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Publisher's Summary

From one of Obama’s closest aides comes a revelatory, behind-the-scenes account of his presidency - and how idealism can confront harsh reality and still survive - in the tradition of Arthur Schlesinger, Jr.’s A Thousand Days: John F. Kennedy in the White House.

For nearly 10 years, Ben Rhodes saw almost everything that happened at the center of the Obama administration - first as a speechwriter, then as deputy national security advisor, and finally as a multipurpose aide and close collaborator. He started every morning in the Oval Office with the President’s Daily Brief, traveled the world with Obama, and was at the center of some of the most consequential and controversial moments of the presidency. Now, he tells the full story of his partnership - and, ultimately, friendship - with a man who also happened to be a historic president of the United States.

Rhodes was not your typical presidential confidant, and this is not your typical White House memoir. Rendered in vivid, novelistic detail by someone who was a writer before he was a staffer, this is a rare look inside the most poignant, tense, and consequential moments of the Obama presidency - waiting out the bin Laden raid in the Situation Room, responding to the Arab Spring, reaching a nuclear agreement with Iran, leading secret negotiations with the Cuban government to normalize relations, and confronting the resurgence of nationalism and nativism that culminated in the election of Donald Trump.

In The World as It Is, Rhodes shows what it was like to be there - from the early days of the Obama campaign to the final hours of the presidency. It is a story populated by such characters as Susan Rice, Samantha Power, Hillary Clinton, Bob Gates, and - above all - Barack Obama, who comes to life in moments of great urgency and disarming intimacy. This is the most vivid portrayal yet of Obama’s worldview and presidency, a chronicle of a political education by a writer of enormous talent, and an essential record of the forces that shaped the last decade.

Read by Mark Deakins. Prologue read by the author.

©2018 Ben Rhodes (P)2018 Random House Audio

Critic Reviews

"Ben Rhodes, who served Barack Obama as a foreign policy adviser and speechwriter from beginning to end, has written a book that reflects the president he served - intelligent, amiable, compelling and principled. And there is something more: The World as It Is is a classic coming-of-age story, about the journey from idealism to realism, told with candor and immediacy.... His achievement is rare for a political memoir: He has written a humane and honorable book." (Joe Klein, The New York Times Book Review)

"In The World as It Is, Rhodes shows no trace of the disillusionment that gave George Stephanopoulos's tale of Bill Clinton its bitter, gossipy flavor, or of the light irony that came to inflect Peggy Noonan's adoration of Ronald Reagan. More than any other White House memoirist, Rhodes is a creature of the man he served.... This is the closest view of Obama we're likely to get until he publishes his own memoir." (George Packer, The New Yorker)

"Ben Rhodes is one of the most brilliant minds and powerful storytellers I've ever known. In The World as It Is, he doesn't just bring you inside the room for the key moments of Obama's presidency, he captivates you with the journey of an idealistic young staffer who becomes the president's close friend and advisor - a journey that both cynics and believers will find riveting and hopeful." (Jon Favreau)

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A work for posterity, not tomorrow's talking points

Everyone approaching this book anywhere near the time it was released is a part of this story. That is, you have your own story, and if at all you ever paid any attention to the news, or even just absorbed it by living, you experienced the moments portrayed in this book. More so,you reacted to them. As blips in news media. Not as stories as much as a succession of framed events, actions merged with a sprawl of opinions and emotional reactions. And then another framed event welded with words and words about the event.
Myself, I remember where I was, when Obama was elected. When gay marriage was made law. When Obama didn't order strikes on Syria. And for damn sure I know where I was the day after the 2016 election. I was throwing up, sick as a dog from stress. Had to call in sick. But that's me. I don't know about you.
So I, and you, know this story. That is our lives have happened with it in the backdrop. But do we know the story? Are the reports of what happened, followed by a war of words between "sides" to take control of how all of us perceive and thus respond to said events, are they any kind of real story, about real humans? Or are they more just a string of emotional reactions, where the key players cease to be real people, but something more like stand ins for ideas, that we either do or don't like, something verging more upon the lines of a terrifying fiction?
I continue to follow the news, as if I had a choice, all the actions and reactions before we all collectively move on to the next event and it's talking points. In all of it, I have no choice but to react to it, then and there. No big picture, no full story, just shocks and responses.
And then, here does come a story, a full one, about the Obama years, written by one of Obama's closest aides, who happens to be a very good writer.
The book is not an analysis of 'what happened,' it does not tell us how to think about the events portrayed, it is but the recollections of one man's life, while serving in the White House, one man's human story of the work he did for eight years, and it becomes a portrait of the vision and the focus of that work, and of the man from whom the direction of that vision came: it becomes a much appreciated, human portrait of Obama himself. Obama dancing with another aide in the back of a car to Thrift Shop by Maclemore, with the secret service in the front seats, the author wondering what they must think of it all. Obama joking with his staff, being the first to call after the author's first child was born, saying "The kid looks like you. Let's hope she ends up looking more like your wife Ann." Then adding, "your life will never be the same." Obama being short with his staff sometimes, the weight of the world almost literally upon his shoulders. And Obama, after Trump was elected, saying, "maybe we were wrong. Maybe people just want to be a part of their tribes."
That last one is quite a statement. I do not hold to every aspect of Obama's vision; I think, perhaps in some ways, his vision may be wrong. Nevertheless, through exploring it all more deeply, in retrospect now, I can't help but see it as of being a noble vision, and one that he attacked with great alacrity and focus.
All to say, this document stands out in the midst of ceaseless talking about politics. Now if you have come to see Obama and his people as comic book villains I can't say it will change your mind. But it is but a story. A good one, well told, beautiful, grateful, admiring, amazed and hopeful still. It's a good way to frame the world in context, as the author attempts to portray it, at least from his own eyes, as it is. Finished listening to it in less than a week.

