Law Faculty Members Share Summer Reading Picks

Looking for a good book to read on vacation and before classes begin?

Here are a few suggestions from faculty members and alumni at the University of Virginia School of Law.

Check it out.

Darryl K. Brown

I recently read the Edgar Prize-winning novel “Bearskin” by Jim McLaughlin, a native of Virginia (where the novel is set) and UVA Law Class of 1990 alumnus.

I’m midway through Emily Bazelon’s excellent new book, “Charged: The New Movement to Transform American Prosecution and End Mass Incarceration,” an insightful investigation into the U.S. criminal justice system with a focus on reform-minded prosecutors who are trying to change law enforcement practice with more humane, less-draconian policies.

Jonathan Cannon

“The Overstory,” by Richard Powers. 

Deborah Hellman

“American Prison: A Reporter's Undercover Journey Into the Business of Punishment,” by Shane Bauer and “Weapons of Math Destruction: How Big Data Increases Inequality and Threatens Democracy,” by Cathy O’Neil. 

Cale Jaffe

For summer reading I would highly recommend “Autumn,” by Ali Smith. It came out in 2016 and, as a work of fiction set in England, does an incredible job of capturing the challenges of the current political moment (Brexit is prominent in the background of the story). It is also beautifully told with quiet and uncommonly good characters.

Annie Kim

The main thing I’m reading is the English translation of Miguel de Unamuno’s “The Tragic Sense of Life,” written in 1913 – a brilliant, personal, uneven, passionate, philosophical “treatise” about the difficulty of being human. The contradictions of faith, the hunger for immortality, inevitable conflicts between the heart and reason.

Douglas Laycock

“How Democracies Die,” by Steven Levitsky and Daniel Ziblatt, and the [Robert] Mueller report.

Dayna Bowen Matthew

“Dying of Whiteness: How the Politics of Racial Resentment Is Killing America’s Heartland,” by Jonathan M. Metzl.

“Democracy in America,” by Alexis de Tocqueville.

“Remaking America: Democracy and Public Policy in an Age of Inequality,” by Joe Soss.

“Democracy Matters: Winning the Fight Against Imperialism,” by Cornel West.

“Stamped From the Beginning: The Definitive History of Racist Ideas in America,” by Ibram X. Kendi.

“Chokehold: Policing Black Men,” by Paul Butler.

“Policing the Black Man: Arrest, Prosecution, and Imprisonment,” edited by Angela Davis.

“The Nightingale,” by Kristin Hannah. 

Mildred W. Robinson

“Frederick Douglass: Prophet of Freedom,” by David W. Blight.

Micah Schwartzman

“The Great Persuasion: Reinventing Free Markets Since the Depression,” by Angus Burgin, and “Constantine’s Sword: The Church and the Jews, A History,” by James Carroll.

Paul B. Stephan

I am reading Roy Jenkins’ biography of Winston Churchill, called “Churchill: A Biography.” A wonderful book by a person who knew quite a bit about English politics himself. Far superior to the recently published Andrew Roberts book on the same subject, which is verbose and petty. I also enjoyed Peter Frankopan’s “The Silk Roads: A New History of the World,” not to be confused with Frankopan’s new book with a similar title.

The 2015 work provides an excellent introduction to the history of the world that concentrates on the area between Constantinople/Istanbul and Beijing, a space of great interest about which too many Americans know too little. The last chapter is disappointingly conventional, but the rest is a tour de force.


Find more suggestions for reading — including books by faculty and alumni — on UVA Law’s GoodReads page.

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