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What's on Your Summer Reading List?

By William Vogeler, Esq. | Last updated on

Reading is the laboratory of the mind.

It is where we experiment with ideas, played out on an inner stage set by a writer against the background of another place and time. And when we choose a book for leisure reading, it should be for the adventure of that world more than to escape our own.

So you want to know how this ends? For law students and lawyers, try reading one of these books this summer:

Billy Budd, Sailor

Starting with an American classic, every student of the law should read Herman Melville's last novel. Short enough to read on a cross-country flight, it tells the story of a sailor impressed into service aboard a warship.

Michael Krauss, a law professor at George Mason University of Law School, says it is a "magnificent examination of the role of a judge" and a "masterpiece on legal interpretation."

1861: The Civil War Awakening

"It reads like a thriller, but is full of bits of history and constitutional law that lawyers will love," says Trevor Potter, who served as general counsel for John McCain's presidential campaigns.

"Did you know both houses of Congress voted to amend the Constitution to enshrine the right to own slaves in the Constitution -- and make it the one amendment that could never be amended?" he asks for the ABA Journal. "They did. All in an attempt to mollify the Southern states."

A Nation of Immigrants

John F. Kennedy's blood stained American history, but he made his mark in ink as well. Before he became president of the United States, he won a Pulitzer Prize for "Profiles in Courage." He was revising "A Nation of Immigrants" when he was assassinated.

"This book is a fast read that reinforces the dynamic role newcomers play in American life and culture," says Stephen N. Zack, past president of the American Bar Association. "It reminds us that each successive wave of newcomers to our country has made it stronger and more vital."

Hillybilly Elegy: A Memoir of a Family and Culture in Crisis

Book reviewers say this best-selling memoir is the only book to make sense out of the election of Donald Trump. "You will not read a more important book about America this year," says the Economist.

Written by Yale Law School graduate J.D. Vance, it describes Appalachian poverty and observations from the working class. It's also on Bill Gates' summer reading list.

The Legacy of Ruth Bader Ginsburg

It's too early to get RBG's workout book, which will be released in October, but the California Lawyer says "The Legacy of Ruth Bader Ginsburg" is "just the right length for a week's vacation."

The 326-page collection of stories outlines her life and legacy. It includes personal anecdotes about her marriage, tenure at the American Civil Liberties Union, career as a law professor and decisions from the bench.

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