Faculty Share Summer Reading Picks

Book covers
June 7, 2019

Looking for a good book to read on vacation and before classes begin? Check out these suggestions from faculty and alumni at the University of Virginia School of Law.

Darryl BrownDarryl K. Brown ’90

O. M. Vicars Professor of Law
Barron F. Black Research Professor of Law

Bearskin coverI recently read the Edgar Prize-winning novel “Bearskin” by Jim McLaughlin, a Virginia native (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.

Jon CannonThe Overstory coverJonathan Cannon

Blaine T. Phillips Distinguished Professor of Environmental Law
Hunton & Williams Professor of Law
Director, Environmental and Land Use Law Program

“The Overstory,” by Richard Powers.

Deborah HellmanDeborah Hellman

Weapons of Math Destruction coverDavid Lurton Massee, Jr., Professor of Law
Roy L. and Rosamond Woodruff Morgan Professor of Law

“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 JaffeCale Jaffe ’01

Assistant Professor of Law, General Faculty
Director, Environmental and Regulatory Law Clinic

Autumn coverFor 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 KimAnnie Kim ’99

Assistant Dean for Public Service
Director, Mortimer Caplin Public Service Center

Tragic Sense coverThe 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.

Doug LaycockHow Democracies Die coverDouglas Laycock

Robert E. Scott Distinguished Professor of Law
Professor of Religious Studies

“How Democracies Die,” by Steven Levitsky and Daniel Ziblatt, and the [Robert] Mueller [’73] report.

Dayna MatthewDayna Bowen Matthew ’86

William L. Matheson and Robert M. Morgenthau Distinguished Professor of Law
F. Palmer Weber Research Professor of Civil Liberties and Human Rights
Professor of Public Health Sciences

Democracy in America cover“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.

Chokehold cover“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 RobinsonMildred W. Robinson

Frederick Douglass coverHenry L. and Grace Doherty Charitable Foundation Professor of Law

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

Micah SchwartzmanMicah Schwartzman ’05

Constantine's Sword coverJoseph W. Dorn Research Professor of Law
Director, Karsh Center for Law and Democracy

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

Paul StephanPaul B. Stephan ’77

John C. Jeffries, Jr., Distinguished Professor of Law
John V. Ray Research Professor of Law

Churchill coverI 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 by 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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