A Civil Action

By Jonathan Harr,

Book cover of A Civil Action

Book description

The story of a lawyer's battle to win compensation from two of America's largest industrial giants. He fought on behalf of 21 families whose lives were wrecked by illness and death due to the alleged poisoning of their town well. This case became renowned in American legal history.

Shepherd is reader supported. When you buy books, we may earn an affiliate commission.

Why read it?

4 authors picked A Civil Action as one of their favorite books. Why do they recommend it?

Civil lawsuits often get second-billing to criminal cases, but this book about a case of mass environmental contamination in a small town in Massachusetts one has all the traits of a legal thriller: an astonishing injustice, stunning twists and turns, and enormous consequences for all involved.

More than once, I gasped while reading this, and it’s one of the few books I ever re-read. This has since become a major-release movie (starring John Travolta), but the book is even better.

From Elie's list on making the law come to life.

This gripping true story of a water contamination lawsuit in Woburn, Massachusetts highlights the best our legal system can be. (Yes, I made an exception for non-fiction here, but only because it was assigned reading in law school. But it reads like a novel, I promise.) After her child is diagnosed with leukemia, Anne Anderson realizes the cancer cluster among her neighbors is caused by contamination of the town's water supply. She convinces a lawyer, Jan Schlichtmann, to take on the case when he discovers that several nearby factories are responsible for the pollution. In taking on the case against…

From Aimee's list on activism to inspire and mobilize.

From To Kill a Mockingbird to A Time to Kill to A Few Good Men, the courtroom drama is modern America’s version of Greek theater. Who doesn’t relish rooting for the underdog, witnessing a masterful cross-examination, or watching a team of legal gunslingers take down a maleficent corporation? Jonathan Harr’s A Civil Action offers all of that high-octane drama in a unique package: every word of the story is true. I read the book in college, and it inspired me to go to law school. A Civil Action has the brisk pacing and rich characterization of a novel,…

I recommended this book because it demonstrates how difficult it can be to obtain civil justice even in seemingly obvious cases of environmental harm.  Residents of Centralia, to hark back to that story, worked with a skilled (and pro bono) Washington law firm which, try as it did, could not find a likely road to win damages for them. While the book favors the cause of justice, Harr does not spare Schlichtman from exposure of his personal faults. A Civil Action is almost a primer on the litigation process, and is said to be taught in some law schools.…

From David's list on environmental catastrophes.

Want books like A Civil Action?

Our community of 11,000+ authors has personally recommended 77 books like A Civil Action.

Browse books like A Civil Action

5 book lists we think you will like!

Interested in Boston, pollution, and Massachusetts?

11,000+ authors have recommended their favorite books and what they love about them. Browse their picks for the best books about Boston, pollution, and Massachusetts.

Boston Explore 185 books about Boston
Pollution Explore 25 books about pollution
Massachusetts Explore 139 books about Massachusetts