Jeremiah Wright

Before Michelle, Barack Obama asked another woman to marry him — then politics got in the way

Before Michelle, Barack Obama asked another woman to marry him — then politics got in the way

Of the books that journalists and historians have written on the life of Barack Obama, three stand out so far. In "Barack Obama: The Story," David Maraniss shows us who Obama is. In "Reading Obama," James T. Kloppenberg explains how Obama thinks. In "The Bridge," David Remnick tells us what Obama means.

Now, in a probing new biography, "Rising Star," David J. Garrow attempts to do all that, but also something more: He tells us how Obama lived, and explores the calculations he made in the decades leading up to his winning the presidency. Garrow portrays Obama as a man who ruthlessly compartmentalized his existence; who believed early on that he...