From the Corner of the Oval

Pub Date:   |   Archive Date: 10 Sep 2018

Member Reviews

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
Buy it Here!
Was this review helpful?
". . . 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.
Was this review helpful?
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!
Was this review helpful?
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!
Was this review helpful?
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.
Was this review helpful?
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.
Was this review helpful?
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.
Was this review helpful?
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.
Was this review helpful?
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!
Was this review helpful?
I would advise anyone who wants a good book to read this. This book brought me into a world that I did not know existed inside and outside the White House. So sad that the White House is now so dysfunctional. I thought that the writer's private life was a mess, and was surprised that she realized it and was so honest about it. I hope she has since found happiness. We always knew that Obama was a great president and a great human being. I can understand the writers shock when she found herself working for someone so totally dishonest..The first chapter was published in our local newspaper, from then on I was hooked and had to read the entire book.
Was this review helpful?
For those who prefer nonfiction, Beck Dorey-Stein’s memoir “From the Corner of the Oval” begins with Beck answering a Craigslist ad for a stenographer in Washington, D.C. It turns out that the job is at the White House, and Beck would be one of a few people who record President Obama’s public remarks and then type them up for official transcriptions.

Beck has a boyfriend who works on various political campaigns (including both of Obama’s), so he frequently travels. It takes her awhile, but Beck makes good friends, and even plays basketball on Tuesday nights with the guys.

She also finds herself in love with Jason, a man who works closely with the president. Jason is a womanizer, and he is engaged to a young socialite who lives in Los Angeles. That doesn’t stop him from pursuing Beck and, unbeknownst to her, several other women simultaneously.

They have an on-again, off-again secret affair that leaves Beck desperately unhappy with own dishonesty toward her boyfriend and other friends.

“From the Corner of the Oval” is a true story that reads like a terrific novel. Beck Dorey-Stein perfectly blends a young woman’s doomed romance with a fascinating workplace study where the workplace is the Oval Office.

As she travels with President Obama, we get a seat on Air Force One as they go to Europe, Asia and Africa, as well as an exciting visit to Cuba. We see Secretary Clinton as she spends an hour shaking hands and speaking with the kitchen staff in Myanmar, run next to President Obama on the treadmill as he teases Beck about her speed, and fear the sound of the Rattler, a mean woman who dislikes Beck and gets her nickname from the jangle of the ever-present bangle bracelets warning of her approach.

Beck Dorey-Stein is a fantastic writer and, for anyone who would love a peek at being close to the highest office in the land, this is a must-read.
Was this review helpful?
Beck Dorey-Stein is a charming and funny young woman, as is her book, From the Corner of the Oval. The day after I finished her book, I met Beck at the Harrisburg Book Festival. She joined former speechwriter and fellow author David Litt on the stage, while they discussed their experiences in the Obama White House.

Dorey-Stein in her book seems fundamentally the same as Dorey-Stein in person. Of course, it’s still just a glancing knowledge, but she’s remarkably candid in both settings. She had been teaching and tutoring at Sidwell Friends School in D.C. When that job ended, her hunt for a new gig took her to many interviews including one from a Craig’s List ad. And famously, that ad led her to the White House during Barack Obama’s presidency.

As a White House stenographer, Dorey-Stein had a view of gatherings from press briefings to diplomatic meetings to interviews. Her responsibility, along with her coworkers, was to record the event and then transcribe it for presidential record. Along the way, she met other staffers and developed friendships as they traveled the country and the world with the President.

As a young woman will, Dorey-Stein was also sorting out her love life at the same time. And it did need to be sorted! She had been dating Sam before starting as a stenographer. He was the consummate D.C. political animal, also traveling to work in various campaigns out of the area. She wasn’t a political person, but ended up in the highest political realm in the country by accident. It makes for some conflict between them!

My conclusions
Dorey-Stein was lucky enough to meet a great group of people at the White House, from varied backgrounds and of various ages. In her author talk, she contrasts that group with the staff she experienced in the current 45th President’s White House, which is largely staffed by white men. Naturally, she didn’t stay in the White House after her book deal came through.

Like many of us in our twenties, Dorey-Stein also had a second and disastrous personal relationship. I appreciated her vulnerable honesty in telling the positive and negatives in this relationship. For my part, I also could have stood a little less of this and a little more of the 44th POTUS. But it’s not my story to tell, so I respect the author’s choice.

Dorey-Stein often tells of sitting by a pool in some foreign country, waiting to work, while writing about her experiences. Her stories of integrating her job and her desire to write are inspiring to would-be authors. It’s obvious that this book originated in those moments. I admire her persistence in recording these intriguing stories.

I’m not normally a fan of author-read audiobooks. But this was a two-thumbs-up exception. Dorey-Stein’s writing is candid and open, and her voice and inflections are a great match for that.

I’ve been gobbling up current events political books for the last two years. It’s an historic and scary time to be alive. But some of the books on my list are fundamentally dark and depressing. From the Corner of the Oval was the perfect antidote, while also fulfilling my political voyeur impulses.

