Janet Cooper Alexander, Frederick I. Richman Professor of Law, Emerita, recommends Old Filth by Jane Gardam
“Old Filth by Jane Gardam. This wonderful book is difficult to describe. Sir Edward Feathers QC is a legendary barrister and judge who practiced primarily in the Far East (everyone, including his wife, calls him Filth, for “Failed In London, Try Hong Kong”, and is now retired and living in Dorset. Though he is held in awe for his skills and distinguished air, he is regarded as one who never had to undergo hardship, loss, or struggle, who had everything handed to him, and whose life has been quite boring. The opposite is true, and the book reveals his cruel childhood as a “Raj orphan,” the son of a British administrator in Malaysia who was sent away to England as a child, his experiences in World War II, and his later career and marriage. Gardam is a wonderful writer. Every word is perfect, layers are revealed, and the book is both beautiful and very witty.
“I read this book not knowing what to expect, simply because it was given to me by a mentor and friend. I hope someone can discover it by similarly taking it on faith. This is the first book of a trilogy that tells the same lives and events from three different perspectives: Old Filth focuses on Feathers. The second book, The Man in the Wooden Hat, takes the perspective of his wife, who also has unsuspected secrets and depths. The third book, Last Friends, shifts again to the story of Feathers’ long-time hated rival and late-in-life almost-friend.”
Michael Asimow, Long-Term Visiting Professor of Law, recommends Red Notice: A True Story of High Finance, Murder, and One Man’s Fight for Justice by Bill Browder
“Red Notice by Bill Browder is outstanding. Browder (grandson of the head of the US Communist Party) starts a really successful hedge fund in Russia–until everything goes wrong. Very revealing about what Russia is like today.”
Barbara Babcock, Judge John Crown Professor of Law, Emerita, recommends Legal Asylum by Paul Goldstein and Locking Up Our Own by James Forman, Jr.
“A good time to catch up with the colleagues. I read Paul Goldstein’s Legal Asylum which stars a woman law school dean, and the “riveting” (widely used in reviews and blurbs) account of the hidden life of a law school community.
“Just finished James Forman Jr.’s Locking Up Our Own, very compelling to former public defenders, especially those who have known the camaraderie of PDS, the Public Defender Service in D.C. James makes a great story of the politics of a black city (as it was in the 70’s and 80’s) that led the way to mass incarceration.”
Richard Craswell, Professor of Law Emeritus, recommends Bruno, Chief of Police by Martin Walker
Ronald J. Gilson, Charles J. Meyers Professor of Law and Business, Emeritus, recommends The General vs. The President: MacArthur and Truman at the Brink of Nuclear War by H.W. Brands
“At a time when the ego of the President raises concern, H.W. Brands, The General vs. The President: MacArthur and Truman at the Brink of Nuclear War, presents an engaging popular history of the tension between a general who believed his own press and a president who was comfortable in his own skin. Twain is said to have quipped that history doesn’t repeat itself, but sometimes it rhymes. That is a fair description of the take away from this book.”
Robert W. Gordon, Professor of Law, recommends Wrestling with His Angel, 1849-1856 by Sidney Blumenthal and A Man of Parts by David Lodge
“Sidney Blumenthal, Wrestling with His Angel, 1849-1856. This is the journalist’s second volume of his life-in-progress of Abraham Lincoln. This is one of the best things on Lincoln and his political milieu I’ve ever read, analytically sharp and very well written. ((The first volume, A Self-Made Man, 1809-1849 was also terrific.)
“David Lodge, A Man of Parts. David Lodge is of course best known for his academic novels like Small World and Changing Places. This is Lodge’s splendid, sexy, fictionalized rendering of the life of H.G. Wells, a writer famous in his own day though mostly remembered now, if at all, only for his science fiction. Lodge’s Wells is such an interesting character that it inspired me to get hold of Anthony West’s Heritage (1955), a fictionalized rendering of the author’s own life as the illegitimate son of Wells and the writer Rebecca West.”
Hank T. Greely, Deane F. and Kate Edelman Johnson Professor of Law, recommends The End of Tsarist Russia: The March to World War I and Revolution by Dominic Lieven, The Long Week-End: A Social History of Britain 1918-1939 by Robert Graves and Alan Hodge, The Crimean War by Orlando Figes, The Brothers by Stephen Kinzer, and The World of the Five Gods novellas by Lois McMaster Bujold
“In history I quite liked Dominic Lieven’s The End of Tsarist Russia: The March to World War I and Revolution. It’s not always smoothly written but the Russian perspective, based on new archival research, on the run-up to World War I, the most important political event since Napoleon, is fascinating. I actually read it twice. I also very much liked The Long Week-End: A Social History of Britain 1918-1939, by Robert Graves and Alan Hodge, and The Crimean War, by Orlando Figes. I think all I knew of the latter was Florence Nightingale and the Charge of the Light Brigade. It turns out to have been much more interesting, and important, than that – as well as bearing on recent events in the Crimean Peninsula.
“In biography I just finished a joint biography of John Foster and Allen Dulles, The Brothers, by Stephen Kinzer. It’s a fascinating look both at foreign policy during (mainly) the Eisenhower Administration and two very different, but very important – and not very likeable – brothers.
