Daniel Abebe, Assistant Professor of Law
My book is Fault Lines: How Hidden Fractures Still Threaten the World Economy, by Raghuram G. Rajan (Booth professor). Fault Lines is a careful and nuanced discussion of the factors contributing to the global economic crisis and provides thoughtful prescriptions for the United States to avoid another severe economic downturn.
Douglas Baird, Harry A. Bigelow Distinguished Service Professor of Law
My favorite book from the summer is T.J. Stiles, The First Tycoon: The Epic Life of Cornelius Vanderbilt. Vanderbilt was at the center of the great economic transformations in the 19th Century. He was the captain on the steamship involved in the litigation in Gibbons v. Ogden. He was born when Washington was president and New York was a village. He mastered steamships and railroads and corporate mergers and acquisitions. He was the Steve Jobs of his time and his life story captures the incredible growth of the economy during the 19th Century. Become a fan of Prof. Baird on GoodReads.
Mary Anne Case, Arnold I. Shure Professor of Law
Barbara Demick's Nothing to Envy: Ordinary Lives in North Korea.
Rosalind Dixon, Assistant Professor of Law
I have just finished reading In a Strange Room by Damon Galgut. It is part-novel, part travel-diary, and possibly part auto-biography–and for that reason, particularly interesting if one has read and enjoyed other work by the same author. I would say the same thing about a similar book I read recently, Summertime by JM Coetzee: both are somewhat quirky but extremely elegant and well-crafted (as is evident by their inclusion on the Man Booker prize shortlist for 2010 and 2009 respectively), and thus a worthwhile read for all fiction lovers. However, those who will likely get the most out of both books will be those who, like myself, have a particular interest in either South Africa (mine, is of course, largely constitutional) or South African writers, such as Galgut and Coetzee.
Frank Easterbrook, Senior Lecturer in Law
I just finished reading The Time Traveler’s Wife by Audrey Niffenegger. It is a romance with one time-travelling protagonist, and thus represents a cross between genres. Neither the romance nor the sci-fi part predominates. The characterizations are excellent for SF, and the author tries to grapple with the paradoxes that moving in time generate. Both the time traveler and his wife shape each other’s personalities by meetings that occur in an irregular temporal sequence, and without those changes the initial meetings would not have occurred. Most of the book’s events occur in Chicago (with a few trips to Michigan), mostly in the Loop and Near North, though there are a few mentions of Hyde Park. Become a fan of Judge Easterbrook on GoodReads.
Craig Futterman, Clinical Professor of Law
The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness, by Michelle Alexander—most important book that I have read in the last decade. Well researched, powerful piece that teaches us why mass incarceration ought to be at the top of our nation’s civil rights agenda.
The White Tiger, by Aravand Adiga—fantastic, debut novel that paints a chilling portrait of India from the perspective of a man from India's rural underclass on a quest to "succeed" in modern India.
The Assassination of Fred Hampton, by Jeffrey Haas—true story that chronicles the murder of Black Panthers Fred Hampton and Mark Clark by the FBI and Chicago police. The book is written by a U of C law alum whose work has inspired a generation of lawyers dedicated to working for social change.
The Book Thief, by Markus Zusak— touching children’s tale set in Nazi Germany. My daughters and I fought over this book on a family vacation.
People's History of the United States, by Howard Zinn—Our recent Columbus Day celebration and my daughters' experience of the holiday through school inspired me to begin re-reading this important book.
Tom Ginsburg, Professor of Law
David Mitchell, The Thousand Autumns of Jacob de Zoet. One of the most talented novelists around takes on a historical location of great interest to me: the small island of Dejima in Nagasaki Harbor, which for two centuries was the only point of contact between Japan and the Western world. Through this small keyhole, an intense civilizational dialogue was conducted, so that isolated Japan knew more about the West than did any other contemporary non-western society (China, India, the Islamic world). A terrific read. Become a fan of Prof. Ginsburg on GoodReads.
