From the Corner of the Oval

Pub Date:   |   Archive Date: 10 Sep 2018

Member Reviews

I was disappointed that the book was more romance than about her work in the Executive Manor and the White House. The title was deceiving as to the content. It's a light read but there is not much politics in the book.
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I absolutely loved this book, and look forward to the second book of Beck Dorey-Stein's book deal. But, really- who's Jason?
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Beck Dorey-Stein is a young college grad who has found herself unmoored in DC when she unexpectedly gets hired as a White House stenographer. Suddenly she's thrust into the hustle and bustle of the White House and presidential staff--we're talking many late nights and plenty of flights on Air Force One. Obama is suddenly no longer a mythical man but a real flesh and blood person who often is found exercising on the elliptical as Dorey-Stein keeps up her fitness regimen on the road. 

I had no idea what I was getting into with this one. I figured an insider to the White House would have a juicy story, and Dorey-Stein definitely does. What I hadn't realized is that while the job of stenographer isn't usually exciting, it is when you're in the White House! Dorey-Stein found herself constantly in exotic locales,  making many overseas trips and even following along on the Obama holiday trip to Hawaii. I also didn't realize that being president of the United States requires such a big entourage. The amount of people that travel with the president is staggering. 

During the course of From the Corner of the Oval, Dorey-Stein is entrenched in a love triangle with her boyfriend at the time Sam, and a White House staffer, Jason, who has no qualms about sleeping with as many female staffers as he can during his course at the White House. The love triangle added a grounding element to the memoir that makes it accessible to readers, especially given Dorey-Stein's unapologetic honesty. 

Barack Obama's presidency was obviously one that only grew more and more positive for Dorey-Stein as her time with the presidential staff lengthened, but my one complaint was how much she all-consuming her admiration of the president became towards the end of his administration. It made her memoir feel too politicized as the book concluded, almost as if she had a hidden political agenda. I enjoyed reading about Obama from a personal standpoint though, not as president but just as a boss, father, and every day guy.
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If you ever wanted to read a really well written book about what it's like to work in the White House -- this is the book for you!!  I worked in DC for a couple of years and found myself laughing out loud several times.   Beck does an amazing job with her in-depth descriptions of living in DC.  I felt like I was right back there!!
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This felt more like a coming of age story about a young woman in her 20's making incredibly bad decisions while drinking & sleeping her way around Washington DC than it felt like a memoir of a young professional lady working in the White House during the Obama administration.
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I chose this book because it is billed as a light hearted memoir of Ms Dorey-Stein's time in the White House.  I was not expecting any political insight, I was expecting entertainment.  I definitely was not disappointed. From The Cornet of the Oval light, fluffy, easy reading.  Their is sexual tension, celebrity excitement, backstage looks, behind the scenes angst, and a great deal of enjoyable anecdotes.  I think what I really appreciated was her willingness to lay bare her soul (and not name names!) and let us experience her adventures.  If youre looking for a light beach or airplane read, I think this memoir fits that bill.  3.5
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I love memoirs, and like so many I am interested in the Obama White House. 
So while I enjoyed some of the insight and stories the author provided I found her a bit too focused on herself.  Yes, memoirs are about the  author, but they also give you a glimpse into the world they experienced. This book does that, but not with the polish of an experienced author
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I was not a supporter of Obama but this story is not about him. This book is about Beck, how she was looking for a job when she answered an ad on Craigslist. This was 2012 and  most of the people in the administration had been there most of the first term. Beck is not sure where she will fit in but is upbeat and always tries to smile and get to know people. She was a stenographer which put her in a little corner of the :White House" world. She talks about her efforts to make friends, her love life, her travels with the president. She does a good job of making the narrative flow and kept my interest to  see what would happen next in her life. You realize how much of their life working at the White House takes. Worth your time.
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This book was definitely not what I had expected but I liked it anyway.  It's not a political memoir per se, the author worked in the White House for President Obama but amazingly got her job from Craiglist. no less.  She was a stenographer, and it put her in fascinating places like Air Force One, but she was still in the end not doing her "dream job" as it were.

