From the Corner of the Oval

Pub Date:   |   Archive Date: 10 Sep 2018

Member Reviews

White House stenographer back in the days of President Barack Obama, Beck Dorey-Stein has some stories. As part of the press bubble who traveled with the President and attended interviews and speeches from the Oval Office to magnificent venues around the world, she was there, part of the team responsible for recording and then typing every word for posterity. 

Beck is not your typical Washington D.C. insider. She never really wanted to be a part of the inner White House circle. She just wanted a full-time job with benefits that payed her rent, as opposed to the string of part-time jobs she struggled with in order to survive. When she applied for the job of stenographer, she didn’t know what it was she was getting into. But she passed the interview, she got trained, and eventually she found herself on Air Force One. 

From the Corner of the Oval is the story of her time in D.C., her time working in Obama’s White House, her time traveling the world protected by the Secret Service, her time with her friends and lovers. As she learns to navigate the tricky social rules of the job, she grows in confidence and finds her voice, even when she needed it to answer the smack talk from the next treadmill, where President Obama was running. 

Beck is extremely open in her writing, laying out her thoughts and emotions bare for all to read. It can be difficult to read at times, as she bleeds over the page, talking about the affair she had with a coworker and how it turned into self-loathing as she burned through the relationships with her boyfriend and other trusted friends. Not just an insider’s look at the White House, From the Corner of the Oval is also a memoir of a woman in her 20s, making friends, drinking, dancing, running, making mistakes, and asking forgiveness. 

I listened to the audio book for this, and that was an interesting experience, as it’s read by the author. The book is beautifully written, but at times her narration suffered from the same lack of emotional distance as the book itself does. I enjoyed the book, but I think with some time, distance, and maturity, it could have been a stronger narrative and more powerful story. As it is, the almost stream of consciousness closeness that Beck has to her story makes it feel like she’s reading her journal entries, which are sometimes flippant and sometimes profound. 

If you’re wanting a serious peek into Obama’s Presidency, then you might be put off by her emphasis on her personal relationships and experiences. But for those looking for a lighter look at the White House, for those who want to remember what it’s like to be 26 and relatively free of encumbrances, then this is an exquisitely written book, and you should give From the Corner of the Oval a read (or a listen!). 

Galleys for From the Corner of the Oval were provided by Random House Publishing Group through NetGalley, with many thanks, but I bought the audio book myself, thanks to Audible.
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This book was great! I really enjoyed the perspective and stories! The cover is really inviting and I enjoyed the writing style!
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Fascinating look behind the scenes at the white house. Well written and fun!  It reminded me of sex in the city political version.
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I am sorry for not reviewing fully but I don’t have the time to read this at the moment. I believe that it wouldn't benefit you as a publisher or your book if I only skimmed it and wrote a rushed review. Again, I am sorry for not fully reviewing!
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From the Corner of the Oval left me feeling a bit nostalgic, but mostly for the Obama administration. Part peek into the world of White House reporters and part dating / friendship / twenty-something life in DC, this memoir was a good mix of politics and quarter-life crisis. You won't get the gossip about Barack & Michelle, but you will get the gossip on coworkers dating coworkers and the drama that inevitably occurs when spending too much time with your coworkers. 

