Lat's Legal Library (07.2022): Conservatives, Cancel Culture, And Copyright, Oh My
If you're looking for new books to tackle during these final few weeks of summer, I've got you covered.
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In “There’s More Than One Way To Ban A Book,” former Times Book Review editor Pamela Paul writes about the different ways that the right and the left go about squelching books these days. The right will pass laws to ban certain types of books, or it will work through school or town boards to get books pulled from libraries. In contrast, the left will use its power over the publishing industry to make sure that certain books never see the light of day.
That said, books by conservatives can and do get published. They just tend to get published by niche publishers who specialize in conservative books, as opposed to big mainstream publishers (which used to publish conservatives in years past). The conservative publishers might not give out equally lavish advances, enjoy the same prestige, or have the same marketing resources as the so-called “Big Five” trade publishers, but they’re still capable of getting books out into the world.
In this latest edition of Lat’s Legal Library (“LLL”), in which I spotlight (typically ten) noteworthy new books about or related to the law, several of the books are by conservatives, take conservative positions, or touch on the “cancel culture” that conservatives criticize. Let’s turn to the titles:
The Nation That Never Was: Reconstructing America's Story, by Kermit Roosevelt III. Histories of the United States tend to fixate on the Founding and the Founding Fathers. In his latest book, Professor Kim Roosevelt of Penn Law puts Reconstruction and the Fourteenth Amendment front and center: “Our ideals were not handed down by the men who created the America of 1776. Instead, these ideals were articulated in reaction to the oppression and exclusion of that America, and fought for in large part by the people who were excluded.” According to Publishers Weekly, “Astute textual analysis, careful historical research, and a deep commitment to social justice make this an inspiring reexamination of America’s past.”
Classified: The Untold Story of Racial Classification in America Hardcover, by David E. Bernstein. The horrific history of race discrimination in the United States lies at the heart of Classified, the newest book by Professor David Bernstein of Scalia Law. Based on a comprehensive review of the history of racial classifications in U.S. law, Bernstein argues that they are “arbitrary and inconsistent, both in how they are defined and how they are enforced.” Washington Post columnist George F. Will praises Classified as “a lucid explanation of the long and tangled intersection of racial classifications and the law,” marked by “intellectual boldness and clarity.”
Created Equal: Clarence Thomas in His Own Words, by Michael Pack and Mark Paoletta. Over the years, on issues from race and the law to the right to bear arms, Justice Clarence Thomas has been a major voice in American jurisprudence—whether you agree with him or not. In Created Equal, a follow-up book to the 2020 documentary of the same name, documentarian Michael Pack and conservative lawyer Mark Paoletta share the contents of dozens of hours of one-on-one interviews with Justice Thomas, recounting his journey from a childhood of poverty in the segregated South to service as one of the most influential justices on the Supreme Court today.
Good Arguments: How Debate Teaches Us to Listen and Be Heard, by Bo Seo. The folks who tried to get Justice Thomas fired from his teaching position at GW Law could benefit from reading Good Arguments. Harvard Law student Bo Seo, a two-time world champion debater, explains how the skills of competitive debate—which include listening carefully to your adversaries, not trying to shut them down—can enrich our daily lives and civic discourse. Bestselling author and Wharton professor Adam Grant calls Good Arguments “a user manual for our polarized world,” while Kirkus commends it as “a useful reflection on how to disagree, especially important in toxic times.”
The Price of Principle: Why Integrity Is Worth the Consequences, by Alan Dershowitz. Retired Harvard Law professor Alan Dershowitz loves a good debate—but laments in this, his fiftieth book, that today people prefer “canceling” their opponents over debating them. Today, he argues, “principled people are punished for not being sufficiently partisan. Principle has become the vice and partisanship the virtue.” Professor Nadine Strossen, former president of the ACLU, has had many disagreements with Dershowitz over the years, but she “respect[s] the fact that his positions reflect his understanding of constitutional law and civil liberties principles, which he applies consistently, regardless of the identities or ideologies involved in particular situations.”