She also was in her early 20's when this book took place, and she had some romantic issues that swallowed the book in places.  Still, in all, an interesting read and I recommend it.

Thanks to Spiegel & Grau and NetGalley for the ARC of this book in exchange for an honest review.
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The premise for this book was great—a young, naive White House stenographer (wannabe writer) experiencing the Washington scene.  Loved the first 10 pages or so but then it crashed as instead of primarily focusing on the work and experiences she had, it went into the young woman’s search for love in all the wrong places.  The main character was totally unlikeable and set the women’s movement back years.  Disappointing read.
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“This place. This place. This place could break your heart.” With this poignant reminder, Beck Dorey-Stein begins her memoir of the five years (2012-2016) she spent as a stenographer in President Barack Obama’s White House. Beck, short for Rebecca, got the job through a rather unimaginable way. She had been working as a tutor and teacher at the Sidwell School, where the Obama girls went to school, but in an attempt to move on, she answered a Craigslist ad for a stenographer at a Washington law firm. Surprising, she finds during the second interview that it isn’t a job at a law firm at all, but a job transcribing notes “from the corner of the oval” office. Over the ensuing years, she kept meticulous notes of this incredible experience, fully aware that she was part of history in the making.

At once extremely funny and gut-wrenching, Dorey-Stein describes the men she dated (and bedded), the places she was privileged to visit, and the great friends she made among the White House staff. Once she is confident in her position and her gift for writing, she shares her reflections with White House staffers, and they all encourage her to become an author.  While she is critical of the “ladder-climbing bobbleheads” that make up a great deal of the Washington young adults, she is clear-eyed about her own experiences among those bobbleheads.

I stopped counting the number of times that Jason, the scoundrel, came to Beck’s hotel room on Presidential trips. And I laughed aloud when she was afraid that Jay Carney thought her hair straightening machine was a vibrator or the time she forgot her underwear and mentioned, “Today I’ll be traveling commando with the commander in chief.” Throughout, you never forget that Dorey-Stein is a young woman who parties a lot, drinks too much, and is far too critical of herself and her failings.

I was already feeling tremendously nostalgic for a president of integrity, grace, and humor when I opened From The Corner of the Oval. This account of Obama’s second term from the eyes of his stenographer just made watching Omarosa expose details about the Trump White House all the more painful. Dorey-Stein witnessed some of the greatest moments in the Obama years. I almost cried when she told about watching the speech after the church shootings in Charleston when Obama broke into singing “Amazing Grace.” I was touched when on Dorey-Stein’s birthday, her friends got her a ride on the Presidential helicopter and the President told her about how he met Michelle. Ah—the humanity of the man, and the humility with which he faced his job.

The most interesting review came from Paul Begala who calls it “equal parts C-Span and ‘Sex and the City.’” Other former White House staffers have expressed their impressions of this memoir, but as Begala says, you just keep rooting for Beck to succeed, become a writer (which, of course, she has) and find love. This is not a book about Obama policy or Obama wins and losses, but it  charmingly relates the brief interactions Dorey-Stein had with a wonderful man. The reader ends up being sad that the presidency is currently a laughing stock and longing, like Dorey-Stein does, for those glory days when a beautiful family brought honor to the office of President of the United States.
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This book provided a glimpse in to the happenings behind the scenes of the White House. I had no idea how much was actually involved in the press conferences, or the White House trips, or really any of it. There are tons of people required in order to pull it all off, and everyone has their own specific role. Kind of like high school, there are cliques and a hierarchy that you're always supposed to be aware of. 

I thought Beck did a good job describing all the different people she worked with without making the book into a gossipy tell-all like I'm sure it could've been. The drama with Jason got old after a while, but I understand that sometimes there are just people who you know are bad for you yet you still can't stay away from. I also thought Beck did a good job detailing the transition between the Obama administration and Trump administration again without turning it in to something salacious.

I thought this book was written well. It was full of detail and Beck didn't try to only present the good parts of her story, she included everything. I would read additional books from her.

