We know – finals are about to get underway, and you don’t have time right now to read anything other than casebooks and outlines. That’s OK. Because in a few weeks, finals will be over, and the summer will begin. Which means that you’ll have time to read for fun, because that’s a thing that people do, we’ve heard. We consulted with the College of Law faculty, and received from them the following suggestions for some lighter reading. (If you want more suggestions, see our previous lists.) You know, for when exams are done (because exams will be done).
It’s almost impossible to overstate the influence The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, by Douglas Adams, has had on me. I first read it when I was still in elementary school, and I can’t count how many times I have read it since then. I’m reading it again right now, actually. I’ve been trying to think of a way to describe it, and the best way I can think of is to say it’s impossibly funny. And impossibly influential. If you have any geek leanings at all and haven’t read Hitchhiker’s Guide, a lot of references will be explained once you read it. The importance of towels and the number 42. The Radiohead song “Paranoid Android.” Also, it has a character named Slartibartfast. That’s amazing.
The Burgess Boys, Elizabeth Strout. This is a story about two brothers living in New York, one a corporate lawyer, the other a legal aid attorney doing criminal appellate work. They both go home to Maine to help their nephew who has been accused of committing a hate crime.
Gone Girl, Gillian Flynn. Flynn’s latest book, Gone Girl, is definitely her best yet. The book tells the story of Nick, whose beautiful wife Amy disappears amid signs of foul play. With a bow to the famous Japanese film Rashomon, the book tells the story of Amy’s disappearance from both Nick and Amy’s viewpoints, giving rise to substantial questions regarding the reliability of the narrators. I would have ended the book differently, but that’s just me. It kept me on edge all the way through. Great beach reading.
A Perfect Spy is one of John le Carré’s best. Another book, Single and Single, involves lawyers, and resembles A Perfect Spy in its plot line, though it is not quite as well turned. The resemblance is no coincidence, because David Cornwell (le Carré when he’s at home) had a father on which the father character (or father-figure) in both novels was modeled. What makes Single and Single singular is not only that its protagonist is a lawyer, but is a lawyer with both a senior partner and clients from Hell.
The Gift of Rain, by Tan Twan Eng. Technically a historical novel set in Malaysia during WWII, it is extraordinarily gracefully written and, as the author says, “very strong on human themes… Relationships, aging, love…”
The Tiger: A True Story of Vengeance and Survival, by John Vaillant. Gripping. A beautifully written compelling tale. Not a book I would have sought out, but once it was put in my hands, not a book I could put down.
I just finished reading Richard Ben Cramer’s book What It Takes: The Way to the White House about the 1988 presidential race. It was published in 1993, so many folks may already have read it. The author, Cramer, died recently, and I picked up on it from his NYT obituary. I found it fascinating. Several folks who ran then, e.g., Joe Biden, are still around. Anyway, I would highly recommend it. Cramer has a breezy style and a great eye for detail. The book is apparently popular with political junkies, but you don’t have to be one to enjoy the book.
Whenever I get stressed about something, or just want to relax with a book I know I’m going to enjoy, I pull out A Year in Provence by Peter Mayle for another read. Published in 1990, A Year in Provence became a literary sensation and can in large part be credited (blamed?) for the “author moves to another country and writes pithy comments about the experience” genre. But don’t worry about the hype. It deserves all its praise. Mayle is a wry, witty author who can find humor and pathos in the most random of events. Immerse yourself in a world of French plumbers who never seem to be on hand to do the work, neighbors who are trying to sell their ramshackle abodes for a fortune, and the descriptions of Provençal food. Oh, the food. Delicious.
Beautiful Ruins, Jess Walter. A gifted crime-fiction writer branches out with tremendous effect!
The Orphan Master’s Son, Adam Johnson.
My Beloved World, Sonia Sotomayor. Sotomayor’s new memoir is a great read, and very inspirational.
The Round House, Louise Erdrich. From the NY Times Review: “A Native American woman is raped somewhere in the vicinity of a sacred round house, and seeking justice becomes almost as devastating as the crime. The round house itself stands on reservation land, where tribal courts are in charge, but the suspect is white, and tribal courts can’t prosecute non-Native people. In a morass of laws, the judge handling the case is uncertain whether the accused man can be charged at all, the 13-year-old boy whose mother was raped pursues his own quest for justice. In the process, this young boy will experience a heady jolt of adolescent freedom and a brutal introduction to both the sorrows of grown-up life and the weight of his people’s past.”
The Orchardist, Amanda Coplin. From the NY Times Review: “‘His face was as pitted as the moon,’ Coplin writes of her late-19th-century protagonist, a well-meaning orchardist named Talmadge whose familial yearnings are eclipsed by early misfortune: the mysterious disappearance of his teenage sister. At the cusp of middle age, Talmadge forms surrogate kinships with Della, a young girl also haunted by the loss of a sister, and Caroline, the herbalist who attended his mother before her death.” This book struck me as about the dividing line between solitude and loneliness. It was a gripping story that I raced to finish, and afterwards found myself thinking about the characters and missing them.
The Boy Kings of Texas, Domingo Martinez. This is a nonfiction memoir that reads like it must be fiction because how could anyone’s childhood/adolescence/early adulthood be so fraught with disaster and still have the main character survive to write about it later? This book is funny in its tragedy as the author talks about living between two worlds in the border town of Brownsville, Texas and the emotional upheaval of his family-life. In my circle this book has been read by as many male as female readers and all have been captivated by the humor, the rage, and the story of what feels like growing up in another world.