Summer Reading Suggestions From Your Faculty

So, the end of the spring semester is fast approaching, and close on its heels is the summer. Whether you’re taking classes or completing an externship or just plan to spend your break as far away from the law school as possible, you may be looking for some ways to fill your free time. Here to help, as always, is your faculty to offer some summer reading suggestions.

Windsor Adams

Reconstructing Amelia by Kimberly McCreight

McCreight, a former litigator, takes a lawyerly approach to this suspenseful novel, which follows a mother’s search to find out what really happened to her 15-year-old daughter.  The mother suspects her daughter’s death was not in fact the suicide it appeared to be.

Jennifer Chiovaro

Lean In: Women, Work, and the Will to Lead
Sheryl Sandberg, Chief Operating Officer at Facebook and former VP at Google, takes on entrenched norms about women in the workforce – both external and internal sources. She calls on both genders to stand up for change, but particularly encourages women to “sit at the table” and pursue their goals, both professional and personal, with “gusto.”

Clark Cunningham

I highly recommend Jonathan Mahler’s The Challenge: Hamdan v Rumsfeld and the Fight over Presidential Power

From the back jacket:
The Challenge is a rare achievement — a book as involving as it is important. The characters (real people, powerfully sketched) and the narrative (gripping as a movie) make Jonathan Mahler’s book impossible to put down …. The Challenge is the definitive insider’s account of how a law professor and a military lawyer won a historic Supreme Court case against military commissions established by the commander in chief.”

William Edmundson

I recommend three quick, compelling, inexpensive, and easy-to-find novels. Whether or not you are predisposed to sympathize with professors, you will be affected by Stoner, John Williams’s account of one academic’s life. “Gunner” is a term law students use to deride classmates who volunteer too readily in class. Whether or not you intend to “gun” your way through law school, you should enjoy James Salter’s The Hunters, which is about real gunners (fighter pilots). Sibling rivalry and the way we treat animals are two main themes of J.M. Coetzee’s Elizabeth Costello. (Aging is another, but don’t let that turn you away.) “The Lives of Animals,” two early chapters written in lecture form, made me think again about how to live.

Anne Emanuel

For relaxation with a wonderful writer, I highly recommend Brat Farrar by Josephine Tey. It’s a classic (albeit an easy read classic) and it’s available free on Kindle.

Wendy Hensel

I would recommend The Divorce Papers by Susan Rieger. It’s a funny, easy-to-read novel that explores a divorce case through the eyes of a young associate.

Neil Kinkopf

Robert Bolt, A Man for All Seasons. This is a classic illustration of the role of a good lawyer. It is also an illustration of the limits that a good lawyer and a good person should never transgress.

Timothy Kuhner

I recommend Thomas Piketty’s Capital in the Twenty-First Century. This promises to be one of the most important books ever on the relationship between capitalism and democracy. While it’s not exactly light reading, it does promise to stimulate your thoughts on the global systems within which law operates. And for anyone concerned by inequality and interested in the arguments for renewed democratic participation, this book will prove motivational.

Terrance Manion

Unfamiliar Fishes by Sarah Vowell
As far as histories go, this one reads more like a conversation you would have at a bar with your buddy, Sarah, after she just got back from a trip to Hawaii. Unfortunately, like most bar conversations what it offers in spirit and humor, it lacks in depth of treatment. Still, having a chat with Sarah is an engaging and enjoyable experience.

Kris Niedringhaus

For a break from studying, I would recommend any of the Inspector Harry Hole crime novels by Jo Nesbø. They are a series but can be read out of order without much confusion. Be forewarned, Nesbø has a dark bent that I associate with Scandinavian crime writers. Perfect for summer would be The Snowman; you wouldn’t want to read that one when there is any chance of snow.

Deborah Schander

Dad Is Fat by Jim Gaffigan
Gaffigan is a stand-up comedian (best known for his Hot Pockets routine) who is also a father of five living in a tiny New York City apartment. His book is a series of short vingettes about everything from getting seven people to sleep at different times, commuting to parks across the city because they have no lawn of their own, and parenthood in general. His life and mine are vastly different, but I still found myself laughing out loud repeatedly. If you can, try to listen to the audio version, which Gaffigan reads himself.

