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Friday, June 03, 2011

Summer Reading Lists for Rising 1Ls

Someone recently asked me for help generating some thoughts about reading lists for entering 1Ls. I'd love to crowdsource some serious thoughts about this, particularly with an aim toward bolstering the sections on Current Issues, Supreme Court, and Legal History. If you have access to what your school recommends to rising 1L's please share.  I've listed some thoughts (not of my own) below, but I would love to give this person some more suggestions, so have at it!


Current Issues in the Legal Profession
  • Paul Carrington, Stewards of Democracy: Law as a Public Profession (1999) (Westview Press).
  • Mona Harrington, Women Lawyers: Rewriting the Rules (1995) (Plume).
  • Larry Krieger, The Hidden Sources of Law School Stress
  • Anthony T. Kronman, The Lost Lawyer: Failing Ideals in the Legal Profession (1995) (Belknap Press/Harvard).

Legal Figures

  • G. Edward White, Oliver Wendell Holmes: Sage of the Supreme Court (2000) (Oxford University Press).
  • Gerald Gunther, Learned Hand: The Man and the Judge (1994) (Knopf).
  • Linda Greenhouse, Becoming Justice Blackmun: Harry Blackmun’s Supreme Court Journey (2005) (Times Books).
  • Andrew Kaufman, Cardozo (1998) (Harvard University Press).

The Supreme Court

  • William H. Rehnquist, The Supreme Court (2002) (Vintage Books).
  • Edward Lazarus, Closed Chambers: The First Eyewitness Account of the Epic Struggles Inside the Supreme Court (1998) (Times Books).
  • Jeffrey Toobin, The Nine: Inside the Secret World of the Supreme Court (2007) (Random House, Inc.).
  • Bob Woodward & Scott Armstrong, The Brethren: Inside the Supreme Court (1979) (Simon & Schuster).

Legal History

  • Anthony Lewis, Gideon’s Trumpet (1966) (Vintage Books).
  • Lawrence Friedman, A History of American Law (2005) (Touchstone).
  • Kermit Hall, The Magic Mirror:  Law In American History (2008) (Oxford University Press).
  • Peter Irons, The Courage of their Convictions: Sixteen Americans Who Fought Their Way to the Supreme Court (1990) (Penguin).
  • Randall Kennedy, Race, Crime and the Law (1997) (Pantheon Books/Vintage Books).
  • Richard Kluger, Simple Justice: The History of Brown v. Board of Education and Black America's Struggle for Equality (1976) (Knopf).
  • Charles Lane, The Day Freedom Died: The Colfax Massacre, the Supreme Court and the Betrayal of Reconstruction (2008) (Henry Holt).
  • Richard Lazurus, The Making of Environmental Law (2004) (University of Chicago Press).


  • Randy Barnett, The Structure of Liberty: Justice and the Rule of Law (1998) (Oxford University Press).
  • Richard Epstein, Simple Rules for a Complex World (1995) (Harvard University Press).
  • Ronald Dworkin, Taking Rights Seriously (1978) (Harvard University Press).
  • James Boyd White, The Legal Imagination, Abridged Edition (1985) (University of Chicago Press).
  • Edward H. Levi, An Introduction to Legal Reasoning (1962) (University of Chicago Press).
  • K.N. Llewellyn, The Bramble Bush: Classic Lectures on Law and Law School (2008) (Oxford University Press).
  • Cardozo, The Nature of the Judicial Process (1921) (Yale University Press).
  • Grant Gilmore, The Ages of American Law (1979) (Yale University Press).

Legal Nonfiction

  • Jonathan Harr, A Civil Action (1996) (Vintage Books).
  • Edward Larson, Summer for the Gods: The Scopes Trial and America’s Continuing Debate Over Science and Religion (2006) (Basic Books).

Classic Novels

  • Gerald M. Stern, The Buffalo Creek Disaster: How the Survivors of One of the Worst Disasters in Coal-Mining History Brought Suit Against the Coal Company—and Won (1977) (Vintage Books).
  • Harper Lee, To Kill a Mockingbird (2006) (Harper Perennial Modern Classics).
  • Herman Melville, Billy Budd, Sailor (2006) (Simon & Schuster).

Legal Composition

  • William Strunk, Jr., The Elements of Style (2007) (Filiquarian Publishing, LLC).
  • Richard Wydick, Plain English for Lawyers (2005) (Carolina Academic Press).


Posted by Administrators on June 3, 2011 at 07:00 PM in Books, Life of Law Schools | Permalink


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Our school's list is here: https://lib.law.washington.edu/content/guides/readrec

Posted by: Mary Whisner | Jun 20, 2011 4:44:05 PM

I'd put Bryan Garner's "The Winning Brief" or Garner and Scalia's "Making Your Case" on the list.

Posted by: Sean M. | Jun 5, 2011 8:53:51 AM

I read "Freedom and the Law" (1961) by Bruno Leoni in my pre-1L summer, and was glad I did on a daily basis during law school. Its defense of the common law method and excoriation of statutes and modern legislation gave me a point of view I literally never encountered from professors or assigned works during law school. Its message is similar to Hayek's "Law, Legislation and Liberty" but more focused and accessible (although all-in-all, Hayek's work is superior).

Posted by: Anthony Sanders | Jun 4, 2011 11:58:23 PM

The most helpful book that I read heading into my 1L year back in 2002 was Law School Confidential. It definitely helped me to better focus on what was really important when reading case books, participating in class discussions, and studying for finals.

Posted by: BizLawProf | Jun 4, 2011 8:25:22 PM

I recommend Exercises in Clear Legal Writinhg at http://sfruehwald.com/ex.htm to improve writing skills.

