The most recommended books on the United States Constitution

Who picked these books? Meet our 12 experts.

12 authors created a book list connected to U.S. Constitution, and here are their favorite U.S. Constitution books.
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Book cover of The American Supreme Court

Gerald N. Rosenberg Author Of The Hollow Hope: Can Courts Bring About Social Change?

From my list on how the U.S. Supreme Court really works.

Why am I passionate about this?

I grew up in the 1960s when the Supreme Court was widely praised in liberal circles for its path-breaking decisions protecting rights. Inspired by this vision of rights through law, I went to law school and then to graduate school, including a couple of years in England where I was confronted with skepticism about the role of courts. Are liberal beliefs about the role of the Supreme Court correct? Can courts really produce progressive social change, not just on paper, but in practice? Most of my research and scholarship addresses these questions that go to the heart of the belief that Supreme Court decisions protecting and furthering rights matter.

Gerald's book list on how the U.S. Supreme Court really works

Gerald N. Rosenberg Why did Gerald love this book?

In just a few hundred pages McCloskey presents an historically focused examination of the conditions under which the Supreme Court succeeds and fails. 

Beautifully written, The American Supreme Court is aimed at an educated general audience. In discussing many of the Court’s most famous decisions it succeeds in demystifying the workings of the Court. First published in 1960, and now in its 6th edition, the book is a classic.

By Robert G. McCloskey, Sanford Levinson,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The American Supreme Court as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

For more than fifty years, Robert G. McCloskey's classic work on the Supreme Court's role in constructing the US Constitution has introduced generations of students to the workings of our nation's highest court.

As in prior editions, McCloskey's original text remains unchanged. In his historical interpretation, he argues that the strength of the Court has always been its sensitivity to the changing political scene, as well as its reluctance to stray too far from the main currents of public sentiment. In this new edition, Sanford Levinson extends McCloskey's magisterial treatment to address developments since the 2010 election, including the Supreme…


Book cover of Ratification: The People Debate the Constitution, 1787-1788

Dennis C. Rasmussen Author Of Fears of a Setting Sun: The Disillusionment of America's Founders

From my list on American founders from a political theorist.

Why am I passionate about this?

I’m a political theorist at Syracuse University’s Maxwell School of Citizenship and Public Affairs. I spent the first fifteen years or so of my career working on the Scottish and French Enlightenments (Adam Smith, David Hume, Jean-Jacques Rousseau, Montesquieu, Voltaire), but in recent years I’ve been drawn more and more to the American founding. In addition to Fears of a Setting Sun, I’m also the author of The Constitution’s Penman: Gouverneur Morris and the Creation of America’s Basic Charter, which explores the constitutional vision of the immensely colorful individual who—unbeknownst to most Americans—wrote the US Constitution.

Dennis' book list on American founders from a political theorist

Dennis C. Rasmussen Why did Dennis love this book?

For all the drama of the Philadelphia Convention, it would have been an empty exercise had the American people not ratified the charter that it produced. Pauline Maier’s Ratification tells the surprisingly dramatic story of the state-by-state ratification process, one that encompasses not only the famous figures of the period but also everyday citizens. Maier’s book on the Declaration of Independence, American Scripture, is also excellent.

By Pauline Maier,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked Ratification as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Synopsis coming soon.......


Book cover of Decision in Philadelphia: The Constitutional Convention of 1787

Joseph D'Agnese Author Of Signing Their Rights Away: The Fame and Misfortune of the Men Who Signed the United States Constitution

From my list on the creation of the U.S. Constitution.

Why am I passionate about this?

Joseph D’Agnese grew up in the Bicentennial-fueled excitement of the 1970s, and spent 1976 fake-playing a fife and sporting a tricorn hat in various school events. Besides teaching him how to get in and out of Revolutionary-period knickers, this experience awakened in him a love for the Founding Era of American history. He has since authored three history titles with his wife, The New York Times bestselling author Denise Kiernan. 

Joseph's book list on the creation of the U.S. Constitution

Joseph D'Agnese Why did Joseph love this book?

