Faculty 2016 Holiday Reading List

Faculty 2016 Holiday Reading List 18

Michelle Wilde Anderson, Professor of Law, recommends The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao by Junot Díaz and Carry Me Ohio by Matt Eich.

“For anyone who wishes to reconnect with an America of vibrant cultural diversity, I would highly recommend The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao, by Junot Díaz. I did not get around to reading it when it came out in 2008, but reading it now strikes me as just right. I am also looking forward to getting my hands on a copy of Matt Eich’s new photography collection Carry Me Ohio. Based on the published images in the press, it feels like modern WPA documentary photography of the American poverty so central to the recent election.”


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Michael Asimow, Visiting Professor of Law, recommends Smiley’s People, by John le Carré.

“John le Carré’s, Smiley’s People. Elegantly written and suspenseful if you like espionage fiction. I’ve just reread this old favorite and enjoyed it just as much as the first read many years ago.”


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Lawrence M. Friedman, Marion Rice Kirkwood Professor of Law, recommends The Wright Brothers by David McCullough.

“McCullough’s book about the Wright Brothers. Really good reading.




Faculty 2016 Holiday Reading List 3

Jacob Goldin, Assistant Professor of Law, recommends Evicted by Matthew Desmond.

“I’d recommend Evicted by Matthew Desmond. It’s interesting, important, and a page-turner.”




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Paul Goldstein, Stella W. and Ira S. Lillick Professor of Law, recommends The Collected Stories by William Trevor.

“Readers of the late William Trevor divide between those who think he was one of the greatest short story writers ever and those who think he was simply one of the greatest contemporary writers in English. I’m now re-reading The Collected Stories, some set in Ireland, others in England, but all characterized by a precise, quiet, and even plain, prose style that instantly transports the reader to the stories’ intimately realized settings and personal relationships. There is a good deal of wit here, much of it bittersweet, and an abundance of humanity but, above all, storytelling that grips and doesn’t let go. And for those interested in such things, Trevor’s stories offer a master class in prose technique.”

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Robert W. Gordon, Professor of Law, recommends From Jim Crow to Civil Rights by Michael Klarman, The Taming of Free Speech: America’s Civil Liberties Compromise by Laura Weinrib, and Doctor Thorne by Anthony Trollope.

“Michael Klarman (an SLS graduate who wrote a prize-winning book about the history of civil rights law, From Jim Crow to Civil Rights) has now come out with a monumental history of the formation of the Federal Constitution: The Framers’ Coup: The Making of the United States Constitution. This is a very accessible, though also very learned, new history of the Constitutional framing, stressing all the ways in which the Framers sought to insulate politics and government in the new United States from populist influence.

I also recommend Laura Weinrib, The Taming of Free Speech: America’s Civil Liberties Compromise. This is a history of the ACLU, whose litigation strategies produced most of our exceptionally libertarian law of free speech. The ACLU started out as a litigator for the rights of labor to speak, strike, organize and protest; but by gradual degrees changed into what it is today, a defender of the speech rights of all. Like Klarman’s book, this is legal history that reads like a novel.

Speaking of novels, after watching the PBS series based on Anthony Trollope’s Doctor Thorne, I decided to read the novel itself. It’s one of Trollope’s Barchester series and it’s wholly delightful.”

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Henry T. Greely, Deane F. and Kate Edelman Johnson Professor of Law, recommends Legal Asylum: A Comedy by Paul Goldstein, The Wise Men: Six Friends and the World They Made by Walter Isaacson and Evan Thomas, Present At The Creation: My Years In The State Department by Dean Acheson, Memoirs 1925-1950 by George F. Kennan, and Witness to History: 1929-1969 by Charles Bohlen.

“In the light category, I very much enjoyed reading a preprint of our colleague Paul Goldstein’s latest book, Legal Asylum: A Comedy. An ambitious dean, seeking a seat on the Supreme Court, tries to drive a not very distinguished state law school into the US News top five. Both hilarity and chaos ensue. The good news – as far as I can tell none of the characters is taken from SLS faculty or staff (directly, at least), though it did make me think of my colleagues as poets, quants, and bog dwellers. Amazon says the book will be available February 1, so it’s just in time for the Groundhogs Day holiday.

