PositiveThe New York Times Book ReviewBarack Obama is as fine a writer as they come. It is not merely that this book avoids being ponderous, as might be expected, even forgiven, of a hefty memoir, but that it is nearly always pleasurable to read, sentence by sentence, the prose gorgeous in places, the detail granular and vivid ... His focus is more political than personal, but when he does write about his family it is with a beauty close to nostalgia ... There is a romanticism, a current of almost-melancholy in his literary vision ... Obama’s thoughtfulness is obvious to anyone who has observed his political career, but in this book he lays himself open to self-questioning. And what savage self-questioning ... It is fair to say this: not for Barack Obama the unexamined life. But how much of this is a defensive crouch, a bid to put himself down before others can? ... The rare moment when he does take credit, arguing that his recovery act made the American financial system bounce back faster than any nation’s in history with a similar substantial shock, has a dissonant echo for being so unusual ... And yet for all his ruthless self-assessment, there is very little of what the best memoirs bring: true self-revelation. So much is still at a polished remove. It is as if, because he is leery of exaggerated emotion, emotion itself is tamped down. He writes exhaustively about the nuts and bolts of passing his landmark Affordable Care Act, but with an absence of any interiority ... When he writes about realizing that it was not merely his policies that the Tea Party had demonized, but him personally, his sentences are edged with an elusive quality, something detached and impenetrable ... With foreign policy, he is less guarded. He even manages a kind of poetic jingoism, where nearly every criticism of the United States is mere preface to an elegant and spirited defense ... The highlight of the political memoir is the gossipy bit, the small detail that surprises or upends what we imagine we know ... And then there are his biographical sketches, masterful in their brevity and insight and humor ... He writes that Republicans are better at fighting to win, and there is a wistfulness to his unstated longing for a similar sense of tribal loyalty on the left ... But it is on the subject of race that I wish he had more to say now. He writes about race as though overly aware that it will be read by a person keen to take offense ... He is a man watching himself watch himself, curiously puritanical in his skepticism, turning to see every angle and possibly dissatisfied with all, and genetically incapable of being an ideologue ... The story will continue in the second volume, but Barack Obama has already illuminated a pivotal moment in American history, and how America changed while also remaining unchanged.