Barack Obama names books by Canadians Emily St. John Mandel and Kate Beaton among his favourite reads of 2022

The former U.S. president named Mandel's novel Sea of Tranquility and Beaton's graphic novel Ducks as books he enjoyed in 2022. Other books on the list include works by international authors George Saunders, Namwali Serpell, Abdulrazak Gurnah and more.
Former U.S. president Barack Obama regularly shares his favourite books of the year on social media. (Obama Foundation/YouTube)

Former U.S. president Barack Obama unveiled his list of favourite books of 2022. The list of 13 books included memoir, fiction and nonfiction. 

Two Canadian titles made the list: Sea of Tranquility by Emily St. John Mandel and Ducks by Kate Beaton.

Sea of Tranquility, Mandel's sixth novel, traverses time, space and reality. It follows a wide range of characters living in British Columbia in 1912 and on the moon in 2401 as they come into contact with a time traveller who must resist the pull to change the past and the future.

The story explores a series of lives upended — from an exiled son driven mad by beauty and mystery in a Canadian forest to a writer living in a colony on the moon as a pandemic ravages Earth. 

The B.C.-born Mandel is a dual American Canadian citizen who currently spends her time between New York City and Los Angeles.

Her other novels include The Glass Hotelwhich was a finalist for the Scotiabank Giller Prize and selected by President Barack Obama as a favourite book of 2020; and Station Elevena bestseller adapted for HBO and a finalist for a National Book Award and the PEN/Faulkner Award.

LISTEN | Emily St. John Mandel on CBC Radio's The Sunday Magazine:

The second Canadian title on Obama's list is Ducks, an autobiographical graphic novel that recounts author Kate Beaton's time spent working in the Alberta oil sands.

An illustrated book cover featuring a woman standing on the steps of a truck in the oil sands.

With the goal of paying off her student loans, Kate leaves her tight-knit seaside Nova Scotia community and heads west, where she encounters harsh realities, including the everyday trauma that no one discusses.

Beaton is a cartoonist from Nova Scotia who launched her career by publishing the comic strip Hark! A Vagrant online. The sassy historical webcomic gained a following of 500,000 monthly visitors and was eventually turned into a bestselling book. Beaton's success continued with the book Step Aside, Pops, which won the 2016 Eisner Award for best humour publication. 

Beaton has also published two children's books, King Baby and The Princess and the Pony.

LISTEN | Kate Beaton speaks with The Next Chapter's Shelagh Rogers:

Obama noted he's "a bit biased" for including wife and former U.S. first lady Michelle Obama's latest book The Light We Carry as one of his favourite reads this year.

Other international books on the 2022 list include The Furrows by Namwali Serpell, Liberation Day by George Saunders, Trust by Hernan Diaz, The Candy House by Jennifer Egan and Afterlives by Abdulrazak Gurnah.

Obama is an avid reader and has regularly shared reading lists and his favourite books of the year. Previous year-end recommendations have included Canadian titles Warlight by Michael Ondaatje and Washington Black by Esi Edugyan.

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