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Extended Audio Sample The Promise: President Obama, Year One Audiobook, by Jonathan Alter Click for printable size audiobook cover
3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 3.00 (716 ratings) (rate this audio book) Author: Jonathan Alter Narrator: Jonathan Alter Publisher: Simon & Schuster Audio Format: Unabridged Audiobook Delivery: Instant Download Audio Length: Release Date: May 2010 ISBN: 9781442334465
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Veteran journalist and author of the bestselling The Defining Moment, Jonathan Alter’s portrait of Barack Obama—and his close-knit team—is the first intimate look at a president and an administration that took authority even before the inauguration.

Alter, a native of Chicago who has known Obama and his circle for nearly a decade, provides a fast-paced inside account of the breakneck speed with which President-elect Obama, and then President Obama, began making critical decisions and assuming the burdens of office amid the greatest economic crisis since the Great Depression.

With dozens of exclusive details about everything from the selection of Hillary Clinton as secretary of state to the president’s secrets for running a good meeting, Alter paints a fresh and often surprising portrait of a highly disciplined and self-aware president and his colorful team. We see a young president of extraordinary temperament grappling with the task of stimulating the economy, bailing out large banks, taking over the American auto industry, making the crucial decision about sending more troops to Afghanistan, deciding whether to negotiate with Iran about its nuclear program, and fighting for a major reform of the country’s health care system. Alter explains what Obama is like as a person, how he operates, and why he is so insistent on leading the country and the world into a new era of wrenching change.

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Quotes & Awards

  • “An impressively reported, myth-debunking, and timely combination of journalism and history.”

    New York Times

  • “An exceptionally well-written account of President Obama’s first year in office. Brimming with fresh and judicious ideas, his book fuses political analysis, subtle insights into the president’s mind, and policy debates into a fast-paced, crisis-filled story.”

    Washington Post Book World

  • “Alter’s prose is swift and subtly inspiring; the ‘Yes, we can!’ motto rarely appears but provides an undercurrent for his record of accomplishment. Readers interested in political process and the reality of progressive politics will enjoy this well-considered take on the current administration, a ‘second draft’ of history from a dedicated journalist who wisely anticipates ‘dozens more versions to come.’” 

    Publishers Weekly

  • “Presidential chroniclers won’t have the advantage of hindsight for some time, but when it comes…to the first draft of history, The Promise is more polished—and far more thoughtful—than most.”

    Bookmarks

  • A New York Times Bestseller
  • A 2010 San Francisco Chronicle Best Book for Nonfiction
  • A Publishers Weekly Bestseller
  • New York Times Book Review 100 Notable Books for Nonfiction, 2010
  • A 2010 Los Angeles Times Book Prize Nominee for Current Interest

Listener Opinions

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Keith Koeneman | 2/16/2014

    " A fast-paced, well-written narrative of Obama's first year as President. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Leo | 2/10/2014

    " Insightful, I think it will help his supporters better understand why things like healthcare and the stimulus played out the way they did. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Nwcade | 2/8/2014

    " The highlights of this book are the humanizing, behind-the-scenes anecdotes about Obama and his team. Alter does not shed light on anything new (presuming his reader and target audience are relatively well-informed) and his opinions are not revelatory. Still, it's fun to learn that Obama's oath of choice is used so frequently that his chief security advisor refers to "Whiskey Tango Foxtrot moments." "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Tim | 2/7/2014

    " Almost laughably biased and generous toward Obama but still an entertaining insider account of the White House. That said, it spends too much time on the "soft" elements of Obama's administration and not enough on the real policy wonk stuff that I was hoping for. For people who've followed the news carefully over the past year, there won't be many stunning revelations. There will be better histories of the Obama White House, for sure. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Chris Gorycki | 1/23/2014

    " A good read. I am sorry that I read it right after reading the Carter Whitehouse Diaries. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 JoAnn | 1/22/2014

    " This is a remarkably interesting, insightful, and informative book that focuses on the first 16 months of the Obama presidency. I learned so much about current issues and policy. It was written by a Newsweek columnist with unique access to the Obama administration and it's important policymakers. My biggest issue with this book was that there was not enough background information and explanation; it assumed a prior knowledge of politics, policy, issues, and people, which I didn't have, and goes into a tremendous amount of detail. As a result, the book for me, was slow going. But it was definately a worthwhile and important read which I highly recommend. Also, the book was clearly biased in favor of Obama and his progressive policies, but you gain a deeper appreciation for the accomplishments and progress that Obama has made, and the struggles and hurdles he had to jump through with Congress to get his bills passed. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Deb Holden | 1/21/2014

    " I learned a lot about the background of decisions made in the first year. A real eye opener. Lots on information on Obama's personality. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Christina | 1/12/2014