In the not so light category, I have been reading – for no particular reason – U.S. political biographies and autobiographies for the last few years. Many of them have been about U.S. diplomacy during and just after World War II. I think I already recommended The Wise Men: Six Friends and the World They Made, by Walter Isaacson and Evan Thomas. (And I recommend it, highly, again.) I have now finished reading the memoirs of three of their six characters: Dean Acheson, George Kennan, and, last but not least, Chip Bohlen. Acheson’s memoir, Present At The Creation: My Years In The State Department (1969) is an elegant, witty, sometimes biting, defense of his work at the State Department from 1941 to 1953 that focuses on his tempestuous days as Secretary of State in Truman’s second term. It won the Pulitzer prize in 1970. Kennan’s memoirs (Memoirs 1925-1950), in two volumes, published in 1967 and 1972, are beautiful, reflective, occasionally moving, and deeply insightful. The first volume won his second Pulitzer prize. Chip Bohlen’s book is not as incisive and witty, or detailed, as Acheson’s, and not as insightful and gorgeous as Kennan’s. But it is more friendly than either. It retells his career from 1929 to 1969 – as Russian translator at summit meetings for FDR and Truman, as ambassador to the USSR and to France, and in many other capacities. He tells good stories and, unlike Acheson or Kennan, he LIKES people. And he discusses the good points of even people he doesn’t like, even if reaching an overall negative assessment (see, e.g., John Foster Dulles). Bohlen has been dead for more than 40 years but of these three authors, he is the one I would most like to sit down and talk the night away, over a bottle of good wine. Or two. Or three. The book, Charles E. Bohlen, Witness to History: 1929-1969, is out of print but available on Amazon and elsewhere.”

Erik G. Jensen, Professor of the Practice of Law and Director of the Rule of Law Program, recommends The Silk Roads: A New History of the World by Peter Frankopan.

“As I sit with helicopters flying overhead in Kabul, Afghanistan today, flanked by Iran on the western border, Pakistan on the eastern border, and the rest of the “stans” to the north, it is hard to fathom the conclusion of Peter Frankopan’s sometimes-brilliant book, Silk Roads: A New History of the World — that “new silk roads are rising again.” As with law exams, however, Frankopan’s conclusion is not where he scores his points. This ambitious book is an antidote to JM Roberts’ Euro-centric 1976 Penguin History of the World. Frankopan boldly shifts the vortex of world history to Iran, the “stans” of Central Asia, and Afghanistan.  The book is well-written and well-researched. I learned a lot up to 1490 when the book shifts to Columbus and more Western colonial history.  The Silk Road was never a single road, but a network of roads that stretched from China to the Mediterranean. Frankopan’s focus on trade along this network as a key to great civilizations, including the Persian Empire, is fascinating.  Don’t let the inevitable weaknesses of a book of such scope discourage as you tour through fascinating chapters from The Road of Faiths to The Road of Gold to the Road to Hell.”

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Pamela S. Karlan, Kenneth and Harle Montgomery Professor of Public Interest Law, recommends When Breath Becomes Air by Paul Kalanithi,  Fire and Ashes: Success and Failure in Politics by Michael Ignatieff, The Odd Clauses: Understanding the Constitution through Ten of Its Most Curious Provisions by Jay Wexler, and The Shaping of Southern Politics: Suffrage Restriction and the Establishment of the One-party South, 1880-1910 by  J. Morgan Kousser.

“Here are a couple of things I’ve read recently.

When Breath Becomes Air, by Paul Kalanithi. This memoir, by a young Stanford Medical School professor, writing about his life and the cancer that killed him, is beautifully written and hauntingly sad and hopeful at the same time.

Michael Ignatieff, Fire and Ashes: Success and Failure in Politics. Ignatieff returns to Canada to become a politician. It’s rare to have an insider discuss the process with such introspection.

The Odd Clauses: Understanding the Constitution through Ten of Its Most Curious Provisions, by Jay Wexler (SLS alum). In a time when all of the sudden we’re discussing the Emoluments Clause (not, as fans of hand lotion might think, having anything to do with emollients!), Jay’s delightful book is a must-read. I’ve assigned it to my incoming Constitutional Law class because it shows how the major themes of our Constitution play out in seemingly minor provisions of the document.

J. Morgan Kousser, The Shaping of Southern Politics: Suffrage Restriction and the Establishment of the One-party South, 1880-1910. A classic that I’m rereading as I think about how to prevent the end of the second Reconstruction and the emergence of a Second Redemption.”

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Mark Kelman, James C. Gaither Professor of Law and Vice Dean, recommends The Girls by Emma Cline.

“So I was pretty sure that I was going to find The Girls too formulaic, too much a product of a novelist with a target audience and a better sense of what’s stylish and marketable than a sense of integrity. But I actually adored it and think it would be a great quick vacation read. It struck me as chilling and insightful: about what draws people to cults, about adolescent yearning, about the profound differences between (at least young) men and women…”

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Michael W. McConnell, Richard and Frances Mallery Professor of Law, recommends The Children Act by Ian McEwan.

The Children Act, by Ian McEwan. Here we meet the very model of a modern British judge: eminently rational, kind, learned. We observe the care with which she crafts her opinions and experience her efforts to understand and help the juveniles who fall within her jurisdiction on the family court. We also watch as her marriage dissolves into unhappiness for no very rational reason, and as her inability to comprehend the religious dimension of existence produces catastrophe in the life of a young man she tries to help. A sad, compelling book, written for and about people like us.”

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David Mills, Professor of the Practice of Law and Senior Lecturer in Law, recommends The Sellout by Paul Beatty.