I received an ARC and am voluntarily leaving this review.
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This was a great book.  The real life experiences were fantastic, and I loved the ending ;)  I will definitely be reading more of Beck Dorey-Stein in the future--you have a devoted fan!
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Beck Dorey-Stein is braver than I. She found a job via Craigslist, while I can’t even summon the courage to go on Craigslist, let alone be so successful as to find a job. And not just any job. A job in the White House.

These days that particular detail would get a number of different reactions. Most of them (hopefully) involving eye rolling and exasperation. After reading From the Corner of the Oval, I found myself seeing the appeal of a White House gig, though certainly not in this current administration.

Anyway, that Craigslist listing turned out to be a stenographer position in the White House, which greatly appealed to the then-working-five-part-time-jobs Beck. So much so, that she initially blew off the interview. (My parents would be appalled if I even thought about doing something like that.) Nevertheless, she gets the job.

Dorey-Stein proceeds to chronicle her five-year tenure in the Obama administration (ending in the tense opening months of the Trump administration) in captivating detail, perhaps because she took such rigorous notes during that time. In her prose, the reader definitely senses that level of dedication.

It’s also comforting to know I’m not the only one who doesn’t have their life figured out in their twenties. But Dorey-Stein reassures you she doesn’t, and that no one else really does. While past-Beck makes mistakes and lives and learns, future-Beck drops in sage little nuggets of wisdom along the way. A couple of my favorites include, “Protect your sparkle,” and “You can’t outrun time any more than you can outrun yourself.” (The latter is especially fitting as we’re both runners.)

Anyone who has ever struggled to find their place in the world after college (and I think that’s most of us) will find a piece of themselves in Dorey-Stein’s book. I did, particularly when she exclaimed, early on in the book, “When did I fall so far behind? When did I become some loser twenty-five-year-old without a job or a life plan, who isn’t even financially responsible enough to do her drinking at home?” In an age when everyone posts their big life changes on social media—new jobs, engagements, marriages, babies, etc.—it’s very easy to feel like you’re behind the times. Hence the need for drinks.

Perhaps the most encouraging part of Dorey-Stein’s book is the call to action she concludes with: “So what are we going to do about it?”

Now three quotes:

“I’m twenty-six years old—isn’t this supposed to be the best time of my life?” (I ask myself that question nearly every single day.)

“I feel as though I’m drowning in tragedy and simultaneously becoming anesthetized to it.” (Never has a line so superbly defined the current dumpster fire we find ourselves in.)

And finally:

“In the fall, we’re supposed to attend summits in Asia, but we can’t go because Congress is a bag of dicks and shuts down the federal government.”
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This is a fascinating book, both as a memoir and exploration of personal growth, as well as a look behind the scenes of political processes. I enjoyed it very much.
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Really enjoyed this memoir from a White House stenographer. Gives a great behind the scenes look into the White House.
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From the Corner of the Oval was nothing like I expected it to be. It wasn’t a bad memoir, but it wasn’t a great one either. I think if I had expected most of Beck’s writing to be about her horrible love life, I would’ve rated this much higher than three stars. Dorey-Stein’s writing is hilarious and engaging, but I wanted to know more about her experience working inside the Obama Administration. I loved her insight into Obama’s exercise, the trips around the world and connecting with world leaders and the everyday people. But I could’ve done without the romantic cheating and relationship drama. Even though it contributed to her time in the White House, this is one of the instances where I would’ve appreciated dropping the personal drama at the door when you walk into work.

I honestly wanted to read a book that took a look at the behind the scenes travel of Obama and traveling with the man himself. It was fun to read – it just didn’t leave a lasting impact on my soul like I hoped.
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Beck Dorey-Stein can’t believe her luck when she lands a job as a stenographer for Barack Obama. No, she has zero interest in a career as a typist, but she can’t pass up the opportunity to work for the president of the United States, following him around the globe as he handles crises and meets with leaders of  different countries. She’s on the front lines of history—even if she is only listening.