This one is my absolute favorite. The Collier brothers wrote numerous books on American history for kids and adults alike.

Even though I knew that the Constitutional Convention of 1787 resulted in the creation of the U.S. Constitution, many times as I was reading this book—which is aimed squarely at adults—I found myself thinking, “I can’t wait to see how this ends!” The book is really that suspenseful, and reads like a novel.

The authors are especially good at describing the personalities of the players. My favorite is their analysis of the father-son nature of the bond between George Washington and Alexander Hamilton, who served as the general’s aide during the Revolutionary War.

I am willing to bet most fans of the musical Hamilton never quite grasped the nuances of that relationship. I also really loved their description of a famous moment in the deliberations when George Washington loses his…

By Christopher Collier, James Lincoln Collier,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Decision in Philadelphia as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Includes a complete copy of the Constitution.
Fifty-five men met in Philadelphia in 1787 to write a document that would create a country and change a world. Here is a remarkable rendering of that fateful time, told with humanity and humor. "The best popular history of the Constitutional Convention available."--Library Journal


Book cover of The Founders: The 39 Stories Behind the U.S. Constitution

Joseph D'Agnese Author Of Signing Their Rights Away: The Fame and Misfortune of the Men Who Signed the United States Constitution

From my list on the creation of the U.S. Constitution.

Why am I passionate about this?

Joseph D’Agnese grew up in the Bicentennial-fueled excitement of the 1970s, and spent 1976 fake-playing a fife and sporting a tricorn hat in various school events. Besides teaching him how to get in and out of Revolutionary-period knickers, this experience awakened in him a love for the Founding Era of American history. He has since authored three history titles with his wife, The New York Times bestselling author Denise Kiernan. 

Joseph's book list on the creation of the U.S. Constitution

Joseph D'Agnese Why did Joseph love this book?

The men who signed the Declaration of Independence are universally referred to as “Signers.”

In family trees and genealogies, you’ll often find this word appended to their names as a badge of honor, delineating them from later and earlier relations who bore the same name. The men who signed the Constitution, however, or typically referred to as Framers or Founders; that’s the reason behind Fradin’s title.

This is a great book for kids, grades 4 to 7. The maps and etchings by illustrator Michael McCurdy are charming, and help set the scene and mood of each man’s story. I think it can be a helpful book for teachers and homeschoolers looking for short readings to help bring the Constitution to life in the classroom.

By Dennis Brindell Fradin, Michael McCurdy (illustrator),

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Founders as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it. This book is for kids age 10, 11, 12, and 13.

What is this book about?

The stories behind the Constitution are as powerful as the nation it created.

"We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America."

After the American Revolution, the thirteen united states were joined, barely, by an almost powerless government. The federal army was too weak to defend the nation; there was no national currency; and there was no…


Book cover of America's Constitution: A Biography

Kermit Roosevelt III Author Of The Nation That Never Was: Reconstructing America's Story

From my list on understanding America.

Why am I passionate about this?

I’ve always loved America and our Constitution. I went to law school, I clerked at the Supreme Court, and I ended up teaching Constitutional law at Penn. But as I learned more about the Constitution and our history, I realized that the story I’d absorbed growing up about what our values were and where they came from didn’t ring true. Things were a little more complicated. And so I did my own research. I read dozens of books, including the ones listed here. And in the end, I found a story that was both more true and more inspiring than the one we learned in school. 

Kermit's book list on understanding America

Kermit Roosevelt III Why did Kermit love this book?

There’s no one I like to read more about constitutional law than Akhil Amar. He has an incredible breadth of knowledge that’s matched by an amazing depth of insight. In this book, he goes through the constitution, clause by clause, and finds something new and unexpected to say about almost all of them. If you really want to understand the constitution, this is the definitive book. 

By Akhil Reed Amar,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked America's Constitution as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

In America’s Constitution, one of this era’s most accomplished constitutional law scholars, Akhil Reed Amar, gives the first comprehensive account of one of the world’s great political texts. Incisive, entertaining, and occasionally controversial, this “biography” of America’s framing document explains not only what the Constitution says but also why the Constitution says it.