29 of 30 people found this review helpful

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An immersive read; a thoughtful book; a tribute to

I ordered the audio book and am absolutely flabbergasted by the imerssiveness of Ben Rhodes' writing style. A piece from the New York Times articulates well the thoughts I have on Rhodes' work:

"Ben Rhodes is a charming and humble guide through an unprecedented presidency. He writes well, even though he has a master’s degree in creative writing, and he has a good eye. He observes that the national security adviser Jim Jones “had a strange habit” of giving advice to Obama “while looking at someone else in the room.” He describes furniture in Cuba “that went out of style so long ago that it’d be trendy in Brooklyn.” And that’s about as ferocious as he gets. There is no retributive backbiting of internal opponents like Hillary Clinton or Stanley McChrystal. In fact, Rhodes is far more candid about his own foibles. He drinks hard liquor, to the point of an occasional hangover. He smokes, furtively. He eats Chinese takeout, to excess. And he grows. He never quite loses his idealism; in a crass political era, he impressively avoids becoming a cynic. As a result, his achievement is rare for a political memoir: He has written a humane and honorable book."

37 of 39 people found this review helpful

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Worth every minute

This is an excellent account of a man that spent 8years in the White House working with President Obama. I appreciated how the author’s voice is written in a way that allows the reader or listener to visualize the story. Not one dry moment exist in this memoir. I’ve read many books about Obama and all of them leave me with the impression of a genuinely honorable man that our country was lucky to have for 8 years. Whether you agree with his politics or not any reasonable person cannot deny that fact that Obama had integrity. That was clearly evident in the author’s description and from other accounts I’ve read. This was an excellent account of the years of Obama’s presidency and the man that so vividly captured its memorable moments. Well-written and enjoyable read.

10 of 10 people found this review helpful

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A sad reminder of what things were and are.

I'm a little bit better for having 'read' this, and a little more sad for having taken that era for granted.

19 of 20 people found this review helpful

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Good insight on day-to-day Obama

I got the book for the first-hand experience of Obama and the Obama years.
The book focuses more on foreign policy, a fact that I liked.
At some points, the author shares thoughts as happening at the time of that event, but I couldn’t tell they were not filtered by hindsight.
Nothing that he mentions about Obama is out of line with what one expects - and I’m ok with that. I guess I struggled a little with the full justification of foreign policy “failures” on moral or political grounds - it would be nice to acknowledge that probably not everything was done right.
Overall an enjoyable book.

8 of 8 people found this review helpful

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Inspiring and Bittersweet

Everything that touched you about Obama and his presidency is brought to life and deepened in this book. It is so very bittersweet to meet it again. Ben Rhodes narrates the introduction and it works so beautifully! Sadly, the narrator for the majority of the book can not come close to Ben's telling. I wish Audible would consider a redo on this because the book is golden! And all the more personal, heartfelt and touching when Ben reads.

8 of 8 people found this review helpful

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Excellent review of the last Great 8 years

so much accomplished by Obama and so much reversed out of jealousness and bad political reasons. But I believe once something changes its changed for ever so Trump can cancel deals etc but change has taken place. So proud to have Obama as our president he is a true role model for all citizens and people of the world.

5 of 5 people found this review helpful

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Hope in a Troubling Time

It’s easy to get lost in the negativity of the news cycle. This book is a great way to break that habit.

Ben goes deeper than ever into Obama’s foreign policy operations in an easy to read, humanizing memoir. It’s easy to learn the facts of the Obama administration, but it’s harder to find a book on the people that made those feats possible. Really great read.

4 of 4 people found this review helpful

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  • Jean
  • Santa Cruz, CA, United States
  • 08-04-18

Insightful

The memoirs of Obama staffers are starting to come out now. I enjoy reading these political insider memoirs. I am aware they are biased to their own beliefs. I attempt to stay neutral and read these memoirs from both sides of the political divide. By doing this I hope to obtain a better understanding of the events.

This one is by Ben Rhodes who was Obama’s speechwriter and national security staffer. The book provides a look inside the Obama years. He states he is telling the story “of the journey from idealism to realism”. I enjoyed that Rhodes provides lots of interesting anecdotes as well as mixing his personal story into the current events. This allowed me to view the events through his eyes and emotions. The book is extremely well written and is easy to read. The book is also well researched. Rhodes has a master’s degree in creative writing and is a gifted writer. Rhodes paints himself in a positive manner, but does point out some of his bad habits and mistakes. The book provides inside information about how race played a role during Obama’s presidency. I was somewhat surprised and ashamed at the poor manners, attitude and obstructionism of the republicans toward Obama throughout his years in office. Is it just my impression or was the republican opposition to Obama personal or racial rather than ideological? This is not the typical political memoir. For those readers interested in this area, the book will not disappoint.

The book is almost sixteen hours long. Mark Deakins does an excellent job narrating the book. Deakins is an actor and audiobook narrator. He has won multiple Earphone Awards as well as voted Best Voice by Audiofile Magazine.


3 of 3 people found this review helpful

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In The Room Where It Happened!

Ben Rhodes puts you in the room where it happened. With an amazing memory for detail, color, and events you yearn to be with him in that room. Until Barack Obama writes his own memoir I have no doubt that The World As It Is will be the definitive history of those 8 amazing years when the U.S. was still the moral leader of the free world and had a president who strove every day to be the best he could be and help us to likewise find greatness within ourselves.

3 of 3 people found this review helpful