Richard Helmholz, Ruth Wyatt Rosenson Distinguished Service Professor of Law
The two most recent books I have finished (I read the first parts of several others) were:
Adam Sisman, Hugh Trevor-Roper, the Biography (London 2010), an engrossing account of academic life in Oxford and Cambridge. The intrigues and infighting among the ‘dons’ described by the author made me thankful to be at the University of Chicago. It is a very good ‘read,’ perfect for a long trip.
Hadley Arkes, Constitutional Illusions and Anchoring Truths: The Touchstone of the Natural Law (Cambridge 2010). A strong religious conservative’s reaction to the legal world of today. He is not pleased by what he sees. I read it because of my interest in the history of natural law. Mary Ann Glendon, whose opinion I respect, described it as a ‘page-turner,’ and it has some interesting material, but I tired of it before she did. Become a fan of Prof. Helmholz on GoodReads.
Todd Henderson, Professor of Law
My goal this year was to read as many books as possible in which the point of view of the author or the thesis of the work was at odds with my own prior beliefs. Three of these stand out. First, Robert George's Making Men Moral; second, Francis Fukuyama's Trust; and, third, Debra Satz, Why Some Things Should Not Be For Sale. My prior beliefs were moved slightly by some and reinforced by others. I won't prejudge them for you or presume you care how they impacted me. I can recommend them all as interesting and thought provoking.
Mark Heyrman, Clinical Professor of Law
While on vacation I read for the first time Dickens’ Great Expectations. What a truly wonderful depiction of a London lawyer, Mr. Jaggers, and his devoted “paralegal,” Mr. Wemmick, as well as interesting accounts of the criminal and civil justice systems in 19th century Britain and the institution of transportation as a punishment for crime. I also read and recommend Adam Ross’ most recent novel, Mr. Peanut, but only to those with a stout heart. Great Expectations is available for free from Amazon to Kindle owners.
Aziz Huq, Assistant Professor of Law
An academic text that turns an interesting tale (at least for lawyers) is Paul Halliday’s marvelous Habeas Corpus: From England to Empire. It recounts developments in the so-called “great writ” from 1500 to 1800 with sympathy and verve. My favorite recent nonacademic read has been the Scottish poet Robin Robertson’s fourth verse collection The Wrecking Light, a series of lyrics both vicious and graceful, never bathetic and sometimes baleful, and constantly watchful of the brittle interweaving of natural and manmade worlds. Become a fan of Prof. Huq on GoodReads.
Dennis Hutchinson, Senior Lecturer in Law
Brooklyn by Colm Toibin sketches the life of an Irish immigrant girl adjusting to the Brooklyn of the 1950s after growing up in small-village Ireland. Focus and theme are reminiscent of William Trevor, but without the same sure pace, although the final third of the work is riveting, and it is hard to get the characters out of mind once you finish. Become a fan of Prof. Hutchinson on GoodReads.
Alison LaCroix, Assistant Professor of Law
I’ve been reading (actually, listening to) Tolstoy’s War and Peace for the past several months, and, as promised, it really is the historical epic by which all others should be measured. But it’s not only a sweeping drama about the Napoleonic Wars; it’s also a minutely subtle study of early-nineteenth-century Russian cultural and social mores, a series of psychologically complex and probing character studies (including Napoleon himself, to whose thoughts and point of view we are given access), and a meditation on the meaning and writing of history. I haven’t finished it yet — and I know there’s still a lot to come because the French are still winning battles — but I’ve become thoroughly entranced by it. I’ve also been reading The Thousand Autumns of Jacob de Zoet by David Mitchell, a novel that was longlisted for this year’s Booker Prize. The main story concerns the final years of the Dutch East India Company as reflected in the fate of its trading center on an island off Nagasaki in 1799 and 1800, just as the events chronicled in War and Peace were beginning. But it’s also a suspenseful adventure tale, an examination of interactions between European and Japanese traders and officials, and a love story. I still have a few chapters to go, but a British warship recently hove into view, so I suspect that changes in the commercial, political, and personal landscape are soon to follow. Become a fan of Prof. LaCroix on GoodReads.