We all know this much: the Constitution is neither immutable nor perfect. Amar shows us how the story of this one relatively compact document reflects the story of America more generally. (For example, much of the Constitution, including the glorious-sounding “We the People,” was lifted from existing…


Book cover of The Federalist Papers

Michael Barone Author Of Mental Maps of the Founders: How Geographic Imagination Guided America's Revolutionary Leaders

From my list on the struggles of the early America republic.

Why am I passionate about this?

My friend Lou Cannon, the great reporter and Reagan biographer, once told me, “if you want to really learn about a subject, write a book about it.” As a political journalist and author of several books about current and past politics,  wanted to learn more about the Founding Fathers, and as a map buff I tried to understand how they understood a continent most of which was not accurately mapped and how they envisioned the geographic limits and reach of a new republic more extensive in size than most nations in Europe. The book is my attempt to share what I learned with readers, and to invite them to read more about these extraordinary leaders.

Michael's book list on the struggles of the early America republic

Michael Barone Why did Michael love this book?

To understand the political struggles of the 1790s, read the Federalist Papers this way: first read all those attributed to Hamilton, then those attributed to Madison, and finish up with the five attributed to Jay.

You will find Hamilton urging an energetic executive and a prepared military and hinting at the need for a financial system including a unified national debt and a national bank. You will see Madison more concerned with countering the irresponsible actions of state legislatures and cabining in the power of one branch of government by incentivizing other branches to check it.

As for Jay, you may be surprised that this resident of the most ethnically and culturally diverse colony and state, New York, assures readers that Americans all share an identical religion though he himself was the descendant of Calvinist French Huguenots—a persecuted folk in what had been a century of violent religious wars. 

By Alexander Hamilton, John Jay, James Madison , Richard Beeman (editor)

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Federalist Papers as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

A selection of nineteen essential essays from The Federalist Papers in their original lengths by James Madison, Alexander Hamilton and John Jay, with notes by Richard Beeman

Penguin presents a series of six portable, accessible, and—above all—essential reads from American political history, selected by leading scholars. Series editor Richard Beeman, author of The Penguin Guide to the U.S. Constitution, draws together the great texts of American civic life to create a timely and informative mini-library of perennially vital issues. Whether readers are encountering these classic writings for the first time, or brushing up in anticipation of the 50th anniversary of…


Book cover of The English Constitution: The Principles of a Constitutional Monarchy

Gerard N. Magliocca Author Of American Founding Son: John Bingham and the Invention of the Fourteenth Amendment

From my list on constitutional history.

Why am I passionate about this?

My books are about American constitutional history, especially the parts or people that are typically overlooked. In these polarized times, there is both wisdom and comfort that can be found in looking at our past. One lesson from looking back is that there was no “golden age” in which Americans all got along. Democracy is sometimes messy, sometimes violent, and almost always involves fierce disagreements. Judged at a distance, there is great drama and great satisfaction in looking at how prior generations addressed their problems. I hope you enjoy the books on my list!

Gerard's book list on constitutional history

Gerard N. Magliocca Why did Gerard love this book?

This is the best book ever written about constitutions. Bagehot was a journalist and brought a common-sense take to constitutional history that lawyers often lack. He focuses on how the Victorian Constitution and how it evolved from England’s history, but also compares that set of customs and institutions to the American Constitution in the aftermath of the Civil War. It’s a quick read that will really get you thinking.  

By Walter Bagehot,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The English Constitution as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

The English Constitution

By

Walter Bagehot

The English Constitution is a book by Walter Bagehot. First serialised in The Fortnightly Review between 15 May 1865 and 1 January 1867, and later published in book form in the latter year. It explores the constitution of the United Kingdom, specifically the functioning of Parliament and the British monarchy, and the contrasts between British and American government. The book became a standard work which was translated into several languages.