The Sellout won the 2016 Man Booker Prize for fiction.

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A. Mitchell Polinsky, Josephine Scott Crocker Professor of Law and Economics, recommends The Patrick Melrose Novels by Edward St. Aubyn.

“Edward St. Aubyn, The Patrick Melrose Novels. Brilliantly written fiction about Patrick Melrose from the time when he was a young boy sexually abused by his father, through his teens and twenties when he becomes a drug addict, to his forties when he is unhappily married with two young sons. Not happy reading, but incredible writing.”

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Robert L. Rabin, A. Calder Mackay Professor of Law, recommends Countdown to Pearl Harbor: The Twelve Days to the Attack by Steve Twomey.

“Steve Twomey, “Countdown to Pearl Harbor: The Twelve Days to the Attack.” Perfectly timed to help commemorate the 75th anniversary of this horrific page out of US (and world) history. A revealing account of the striking military and political failures to anticipate this disastrous event. ”

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Dan Reicher, Professor of the Practice of Law, recommends River of Doubt by Candice Millard.

“River of Doubt by Candice Millard (2006). The true story of Teddy Roosevelt’s harrowing first descent of an unmapped, rapids-choked tributary of the Amazon, following his humiliating election defeat in 1912. Together with his son Kermit and Brazil’s most famous explorer, Cândido Mariano da Silva Rondon, Roosevelt accomplished a journey so improbable that many at the time refused to believe it—and in the process redrew the map of the western hemisphere.”

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Deborah L. Rhode, Ernest W. McFarland Professor of Law, recommends Bright, Precious Days by Jay McInerney.

“Jay McInerney’s Bright, Precious Days (Knopf, 2016) received well deserved praise for his novel about New Yorkers following 9/11. It’s beautifully written and offers some searing insights about the fragility of relationships and social activism.”

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F. Daniel Siciliano, Professor of the Practice of Law and Associate Dean for Executive Education and Special Programs, recommends The Emperor’s Soul by Brandon Sanderson.

“I have a (slightly old) favorite but recommend it because it is a short read (a novella) and perfect for those who’ve never really liked or had a chance to read sci-fi/fantasy fiction. The Emperor’s Soul by Brandon Sanderson is an award winning novella and the perfect short read for those that already appreciate fantasy/sci-fi but even better for those that are, perhaps, skeptical of the genre.”

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Shirin Sinnar, Associate Professor of Law, recommends Evicted by Matthew Desmond.

“I am finally reading this after no fewer than five SLS colleagues recommended it. Indeed, this beautifully written ethnographic portrait of families struggling with housing in Milwaukee is provocative and heart-rending. I am struggling to understand the solutions, but this book has already succeeded in raising my consciousness.”

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Deborah A. Sivas, Luke W. Cole Professor of Environmental Law, recommends Private Empire by Steve Coll.

“I have just started reading Private Empire by Pulitzer Prize-winning investigative reporter Steve Coll. It is fascinating look inside ExxonMobil, which behaves like an independent sovereign whose actions often clash with American foreign policy even as it lobbies relentlessly for domestic tax breaks and is a leading funder of junk climate science in a crusade to mislead the public and avoid any limits on carbon emissions – very much akin to the tactics used by the tobacco industry in decades past. The book is thoroughly researched and particularly timely in light of current political events here and abroad, including the very recent news that the presidential transition team is now considering both the present and the former ExxonMobil CEOs for Secretary of State.”

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David M. Studdert, Professor of Law and Medicine, recommends The Motel Life by Willy Vlautin.

“I stumbled on Vlautin through his music (he’s the lead singer of a fine band called Richmond Fontaine). Then a friend told me he’s also a writer. The Motel Life was his first novel; he’s gone on to write several others.  Set in the American West, mostly around Reno, this is a story of two brothers down on their luck. The characters and their situations are quite depressing,  But the narrative has a gritty, spare quality that pulls you along. Think Steinbeck and Carver. And since there’s a road trip in the middle, throw in a touch of Kerouac.  ”

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Barton H. “Buzz” Thompson, Robert E. Paradise Professor of Natural Resources Law, recommends Black Water by Louise Doughty.

“My recommendation this holiday season would be Black Water by Louise Doughty, a masterful story about moral complexity set in the political turmoil of last 20th century Indonesia. The book is a political thriller that makes you think and is likely to leave you at the end feeling very unsettled.”

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Beth Van Schaack, Leah Kaplan Visiting Professor in Human Rights at the Law School, recommends The Story of a Brief Marriage by Anuk Arudpragasam and The Death of the Adversary by Hans Keilson.

“I recently read The Story of a Brief Marriage, by Anuk Arudpragasam, a novel about love and the consequences of war in Sri Lanka, and The Death of the Adversary, by Hans Keilson, about a young man who watches powerlessly,but with utter fascination, as an unnamed demagogue rises to power in 1930s Germany. ”