President Obama, accompanied by his two daughters and about a dozen Secret Service personnel, visited Politics & Prose in Washington, D.C., for about 25 minutes at midday on Small Business Saturday, November 29, to shop for books. The store was humming with customers, including this reporter and her family, when the Secret Service arrived to secure the premises and began searching bags of new customers coming into the store. About 10 minutes after the Secret Service appeared, the President and his daughters arrived with their entourage. The trio immediately headed downstairs to the children’s book area, and browsed there for about 10 minutes while customers were kept at a distance by his security personnel and a bookseller. Photographs were not allowed in the children's area. Afterwards, as Obama passed a small group of customers lined up in a narrow hallway leading to the stairs, he greeted them and this reporter asked, “President Obama, I hope you picked up a copy of Brown Girl Dreaming by Jacqueline Woodson?” He turned to PW, smiled, and answered, “I did.” Brown Girl Dreaming received the National Book Award in Young People’s Literature last week.
Upstairs, Obama and his daughters browsed a display table of nonfiction across from the “staff picks” section in the middle of the store for about 10 minutes, attended by Politics & Prose co-owner Brad Graham and a few booksellers. Both he and his elder daughter, Malia, seemed to be quite engaged in finding what they wanted to buy, while his younger child, Sasha, seemed less interested in books for adults. At one point a bookseller was asked to fetch Age of Ambition: Chasing Fortune, Truth and Faith in the New China by Evan Osnos from a display table near the front of the store. Age of Ambition was the NBA winner this year in Nonfiction.
After holding a baby and taking a selfie, Obama received a round of applause before walking to the cash register holding a basket full of books, while his daughters held still more books in their arms. As he stopped to shake some hands, the press pool, squeezed into the space to the right of the cash register, began snapping photos and shooting video. One customer shouted out asking when the U.S. was going to close Guantanamo Bay, to which Obama replied that his administration is “working on that.” At the cash register, Obama bantered with the two booksellers on duty there. He and his two daughters also riffed on a large wall display of Chuck Todd’s book on Obama, The Stranger: Barack Obama in the White House, which features Obama’s image on the cover jacket. Obama’s older daughter, Malia, noted that her father looked “sad” on the cover, while he described himself as looking "lonely."
One of the booksellers ringing up the 17 books for both children and adults that Obama was buying noted that he must “have a lot of time on his hands” to be able to read so many books. As Obama handed over his credit card, he joked that he hoped the transaction would go through. He also asked if he would receive a discount on his purchases (presumably for taking the photo with the baby), and the booksellers and he joked about his being from out of town, but that they might give him a "neighbor's discount," according to Joel Sipress, a tourist from Duluth, Minn., who was standing behind the president as his purchases were rung up.
As Obama left Politics & Prose with his purchases, he waved farewell, and bade all to have a good afternoon. The crowd burst into applause for the second time, delighted to be in such close proximity with the president during his family outing. A Small Business Saturday jaunt to a local independent bookstore is becoming a holiday tradition with the Obamas: this is the fourth Saturday after Thanksgiving that Obama and his daughters have visited a local independent bookstore, and the second year in a row that he has visited Politics & Prose, located on upper Connecticut Avenue N.W.
Minutes after the Obamas left the store, Politics & Prose tweeted, “Delighted to help @Barack Obama and the #First Family on #SmallBusinessSaturday for the second year in a row. #POTUS.”
According to the White House, the full list of President Obama’s purchases at Politics & Prose:
Being Mortal: Medicine and What Matters in the End by Atul Gawande
Junie B. Jones and a Little Monkey Business by Barbara Park, illus. by Denise Brunkus
A Barnyard Collection: Click, Clack, Moo and More by Doreen Cronin, illus. by Betsy Lewin
I Spy Sticker Book and Picture Riddles by Jean Marzollo, illus. by Walter Wick
Nuts to You by Lynne Rae Perkins
Junie B. Jones and the Stupid Smelly Bus by Barbara Park, illus. by Denise Brunkus
Brown Girl Dreaming by Jacqueline Woodson
Redwall by Brian Jacques
Mossflower by Brian Jacques
Mattimeo by Brian Jacques
Cartwheeling in Thunderstorms by Katherine Rundell
The Narrow Road to the Deep North by Richard Flanagan
The Laughing Monsters by Denis Johnson
All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr
Heart of Darkness by Joseph Conrad
Nora Webster by Colm Toibin
Age of Ambition: Chasing Fortune, Truth and Faith in the New China by Evan Osnos