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