one of those three. I loved the way she told the story of so many challenges, but without framing herself as a victim: it’s certainly no pity party. Michelle is living proof that you can do pretty much anything if you put your mind to it and has changed my way of thinking completely.
This is certainly a must-read for 2019, but be prepared, it will change your life…
Is there a book you’d like to see reviewed in the hide & read Book Club? Get in touch with us via our social media channels and we’ll add your recommendations to our bookshelf.
Other books by Michelle Obama:
Michelle Obama: Speeches on Life, Love and American Values