Stanford Law School Faculty Summer 2016 Reading List

Looking for the perfect summer read? Stanford Law faculty offer up their recommendations.


  1. Photo: Linda A. Cicero / Stanford News Service
  2. Gregory Ablavsky, assistant professor of law, recommends Saltwater Frontier: Indians and the Contest for the American Coast by Andrew Lipman:
  3. "This prize-winning, highly readable history uses innovative sources to present a fresh account of the colonization of New England that emphasizes the role of Native peoples as mariners and seafarers."
  4. Michelle Wilde Anderson, Professor of Law and Robert E.Paradise Faculty Fellow for Excellence in Teaching and Research, recommends Evicted: Poverty and Profit in the American City by Matthew Desmond:
  5. “I have a couch in my living room that is now marked indelibly with my memory of finishing the last 100 pages of Evicted by sociologist Matthew Desmond. It was 1:00 am as I turned the final page. Though there were tracks of tears down my face to be sure, my memory of finishing that book is not one of heavy sadness. I felt the weight, but also the beauty, of the human condition: our cruelty, resilience, pride, creativity,selfishness, vulnerability. I ached with sorrow for the families he wrote about, but even more so I admired them and let them teach me.

    Meanwhile, Desmond is a teacher too—his readers will learn just about every major housing issue of our times without even noticing how much they're learning. A paragraph or two of teaching are sprinkled here and there in a page-turning rush of humanistic reporting. This book is art, and that art is the professoriate at its best.

    The book describes individual experiences with housing loss and insecurity in Milwaukee. Because the city has a weak housing market, SLS alums who live in strong market regions like Silicon Valley and New York may think this book is not for them. On the contrary, this book is for all of us. Evicted is the best possible way to learn that housing insecurity is not about absolute rent levels (the question of whether average rents are $600 per month or $2,000), but rather rents relative to wages and incomes. If a person's rent is only $100 but she doesn't have that much, she will still lose her home. And once a person is sucked into the vortex of serial housing displacement, it is very hard to get a job and impossible to keep children stable in school.

    Desmond's once-in-a-generation book about American poverty will teach you in the most vivid terms what has made his academic empirical work so legendary:that eviction is now both an epidemic and an industry. It is a driver of poverty, not just a symptom of it. As Desmond's subjects tumble through your thoughts long after you finish this book, they will show you, not tell you, why "housing first" is now a prevailing idea of anti-poverty work.

    So don't be worried that this book is long, because you'll fly through it. Don't procrastinate from reading it because it's sad, when in fact it's much more powerful than that. Instead, let Matt Desmond give you your own house keys, as if for the first time. He made me notice how I have a ceiling to keep the cold out, a floor to hold up a bed to rest my mind at night, and lockable doors to keep my family tucked in. He even made me appreciate my couch—a place to read magnificent books like this one. We have much work to do to help other people enjoy those same basic foundations for stability and safety. As a person and as a parent, I am grateful for this mighty book. It is of and for our times.”
  6. Barbara Babcock, Judge John Crown Professor of Law, emerita, recommends Stoner by John Williams and Sharing the Work: What My Family and Career Taught Me About Breaking Through (and Holding the Doors Open for Others) by Myra Strober:
  7. Stoner: A beautifully written story of a college professor's life at a big state university. I've been hearing about this book for a long time and this year a close friend gave me a copy saying she knew I would love it. And she was right.

    Sharing the Work: An interesting memoir about the long road from a Brooklyn childhood to Stanford professor. She was appointed in 1972, first woman in the business school the same year as I in the law school. Our lives have overlapped at many other points so her stories have almost a personal interest for me. But I think anyone connected to Stanford, and to the women's movement would enjoy this excellent read.”
  8. Ralph Richard Banks, Jackson Eli Reynolds Professor of Law, recommends Growing Up by Russell Baker:
  9. “A memoir from the longtime New York Times columnist, describing his childhood during a time that now seems so far away yet, through this prose, so immediate.”
  10. Rabia Belt, assistant professor of law, recommends Parable of the Sower by Octavia Butler:
  11. "This rip-roaring yarn set in post-apocalyptic America has interesting overtones for our current political situation."
  12. Paul Brest, former dean and professor emeritus, recommends Spain in Our Hearts: Americans in the Spanish Civil War, 1936-1939 by Adam Hochschild.
  13. Richard Craswell, professor of law, recommends A Man Called Ove by Frederick Backman.
  14. John Donohue, C. Wendell and Edith M. Carlsmith Professor of Law, recommends The Last Lion: Winston Spencer Churchill by William Manchester and Paul Reid:
  15. “I am about half-way through the three-volume William Manchester biography of Winston Churchill (he just turned65 in 1939 to place where I am in the story), which is a truly amazing book in terms of the quality of the writing and the character and events it explores. The story of Neville Chamberlain is a cautionary tale for academics because it starkly reveals how a highly intelligent, educated public official who is both well-intentioned and well-informed can pursue policies that while popular and widely praised at first prove to be disastrous for the world. The prescience of the amazing Churchill illustrates at least one case in which a solitary and largely derided opinion proved to be the correct one.”