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Suggested Summer Reading List

first-year orientation

In answer to the oft-asked question, "What should I read to prepare for  law school?", here are some BC Law faculty recommendations.

- "It's old, but it is a classic for a reason: Karl Llewllyn's, The Bramble Bush."

- "Crime and Punishment might be something to think about, and there is always War and Peace.  They would hype the enrollment for criminal law and international law."

 -"Jn. Harr, A Civil Action (Random House, 1995), a beautifully-written narrative revealing some of the bright and dark spots of the legal system's attempts to bring justice to a low-income community battered by chemical contamination in a context where scientific facts are uncertain or controversial."

Barbara Kingsolver, Pigs in Heaven, an engaging novel that brings the reader to weigh compellingly human balances involving Native American community economics, child welfare, and considerations of cultural as opposed to individual rights.

Barbara Kingsolver, Poisonwood Bible, an engaging novel that forces readers to consider deep questions of cultural relativity and world politics, as well as a gripping story of innocents abroad in the deep recesses of the Congo."

- "Back in the olden days (1958), Harvard Law School used to send out such a summer reading list to accepted students.  All I remember from that list (because I read it) was "The Oxbow Incident."  You might want to think about that.

I always liked the Catherine Drinker Bowen books, but maybe they are dated and the figures too idealized for today's students.  I'll try to think of others."

- "Strunk and White's, "The Elements of Style," would be very useful, but also very boring."(Note from Liz Rosselot, the Karen Gordon books: e.g. The Well-Tempered Sentence, Torn Wings and Faux Pas, the Disheveled Dictionary and The Deluxe Transitive Vampire, are also very useful, and not boring at all).

- "Gideon's Trumpet by Anthony Lewis is always an inspiring read for new law students."

-"Karl Llewelyn's The Bramble Bush about law, legal process and legal education was our intro reading way back when."
- "duncan kennedy, legal education and the reproduction of hierarchy

--duncan's book is THE best book on usa legal education since jerome frank's law and the modern mind.  It is also a good cure for the depression and disillusionment that sometimes happens to progressive leftist types when they experience the first year curriculum.--

jerome frank, law and the modern mind
--see above--

patricia williams, alchemy of race and rights
--every student interested in the color line and law should read this book.  it is a bestseller and ought, frankly, to be taught in the first year.--

derrick bell, and we are not saved
--he is the most important constitutional scholar of our time--

derrick bell, faces at the bottom of the well"


-"At most, I'd tell students to read one or 2 great books so as to peak their enthusiasm about the 1L adventure without contaminating their summer with premature angst. 

My personal recommendation would be Harper Lee's "To Kill a Mockingbird."  I just finished reading it this past weekend while pretending to help my son with school work (when, in reality, I was simply avoiding AM2 grading). I have always loved the book, but got so much more out of it this time.

In addition to the sheer beauty of its language and story, I recommend it highly for its insights about the justice system's - and, indeed, society's - treatment of groups lacking in power & access (e.g., racial minorities, women, children, the impoverished, the disabled, etc.), the enduring frictions between integrity & pragmatism / process & expedience, the uses and abuses of the legal system, as well as the role of swimming upstream over long periods of time to secure infinitesimal victories.

I am sure that most people read it in middle school or high school, but I'd urge incoming students to re-read it.  It is both incredibly enjoyable and heart-wrenching and, most importantly for the entering student, thought-provoking and inspiring."


- "I think that over the summer an admitted student would do well to read a sample of each of the three major traditions which have created our legal system:

   First, the Jewish.  I recommend Genesis Exodus, and I Samuel 8.

   Second, the Roman, I recommend Cicero, On the Laws, Book One.

   Third, the medieval synthesis, especially as developed in England.  I recommend Peter Ackroyd, Life of Thomas More (1999)."