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Most days, it’s hard enough to get to the news. Yet many people still find time to curl up with a good book or two, judging from our informal survey. Legal Times asked a range of legal readers to name the best book they read in 2007. Some of our book lovers went right for fiction, while others couldn’t resist naming one or more of the Supreme Court-themed books that appeared this year. Our own Supreme Court correspondent, Tony Mauro, also weighs in on his top legal picks.
• Reid Weingarten, partner at Steptoe & Johnson Bridge of Sighs by Richard Russo — I loved Empire Falls, and this follows naturally from that tale. It’s amazing how he takes a small-town setting and creates a rich, cover-the-human-condition universe. • David Lat, blogger at Above the Law Supreme Conflict, by Jan Crawford Greenburg, and The Nine, by Jeffrey Toobin — Greenburg offers a masterful analysis of how the justices got to One First Street; Toobin provides a fascinating, behind-the-scenes look at what happens once they get there. These books are major contributions to the literature surrounding one of our country’s most powerful and secretive institutions. • Tefft Smith, partner at Kirkland & Ellis Einstein: His Life and Universe by Walter Isaacson — I knew of Einstein but had never read anything about his fascinating (and complicated) private life, let alone understood anything about his generalized theory of relativity. I found this great book to be inspiring as well as providing — for me — insights about life, living, and dying, and his many contributions to modern physics and astronomy. I was moved by Einstein’s long quest for a unified field theory, explaining all the laws of physics governing the cosmos, and how all Einstein’s brilliant insights tied into his core personal faith in the God of his understanding. • Nina Appel, dean emeritus of Loyola University Chicago School of Law The Years of Extermination: Nazi Germany and the Jews, 1939-1945 by Saul Friedlander might top the list, though very depressing. On a somewhat lighter note, Agent ZigZag: A True Story of Nazi Espionage, Love, and Betrayal by Ben Macintyre. • Mark Leventhal, founder of Leventhal Weight Loss Inc., weight-loss coach for attorneys You On A Diet by Michael F. Roizen and Mehmet C. Oz is my favorite book of 2007 because it is chock-full of important information. You can’t practice law effectively without your health. This book teaches what needs to be done to maintain or restore your health. • Ronald K.L. Collins, scholar at the First Amendment Center This is a tough call, but the one I think I like best is Alan Dershowitz’s Finding Jefferson: A Lost Letter, A Remarkable Discovery, and the First Amendment in an Age of Terrorism. A fascinating discovery, this July 3, 1801, letter by Thomas Jefferson provides the historical backdrop for a lively and thoughtful discussion of the limits of free speech in wartime. It is a provocative book in the best sense of the word. I found it to be an historical treat, a cerebral delight, and an all-around well-told story…with a lesson. • Mary Kennard, general counsel of American University The Adventures of Tom Sawyer, because it takes me back to my youth — when life was fun, sun, and carefree. Mr. Twain’s wry humor is timeless. • Hilary Bruggen Fordwich, president of Strelmark, business development consultant The On-Purpose Person: Making Your Life Make Sense by Kevin McCarthy — a readable, quick approach to becoming more effective, efficient, and fulfilled. • David Garrow, senior fellow at the University of Cambridge Asking a historian to pick his “favorite” book of the year is more complicated than you might think. The most important book I’ve read this year — one that will still be widely quoted and cited 25 years from now — is without a doubt Justice Clarence Thomas’ My Grandfather’s Son. It’s a powerful, intensely self-critical, and emotionally revealing memoir, utterly unlike any other book ever authored by a justice. But the best book I read in 2007 was without a doubt Jan Crawford Greenburg’s Supreme Conflict. Unlike some other “inside the Court” books, it’s aggressively reported, thoroughly researched, and features savvy and well-informed judgments rather than flippant put-downs and partisan editorializing. Anyone who wants to read one book on today’s Court, not four, needs to get Greenburg’s. • Judith Sandalow, executive director of the Children’s Law Center Jason Fforde’s The Eyre Affair and the rest of the books in the “Thursday Next” series are my pick for best books of the year. They were a silly, witty literary respite from the serious reality of 2007. I’m a Fforde addict and have devoured all four books in the series. Perfect for anyone who loves the English classics. • Ann Althouse, blogger and University of Wisconsin law professor My favorite reading experience this year was walking around New York City and listening to the audio version of Eric Clapton’s autobiography [ Clapton: The Autobiography] and then going directly into the audiobook of Alan Greenspan’s autobiography [ The Age of Turbulence: Adventures in a New World]. I loved the Clapton-Greenspan segue. Like Clapton, Greenspan found his first grounding in life in music. Clapton, the better musician, proceeded into the creative, destructive, disordered life of sex, drugs, and rock ‘n’ roll. Greenspan got far enough down the musical path to play alongside Stan Getz, but he packed up his clarinet and moved into a brilliantly orderly life observing the creative destruction of capitalism. Now, as I continue to walk the streets of the city, the street corners keep reminding me of rock ‘n’ roll, economics, and the delightful company of Eric and Alan. • George Foote, partner at Bracewell & Giuliani Despite some fun Clive Cussler reads on airplanes, I will name The Road by Cormac McCarthy as the best book I read in 2007. It wins for craftsmanship because it seemed more carved than written. It could serve as a writing seminar for lawyers. Of course, the post-apocalyptic theme wouldn’t work so well in an FCC filing. • Kate Michelman, former head of NARAL Pro-Choice America It is hard to single out one work out of the many literary moments over the past year, so I settled on two works which I found most compelling. The first is a novel by Robert Stone — Damascus Gate — which I had for a number of years but had not yet read. The current Israeli-Palestinian situation seemed the perfect context in which to experience this great work. It is deeply moving, powerfully written, and intellectually compelling in its profound revelation of the conflicted human soul. The second work is Jeffrey Toobin’s very fine portrait of the Supreme Court, The Nine. I found it to be insightful, commanding, and thorough. In my opinion it is a very important work that helps us understand the influences on the justices and their judicial opinions and the impact of those decisions on our lives. The next president will most likely have the opportunity to shape the Court for generations to come. Toobin’s analysis provides a vital understanding of the importance of this power of the presidency. • Mark Tushnet, William Nelson Cromwell Professor of Law at Harvard Law School Intuition by Allegra Goodman — The book has realistic characters dealing with a realistically presented problem of professional ethics. • Samuel D. Hodge Jr., Temple University law professor and author of Anatomy for Litigators I like to immerse myself in mystery novels as an outlet, and this year’s best is Dirty Blonde by Lisa Scottoline. The book is about a newly appointed federal judge who cannot stay out of trouble in both her personal and professional lives. These two worlds then collide in a murder-suicide involving a defendant in a recent trial she heard. The criminal investigation points a finger at the judge because of certain indiscretions she has committed with her sexual partners while on the bench. The book is a fun read because of its suspense and law background.

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