Roy Sobelson

Try The Rosie Project by Graeme Simsion or Mezzanine by Nicholson Baker. They are both weird and funny. The Mez is particularly innovative.

Anne Tucker

Donna Tart’s The Goldfinch. Because it hooks you in the first chapter and drives a very compelling story about the main character through a rich and tumultuous world of art, antiques, addiction, crime, and love. What more could you ask for in a single book? 2014 Pulitzer Prize Award.

For a fun book, Where’d You Go Bernadette by Maria Semple should also be at the top of your list for a story about the disappearance of a woman who thumbs her nose at convention and people’s expectations of her. It is a mystery and a satire and a comedy in one.

The Lonesome Dove Chronicles by Larry McMurtry. A 4-part series that is the ultimate Western American classic. It is strangely captivating, and you get sucked into this hard-scrabble world with frontier-weary cowboys and their struggles. Also the cowboy lingo is pretty fantastic, and you will come away with hilariously old-timey sounding phrases for very ordinary things, and you will never look at a carrot in quite the same way. Start with Lonesome Dove, a Pulitzer Prize winner, which is chronologically the third book in the plot, but the first published book of the series. Consider the others either a prequel or sequel to the first.

Austin Williams

American Legal History: A Very Short Introduction by G. Edward White is a great summer read for any lover of law and history. White provides short historical overviews of the development of key areas of law, such as property rights, criminal law, domestic relations, as well as legal education and the legal profession. At only 130 pages, it’s the perfect book to accompany you on a flight, by the pool, or on the beach.

Leslie Wolf

Gone, Baby, Gone by Dennis Lehane. Private investigators are searching for a missing child. Not for the faint of heart, but a compelling story and well-writen. Several of Lehane’s novels have been made into movies, with good reason.

The Invention of Wings, by Sue Monk Kidd. This novel, set in Charleston, is told through the eyes of Hetty “Handful” Grimke, an urban slave, and the girl, Sarah Grimke, to whom she is given on Sarah’s 11th birthday, and it tells the story of their lives over the course of several decades. Although a novel, Sarah Grimke was a real person.

The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt. I’m sure this will be raised by a few, as it has been on everyone’s list this year. Although long, it is an absorbing book, and you’ll learn a little art history along the way.

 

 

 

Read (Something Other Than Casebooks)!

Photo by Flickr user aafromaa.

Photo by Flickr user aafromaa.

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).

Pam Brannon

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.

Mark Budnitz

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.

Russell Covey

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.

William Edmundson

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.

Anne Emanuel

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.

Lynn Hogue

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.

Deborah Schander

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.

Nirej Sekhon

Beautiful Ruins, Jess Walter. A gifted crime-fiction writer branches out with tremendous effect!

Roy Sobelson

The Orphan Master’s Son, Adam Johnson.

Ellen Taylor

My Beloved World, Sonia Sotomayor. Sotomayor’s new memoir is a great read, and very inspirational.

Anne Tucker

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.

Summer Reading Suggestions From Your Professors

by Flickr user chaparral

Exams have begun, and maybe you can even see the end of them. Just in time for summer, here are some reading suggestions from your professors.

Russell Covey

I recently discovered a new favorite author — David Liss. Liss writes historical fiction. Many of his plotlines revolve around stock market manipulation and financial treachery. I highly recommend the Coffee Trader (about the attempt of a Jewish merchant in 15th century Amsterdam to corner the new European market in coffee), The Whiskey Rebels (an engrossing story set in post-revolutionary Philadelphia, New York, and Pittsburgh, involving all of the monumental figures of the day engaged in an epic battle over the financial fate of Hamilton’s Bank of the U.S. and of the new republic, exposing their very human motivations – greed, lust, honor, etc. – that brings them to life as real people), and, on a different note, The Ethical Assassin (trust me, very different, but equally engaging). And a bonus reason to read Liss – he’s a GSU graduate.

William Edmundson

I’ve enjoyed William Prescott’s History of the Conquest of Peru. Prescott was a 19th century Boston lawyer who happened also to be blind. The conquest is a story of treachery and brutality that disgusted even some of those who took a leading part in it. Prescott is never indignant but never misses an opportunity to point out how our interests shape our perceptions of our deeds. As Prescott was aware, most of the sources he had to rely on were suspect, and there is a wealth of archival material that has come to light since he wrote. So, there are more accurate histories but I would be surprised if there are many better stories.

