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Barack Obama’s Best-Of Pop Culture List Includes Cardi B, ‘Black Panther,’ ‘Becoming’

Barack Obama may be a couple of years removed from the Oval Office, but the president ex officio is continuing a tradition he started as commander-in-chief of sharing his year-end list of his favorite movies, music, and books. He did not share his favorite shows and streaming series.

“It gives me a moment to pause and reflect on the year through the books, movies, and music that I found most thought-provoking, inspiring, or just plain loved,” Obama wrote on social media. “It also gives me a chance to highlight talented authors, artists, and storytellers — some who are household names and others who you may not have heard of before.”

It’s a best-of list that boasts Oscar contenders and box office hits such as “Black Panther,” “Eighth Grade,” and “Roma”; chart-toppers such as Leon Bridges’ “Bad Bad News” and Cardi B’s “I Like It”; and best-sellers such as Michael Ondaatje’s “Warlight” and David W. Blight’s “Frederick Douglass: Prophet of Freedom.”

The former president also probably preserved domestic harmony with one of his picks, “Becoming,” the acclaimed memoir by his wife Michelle Obama. Writing on Facebook, Obama said the book was “obviously my favorite!” Obama’s reading list includes a number of titles that comment on the fractious political moment, such as Steven Levitsky and Daniel Ziblatt’s “How Democracies Die” and “The World as It Is,” Ben Rhodes’ memoir about working for the 44th president. “Fear,” Bob Woodward’s look at dysfunction in Trump land, did not make the grade.

On the film front, the former president’s choices included a number of movies about race in America, such as “If Beale Street Could Talk,” “Blindspotting,” and Spike Lee’s “BlacKkKlansman.” The Obamas went to see “Do the Right Thing” on their first date and “BlacKkKlansman” has been hailed as a return to form for Lee. There were also several foreign-language films, including “Burning,” a South Korean thriller, and “Shoplifters,” a Japanese drama that won the Palme d’Or at Cannes.

Obama’s musical choices were eclectic, including folk rock (Brandi Carlile’s “Every Time I Hear That Song”), rock (Kurt Vile’s “One Trick Ponies”), and rap (J. Cole’s “Kevin’s Heart). The Carters, friends of the Obama family, are also represented. The former president added “Apes••t,” the infectious trap anthem from the duo’s most recent album “Everything Is Love.”

As of press time, Obama’s successor, Donald Trump, has yet to reveal his own best-of list of pop culture. It seems more likely to include “Fox & Friends” than “If Beale Street Could Talk.” Here’s a look at Obama’s list:

Here’s a reminder of the books that I read this year that appeared on earlier lists:
Becoming by Michelle Obama (obviously my favorite!)
An American Marriage by Tayari Jones
Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
The Broken Ladder: How Inequality Affects the Way We Think, Live, and Die by Keith Payne
Educated by Tara Westover
Factfulness by Hans Rosling
Futureface: A Family Mystery, an Epic Quest, and the Secret to Belonging by Alex Wagner
A Grain of Wheat by Ngugi wa Thiong’o
A House for Mr Biswas by V.S. Naipaul
How Democracies Die by Steven Levitsky and Daniel Ziblatt
In the Shadow of Statues: A White Southerner Confronts History by Mitch Landrieu
Long Walk to Freedom by Nelson Mandela
The New Geography of Jobs by Enrico Moretti
The Return by Hisham Matar
Things Fall Apart by Chinua Achebe
Warlight by Michael Ondaatje
Why Liberalism Failed by Patrick Deneen
The World As It Is by Ben Rhodes

Here are my other favorite books of 2018:
American Prison by Shane Bauer
Arthur Ashe: A Life by Raymond Arsenault
Asymmetry by Lisa Halliday
Feel Free by Zadie Smith
Florida by Lauren Groff
Frederick Douglass: Prophet of Freedom by David W. Blight
Immigrant, Montana by Amitava Kumar
The Largesse of the Sea Maiden by Denis Johnson
Life 3.0: Being Human in the Age of Artificial Intelligence by Max Tegmark
There There by Tommy Orange
Washington Black by Esi Edugyan

My favorite movies of 2018:
Annihilation
Black Panther
BlacKkKlansman
Blindspotting
Burning
The Death of Stalin
Eighth Grade
If Beale Street Could Talk
Leave No Trace
Minding the Gap
The Rider
Roma
Shoplifters
Support the Girls
Won’t You Be My Neighbor

And finally, my favorite songs of 2018:
Apes••t by The Carters
Bad Bad News by Leon Bridges
Could’ve Been by H.E.R. (feat. Bryson Tiller)
Disco Yes by Tom Misch (feat. Poppy Ajudha)
Ekombe by Jupiter & Okwess
Every Time I Hear That Song by Brandi Carlile
Girl Goin’ Nowhere by Ashley McBryde
Historia De Un Amor by Tonina (feat. Javier Limón and Tali Rubinstein)
I Like It by Cardi B (feat. Bad Bunny and J Balvin)
Kevin’s Heart by J. Cole
King For A Day by Anderson East
Love Lies by Khalid & Normani
Make Me Feel by Janelle Monáe
Mary Don’t You Weep (Piano & A Microphone 1983 Version) by Prince
My Own Thing by Chance the Rapper (feat. Joey Purp)
Need a Little Time by Courtney Barnett
Nina Cried Power by Hozier (feat. Mavis Staples)
Nterini by Fatoumata Diawara
One Trick Ponies by Kurt Vile
Turnin’ Me Up by BJ the Chicago Kid
Wait by the River by Lord Huron
Wow Freestyle by Jay Rock (feat. Kendrick Lamar)
And in honor of one of the great jazz singers of all time, who died this year, a classic album: The Great American Songbook by Nancy Wilson

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