Nothing prepares her for her new life. Beck must travel constantly, sometimes flying to two or three places in a single day. The president’s schedule is brutal, so Beck’s is, too. And she’s not alone. The president travels with a large group of people—security teams, trip organizers, his own staff and advisors, political visitors, and the list goes on. Over time, Beck gets to know many of these people (and even dates a few…). The book hits the high points of Obama’s time as president (from visiting Cuba to responding to the Sandy Hook shooting), as well as Beck’s experience trying to fit in and cope with this exciting and demanding lifestyle.

 *   *   *   *   *

From the Corner of the Oval is a page-turner. Dorey-Stein’s story is certainly unique, and she has a casual, conversational, and easy-to-follow writing style. This book is basically the memoir equivalent of a rom-com beach read. I enjoyed reading about her experience working with Obama. It felt like taking an inside peek into a foreign world, and it really was fascinating.

The only (major) negative about this book is that Dorey-Stein spends, oh, about 60% of it talking about her romantic relationships—specifically, about her relationship with the charismatic and uber-popular Obama staffer, Jason. Which wouldn’t be so bad…except that Jason and Dorey-Stein are cheating on their significant others to be with each other, which means their relationship is never a legit “relationship.” It’s never secure or stable or emotionally healthy. Unfortunately, this translates to Dorey-Stein spending about 200 pages giving the tedious play-by-play of ALLLLLL her insecurities. I felt sympathetic to her in the beginning, but after watching her go back to this poozer over and over and over again, I (like most of her friends) stopped caring and didn’t want to hear about it anymore.

I still think this book is worth a read. It goes by quickly and the “romantic woes” sections can be skimmed. Ultimately, I enjoyed getting an inside look into the life of the former president. Sigh, we miss you, Obama.
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In this debut memoir Beck Dorey-Stein retells her five years working as a stenographer in the Obama White House. I only wish I would have see the New York Times book review quote “Bridget Jones Goes to the White House” before I read this book because then my expectations would have been lowered.

When we first meet Beck she’s in her mid-twenties, unhappily living in D.C., unemployed, and single. She applies for a job through Craigslist and it turns out to be working in the White House. Her story is very interesting but her writing is diluted by her obsessive coverage of her relationships. Dorey-Stein’s passion is writing but it seems lacking in this book. Her prose feels rushed and abbreviated like a “Cliff Notes” version of what really happened. We get tastes of some beautiful writing when she quotes letters she wrote to David Plouffe, Obama’s Campaign Manager and Senior Advisor to the President, and to her on-again-off-again crush Jason. Why couldn’t we see that style of writing throughout the book? 

Dorey-Stein is witnessing history from probably one of the greatest Presidents in our lifetime. She acknowledges this sporadically throughout the book but she would describe an amazing, life altering experience with or watching the President and then the next sentence would be about her crush Jason texting her or holding hands with another woman. I understand that this a memoir and these experiences coexisted but she spent a disappointing amount of time in this book focused on her dysfunctional romantic relationships and drinking/partying; it diminished the story. If you take out the above mentioned parts as well as the overused words “cool” and “cog” this book would have received four stars.
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"[C]ompulsively readable" describes From the Corner of the Oval so well. Once I started reading this memoir I couldn't put it down.
Beck Dorey-Stein writes with the pen of a former English teacher. She writes descriptive scenes and characters. Her authenticity shines through and seeds of humor drop along the way.
Unlike Dorey-Stein, I'd never think of using Craig's List to find a job. Dorey-Stein thought nothing of it. And she ends up working as a stenographer in the Obama White House. Work days include trips around the world and across the country on Air Force One. 
Eager to make friends and fit in, Dorey-Stein finds herself tangled up in a romance. She shares stories of love, heartbreak, and sadness. Not overlooked are work-related stories from the White House. I found the romance somewhat distracting. Yet I accepted it as part of life for any 20-something no matter where she worked.
This is not a tell-all book from behind closed doors in the White House. It is Dorey-Stein's story of landing the job and learning the ins and outs of the White House. She also meets famous people and travels the globe. Dorey-Stein lives the stories we read and watch in the media.
I applaud Dorey-Stein's first published work as well-written and engaging. For this reason, and the humor woven throughout, I highly recommend From the Corner of the Oval.
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