Saul Levmore, William B. Graham Distinguished Service Professor of Law
I have recently read–or listened to - some good American history, including Gordon Wood’s Empire of Liberty; David Hackett Fischer’s Washington’s Crossing; and Daniel Walker Howe’s What Hath God Wrought. These three cover distinct periods and they are all fun. If you must choose one, make it the last because it covers a period (1815-48) that most of us know little about. But the best history I read was the old-fashioned Admiral of the Ocean Sea, written by the youthful Samuel Eliot Morison, in part based on a Harvard-sponsored expedition that retraced some of Columbus’s journeys. And then there are some odder recommendations. With two teenagers, we drove from Niagara Falls to Bar Harbor on vacation, and that was just enough time to listen to Packing for Mars by Mary Roach. I absorbed information about the space program, but mostly I learned that educated people can laugh to tears at terrifically-written descriptions of body waste flying through the air. And then I also recommend John Dower’s Embracing Defeat, which gives insight into life in Post-War Japan, and perhaps a better understanding of the modern Japanese people who lived through that transition. Become a fan of Prof. Levmore on GoodReads.
Anup Malani, Professor of Law and Aaron Director Research Scholar
I am reading Cryptonomicon by Neal Stephenson and This Time Is Different: Eight Centuries of Financial Folly by Ken Rogoff and Carmen M. Reinhart. Cryptonomicon is an excellent blend of technical science fiction and WWII history. This Time Is Different is a great survey of financial crises and their common causes.
Jonathan Masur, Assistant Professor of Law
I’ve been reading On the Road: The Original Scroll, by Jack Kerouac. This “first draft” of the classic beat novel was released three years ago, on the fiftieth anniversary of the first publication of the book. It contains all of the errors–and needs all of the editing–that you might expect from an original manuscript that Kerouac wrote in a mere three feverish weeks. Nonetheless, it has undeniable rhythm and energy; it reads like the poetry that undoubtedly inspired it. And it paints a gripping, visceral picture of what it was like for Kerouac, Neal Cassady, Allen Ginsberg, William Burroughs, and others to crisscross the continent with little more than the clothes on their backs, trying to acquire a sense of their country and themselves.
Richard McAdams, Bernard D. Meltzer Professor of Law
Though it is not a new, I only recently read what is now my favorite non-fiction book in years: Sudhir Venkatesh, Gang Leader for a Day (2008) in which the author recounts his years of meeting and engaging the people of a public housing project, particularly one of its gangs, while a graduate student of sociology at the University of Chicago. Written for a popular audience, it is extremely compelling reading that provides a scholar’s view of a largely hidden world. Next in line, I greatly enjoyed learning about fascinating breakthroughs in neurological science and medicine from Norman Doidge, The Brain that Changes Itself (2007). I also recommend Doris Kearns Goodwin, Team of Rivals: The Political Genius of Abraham Lincoln (2005), which I finally got around to reading, and Michael Lewis, The Big Short: Inside the Doomsday Machine (2010), the most interesting of the books I read on the financial crisis.
Tom Miles, Professor of Law
Phillip Bobbitt’s Terror and Consent presents an historical and theoretical framework for understanding the national security and constitutional challenges of terrorism. Panoramic in scope, brimming with keenly observed details. No reader will be persuaded on every point, but no reader will ever think about these issues in the same way again. It deserves wide readership. Although it was published a few decades ago, I read David McCullough’s portrait of Theodore Roosevelt’s early family life, Mornings on Horseback. So much has been written about T. Roosevelt that it is nearly cliché to marvel at his energy, intellect, and grit. McCullough’s graceful prose and his eye for telling detail renew one’s amazement at this extraordinary figure. For pure escapism, there is Sean Chercover’s Big City, Bad Blood. A hard-boiled detective story featuring all the conceits of the genre, here re-imagined in contemporary Chicago. In the pages of fiction, the City of Big Shoulders has never packed so hard (or so cynical) a punch. Become a fan of Prof. Miles on GoodReads.
