Joy-Ann Reid, managing editor of NBC’s theGrio.com, shares the three smartest things she read this week.

How Obama became Black, The Washington Post
The Post serves up a clip from the David Maraniss book on the president before he was president, which explores the complex intersection of race, culture and identity, which is more common for African-Americans than many people think. “Being black” is often not as simple or straightforward as people think, and as someone with two parents from abroad (my father is from the Congo and my late mother was Guyanese) but who is, by birth, American, I relate to Obama’s inner conflicts growing up.

Statistical Noise in Election Polls, FiveThirtyEight blog/New York Times
Nate Silver is a genius at dissecting and demystifying the polling process, and as a poll junkie myself, I love the “debunker” because too often, we in the media over-read polls and over-rely on them. In this case, Silver breaks down a Public Policy poll (I’m normally a fan) that so undersamples African-Americans, it gives the misleading impression that President Obama is losing support among black voters in North Carolina. Trouble is, the sample of black respondents in the poll is so tiny, the “news” the poll breaks is meaningless. A cautionary tale for poll readers on and off the air.

2012 or Never, New York
Jonathan Chait, who is one of my absolute favorite columnists, writes up a piece that explains the Republican Party’s all-in gambit to win in 2012, because many in the conservative movement see this as one of the last election years when they can secure ideological gains, against a headwind of demographics that are decidedly not in their favor. As the percentage of minorities in the population increases, and Republicans fail to find a way to appeal to them, securing things like curtailing social programs will become tougher, so whether or not they are excited about Mitt Romney, Republicans plan to do everything they can to put him in the White House, with a Republican Congress to back him up.

What are your recommended reads of the week? Tell us in the comments below.

Every Friday, “The Smart Read” features weekly highlights from a guest contributor.