    " Reading this just after the GOP sweep in the midterms has left a bitter taste in my mouth. So much opportunity lost! Yet, Alter in many ways explains why, even though the book was written before the election. It is amazing how an administration can do so much and receive credit for so little. Yes, a lot of it is superficial messaging. Yes, many of us who are political junkies were dying for a man like Obama to speak to us like adults after 8 years of 'Git 'er done!' But once elected, the White House teams' unwillingness to bend to some of that need for superficial messaging meant that he lost touch with all BUT the most dedicated, wonky supporters. Sure *I* loved learning how the sausage was made, but I'm a nut! The average out of work, or barely working American losing his house didn't give a rats ass. Alter does a great job explaining the machinations behind the scenes that happened and he rightfully highlights the very real, long term advances in foreign policy achieved by Obama personally. But this book also reveals those shortcomings that would grow into the discontent leading to the mid term losses. It's a great read for both supporters and detractors of this President. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Julie Christiano | 1/12/2014

    " Amazing what I did not know that makes me admire President Obama even more- could that even be possible???? Very well researched and written. As Lbball27 noted, I may be addicted to nonfiction! "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Stephen | 12/20/2013

    " One of the better books regarding Obama's still young presidency. Alter is exceedingly fair, critical when appropriate. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Sgilbert | 12/6/2013

    " This was an amazing and revealing look into the first year of President Obama's life as a president-elect and then as president. I was blown away by the details and information I gleaned from reading this book. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Ovina | 10/29/2013

    " This book provides real insight on the minutia and maneuvering of the political process. "

  • 2 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 5 Helen | 10/11/2013

    " this was an interesting read, but slow in places. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Mary Gail O'Dea | 9/24/2013

    " Almost finished with my campaign 2008/obama reading tour and this was an excellent addition to the trip. Jonathan Alter explores the first year of the Obama presidency form the inside. Because the economy still is sluggish, its easy to overlook how much he accomplished in one year. Excellent read. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Tim Titolo | 8/11/2013

    " Check out what this great president did in Year one. Not enough on what he did in the media. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Doug Mcquirter | 8/1/2013

    " A (mostly) objective and considered history, as good as journalism-as-history can be. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Lena | 1/12/2013

    " Very interesting. This is kind of a behind the scenes look at many of the big news stories that happened in Obama's first year that fills in the details we didn't get from the media. This book makes it seem like he's really done a lot more in his time in office than people realize. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 AJ | 11/18/2012

    " A fine look into the first year of this historic presidency-not a "rah-rah" nor a "he's an alien terrorist manchurian" read, but an honest attempt to look at his first year in office. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Dan | 7/19/2012

    " Honest assessment of the presidents first year. The access to the legislative process behind closed doors is fascinating. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Gwendolyn | 5/17/2012

    " I didn't finish this because it's an epic book and it was due back at the library. I liked that such recent history could still seem to be drama on a grand scale. Perhaps too detailed for me, but all the swearing was fun. Also, why don't Democrats campaign better? Why? "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Alexandra Heller | 2/28/2012

    " Really helpful in breaking down the situations over Obama's first year to an understandbale level. Good because it didn't spend four hundred pages pumping his ego, either. It gave an honest, run down of the facts. "

  • 2 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 5 Jerry Stoecklein | 11/7/2011

    " The problem with this book was that it turned out I had paid enough attention during the election of Obama that nothing was really surprising. Some of the discussions about Afghanistan are interesting, but otherwise, there isn't anything interesting or compelling about this book. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Dorothy | 5/28/2011

    " Very interesting listen of how President Obama runs his presidency, including his style, energy and frustrations. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Karen | 4/12/2011

    " This is the book I would have written about President Obama if I could, so naturally, I'm captivated! Where was Mr. Alter when I was an island, needing a like-minded individual to chew on the issues during primary season? Excellent reporting and analysis. "

  • 2 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 5 Jerry | 4/1/2011

    " The problem with this book was that it turned out I had paid enough attention during the election of Obama that nothing was really surprising. Some of the discussions about Afghanistan are interesting, but otherwise, there isn't anything interesting or compelling about this book. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Villager | 3/31/2011

    " Reading this book made me realize that I watch a lot of political analysis on television. There was very little new information in this book as most of what is written was reported real-time on cable TV in the first year of President Obama's term.

    The book is a decent read. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Alice | 2/17/2011

    " This was a great inside story of the Obama campaign and Whitehouse. What an amazing President! "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Luisa | 1/17/2011

    " So far Jonathan Alter does not disappoint. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Tim | 12/30/2010

    " Check out what this great president did in Year one. Not enough on what he did in the media. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Adil | 12/4/2010

    " Repetitive but satiated my weekly Obama studies "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 AJ | 11/5/2010

    " A fine look into the first year of this historic presidency-not a "rah-rah" nor a "he's an alien terrorist manchurian" read, but an honest attempt to look at his first year in office. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Linda | 10/31/2010

    " A good read. I enjoyed Jonathan Alter's FDR book and enjoyed this one as well. Probably as fair as anyone can expect. "

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About the Author
Author Jonathan Alter

Jonathan Alter is an analyst and contributing correspondent for NBC News and MSNBC and a New York Times bestselling author. He is a former senior editor and columnist for Newsweek and has written for the New York Times, the Washington Post, the Atlantic, Vanity Fair, the New Republic, and other publications.