“In science fiction, I have now finished all 9 novels and 1 novella of Iain M. Banks’s Culture Series. It’s an odd series. It spans about a millennium with almost no connecting characters (and Earth only gets a glancing reference), but it is a compelling story of a post-scarcity, libertarian but somewhat moralistic culture spread across much of the galaxy. Its take on artificial intelligence (full citizenship for AIs) is probably the single most fascinating of its explorations, but the overall setting of a largely pragmatic and hedonistic liberal society with an occasional moralistic interventionist streak seems – or seemed – timely. He wrote them from 1987 until 2012, shortly before his untimely death.
“And in fantasy I have been reading an interesting publishing experiment. Lois McMaster Bujold, four time Hugo winner, has now published 4 novellas based in what she now calls The World of the Five Gods (first explored in the novel, The Curse of Chalion). The experiment is that she is publishing them individually, mainly on Kindle or audio, available through Amazon (and probably other sites). Each would be, I think, about 80 to 100 pages as a book; each costs $3.99 as a Kindle. They follow the adventures of young sorcerer, Penric, possessed of/by an old demon, Desdemona, in a world with striking similarities to 14th century Europe. They are light, fun, and inventive, and an author’s interesting way to try to find a paying outlet for work shorter than a novel.”
Deborah Hensler, Judge John W. Ford Professor of Dispute Resolution, Associate Dean for Graduate Studies, and Director of Law and Policy Lab, recommends Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen
“This season of our discontent requires rereading Jane Austen. My favorite remains Pride and Prejudice, which seems especially fitting these days.”
Erik G. Jensen, Professor of the Practice of Law and Director of Rule of Law Program, recommends Alexander Hamilton by Ron Chernow and American Lion by Jon Meacham
“Ron Chernow’s Alexander Hamilton, the book on which Lin-Manuel Miranda’s blockbuster Hamilton is based, really is as good as Miranda claims it is: elegantly and tightly written. And Hamilton the musical is even better than all of its over-the-top reviews. Jon Meacham’s American Lion is a good read to understand the vast differences between Andrew Jackson and the current occupant of the White House.”
Michael W. McConnell, Richard and Frances Mallery Professor of Law and Director, Constitutional Law Center, recommends From the Holy Mountain by William Dalrymple
“This book, written in 1997 before the conflagrations of 9-11, Iraq, Syria, ISIS and the Arab Spring, provides much needed context for understanding the clash of religious civilizations in the Middle East. The author, a quirky, plucky, erudite young journalist, retraces the journey made by John Moschos, a Greek Christian monk, in the Sixth Century. The journey begins at Mount Athos, proceeds to Istanbul, Eastern Turkey, Syria. Lebanon, Israel, and finally the monastery of Deir ul-Muharraq in Egypt. My wife and I read it as we visited ancient and modern monasteries, churches, synagogues, and mosques in Cairo, Sinai, and Upper Egypt. The book chronicles the widespread expulsions, genocides, and destruction of cultural remnants of Christianity in what was once was the heart of the Byzantine Christian world. Especially interesting are the author’s discussions of the close social and theological connections between Christianity and early Islam and his description of Syria, which as of 1997 was, relatively-speaking, an oasis of toleration and inter-religious peace.”
A. Mitchell Polinsky, Josephine Scott Crocker Professor of Law and Economics, recommends Hitler: 1889-1936 Hubris and Hitler: 1936-1945 Nemesis by Ian Kershaw
“I highly recommend Ian Kershaw’s magisterial two-volume biography of Hitler. I listened to it on Audible.com, for 66 hours total (about 2,100 pages in print for the two volumes combined). It is astonishing and engrossing how Hitler rose to absolute power in Germany and how he clashed repeatedly with and distrusted the heads of the German military.”
Robert L. Rabin, A. Calder Mackay Professor of Law, recommends News of the World by Paulette Jiles
“Set after the Civil War in Northern Texas, a grizzled veteran travels from town to town, giving readings of the latest news to local residents. The rhythm of his life is disrupted when he takes responsibility for delivering a young orphaned girl to her surviving family in San Antonio. Off-beat, very compelling narrative.”
Deborah L. Rhode, Ernest W. McFarland Professor of Law and Director, Center on the Legal Profession, recommends Rising Star: The Making of Barack Obama by David Garrow
“David Garrow’s new biography of Barack Obama, Rising Star, is really good, though really long (over a thousand pages).”
Barton H. “Buzz” Thompson, Jr., Robert E. Paradise Professor of Natural Resources Law and Senior Fellow, Woods Institute for the Environment, recommends the Inspector Rebus series of detective novels by Ian Rankin, Shattered by Amie Parnes and Jonathan Allen, and Why Time Flies: A Mostly Scientific Investigation by Alan Burdick
“In the past several months, I have discovered a trove of wonderful books, both old and new. After returning from Scotland, I stumbled upon Ian Rankin’s wonderful series of Edinburgh-based mysteries focused on Detective Inspector John Rebus. If you like murder mysteries, John Rebus might just be your glass of scotch––a loner who constantly ignores the rules, like most of great fictional detectives, but who also has an excellent and highly Scottish sense of humor and a love of rock music. If like me you are a political junkie, I’d recommend Shattered by Amie Parnes and Jonathan Allen, a wonderfully told account of how Hillary Clinton lost the election. And if you constantly wonder about things that others take for granted, read Why Time Flies: A Mostly Scientific Investigation, a new book by Alan Burdick, which investigates the concept of time and our peculiar perception of it.”