Beth Milnikel, Director of The Institute for Justice Clinic on Entrepreneurship and Lecturer in Law
This summer I read Home by Marilynne Robinson, which continues the story of the family introduced in the pages of Gilead. Though I think I favor Gilead a smidge, Home enveloped me. Robinson manages to convey so much about the hearts and minds of characters who don’t know how to express their own feelings or parse their own thoughts. And her language is simultaneously simple and beautiful. She invites her reader to think about the meaning of family and the substance of the bonds between family members, which can generate our toughest challenges as well as our deepest joys. I recommend the book(s) highly, but I do not recommend finishing Home on the plane and train at the end of a summer vacation unless you are comfortable with public weeping.
Joan Neal, Lecturer in Law
I recently read the biography Gertrude Bell: Queen of the Desert, Shaper of Nations by Georgina Howell. I had known little about her, but she was a Mesopotamian expert and (along with T.E. Lawrence) one of the driving forces behind the creation of the country now called Iraq. She was an amazing woman with many talents–she was fluent in many languages (she even published translations of classic Arabic poetry), was a noted mountaineer, cartographer and archeologist, and lived a life of adventure that was quite rare for a woman of her class and time. Her detailed knowledge of and friendship with many of the desert tribes was unrivaled, and she proved a critical resource to the British during World War I. She was an avid letter writer, which forms much of the basis of this biography.
For fiction, I’ve been reading a lot of contemporary Irish novels lately. One of my favorites is A Long Long Way by Sebastian Barry. It tells the story of a young Irishman who goes off to fight (for the British army) in WWI and returns to a home in which he is now expected to fight against his own people. It is a combination of a grim account of trench warfare in WWI and a picture of the uncertain and shifting identity of a young man whose entire world changed while he was away at war. If you aren’t familiar with British-Irish history during this period, some of the events are quite confusing, but reflective of the confusion felt by the protagonist. It’s a beautifully written, although a brutal and tragic, book.
Finally, I also enjoyed the novel Pictures at an Exhibition by Sara Houghteling. It tells the story of a Jewish art collector before, during and after WWII. Although the main character is entirely fictional, the story of what happened to some of the great art of Europe at that time is historically accurate. (One of the secondary characters is based upon a real-life woman who risked a great deal personally to safeguard, trace and recover many works of art.) If you’ve seen the documentary The Rape of Europa, this is a fictional recounting of the same story.
Martha Nussbaum, Ernst Freund Distinguished Service Professor of Law and Ethics:
Richard Toye, Churchill’s Empire: The World That Made Him and the World He Made. This new book on Churchill pulls together all the evidence about his attitudes about empire, race, and political liberty, producing a highly complex picture. On the one hand, Churchill was a virulent racist who believed to the end of his life that Indians and Africans were incapable of self-government, and who derided Gandhi in terms as full of opprobrium as those he used to denigrate Hitler. On the other hand, he had a sincere attachment to political liberty and liberal institutions that motivated his courageous and admirable resistance to both fascism and communism. Moreover, his attitudes on all these matters were not stable, but shifted, sometimes unpredictably. So the first contribution of the book is to help us understand one of recent history's most influential and controversial figures. Its second is more general: Toye's book reminds us that political leaders are not simple heroes or villains, but children of parents (in this case, an indifferent father and an egocentric mother), who, as a result of such human matters as a fear of abandonment and a longing for love, develop complicated personalities that shape their intellectual convictions. Its third contribution, as we live in an era of postcolonial historiography, in which the ideas of liberalism are often seen as tainted by their association with empire, is to remind us that people committed to domination can also sincerely advocate admirable ideals, and that these ideals are not themselves tarnished by their association with an all-too-human obtuseness. Become a fan of Prof. Nussbaum on GoodReads.
Julie Roin, Seymour Logan Professor of Law
My book club just finished reading The Assault by Harry Mulisch, a Dutch author I had never heard of. But I am now going to look into his other books. The Assault is a fictionalized account of the aftereffects of the assassination of a Nazi collaborator. It details the (physical and psychological) repercussions for the family of the collaborator, the families living on the street on which the assassination took place, and the Resistance members who effected the assassination. Most of all, though, this is a book about how people react to terrible situations and then try to live with the decisions they make. Become a fan of Prof. Roin on GoodReads.
