Thursday, July 9, 2020

Reading And Walking: Becoming

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Welcome to Reading and Walking, where I go for a stroll and listen to an audiobook. I’m going to review the book and show you what I saw on my walk. Simple, right? For this adventure, I chose to listen to Becoming by Michelle Obama. I picked this memoir because it’s everywhere and everyone wants to read it. Seriously, the library waitlist for the audiobook is about six months long. Since everybody wants to get their grubby hands (or grubby ears?) on this one, I might as well see if it’s worth the hype.

Becoming by Michelle Obama

Genre: Memoir
Pages: 426 (19 hour, 3 minute audiobook)
Publication date: November 2018
Content warning: Politics, racism, sexism, war, gun violence, illness, death of family members, poverty
Available at: Amazon | Book Depository

In a life filled with meaning and accomplishment, Michelle Obama has emerged as one of the most iconic and compelling women of our era. As First Lady of the United States of America—the first African American to serve in that role—she helped create the most welcoming and inclusive White House in history, while also establishing herself as a powerful advocate for women and girls in the U.S. and around the world.

In her memoir, Michelle Obama invites readers into her world, chronicling the experiences that have shaped her—from her childhood on the South Side of Chicago to her years as an executive balancing the demands of motherhood and work, to her time spent at the world’s most famous address. With unerring honesty and lively wit, she describes her triumphs and her disappointments, both public and private, telling her full story as she has lived it—in her own words and on her own terms.

I haven’t done a Reading and Walking post since November. Oops. Between winter and Coronavirus, getting out of the house has been tough, but I did it. Actually, I did it several times. Since the Becoming audiobook is 19 hours long, and I’m way too lazy to walk for 19 straight hours, I split it into 5 long walks. All of my walks happened on the Cherry Creek Regional Trail. And, yes, I did wear my virus mask.

Let’s get to Becoming. Michelle Obama narrates the audiobook herself. She has a calm voice that’s easy to listen to, but I think she learned the art of      e x c r u c i a t i n g l y   s l o w   t a l k i n g      from her husband. I eventually sped up the audiobook because it was frustrating me.

I didn’t know much about Michelle Obama before I started her memoir. I knew she was First Lady, had children, and had once been a lawyer. I knew she planted a vegetable garden at the White House. That was the extent of my Michelle Obama knowledge. Since I knew basically nothing about her, I learned a lot from this book. Michelle tells her story (mostly) chronologically, starting with her childhood in Chicago. She grew up in an overcrowded apartment in a neighborhood that was quickly falling apart and being consumed by poverty. She talks about her father’s chronic illness and how he refused to take time off work or spend money on doctor visits. Her parents invested most of their time and money in their children. Michelle and her brother went to the best schools and extracurricular programs their parents could afford. Michelle developed an obsession with success. She wanted to be the best at everything.

I can relate to that. I’m also a perfectionist.

Actually, I was surprised at how much I could relate to this memoir. From the outside, it seems like I’d have nothing in common with Michelle Obama. She’s wealthy and famous. I’m broke, and being famous involves way too much human contact for me. Michelle is a Black woman who spent her life in various cities. I’m a White woman who narrowly avoided getting trampled by a deer while listening to Michelle Obama’s audiobook.

This is not the deer that almost trampled me, but you can tell it's seriously considering trampling me. The other deer had antlers. I came around a corner; it was galloping down the path. We both saw each other, freaked out, and swerved in opposite directions.

My life does overlap with Michelle Obama's a bit. She writes about the pressure she puts on herself to succeed. She always feels like she has to keep achieving more, and more, and more. That’s how she became a lawyer. She wasn’t passionate about the law. She became a lawyer because lawyers were “successful” in her mind. When she actually started practicing law, she discovered she hated it.

A similar thing happened to me. I got all the degrees, checked all the “success” boxes, and then discovered that I’m terrible at my chosen career. I’m still figuring out what to do next. I definitely don’t want to be First Lady. I couldn’t survive that life.

Becoming is full of fascinating behind-the-scenes information about political campaigns and life in the White House. I was especially interested in the chapters about White House security. It’s intense. The people who live in the White House can’t even step onto their own balcony without informing the Secret Service. Going outside is a massive ordeal that disrupts everyone and everything. Raising two rambunctious children in a historic house with tight security is a unique challenge. 