Acknowledgements
Many thanks to NetGalley, Random House Publishing Group – Random House, Spiegel & Grau, and the author for the opportunity to read the advanced readers copy of this book in exchange for this honest review.
Was this review helpful?
Interesting inside look at the Obama White House, by a young woman who starts this story as an outsider. I thought it interesting yet strange that they would advertise for jobs such as this on Craig's List, but other than that, enjoyed the stories set forth by Beck Dorey-Stein.
Was this review helpful?
I’m nosy, so of course I love a behind the scenes looksy. I also love an office romance  (consenting partners only) so naturally I had to pick up From the Corner of the Oval (FTCO). FTCO is also a memoir, which I also enjoy provided tea is served. I mean all the tea, or at least enough tea leaves that I can suss out who’s who (remember I’m nosy). FTCO serves up a little tea, but it’s tepid at best, although it is plenty sweet enough. 
Beck Dorey-Stein is fresh off a teaching gig and side hustling at Lululemon when she get the opportunity to work at the White House in the cool Obama years (I could not imagine leaving Lulu now, corner office or no). While the work is not all that it’s cracked up to be even if it it’s at the WH, and she gets to travel the world, and meet powerful people. Plus BDS has guy problems, well it started out as one, but quickly multiples when she starts crushing on a co-worker. Here’s where the tea service goes a bit off the rails for me. The co-worker is a cad, which is fine for a flirt or a fling, if you dare to enter the playing field. BDS dares, which I can appreciate. But despite knowing that she shouldn’t, BDS catches feelings quicker than she can catch a promotion, which is a real pickle since she already has a long termer on the hook. By the backside of the second act, she’s a mess and it’s impacting her whole life: friends, family, work included, but the narrative is compelling because while she’s bemoaning her situation, the WH, DC, and the world are the backdrop, which is a pretty sweet backdrop. Now comes the self-examination, the reflection, the big epiphany, right? Not exactly, and here’s where she kind of lost me, she blames it all the cad, you know the one that everyone warned her against, including herself. Now, denial is a powerful pull, especially when you’re trying to avoid everything (exes, work, etc.), but it does not work here. BDS tries to pull off an innocent bystander look, which doesn’t fly. She was a willing participant in the great (down low) romance of the administration and she loses all credibility as the young ingenue trying to find herself. She’s not naive, she’s not unworldly, she’s not even nonculpable, cough *cheater*. Realistic? Uhhhh, okay, I can buy that (I do watch Lifetime after all) but a prolonged pity party is not that interesting of a read. Plus, there was no tea to speak of - a memoir is a time to overshare not offer up blind items that my novice detecting couldn’t figure out.
In the end, BDS was my Jason (aka the cad). I disliked her long soliloquies on her love life and life in general. It’s not a political story, but gushing over Obama and his speeches was a little over the top in places, not to mention displaced, and her comments (although warranted) about the election are preachy and sappy. Nonetheless, I loved her spunk, her love of words, and her love of writing. She’s a pain, but a talented writer that can draw you in, so while the tea was cold, the conclusion was hopeful and during these times we could all use a little hope.
Was this review helpful?
I learned a lot about myself through Beck’s experiences and enjoyed learning about her frenetic lifestyle.
Was this review helpful?
I don't know if I've ever left feeling so conflicted about a book that I like. 

So let me start off. I really, really enjoyed the book. The writing is superbly done. I read the blurb for this story and knew I HAD to read it. As a young staffer living in DC--not for the White House, but still--this book was calling my name. Beck has a great voice. There are moments when I was laughing out loud, much to the despair of my roommates I'm sure. 

I don't read a lot of memoirs, as can be evidenced by both this blog and my GoodReads profile. So perhaps this is part of what comes with reading about someone's actual life, however I had troubles with the decisions that Beck made. She isn't a character in a story but a real human, so I won't belittle her at all.

We've all made bad decisions, especially in the romantic aspects of our lives. I fall into that category as well. However, this romantic relationship was so interwoven with her experience in the White House that I did have some troubles. I experience secondhand anxiety, and hide in my covers when imaginary characters do something embarrassing. So this took it to another level. It was part of the reason that I set the book down for a while. 

The glimpse into her life however, is appreciated. There were passages, and moments in the book that floored me. The inspirational things people said, simply? It gave me butterflies. Additionally, reading about what it was like for someone to work in a setting like that, for someone they so greatly admire. Wonderful. It truly was a job of a lifetime, as any position in the White House was, and her insight into that world was beautifully detailed. 

All-in-all, Beck writes an addicting book. Some moments were definite trainwrecks (we've all had them), occasionally there were moments I wanted to sit Beck down, hand her a cup of tea and say, "Girl. Let's talk." From the Corner of the Oval weaves vivid storytelling, and draws the reader in. It provides a unique, and extremely human, lens on the world we so often only see described by pundits. What I loved most however, was it felt like I was getting a story told to me by my older sister, from one DC staffer to another. 

So if you do read the book, which I think any twenty-something should (and beyond twenty-somethings too! No one has their lives figured out), remember to love what you do, even if it's crazy; life is messy and hard, and that's okay; and finally, surround yourself with friends who you can have more fun with at their apartment than at a fancy event, but will go to both with you. 

I am incredibly grateful to Beck Dorey-Stein, NetGalley, and Random House Spiegel & Grau for providing me this ARC in exchange for an honest review.
Was this review helpful?
Oooh! I loved so much about this book. I have always been interested in the daily lives of those who work and sleep in the White House, but I have found quite a few books to be a little dry for my taste. I loved seeing the White House and Barack Obama from Beck Dorey-Steins eyes. And I was pleased, though certainly not surprised to find that Barack was as nice and funny in person to his staff than he is on camera. I also liked that the author shared a lot about her life, and what was going on with her while she was employed at the White House. It definitely kept me interested. Can't wait to read the second installment in her contract. 


A huge thank you to NetGalley and the publisher for sending me a digital copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. I truly appreciate it!
Was this review helpful?
This was a great book. Very interesting! It was a very insightful look into the world of the Presidency and all of the people who need to be on call 24/7. Enjoyable!
Was this review helpful?
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.
Was this review helpful?
I absolutely loved this book, and look forward to the second book of Beck Dorey-Stein's book deal. But, really- who's Jason?
Was this review helpful?