Barack Obama names Canadian novel The Glass Hotel by Emily St. John Mandel one of his favourite books of 2020


Former U.S. president Barack Obama unveiled his list of favourite books of 2020. The list of 17 books included memoir, fiction and nonfiction. 

One Canadian title made the list: The Glass Hotel  by Emily St. John Mandel.

Other books on the list include Jack by Marilynne Robinson, Caste by Isabel Wilkerson, Deacon King Kong by James McBride, The Vanishing Half by Brit Bennett and Memorial Drive by Natasha Tretheway.

The Glass Hotel  weaves several narratives together as it tells a story of financial corruption, greed and a massive Ponzi scheme. Vincent is a bartender in a prestigious hotel on Vancouver Island. When the owner — Jonathan Alkaitis — passes Vincent his card, it becomes the beginning of their story together. Meanwhile, a hooded figure scrawls a cryptic note on a wall in the hotel, and a shipping executive for a company called Neptune-Avramidis — Leon Prevant — sees the note and is shaken.

Thirteen years later, Vincent disappears from a Neptune-Avramidis ship. Inspired by the Bernie Madoff financial fraud scandal, the novel is a character study of people who profit and the lives that are compromised as a result. 

The Glass Hotel was a finalist for the 2020 Scotiabank Giller Prize. It was also named one of Time’s ‘must-read’ books of 2020 and made CBC Books’s best fiction of the year list.

Mandel is a dual American Canadian citizen and currently lives in New York. The Glass Hotel is her fourth novel. She is also the author of Station Eleven, which was a finalist for a National Book Award and the PEN/Faulkner Award and won the 2015 Toronto Book Award. 

The Next Chapter16:03Emily St John Mandel on The Glass Hotel

Emily St John Mandel on The Glass Hotel, her follow-up to her breakout novel Station Eleven. 16:03

Obama noted that he did not include his own book on the list, “deliberately omitting what I think is a pretty good book.” The first volume of Obama’s memoir, A Promised Land, was published in November, and immediately became one of the bestselling books of the year.

A Promised Land covered his swift and historic rise to the White House and his first term in office.

Obama is an avid reader and has regularly shared reading lists and his favourite books of the year. He recommended two Canadian titles in 2019Warlight by Michael Ondaatje and Washington Black by Esi Edugyan.