Michelle Wilde Anderson, Professor of Law, recommends Draft No. 4: On the Writing Process by John McPhee and Ghettoside: A True Story of Murder in America by Jill Leovy
“For several years, celebrated author John McPhee has been publishing advice about the craft of narrative nonfiction in the New Yorker. This fall, he drew those essays together in a book collection called Draft No. 4: On the Writing Process. Despite the fact that I have read his New Yorker pieces line for line, often turning back to them for reassurance or advice, this book set is a prize. It is as suitable a gift for avid readers as it is for writers, because the book illuminates the hard times, the high times, and the technical choices in writing in ways that add depth to the experience of reading.
“As a complement to this masterful how-to of narrative nonfiction, I also recommend Ghettoside: A True Story of Murder in America by Jill Leovy (2015), a work of craft nonfiction that could make McPhee proud. Ghettoside is a bracing, page-turning exposé of the dehumanizing collapse of investigations of homicides with black victims in South Central LA from the 1990s to the present. It was not written for lawyers, but I cannot think of a book that puts the importance of law and the criminal justice system into more stark relief. In the era of Black Lives Matter, the Jeff Sessions DOJ, and dramatic contractions in the local public sector, this is a very important book.”
Michael Asimow, Visiting Professor of Law, recommends Manhattan Beach by Jennifer Egan
“I enjoyed Manhattan Beach by Jennifer Egan. A fine page-turner about women joining the work force during WWII as well as organized crime on the waterfront.”
Ralph Richard Banks, Jackson Eli Reynolds Professor of Law, recommends Difficult Conversations: How to Discuss What Matters Most by Douglas Stone, Bruce Patton, and Sheila Heen
“I just read a short self help book, Difficult Conversations, which I found surprisingly useful. It is applicable to all types of relationships and provides a guide to how to constructively engage issues that we might otherwise avoid.”
Robert W. Gordon, Professor of Law, recommends The Republic for Which It Stands: The United States During Reconstruction and the Gilded Age, 1865-1896 by Richard White
“I strongly recommend Richard White, The Republic for Which it Stands: The United States During Reconstruction and the Gilded Age,1865-1896. White is an historian in Stanford’s History Department. This volume is the latest to be published in the Oxford History of the United States. It is almost 1000 pages long, but fascinating to read. I thought I knew this––mostly very dark and corrupt––period of American history pretty well, but White’s book told me something new and interesting on every page.”
Hank Greely, Deane F. and Kate Edelman Johnson Professor of Law, recommends Beyond the Hundredth Meridian by Wallace Stegner, I Contain Multitudes by Ed Yong, and Life and Fate by Vasily Grossman
“Beyond the Hundredth Meridian is a wonderful biography of John Wesley Powell by (novelist) Wallace Stegner. I had known one-armed Powell led the first expedition down the Colorado River through the Grand Canyon. I didn’t know about his crucial role in late 19th century American science and its government connections. I fear the parts after his river trip (when he was only about 35) would be anticlimactic. I was wrong.
“Science writer Ed Yong has a wonderful new book on “microbiomes,” the microbial communities that live inside us, and all other animals. I Contain Multitudes is much more fascinating than my summary makes it sound and very well and clearly told.
“Finally, if you’ve got 900 pages in you, Life and Fate, Vasily Grossman’s epic novel of World War II has been compared (favorably) to War and Peace. It centers on the Battle of Stalingrad, and an interlocking set of families and friends. Grossman, the USSR’s most famous World War II correspondent, didn’t live to see his 1960 book published – in the West in 1980 and in the nearly dead Soviet Union in 1988 – but it deserves comparison with Tolstoy’s masterpiece. (Of course, you don’t need to read it as an excuse to re-read or read War and Peace itself. I’m just starting 60 hours of audio in a different translation than the Constance Garnett I read before.)”
Erik G. Jensen, Professor of the Practice of Law, recommends Stalin: Waiting for Hitler, 1929-41 by Stephen Kotkin and The Republic for Which It Stands: The United States During Reconstruction and the Gilded Age, 1865-1896 by Richard White
“Two dominant trends in the world today that really concern me are the rise of autocracy (and the recession in rule of law) and the growing gap between rich and poor. For the autocratic playbook, I turn to Stalin, one of the most successful autocrats of the twentieth century. Princeton historian Stephen Kotkin just published the second volume of his definitive three-volume opus: Stalin: Waiting for Hitler, 1929-41. On wealth disparity, corruption and understanding better what Karl Marx calls “primitive accumulation,” I’m reading Stanford historian Richard White’s new and lively account of the Gilded Age in the US: The Republic for Which It Stands: The United States During Reconstruction and the Gilded Age, 1865-1896. I have not finished either book: both are in process. On a related practical note, Gerhard Casper has been trying to persuade me to switch to Kindle for years. Kotkin’s and White’s superb contributions each run about 1000 pages and weigh, cumulatively, about seven pounds. That Kindle is looking pretty good.”