Anne Emanuel

Population 485 by Michael Perry. A sleeper I would have overlooked but for the keen eye and good advice of the owner of a small independent bookstore. I can’t do better than the description on Amazon: “Welcome to New Auburn, Wisconsin, where the local vigilante is a farmer’s wife armed with a pistol and a Bible, the most senior member of the volunteer fire department is a cross-eyed butcher with one kidney and two ex-wives (both of whom work at the only gas station in town), and the back roads are haunted by the ghosts of children and farmers. Against a backdrop of fires and tangled wrecks, bar fights and smelt feeds, Population: 485 is a comic and sometimes heartbreaking true tale leavened with quieter meditations on an overlooked America.”

Jessica Gabel

Devil in the White City by Erik Larson. I usually don’t like non-fiction, but the action is riveting for a turn of a century book that meshes the architecture of the Chicago World’s Fair with the hunting grounds of a serial killer.

A Visit from the Goon Squad by Jennifer Egan – the ins and outs of the music industry told by way of a trek through time.

Bernadette Hartfield

I recommend The Warmth of Other Suns by Isabel Wilkerson.  It is a fascinating historical account of African American families who moved, or in some cases escaped, from the south to northern locales in the great migration.  It is very powerful and engaging, and it won many awards.  There are aspects of criminal, juvenile, family and race law throughout.  It’s available in paperback now, although it was only available in hardback when President Obama took it on his vacation last summer.

Wendy Hensel

The Art of Racing in the Rain by Garth Stein.  It’s the story of a widower and his daughter as told by the family dog.  It is a sweet and insightful book that is a great, quick read.

Cutting for Stone by Abraham Verghese.  It’s a complex story of a family of surgeons in Africa.  It is beautifully written and richly evocative.  It will stay with you long after the last page.

Nancy Johnson

The Litigators by John Grisham. If you want a fast page-turner, this book is for you. John Grisham books are usually not funny, but this time he wrote a funny story with interesting and sympathetic characters, Finley, Figg, and Zinc. The fate of the cholesterol drug lawsuit was inevitable, but there were some interesting twists along the way. There is lots of legal action, including the mistreatment of illegal immigrants, product liability law, and the hypocrisy of the drug companies. It is a very entertaining book.

Julian Juergensmeyer

Although it is law related – I still recommend The Lawyer Myth: A Defense of the American Legal Profession by Rennard Strickland and Frank T. Read. I just think it gives a perspective that we tend to miss when we are involved with the “law” – in whatever capacity – on a daily basis.

Basil Mattingly

Atlas Shrugged, Ayn Rand. A cure for ignorance, blood loss, and bedwetting. http://www.usatoday.com/money/companies/management/2002-09-23-ayn-rand_x.htm

Lonesome Dove, Larry McMurtry. A glimpse of our country before the bankers and lawyers got ahold of it. Great compilation of all of life’s essential priorities. http://rogerwallace.com/lonesomedove.html

Deborah Schander

I’ve just finished up The Agency trilogy by Y.S. Lee. It’s a young adult series about a teenage thief in Victorian England who is saved from the gallows and offered the chance to be trained in an all-female spy school. Just as Agatha Christie’s Miss Marple was the perfect sleuth because no one ever paid attention to the quiet old lady, under the same theory Mary Quinn is trained to work undercover in overlooked roles (lady’s companion, builder, maid). The stories go quickly, have plenty of action and just the right amount of romance. The books also delve into the uneasy juxtaposition of the native English population with the Chinese immigrants in east London during this time. The series includes A Spy in the House, The Body at the Tower and The Traitor in the Tunnel.

Roy Sobelson

Defending Jacob by William Landay. It’s the story of a family torn apart by their son’s arrest for murder of a school friend. This one is likely to appeal to lawyers and non-lawyers alike, as it has a gut-wrenching human element to it, as well as the necessary legal wrangling and drama we’d normally associate with a book by Scott Turow or John Grisham.

