What more is there to learn about Barack Obama and his campaign? In Renegade (Crown, $26), Richard Wolffe followed Obama’s campaign and was able to spend a good deal of face time with the candidate. He has done an admirable job of taking observations and digesting them and organizing his interviews into an exceptionally coherent narrative about the campaign and about the candidate. We learn among much else that President Obama has a remarkable ability to learn from his mistakes and incorporate that learning into his next steps; he has a group of grownups around him, accomplished people in their own right—not sycophants dependent on the candidate for their identity. The President touches base with them when he needs advice—and he accepts their advice.
Taylor Branch played Boswell to President Bill Clinton in The Clinton Tapes (Simon & Schuster, $35). Because of Nixon’s experience with taping, Clinton did not want to have conversations taped in the oval office. Instead, he asked Taylor Branch to come to the White House periodically so that Branch could record Clinton’s reflections during his eight years as President. The book comes from the reminiscences that Taylor himself recorded after each meeting. (President Clinton kept the tapes.) As with anything involving Bill Clinton, this book is fun to read. Taylor has done a fine job of reminding us about the accomplishments and the frustrations of the Clinton presidency. There is a trove of material, and wherever you turn in the book, you find interesting observations.
The subversive comic book artist R. Crumb has illustrated The Book Of Genesis (W.W. Norton, $24.95). This odd pairing has produced an unexpectedly beautiful rendering of the Bible. Every line is illustrated, frame by frame. Crumb fills in actions that are merely suggested by the language. The words take on new meaning; the pictures help interpret the content and provide understanding beyond the literal text. Crumb’s depictions emphasize the humanity of the figures. The illustrations are hypnotic and fascinating. Most important, by focusing on a line-by-line reading, an experienced Bible reader absorbs the text with more care.