Adam Samaha, Professor of Law
George Orwell's 1984 – ++ good. Jonathan Altar's The Promise –a journalistic history of the Obama administration's first year, which, for some of us, is worth listening to on the iPod's fast-play option for audiobooks. Peter Hessler’s Country Driving–an impressive, sometimes touching, sometimes hilarious journey through China, from the spouse of Leslie Chang, who wrote Factory Girls. Wilbert Rideau's In the Place of Justice–I'm in the middle of this memoir of a man going on and off death row, then living through the Angola Prison world. Theodore Dreiser's An American Tragedy–I'm still in the middle of this supposed classic, which my spouse and I began reading together shortly after our son was born last fall; we are scheduled to finish shortly before he enters college (assuming that I let him attend college). Dr. Seuss's ABC–the plot is familiar and the ending is fairly predictable, but the book contains some of America's finest poetry; one of the few books that I've read more than once.
Michael Schill, Dean and Harry N. Wyatt Professor of Law
Over the past couple months I have read or am reading the following books that I would recommend: William Cronin’s Nature’s Metropolis: Chicago and the Great West (recommended to me by Lior Strahilevitz as a great introduction to the history of Chicago); Joan Biskupic’s American Original: The Life and Constitution of Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia (an interesting portrait of one of our former colleagues); Nicholas Carr’s The Shallows: What the Internet is Doing to Our Brains (which explains why I can’t stop checking my iPhone every five minutes); and Martha Nussbaum’s Not For Profit: Why Democracy Needs the Humanities (an important manifesto on a subject that should be important to all of us). Become a fan of Dean Schill on GoodReads.
Geoffrey Stone, Edward H. Levi Distinguished Service Professor:
M.J. Hyland's This is How. Hyland is a brilliant, young Irish novelist. Each of her three novels (to-date) is an incisive and insightful character study of a damaged individual. This is How, Hyland's most recent work, takes the reader inside a troubled mind in a way that both illuminates and disturbs. Become a fan of Prof. Stone on GoodReads.
Randolph Stone, Clinical Professor of Law
I recommend Let’s Get Free, A Hip-Hop Theory of Justice by Paul Butler for an unconventional and provocative view on dismantling our country’s addiction to mass incarceration. Also Will Haygood’s Sweet Thunder: The Life and Times of Sugar Ray Robinson, for a thoughtful look at the life of the greatest fighter of all time as well as the intersections of politics, music, art, and sport in mid 20th century America. Become a fan of Prof. Stone on GoodReads.
Lior Strahilevitz, Deputy Dean and Professor of Law
I recently finished Super Sad True Love Story, a funny and engaging novel by Gary Shteyngart. The novel satirizes current societal trends to picture an America of the not-too-distant future, one in which privacy and literature have disappeared, our culture has become uniformly crude, and the American government is essentially bankrupt and beholden to China and Norway[!?]. There is a lot to love in the Love Story: Shteyngart’s characters are quirky and complex, their relationships are authentic, the plot draws the reader in, and Shteyngart is terrifically witty. Trying to understand what the world will look like in a world of omnipresent social networking, location-aware smartphones, and comprehensive government and private sector databases is a common thread in Shteyngart’s fiction and my own (hopefully non-fiction) writing. My take on these questions in Information and Exclusion (to be published in 2011) is much more optimistic and much less entertaining than his. Become a fan of Prof. Strahilevitz on GoodReads.
David Weisbach, Walter J. Blum Professor of Law and Kearney Director of the Program in Law and Economics:
Daniel Okrent, Last Call: The Rise and Fall of Prohibition. This is an excellent history of Prohibition. It is an enjoyable read simply as history. In addition, there are obvious parallels to modern times for issues such as drug prohibition, law enforcement and movements to enshrine strongly held but possibly minority moral views into the law. Become a fan of Prof. Weisbach on GoodReads.