Leslie Wolf

For pure escapism, I highly recommend the Spellman series by Lisa Lutz.  The tales of this dysfunctional family of private investigators who live and work in San Francisco are told through the eyes of the immature, but outrageously funny, middle-daughter, Isabel Spellman.  Start with the first, the Spellman Files.  I found them like potato chips — you can’t read just one.  If you read them on your e-reader, so click on the footnotes.  While some are just informative, so add to the hilarity.

On a more serious note, Still Alice, by Lisa Genova, is a compelling description of a highly successful academic experience with early on-set Alzheimer’s. While fictional, the story rings true — indeed the author’s work has been embraced by the Alzheimer’s Association.

Surprise! Librarians read too.

In honor of Banned Books Week — and our own Law Library Week — we thought it would be fun to share what we in the library are currently reading. We hope you’ll see something of interest here too.

Rachel Ashe, GRA

I’m currently reading We Wish to Inform You That Tomorrow We Will be Killed With Our Families: Stories from Rwanda by Philip Gourevitch. I’m actually reading it for International Criminal Law, but have wanted to read it for a while.

Pam Brannon, Faculty Services Librarian

I’m reading The Thousand Autumns of Jacob de Zoet by David Mitchell. I’ve read everything else he’s written, loved everything, and this is the latest thing he wrote. And it’s been sitting around my house for months.

Meg Butler, Associate Director for Public Services

I’m reading two books: The Cruel Ever After by Ellen Hart and Fatal Error by J.A.Jance.

Katie Ginnane, GRA/Intern

Although I am currently only reading law school stuff right now, right before school got back I read Animal, Vegetable, Miracle by Barbara Kingslover. The book covers a year of Ms. Kingslover’s family limiting the food they ate to what they could get locally. Ms. Kingslover starts a garden and raises chicken and turkey with her family. This book celebrates the miracle of homegrown food that does not come from a test tube or mass production.

Trina Holloway, Acquisitions/Serials Librarian

I am currently reading Redemption by Jacquelin Thomas. It is my book club selection for the month.

Nancy Johnson, Associate Dean for Library and Information Services and Professor of Law

Try This: Traveling the Globe without Leaving the Table by Danyelle Freeman, 2011 (author is editor of www.restaurantgirl.com). The author covers the most popular world cuisines—how to order and eat them. Her point of departure is the New York City restaurant, where one can find just about any kind of dish as the natives fashioned it, from British to Vietnamese, including information on ingredients, ordering tips, and etiquette. There’s a good bit of research into what’s actually contained in dishes like mincemeat (dried fruit and nuts – no meat), Moros y Cristianos (Cuban beans and rice), and many Asian choices.

Terrance Manion, Director of Information Technology and Librarian

21: The Story of Roberto Clemente, a graphic novel. I’m trying to show my son that the Pittsburgh Pirates were a competitive team and played relevant baseball in September at one time.

Kristin Poland, GRA

I am not currently reading anything but casebooks, but just before the semester started I read Waterland by Graham Swift on the recommendation of my sister, whose opinion I value very highly.

Deborah Schander, Reference/Student Services Librarian

I’m about halfway through Death on the Nile by Agatha Christie. I’ve been working my way through her mysteries because they’re easy reading for the MARTA commute.

Meghan Starr, GRA

I am mostly reading textbooks at the moment, but when I get a chance I’m reading Storm of Swords by George R.R. Martin (the third book of his Song of Fire and Ice saga). My husband strongly recommended the series, then Martin was named one of Time Magazine’s 100 influential people, so I decided to give it a try.

Austin Williams, Reference/Student Services Librarian

Currently I am about 100 pages into Executive Orders by Tom Clancy. I am reading it because the series was on a seven year hiatus until 2010, and I wanted to go through them again to catch up with the newest novels. This is the ninth out of thirteen books set in the Jack Ryan universe.

Emily Williams, Library Technical Assistant

I am currently reading The Other Side of the Bridge by Mary Lawson. I’m reading it because I absolutely loved her first book, Crow Lake.

Betty Wright, Library Reference Specialist

I am currently reading Malcolm X: A Life of Reinvention by Manning Marable. I’m reading this because I am part of a virtual book club created by one of my favorite bloggers. For leisure reading I prefer books with African American women as the main character. Fortunately, this book has been a very interesting read.

