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The Supreme Court: A Recommended Reading List

Sonia Sotomayor has engaged with the public and raised awareness of the Supreme Court in a country where two-thirds of its resident cannot name at least one of the justices. Sotomayor's emergence into the public sphere was not easy; questions by the Senate Judiciary Committee over a comment she made about being a "wise Latina," only solidified her public persona. Yes, she is Latina, she is a woman, and she is from the Bronx.

Her memoir, "My Beloved World," is a love letter to her upbringing. Sotomayor reveals personal memories such as the death of her father when she was nine, her Type-1 diabetes diagnosis, her close relationship with her grandmother, and the many instances her loud, flamboyant personality got her into trouble. Her memoir ends when she got nominated to be a federal district judge.

We've compiled a reading list that will allow you to explore what the life of a judge could be like after that point. Find the books are you local bookstore:


"The Brethren: Inside the Supreme Court"
Bob Woodward and Scott Armstrong

Although the book covered the court from 1969 to 1975, it is a great start for anyone interested in learning about how justices worked together back in the days when the highest court in the land was made up of only men. Woodward reveals the justices to be engaging, with information gathered from interviews with previous law clerks, court opinions, and interviews with the justices themselves.


"The Nine: Inside the Secret World of the Supreme Court"
Jeffrey Toobin

For a more recent look at the court, Jeffrey Toobin's book is a revealing portrait of the court during the presidency of George W. Bush. The book not only described proceedings and fights around important cases, but made the argument that the court was moving to the right, with Chief Justice Roberts and Justice Scalia leading the way.



"Becoming Justice Blackmun: Harry Blackmun's Supreme Court Journey"
Linda Greenhouse

Linda Greenhouse's judicial biography of Justice Blackmun is an essential read for people interested in reproductive rights and Roe v. Wade. As the author of one of the most controversial opinions in court history, Justice Blackmun became a hero for the feminist movement and a foe for those trying end abortion. The book reveals how a justice can change and grow while in the court. Blackmun, who started out being a reliable conservative judge, would have never imagined that in 1973, three years after joining the court, he would move to the left, and write the groundbreaking opinion.


"The Majesty of the Law: Reflections of a Supreme Court Justice"
Sandra Day O'Connor

As the first woman on the court, Sandra Day O'Connor is a hero to many. In her memoir, the justice recounts the many obstacles that she had to overcome, first as a student, and then as a lawyer. Breaking every glass ceiling she found in her way, O'Connor famously refused to settle for a receptionist job after graduating on the top of her class at Stanford University. In her book, O'Connor not only looks back, but reflects on the role of the courts and its impact.



"Five Chiefs: A Supreme Court Memoir"
John Paul Stevens

Stevens, the most recent justice to leave the court, served 34 years, making the bow-tie wearing judge the third longest serving member in history. His long tenure and expansive legal career gave him an unprecedented look at the working of the court. He worked under five chief justices: Fred Vinson, Earl Warren, Warren Burger, William Rehnquist, and current Chief Justice John Roberts. The book looks back at his interactions with the chief justices, as a lawyer, district judge, and associate justice on the Supreme Court.


"Justice for All: Earl Warren and the Nation He Made"
Jim Newton

Chief Justice Earl Warren was in the court from 1953 to 1969, but before that he was Attorney General in California, and later, the Governor. Through his research, using academic and private documents, Jim Newton brings to light Warren's struggles and accomplishments during his tenure; from Brown v. Board of Education, to Miranda v. Arizona.


"Thurgood Marshall: American Revolutionary"
Juan Williams

As the first African-American member of the court, Thurgood Marshall broke a lot of barriers, working his whole career to promote social justice and affirmative actions. Juan Williams looks back at Marshall's life, first at the chief counsel of the NAACP, Solicitor General, and finally as Supreme Court Justice from 1967 to 1991. Williams argues in his book that Marshall's contributions to society might have a bigger impact than those of other civil rights leaders, due to the nature of his work as a lawmaker.


"Brown v. Board of Education: A Civil Rights Milestone and Its Troubled Legacy"
James T. Patterson

Historian James T. Patterson looks back at the history of the civil rights case Brown. v. Board of Education and its troubled implementation. The book looks into questions such as, what segregation is, the benefits of integration, and the real-life consequences of the court ruling. Patterson's book brings forth voices from before the landmark case, to supporters and opponents fifty years after the ruling.


"My Grandfather's Son"
Clarence Thomas

Justice Clarence Thomas is in many ways the opposite of Justice Sonia Sotomayor. Whereas Sotomayor embraces affirmative action and regards it as a system that help her succeed, Justice Thomas believes that affirmative action hurt him more than it helped. In his memoir, Justice Thomas looks back and recounts his story of perseverance against poverty, racism, and injustice. As a reliable conservative judge on the court, and one of it's least outspoken, Justice Thomas is a figure that is of interest to many.


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