The dreaded or longer for holiday season is upon us and many of you are looking for that $25 gift for someone because your family drew names over Thanksgiving. So here are some suggestions for those who enjoy the law and for those that don’t.
I’ve separated these into subject areas, since if you are giving someone a gift you possibly know what they are interested in.
Supreme Court lovers or law school students: For a general view of how the modern Court works, I would suggest Jeffrey Toobin’s The Nine. The book talks about the inner workings of the Court as well as the cast of characters there, both past and present. One of the best parts of the book is where it talks about Carter Phillips infamous green amicus brief in Grutter v. Bollinger–the Michigan Law School affirmative action case.
Legal Theory and History: If the person you are giving a gift to enjoys reading about the history of the Constitution and its possible interpretations, then you should get them Georgetown Law Professor Randy Barnett’s book, entitled Restoring the Lost Constitution.
Legal Biography: I found Linda Greenhouse’s Becoming Justice Blackmun an absolute engaging read, even though I have my doubts as to the logic of some of his decsions. This book too describes the inner workings of the Supreme Court. But the best part of the book is how it describes the complex relationship between Justice Blackmun and Chief Justice Burger.
Humorous Fiction: I will start with a warning that this book is highly offensive and sometimes obscene. It nevertheless will have you laughing out loud late into the night. The book is Choke by Chuck Palahniuk (also author of Fight Club). The story follows sex-addict and medical-school dropout Victor Mancini as he uses an clever scheme to pray on the unwitting: he pretends to choke on food inside restaurants and then allow people to save him. In doing so, the rescuers feel closer to him and he later uses that bond to extract money from them. The book is crazy, but funny.
Dark Fiction: There are few fiction books darker that Hubert Selby Jr.’s Requim For A Dream. In most books about addictions, the protaganist overcomes their addiction to live a better life; in this book the addiction is the winner. One warning: Selby didn’t like quotation marks in his writing–at all. So all the dialogue is run together. It takes a few pages to figure it out but once you do its a great read.
MMA Fans (and by MMA I mean Mixed Martial Arts): If your guy or gal is into UFC, then the best book you can order for them is Craig Davidson’s The Fighter, not to be confused with the movie staring Mark Walhberg. His is the blurb from writer Irvine Welsh about The Fighter: “This is more than a stunning debut. It reminds me how vacuous, banal and insipid most highly-touted fiction is. Davidson asks–and answers-some big, uncomfortable questions about the nature of our humanity.” In between all the relationship stuff in the book between athletes, and fathers and sons, lies some of the best writing ever on fighting.
Christian: If the person you are buying a book for is a Christian, I would highly recommend Francis Chan’s Crazy Love. The book is all about how to have a better relationship with the Creator. And to do it in an authentic way.
Civil Libertarian: For those people who enjoy liberty (and shouldn’t that be all of us), you should order them Ron Paul’s book, The Revolution. Given his recent poll success in Iowa and New Hampshire, this book is as timely as ever. In the book, Paul discusses his stance of what the primary objective of government ought to be: to preserve liberty for its citizens.
Short Story Fiction: I have two recommendations here. The first is Raymond Carver’s What We Talk About When We Talk About Love, which is considered the standard bearer for minimalism short fiction. No one described the grit in life better than Carver. The second is Amy Hempel’s The Collected Stories of Amy Hempel. If you’ve never read Hempel, you MUST. Her stories are crafted at the sentence level and she invokes sensation without writing about it.
Law School Students: There are two books that I found invaluable to taking exams. The first is Getting To Maybe and the second is Open Book.