My favorite part of the book is when the White House is lit up like a pride flag to celebrate the legalization of gay marriage. Michelle and one of her daughters wanted to go outside and see the lights, but the Secret Service wouldn’t let them because there were too many tourists around. They ended up sneaking out of the house so they could stand in the shadows and peek at the lights.

A fancy, festive July 4th fence.

I don't actually know what this thing does. Or did.

Memoirs are hard to review because how do I rate a person’s life? Overall, I found this book captivating. I think it lives up to the hype. I never got bored while listening to it. Michelle doesn’t gloss over the difficult parts of her history, but her story is hopeful and encouraging. I’d especially recommend it to working parents with young children.

Here’s proof that I didn’t get bored: I walked 22 miles (35km) while listening to this book. I was so interested in the story that I never stopped to think about how much my feet hurt. That’s the mark of an excellent audiobook.

Have you read Becoming? What did you think?

Or, what’s the last audiobook you listened to?


  1. I read Becoming with my ears as well. While I would've happily read it with my eyes, I really enjoyed listening to Mrs. Obama read her own life. She is brilliant and accomplished in her own right and I'm a huge fan.

    Your pics are lovely. I listen while walking my dogs, but not exclusively. I listen while doing mindless chores like mowing the lawn, gardening and cleaning.

    I recently finished listening to a fluffy YA romance, The Summer of Jordi Perez and am currently listening to Ibi Zoboi read her MG debut, My Life as an Ice Cream Sandwich.

  2. It's interesting that you said you could relate to her because you are a perfectionist. That's me. I'm waiting for the hype to go down before requesting this from the library.

  3. I haven't read this yet, but I do want to. I was also on a long wait list for the audiobook, but ended up taking myself off because I knew there was no way I'd be able to get through the whole book in two weeks!

  4. I don't often read memoirs, but I've kind of been interested in reading this just to see what all the fuss is about! I'm glad you enjoyed it! :)

  5. I love the idea of walking and listening to a book - I really need to keep trying with audios and see if I can focus on some. LOL I'm glad you didn't get trampled by the deer - and that you enjoyed the memoir. I do really want to read this one!


  6. I loved this book! And walking while listening is one of the only ways to get me to go outside! I also listen while I'm on the elliptical!

  7. I want to grab the audio of this one as well! It sounds so good! I can't wait to learn more.

  8. Gosh everyone has been reading this book, and I've been considering picking it up but I just haven't been in the mood to read memoirs lately. Listening to an audiobook while walking sounds like a great idea though! I have never listened to an audiobook and have worried that I'll stop paying attention listening to one at home. I'll need to give this a try. :) Glad to hear that you enjoyed the book.

  9. I loved this book and had the same experience you did as far as finding Michelle Obama way more relatable than I was expecting to. I've always admired her but had no idea that I might actually find I had things in common with her.

  10. I plan to read Becoming at some point. I really enjoy seeing your review with the gorgeous photos in it. A 22 mile walk is pretty impressive so it was obviously a good read!

  11. These are nice walking photos. Yes I first listened to the book on audio and then I read it as well ... so I could mark some passages that I wanted to note. I thought it was great and I liked the behind-the-scenes info. Here are my thoughts on it at:

  12. I enjoyed reading your thoughts on Becoming, especially the ways in which you found yourself relating to Michelle Obama at points - I feel like she is such a well rounded person, that many people could relate to her on some level. I also felt that whilst there where ups, downs and everything else in between, Michelle's story is hopeful & encouraging (I also came away feeling inspired).

    I love the pictures you've shared also - you know I love these reading & walking posts.

  13. I have not read much about this book although of course I have heard of it and seen it everywhere. Your review made me want to read it. I find it a curious fact of modern life that everyone thinks being a lawyer is the pinnacle of success. I like it about Michelle Obama that she admits she hated being a lawyer once she got there.

  14. I loved this book, which says a lot since biographies usually aren't that compelling for me. I'm glad it kept your mind off your aching feet and gave you some food for thought!

    Nicole @ Feed Your Fiction Addiction