Criminal (In)Justice: What the Push for Decarceration and Depolicing Gets Wrong and Who It Hurts Most, by Rafael A. Mangual. Like Dershowitz, Rafael Mangual, a senior fellow at the Manhattan Institute, isn’t afraid to challenge progressive orthodoxy. In Criminal (In)Justice, he argues that the costs of certain criminal-justice reforms are “borne disproportionately by the relative handful of communities—often with largely low-income, minority populations—already struggling with elevated levels of crime.” According to former U.S. attorney general Bill Barr, Mangual’s book is an “admirable and highly informed departure from the conventional wisdom about criminal justice in the United States,” as well as “required reading for those concerned about public safety.”
American Cartel: Inside the Battle to Bring Down the Opioid Industry, by Scott Higham and Sari Horwitz. The $4.25 billion opioids settlement announced this week by Teva Pharmaceuticals reminds us that the opioid crisis is not just a national tragedy, but major legal news—because the story of the opioid epidemic is a story of litigation. Reviewing American Cartel in the Washington Post, Bethany McLean lauds this “powerful” book for the authors’ “fresh and important” perspective—which reveals both the power and limits of the law in addressing societal problems.
Exit Path: How to Win the Startup End Game, by Touraj Parang. Anyone can launch a startup; not everyone can successfully exit. In Exit Path, corporate lawyer turned entrepreneur Touraj Parang—an alum of Yale Law School (where we were classmates), Wilson Sonsini, and O’Melveny & Myers—shares insights and advice on exits, based on decades of experience in Silicon Valley as a lawyer, founder, investor, and adviser. Bestselling author Chris Yeh describes Exit Path as “an end-to-end blueprint on how great businesses achieve great exits.”
Look Closer, by David Ellis. Since 2014, David Ellis has been a justice of the Illinois Appellate Court for the First District. Despite the demands of his day job, Justice Ellis is also the award-winning author of 10 novels of crime fiction, as well as eight books co-authored with James Patterson. Ellis’s latest novel, Look Closer, tells the story of a wealthy Chicago couple, a respected law professor married to an advocate for domestic violence victims, with dark secrets. Reviewing the book for the New York Times, Sarah Weinman proclaims it “wildly entertaining.” August is a popular month for vacation, so if you need a good beach read, Look Closer might be just what you’re looking for.
Fractured Power, by Stephen McGuire. Another lawyer and judge turned novelist, Stephen McGuire turned to fiction writing after more than three decades in the legal trenches, including service as the Chief Administrative Law Judge of the Federal Trade Commission. Fractured Power, a psychological thriller featuring a Tennessee district attorney pursuing a serial killer, is his second novel; his debut, Prior Restraint, came out last year.
In addition to these ten titles, the latest additions to Lat’s Legal Library, here’s a bonus book—which you don’t even need to pay for:
Copyright Law: Cases and Materials, by Jeanne C. Fromer and Christopher Jon Sprigman. In an age of spiraling casebook costs, NYU law professors Jeanne Fromer and Chris Sprigman should be commended for writing a copyright textbook that’s available for free download under a Creative Commons license. But if you’d like to support this worthy endeavor, you can order a copy on Amazon (as I recently did).
When I bring you the next installment of LLL near the end of September, fall will be underway. As always, I welcome your nominations, but please note the timeframe: the book should be a title actually published in August or September, not a former or forthcoming one. I maintain this temporal limitation because the number of law-related books I could possibly recommend would be overwhelming otherwise. If there’s a law-related book outside this timeframe that you’d like to mention, please feel free to give it a shoutout in the comments. Thanks, and happy reading!
Disclosure: All links to books in this post are Amazon affiliate links, which means that if you buy a book after clicking on a link, I receive a (very) small fee from Amazon.
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