Winter Reads: SLS Faculty Picks

Looking for some winter reading suggestions? Stanford Law School faculty offer up a few recommendations to get you through the cold winter months.


  1. The Sympathetic State: Disaster Relief and the Origins of the American Welfare State by Michele Landis Dauber

    "The Sympathetic State, Michele Dauber's brilliant constitutional history of the New Deal. With vivid anecdotes and penetrating analysis, Michele traces the history of federal disaster relief back to the 1790's and uncovers the strategy and tactics of the New Dealers as they located authority for the legislative response to the Great Depression in the power to 'provide for the ... general welfare'  and framed the crisis as a natural disaster. Her comprehensive research (not just the con law notes of the New Dealers, but the con law notes of their professors) reads like a novel."

    Janet Cooper Alexander
    Frederick I. Richman Professor of Law

  2. A Super Sad True Love Story by Gary Shteyngart

    "A Super Sad True Love Story by Gary Shteyngart.  This is a dystopian novel that deserves to be compared to Brave New World or 1984 but is much funnier.  Shteyngart takes every social, economic, or technological trend in our society and carries it just a few steps further--into a terrifying but all too plausible future."

    Michael Asimow

    Visiting Professor of Law

  3. Passionate Minds by David Bodanis
    The Path to Power by Robert Caro (Audio)

    "My favorite was Passionate Minds by David Bodanis, the story of the love affair between Voltaire and Emilie Du Chatelet. It is a biographical page-turner. I like it especially because Gabe Bankman-Fried recommended and loaned it to me. 
    The best book, and wonderfully read, that I listened to was Robert Caro, The Path to Power."
    The Custom of the Sea by Neil Hanson

    "The Custom of the Sea by Neil Hanson is a gripping narrative of the history of cannibalism at sea, focusing on the shipwrecked crew of the Mignonette.  This is the rich and riveting background of Regina v. Dudley and Stephens (1884) commonly taught in criminal law.  In our dinner colloquium, Stanford Law students reversed their view of the case after reading Hanson's account."

    Margaret "Meg" Caldwell 

    Senior Lecturer in Law

  5. An Everlasting Meal: Cooking with Economy and Grace by Tamar Adler
    The Watch by Joydeep Roy-Bhattacharya
    Men We Reaped: A Memoir by Jesmyn Ward
    The Partner Track: A Novel by Helen Wan 

    "Tamar Adler's An Everlasting Meal -- Beautifully written prose about not just cooking but an approach to food and eating (so, therefore, life, yes?) that is simple and quite tasty. 


    Joydeep Roy-Bhattacharya's The Watch -- Written from different perspectives about one platoon's experience in the Kandahar area of Afghanistan when a woman appears wanting the remains of her slain brother.


    Jesmyn Ward's memoir - Men We Reaped - A rumination on our society's willingness to let a generation of young black men die but also a wonderful contemplation of her own family's life in coastal Mississippi. 


    Finally - some "mind candy" - Helen Wan's The Partner Track - A highly humorous though biting fictional depiction of life for an Asian American woman who is a senior associate up for partnership at a major NY law firm.  Quick and amusing and slightly depressing for this Asian American woman who has been a lawyer for almost 25 years."

  6. The Fiery Trial: Abraham Lincoln and American Slavery by Eric Foner 


    The Signal and the Noise: Why So Many Predictions Fail—but Some Don’t by Nate Silver
    Thinking, Fast and Slow by Daniel Kahneman
    Sweet Tooth: A Novel by Ian McEwan
    How it All Began: A Novel by Penelope Lively

    Deborah R. Hensler
     Judge John W. Ford Professor of Dispute Resolution and Associate Dean for Graduate Studies

  8. Poor Economics:  A Radical Rethinking of the Way to Fight Global Poverty, by Abhijit Banerjee and Esther Duflo

     “My favorite this year was Abhijit Banerjee and Esther Duflo’s Poor Economics.  Threading together an incredible body of empirical evidence, this masterfully written piece of non-fiction helps us to understand poverty and its microfoundations.  This accessible, compassionate and lucid narrative draws on virtually every good randomized control trial that relates to the predicament of the poor.  Poor Economics is best book about development economics written in the last three years:  a great book to read on a long-haul flight.  You can skip the last chapter, however; it’s another example of economists writing about politics that comes up short." 

    Erik G. Jensen 

    Professor of the Practice of Law and Director of the Rule of Law Program