Pamela S. Karlan, Kenneth and Harle Montgomery Professor of Public Interest Law, recommends The Republic for Which It Stands: The United States During Reconstruction and the Gilded Age, 1865-1896 by Richard White, Man on the Move: A Life by Oliver Sacks, and Black Reconstruction in America by W.E.B. DuBois
“Here are a few books I’ve read recently that are sticking with me. Richard White, The Republic for Which It Stands: The United States during Reconstruction and the Gilded Age, 1865-1896. This 2017 volume in the Oxford History of the United States is written by a Stanford History Department colleague. Reading about a president who ‘gave an impromptu speech that provided more evidence he should never give impromptu speeches’ and ‘referred to himself 210 times in a speech of little more than an hour, or three times every minute’ and learning it was Andrew Johnson and not the current officeholder, reminds us of the point C.S. Lewis made in his wonderful sermon on Learning in War-Time: we should study history because history can help us to resist ‘the great cataract of nonsense’ that flows in our own age.
“Oliver Sacks, Man on the Move: A Life. From the author of The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat, a memoir that makes me wish even more that I had known him and sad I didn’t.
W.E.B. Du Bois, Black Reconstruction in America. Written in 1935 but still incredibly powerful both at showing the promises of the First Reconstruction and its betrayal and at reminding us of some of the reasons we find ourselves today where we find ourselves.”
Michael Klausner, Nancy and Charles Munger Professor of Business and Professor of Law, recommends Strangers in Their Own Land by Arlie Russell Hochschild
“A sociologist tries to understand political views in rural Louisiana.”
Joshua Kleinfeld, Visiting Associate Professor of Law, recommends When Breath Becomes Air by Paul Kalanithi
“It’s almost unbearable for me to read this book because Paul was one of my closest friends. But for those who read it and think: ‘Can a person really be this smart, this decent, have this depth of spirit, be this good?’ the answer is, ‘Yes––it’s rare, but yes.’ There are friends one merely likes and friends one likes and admires, and Paul was of that latter kind. I knew he was one of the great human beings of my generation from our first beer together. Plus, a more devoted Stanford grad you’ll never find; he loved this school.”
Robert J. MacCoun, James and Patricia Kowal Professor of Law, recommends Other Minds: The Octopus and the Evolution of Intelligent Life by Peter Godfrey-Smith
“I enjoy visiting aquaria in different cities, but I always find myself hanging out in front of the cuttlefish tank. When I look at most fish, I look into their eyes and see…nothing. When I look at cuttlefish, I sense someone looking back at me. Philosopher (and diver) Peter Godfrey-Smith’s Other Minds: The Octopus and the Evolution of Intelligent Life argues that cephalopods show that minds have evolved at least twice, in very different ways.”
M. Elizabeth Magill, Richard E. Lang Professor of Law and Dean, recommends Guilt: The Bite of Conscience by Herant Katchadourian and Lincoln in the Bardo by George Saunders
“I plan to finish Guilt by Herant Katchadourian and a George Saunders book, Lincoln in the Bardo (which won the Man Booker Prize this year).”
A. Mitchell Polinsky, Josephine Scott Crocker Professor of Law and Economics, recommends The Plot Against America by Philip Roth
“Over the summer I ‘discovered’ Philip Roth’s novels, having heard much about them in the past but never having read one. I read and enjoyed his Nathan Zuckerman series, but the book that stood out the most for me was The Plot Against America, in which Roth imagines what America would have been like if an isolationist, Nazi-sympathizing Charles Lindbergh had beaten Franklin Roosevelt when FDR ran for his third term in 1940. The book paints a sobering picture of how Jews in the U.S. could be persecuted like the Jews in Germany during the early years of the rise of Nazism.”
Robert L. Rabin, A. Calder Mackay Professor of Law, recommends In a Lonely Place by Dorothy B. Hughes
“As a long-time film noir enthusiast, I was moved by curiosity to read In a Lonely Place (1947) by Dorothy B. Hughes, the novel on which the Humphrey Bogart classic of the same name (1950) was based. In fact, the novel–a recently republished New York Review of Books Classic––is a taut psychological thriller, far more insightful and original than the standard-bearers in this genre; and only loosely related to the film version. Hughes is masterful in her ability to get inside the mind of a chilling sociopath and track his disintegration.”
Deborah L. Rhode, Ernest W. McFarland Professor of Law, recommends Vacationland by John Hodgman and A Gentleman in Moscow by Amor Towles
“I recommend John Hodgman’s Vacationland, a collection of humorous essays. He may be familiar to many readers as a contributor on the Daily Show, and in the New York Times. He has a wry view of the world, and this book is a quick and enjoyable read. For a good novel, I recommend A Gentleman in Moscow by Amor Towles. It’s a story of a Russian nobleman placed under house arrest after the Russian Revolution in the early 20th century. It’s beautifully written and likely to captivate even readers without a deep interest in Russian history.”
Deborah A. Sivas, Luke W. Cole Professor of Environmental Law, recommends The Best American Short Stories of the Century by John Updike
“I recently picked up and dusted off my copy of The Best American Short Stories of the Century, published at the tail end of the last millennium and curated by John Updike. It includes some of the very best short stories published in each decade of the twentieth century, chosen at least to some extent as representative of the zeitgeist for that decade. Almost all of the century’s best American short story writers are represented here, but there are also quite a few more obscure authors. The stories are diverse, but all very human and uniformly good. They can be read in quick bites and provide some mental relief from the relentless gloom of the evening news.”
Barton H. “Buzz” Thompson, Jr., Robert E. Paradise Professor of Natural Resources Law, recommends Grant by Ron Chernow
“An excellent biography of the greatest general of the Civil War and a president who tried hard to protect newly freed slaves and reconstruct the South, but whose gullibility often got him into problems. The book is long, but well-worth the read.”