Eating Near the Law School — Faculty and Staff Offer Suggestions

Law school offers you many opportunities: rigorous development of your analytical skills, demanding and rewarding internships, free pizza. But what happens on those rare days when vendors and student groups aren’t plying you with free food? You try out local places recommended by our faculty and staff, of course.

We’ve put together a map for you, highlighting some of our favorite local eateries. Some are casual and quick, others are a bit further away but worth the effort. Clicking on a location will also pop up comments and menu suggestions. Bon appétit!

Professors Offer Summer Reading Suggestions

The semester is drawing to a close, and you may be thinking that a bit of non-caselaw reading could be just what your brain needs after a busy school year. But what to read? The law faculty has a few suggestions for you.

Pam Brannon

A Supposedly Fun Thing I’ll Never Do Again by David Foster Wallace
The idea of David Foster Wallace going to the Illinois State Fair is really funny in and of itself, but his report on the experience is even funnier. Besides, like me, Wallace was a geek who loved footnotes.

James Bross

Sarah Caudwell was the pseudonym of Sarah Cockburn (1939 – 2000, Cheltenham), a British barrister and writer of detective stories. She is best known for a series of four murder stories written between 1980 and 1999, centred around the lives of a group of young barristers practicing in Lincoln’s Inn and narrated by a Hilary Tamar, a Professor of Medieval Law (gender unknown), who also acts as detective.

This series of four books, described as “legal whodunits”, were written over a period of twenty years. Their primary setting is the top floor of 62 New Square at Lincoln’s Inn, where four young barristers have their chambers: Michael Cantrip, Desmond Ragwort, Selena Jardine and Timothy Shepherd. While the last named only appears sporadically, taxes barrister Julia Larwood, who works in the adjacent premises, is a regular visitor and is in effect the fourth member of the group. These characters are in some ways thinly drawn, never communicating in anything other than in an ironic tone, so that even when they are in deadly danger the atmosphere remains uniformly light-hearted. Even though the characters are sexually active, their cheerful friendship is sometimes reminiscent of the chummy gangs encountered in juvenile fiction.

Mark Budnitz

Iphigenia in Forest Hills: Anatomy of a Murder Trial by Janet Malcolm
This book includes several elements that make up a riveting story and that raise significant legal and moral issues. The main story is a murder trial, but the motivation for the murder was likely a child custody battle presided over by a judge who made a questionable ruling. The book also illustrates how poorly the legal system operates when the persons involved come from a culture that is different from mainstream American society.

Meg Butler

Broken by Karin Slaughter
Grady doctor Sara Linton returns to her home town and finds herself drawn into the investigation a rural Georgia murder. In her 10th novel featuring these characters, Karin Slaughter builds suspense and tells a compelling story, weaving together the lives of unlikely characters.

Sylvia Caley

The Spirit Catches You and You Fall Down by Anne Fadiman
Cultural sensitivity, bioethics, communication in health care setting

The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time by Mark Haddon
Understanding, accommodating, accepting disability

Coma by Robin Cook
Scare resources, bioethics, buying/selling organs, organ sharing policy

Jennifer Chiovaro

The most memorable book I’ve read in the last year or so is Columbine by Dave Cullen. [It’s] the most definitive account of what really happened and why, although the entire truth won’t be known until the parents’ depositions are unsealed in 2027. Meticulously researched, the book dispels most of what was reported about the massacre. An essential read for understanding America’s deadliest high-school mass murder.

William Edmundson

For anyone saddened by the end of the US manned space program, I can recommend Mary Roach’s Packing for Mars and Riding Rockets by former astronaut Mike Mullane.

Anne Emanuel

Born on a Blue Day: Inside the Extraordinary Mind of an Autistic Savant by Daniel Tammet
An easy read and a fascinating story.

Jessica Gabel

The Edgar Award Nominees for Best Novel, Best Debut Novel, and Best Paperback were a particuarly good crop this year, and I read most of them. Here are a couple of my favorites.