However, I struggled to finish this memoir because I was much more interested in what it was like working as a stenographer (a fascinating career choice, to be honest) and what it was like working with the Obama administration. Instead, I found myself reading about dysfunctional relationships, hangovers, and the pettiness that comes with being a woman in your 20s. I can't help but wonder if Beck Dorey-Stein will think differently about putting this book out there when she's nearing 40 and (hopefully!) feeling more secure with her life choices.
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Wonderful read about young professionals in the obama white house and the experience of working through some the landmark events. Also, just a perfectly written personal story of growing up and the author finding her path during your twenties.
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I really enjoyed the work part of the novel. I felt that personal life, outside of the White House felt forced and a little contrived even for a memoir.
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Beck Dorey-Stein takes the reader along on her journey as a stenographer in Obama's White House. Less of a political tell-all, this memoir is more of a coming of age story in this Sex and the City-esque book with a fast-paced political setting. I loved learning how Dorey-Stein became the stenographer, the mechanics of the job, her friendships with other staffers, and her struggles with who she wanted to be. There was a perfect amount of name drops and I loved the little bits about other staffers that will have readers googling and trying to figure out who she was writing about. A good chunk of this book chronicles her affair with a married staffer that I got pretty sick of long before it was over. I hated how he was hurting our Beck and it was getting repetitive. Overall, it was a really fun read that I've recommended and gifted already! It is great for readers that are interested in the behind the scenes of the White House and those that are more interested in romantic exploits and coming of age in DC. It would be great to read with friends or a book club because there is a lot I found myself wanting to talk about throughout!
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Definitely a very interesting book. I enjoyed the light read, although at times it was slow. I really wish I knew more of who they were talking about for some of it!
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I was interested in hearing about working in the White House from a younger, Washington outsider. I was not at all interested in the angst, drinking, and sex with coworkers. I did not finish this book. That said, it was popular enough that my library did purchase a copy.
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I had great expecations of this book. It was just an ok read. The author speaks about "Jason" quite a bit. To me she seems fixated on this person. Could have done without that part of the book. Thanks to NetGalley, the author and the publisher for the ARC of this book. Although I received the book in this manner, it did not affect my opinion of this book nor my review.
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Beck Dorey-Stein is struggling to make ends meet after college.  She is living in D.C. and working all sorts of odd jobs to make ends meet.  She had an interview from a Craigslist ad, that she actually blew off because of her job at Lululemon.  That opportunity was actually a job for a stenographer's position on Barack Obama's White House.  They gave Beck a second chance to interview and before she knows it, she is traveling the world on Air Force One and juggling her relationships outside the "bubble."  With the eye of an expert people-watcher and the fresh perspective of a youthful  professional Beck becomes a witness to the history that was the presidency of the 44th president. From the Corner of the Oval.  From the tragedies and triumphs, she was part of it all.  From early morning gym encounters with President Obama to encounters with the Vice President affectionately called "Uncle Joe" Beck lays it all out there.  When you put it all together you have a fascinating behind-the-scenes look at the most famoust empoyer in the free world - The President of the United States.

From the Corner of the Oval is one of the best non-ficction books of the year.  I would say it is part political memoir and part chick lit novel.  You get all of the cool behind the scenes information (like what snacks are served on Air Force One) along with a young woman torn between two men. (For the record, one of those men was a big giant douchebag).   But you also get an author who has such a talent for the most interesting observations, like:
"We are a team of professional stalkers, a congregation of believers who have followed this man around the world several times."

"After nearly a year at the White Hous, my morning entry ritual can be reduced to an assembly line of sounds - " 


I think one of the things that I was pleased to read about was how the staffers were very familial like.  Maybe familial is not the right word.  They celebrated birthdays, they hung out together during the downtimes of their trips.  They may have consumed a lot of alcohol, but they still did their jobs.  And did them well.  They played pick-up basketball or went for runs on the streets of whatever city they were in at the time. Not everybody in the White House are cutthroat polticians.  It really made From the Corner of the Oval a fun and engaging read.  One last thing that I liked - I liked and respected how honest was at her own contributions to her relationship failures.  She took total and complete responsibility for her actions.  Yes, one of the men in her life was a giant douchebag, but she was not without fault and she owns that.  Rare to see such honesty in a memoir.

Bottom Line - While I feel that From the Corner of the Oval Office is so much more than just a poltical novel, it is a book about a staffer who served at the pleasure of one of our country's most popular presidents.  If you let the "politics" of her boss prevent you from reading this book, you are the one losing out.  I promise.

Details:
From the Corner of the Oval by Beck Dorey-Stein
On Instagram
Pages: 352
Publisher: Random Hous Publishing
Publication Date: 7/10/18
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". . . POTUS grabs my attention when he says the narrative of history is long, and 'We just try to get our paragraph right.' Life is short and this world is big. Get your paragraph right. And if you're not sure what's right, write."

Beck Dorey-Stein had the opportunity to work in the White House as a stenographer during Barack Obama's presidency. There are so many moments in history where I have found myself wishing I could have been a fly on the wall, just to witness. Beck actually was a sort of fly on the wall during the making of this moment in history. 

It was fascinating to get this unique perspective into former President Obama's time in the Oval, however, it would be misleading though to pretend that this is all the book is about. Ultimately, this is a coming-of-age tale. The reader has the opportunity to follow Beck's personal journey as she gains confidence in who she is and who she wants. It's actually very inspiring and ends up being a tale with whom many will relate.
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3.5 stars rounded up. Dorey-Stein's writing is SO easy to tear through, I think I finished this book in under a day. It was that compulsively readable. Also, there's that saying, "never meet your heroes." Dorey-Stein gave me the opportunity to vicariously meet one of mine by writing about Barack Obama and her interactions with him. It was extremely gratifying to read that he was exactly how I envision; clever, funny, and not above interacting with the people lower on the power totem pole. The reason this isn't truly 4 stars or even 5 is because I felt like there was way too much emphasis on Dorey-Stein's relationship with a more senior staffer. I think her writing deserves better than that, because she deserved better than him. He sounded like the ultimate D.C. fuckboy and it's unfortunate that she wasted time and energy on him when their affair occurred (no judgment girl, I've been there with non-D.C. fuckboys), and then MORE time and energy on him for the majority of this book. I would love to see what she does in the future with focusing on deeper topics. 