Posted by: Writing Teacher | Jun 4, 2011 7:15:11 PM

It's not a book, but for Legal Composition I would recommend David Foster Wallace's "Tense Present," a Harpers Article from about 10 years ago. I have had my students read it at the beginning of the year for 3 years running, and it is always among the things they say they like most about the class.

Posted by: kovarsky | Jun 4, 2011 4:18:45 PM

Epstein's "Simple Rules" is not one of the works to which I was referring. I would not recommend Cardozo's "The Nature of the Judicial Process" to pre-1Ls, but it is less unintelligible than Levi or Llewellyn.

I second the recommendation of the Farnsworth book, which is very useful and written in a way taht should make it wholly intelligible to a college graduate who has never yet set foot in a law school classroom.

Posted by: Brian | Jun 4, 2011 4:05:15 PM

Dan, for the Supreme Court section, you might consider McCloskey, The American Supreme Court (as revised by Levinson). I was assigned to read it as a companion to the casebook in Con Law I (Federal Structure and Separation of Powers). In retrospect, it seems like an accessible summary of the early years of the court. If I remember right, most of the recommendations above focus more at the recent history of the court (I think the Rehnquist book is, in part, an exception).

Posted by: Jake Linford | Jun 4, 2011 4:02:54 PM

Two I read and liked before going (not because I knew what I was doing -- just on someone's lucky recommendation) were Tragic Choices, Calabresi & Bobbitt, and Bobbitt's Constitutional Fate.

Posted by: Marc DeGirolami | Jun 4, 2011 2:28:06 PM

Ward Farnsworth, The Legal Analyst.

Posted by: Orin Kerr | Jun 4, 2011 11:51:34 AM

"The Remains of the Day" (Ishiguro), "Ideals, Beliefs, Attitudes &Law" (Calebresi), "Persons and the Masks of the Law" (Noonan).

Posted by: Rick Garnett | Jun 4, 2011 10:57:10 AM

Brian, I didn't read most of the jurisprudence list before lawschool, but I did read Epstein's "Simple Rules" and Cardozo's "Nature of the Judicial Process," and I was able to follow the key themes of both books and reconsider them as I worked through the first year curriculum. I didn't draw the same things I would have drawn from them if I had read them after the first year, but I nevertheless drew things of value from both books.

Posted by: Jake Linford | Jun 4, 2011 10:55:58 AM

Of the books listed under "jurisprudence" that actually have something to do with jurisprudence, I would urge prospective 1Ls to avoid all of them, and ep. the Levi and Llewellyn which will not make any sense until they have had some serious exposure to case law in some basic 1L fields.

Posted by: Brian | Jun 4, 2011 10:16:59 AM

I also found Fischl & Paul's "Getting to Maybe" surprisingly helpful on the mechanics of how to approach and take a law school exam.

Posted by: Jake Linford | Jun 4, 2011 9:20:58 AM

H.W. Perry's Deciding to Decide for extra credit.

Posted by: Patrick Luff | Jun 4, 2011 4:44:34 AM

Elizabeth Mertz's The Language of Law School.

Posted by: Stephen | Jun 4, 2011 1:26:07 AM

I don't know how you can leave Justice Scalia's "A Matter of Interpretation" off of the list?!?!

Posted by: anonn | Jun 4, 2011 1:10:11 AM

I stand by "Bleak House," which I think I mentioned on the pre-bar reading list thread, probably mistaking it for a pre-law-school reading thread. It's funny, you learn a little about British law, and you will forever look askance at anyone who claims something will happen "because of the Coase theorem."

Also, it's fun to read and it's not directly related to the law school experience or anything you'll learn in law school, which is a plus, because of course you could read *nothing* the summer before law school, spend the entire three months watching crummy TV and movies and going swimming, and still be totally fine once law school started.

Posted by: Sarah L. | Jun 3, 2011 11:37:30 PM

I'd just read the bramble bush twice.

Posted by: dave hoffman | Jun 3, 2011 11:35:56 PM

I read Ellickson's Order Without Law as a pre-1L, and think in retrospect that it was very helpful in preparing to think about where and when law matters most in ordering human society, and where and when it might matter less.

Posted by: Jake Linford | Jun 3, 2011 10:27:51 PM

Uh-oh- I've only read seven of these. At least I have one more year to catch up on my assigned reading before starting law school. Thanks for the list!

Posted by: Future 1L | Jun 3, 2011 10:21:16 PM

Dan - I'd recommend "Picking Cotton" a nonfiction book involving a mistaken eyewitness identification and how DNA ultimately exonerated the man mistakenly convicted for rape, Ronald Cotton. One of the good things about it is that the police and prosecutors in this case (unlike too many others sadly) didn't stonewall or attempt to defend the original prosecution once it was revealed that it was a mistake. The book is co-written by the victim and the wrongly accused and offers a great look at how wrongful convictions can take place, hazards of cross-racial identifications, how investigators can (in good faith) develop tunnel vision about a particular suspect to the neglect of alternative theories, how a victim can be absolutely "sure" about an identification and a "good" witness yet be terribly wrong and investigates some of the ways we can reform the system to minimize such errors in the future. It is a quick and easy read but really gripping and inspiring.

Posted by: trp | Jun 3, 2011 10:12:18 PM

Antigone (Sophocles).

Posted by: Lyrissa | Jun 3, 2011 9:23:29 PM

I do believe you've misclassified the Buffalo Creek book.

Posted by: Jason W. | Jun 3, 2011 8:01:48 PM

Yeah. Read "Taking Rights Seriously." That'll help.

Posted by: anoninla | Jun 3, 2011 7:06:54 PM

I kind of feel that 1Ls should just relax and enjoy the "calm before the storm" that is law school.

Posted by: Stephanie | Jun 3, 2011 7:03:17 PM

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