Laura Lippman, I’d Know You Anywhere. A woman who was kidnapped as a child comes to terms with why she survived the ordeal when other victims did not. A interesting read that goes back and forth between 1985 and 2010(ish) as the main character realizes that events she tried so hard to forget have shaped her adult life. Nominated for a 2011 Edgar Award for best novel.

The Lock Artist by Steve Hamilton. Winner of the 2011 Edgar Award for best novel. A mute man-child (i.e., he’s 18) with a knack for opening locks and cracking safes shares his escapades with the reader. I learned probably more than I wanted to know about picking locks, but the dialogue – both internal and between supporting characters is fantastic.

For those who prefer less mystery and more dialogue: Karen Russell, Swamplandia. A young girl aims to save both her family’s alligator theme park and her wayward older siblings. Nice to know that there is a family more dysfunctional than mine.

Lynn Hogue

I have two really great books to recommend: The Lincoln Lawyer by Michael Connelly and The Fifth Witness by Michael Connelly. Both are great yarns about lawyers and law. I finished both very recently and highly recommend them. Readers can learn something about the profession of law and be entertained at the same time. What could be better.

Nancy Johnson

The Confession by John Grisham takes the reader on an incredible roller coaster ride of emotions all centered around one hot-button issue: the death penalty. Grisham very clearly has strong opinions against the death penalty and The Confession makes absolutely no attempt to be an unbiased display of the facts of the matter. It is a quick read and a great story.

Julian Juergensmeyer

Although it is law related – I still recommend The Lawyer Myth: A Defense of the American Legal Profession by Rennard Strickland and Frank T. Read. I just think it gives a perspective that we tend to miss when we are involved with the “law” – in whatever capacity – on a daily basis.

Deborah Schander

If you’re the type of person to read the book once you’ve seen the movie (or vice versa), check out Ed Brubaker’s run on Captain America (2005-present). It’s not the full 70 year history of the comic, of course, but the upcoming movie is apparently heavily influenced by Brubaker’s take on the story (which has even made the national news a few times). He focuses as much attention on Cap’s WWII origins as he does on what’s happening in the modern Marvel universe — and my bet’s on the inevitable movie sequel giving major screen time to something Brubaker introduces in his very first issue. The collection starts with Winter Soldier, Book One.

But if I can’t convince you to read a comic, try Alan Bennett’s novella The Uncommon Reader. It’s a funny, insightful look at the influence reading can have on people (in this case, the Queen of England).

Roy Sobelson

These are some of the books that have brought me the greatest enjoyment in the last couple of years. Most I’ve read, but some I’ve listened (unabridged) to.

Mudbound by Hillary Jordan
Life in the Mississippi Delta at the end of WWII. A central character is an African American man who, after serving nobly in the Army, returns home to be treated precisely as he and other African Americans have been for ages.

Bossypants by Tina Fey
If you think Tina Fey is smart and funny (and who doesn’t?), check this out. Given the fact that she reads the audiobook, I recommend it over the written version.

The History of Love by Nicole Krauss
I’m not going to describe it. I’ll just say this is one of my favorite books of all time.

Galileo’s Daughter by Dava Sobel (no relation, so far as I know)
Using the correspondence between Galileo and his illegitimate daughter, Sister Maria Celeste (so named because of Galileo’s obsession with the heavens), the author tells a good bit of the story of the trial of Galileo, who had the gall to argue that the Earth revolved around the sun.

Austin Williams

February 18, 2011 was the 10 year anniversary of Robert Hanssen’s arrest at Foxstone Park. The Bureau and the Mole by David A. Vise is a thorough and concise overview of Hanssen’s life prior to and during his time at the Federal Bureau of Investigation. Read about how he initially created contact with the Soviet Union and what clues eventually led to his demise after 22 years of spying on the United States.

Doug Yarn

Out of the Flames by Lawrence and Nancy Goldstone
True story of the survival of a book that John Calvin tried to destroy. This book makes one appreciate the sacrifices people made to express ideas and the extraordinary effect that the emergence of printing had on the history of ideas.

Cochrane: The Real Master and Commander by David Cordingly
If you like Hornblower or the Patrick O’Brian series about early 19th century naval warfare, you have to read this book to appreciate the real historic figure on which the main characters of those two series are based. Cochrane story is much more compelling and exciting.