Thank you to the author, publisher, and Netgalley for the ARC!
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From the Corner of the Oval was a rare treat, an inside look at an entry level stenographer position in the Obama whitehouse. 

Beck Dorey-Stein surprised me with this one!  She weaved a wonderful story that showcased the White House and gave a rare look into what a well oiled machine it is and how many people it takes to handle the presidents travel and day to day operations. Also gave an interesting take on the Obamas and how wonderful they were and humanized them even more than we already knew about them. And to top it off, Beck also wrote of her love life and the dating scene for 20somethings in the professional D.C. World. 

I read the book in two days and couldn't put it down!  The book appealed on so many levels, reminded me of Sex and the City meets a political story. Great job Beck!
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Absolutely loved this book. Well written. I have to admit I was not to fond of the author's personal choices in men but then again she was being honest. 90% of the book is about Obama's Whitehouse and it really gives you an inside look. Read this in 2 sittings.     Could make a cute movie.
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The compulsively readable, behind-the-scenes memoir that takes readers inside the Obama White House, through the eyes of a young staffer learning the ropes, falling in love, and finding her place in the world.

In 2012, Beck Dorey-Stein was just scraping by in DC when a posting on Craigslist landed her, improbably, in the Oval Office as one of Barack Obama's stenographers. The ultimate DC outsider, she joined the elite team who accompanied the president wherever he went, recorder and mic in hand. On whirlwind trips across time zones, Beck forged friendships with a tight group of fellow travelers--young men and women who, like her, left their real lives behind to hop aboard Air Force One in service of the president. But as she learned the ropes of protocol, Beck became romantically entangled with a consummate DC insider, and suddenly, the political became all too personal. Set against the backdrop of a White House full of glamour, drama, and intrigue, this is the story of a young woman making unlikely friendships, getting her heart broken, learning what truly matters, and discovering her voice in the process.

I did not want this book to end! Beck is a phenomenal story-teller who makes you feel her emotions, from the excitement of interacting with President Obama and flying in Air Force One to the sadness of her breakups. While reading From the Corner of the Oval, it felt like I too was making friends at the White House and navigating the ropes of my first big-girl job. 

Although most of us will never work at the White House, Beck’s tales are relatable because, aside from the worldly travels her job takes her on, the issues she faces and the way she has to navigate finding her way in her new career are all things that any working adult can relate to. She is told numerous times by many White House staffers that her writing is something special, and nothing rings truer throughout the entirety of her first book. I hope there is more to come from Beck.
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From the Corner of the Oval is like Sex and the City meets The West Wing. It is full of the personal stories of the author including her role as stenographer in the White House, the inner workings of the oval especially on away trips and Air Force One, and the sordid relationships and affairs among the staff. 

I have read a lot of memoirs so far of the Obama era and this one has provided the most personal account, and the most unique spin. I really like the descriptions of the the travel and the life on Air Force One; which is not something as often written about. 

Personally, I think it was difficult to really sympathize at all times with the author given her personal choices in her relationships, but it was an interesting read.
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Great book! Sadly, my review was lost by either my computer or Goodreads. I loved the honesty and descriptive writing of the author and appreciated her perspective on my favorite POTUS. I did feel like a mouse in the corner of the Oval Office. I also enjoyed her description of her life outside the Oval, even when I wanted to scream at her for her poor personal choices. I will look forward to future work by Ms. Dorey-Stein.
My thanks to the publisher and NetGalley for the opportunity to read and review this title. Sorry that my original review was lost.
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Interesting autobiography of a woman who found herself in the pool of newspeople that traveled with the President Obama entourage. We learn how such a news group functions, but the author makes this the story of her obsession with one womanizer who travels with the group, and how she goes back to him again and again, even though she is completely aware of his dalliances with other women. Toward the end of Obama's presidency when this group of news persons is looking for other employment, the author is convinced to stay on as part of the news group travelling with the new president as a secret budding author. Can't wait to read THAT book!
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