While Walter Bagehot's references to the Parliament of the United Kingdom have become dated, his observations on the monarchy are seen as central to…


Book cover of The Supreme Court and the American Elite, 1789-2008

Gerald N. Rosenberg Author Of The Hollow Hope: Can Courts Bring About Social Change?

From my list on how the U.S. Supreme Court really works.

Why am I passionate about this?

I grew up in the 1960s when the Supreme Court was widely praised in liberal circles for its path-breaking decisions protecting rights. Inspired by this vision of rights through law, I went to law school and then to graduate school, including a couple of years in England where I was confronted with skepticism about the role of courts. Are liberal beliefs about the role of the Supreme Court correct? Can courts really produce progressive social change, not just on paper, but in practice? Most of my research and scholarship addresses these questions that go to the heart of the belief that Supreme Court decisions protecting and furthering rights matter.

Gerald's book list on how the U.S. Supreme Court really works

Gerald N. Rosenberg Why did Gerald love this book?

Lucas Powe’s magnificent study focuses on the relationship between the Supreme Court and elites throughout American history. 

The Court, Powe argues, is not an independent institution dedicated to protecting the rights of the disadvantaged. Rather, it works in tandem with elites to further their interests. The book is beautifully written and persuasively argued.

By Lucas A. Powe Jr.,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Supreme Court and the American Elite, 1789-2008 as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

'The Supreme Court follows the election returns', the fictional Mr. Dooley observed a hundred years ago. And for all our ideals and dreams of a disinterested judiciary, above the political fray, it seems Mr. Dooley was right. In this engaging - and disturbing - book, a leading historian of the Court reveals the close fit between its decisions and the nation's politics. The story begins with the creation of the Constitution and ends with the June 2008 decisions on the rights of detainees at Guantanamo Bay. Rendering crisp (and often controversial) judgments on key decisions from Marbury v. Madison to…


Book cover of The Words We Live By: Your Annotated Guide to the Constitution

Joseph D'Agnese Author Of Signing Their Rights Away: The Fame and Misfortune of the Men Who Signed the United States Constitution

From my list on the creation of the U.S. Constitution.

Why am I passionate about this?

Joseph D’Agnese grew up in the Bicentennial-fueled excitement of the 1970s, and spent 1976 fake-playing a fife and sporting a tricorn hat in various school events. Besides teaching him how to get in and out of Revolutionary-period knickers, this experience awakened in him a love for the Founding Era of American history. He has since authored three history titles with his wife, The New York Times bestselling author Denise Kiernan. 

Joseph's book list on the creation of the U.S. Constitution

Joseph D'Agnese Why did Joseph love this book?

I’m not a Constitutional or legal scholar. If anything, I’d be considered a biographer, since my book focuses on the life stories of the men behind the document. For that reason, I’m deliberately omitting any books that discuss the ramifications of the Constitution in modern times.

But I do enjoy this book, by a journalist and Harvard Law School graduate, which carefully breaks down each of the Constitution’s seven Articles and 27 Amendments, and carefully spells out in plain language the meaning of each. Yes, there are plenty of readers who will take issue with the specifics, but I find that Monk’s treatment is even-handed, and she sprinkles the text with asides, quotes, and opinions from top thinkers along the way.

By Linda R Monk,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Words We Live By as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

UPDATED FOR THE FIRST TIME IN 10 YEARS, The Words We Live By takes an entertaining and informative look at America's most important historical document, now with discussions about new rulings on hot-button issues such as immigration, gay marriage, the right to bear arms, and affirmative action.

In The Words We Live By, award-winning author and journalist Linda R. Monk explores the many interpretations of the Constitution's text in a balanced manner. The Words We Live By presents a new way of looking at the Constitution through entertaining and informative annotations--filled with the stories of the people behind the Supreme…


Book cover of Latin American Constitutionalism,1810-2010: The Engine Room of the Constitution

Joe Foweraker Author Of Polity: Demystifying Democracy in Latin America and Beyond

From my list on democracy in Latin America.

Why am I passionate about this?

I fell in love with Latin America as I meandered around Mexico in the summer of 1969. The passion has never died. Within a year I walked into Brazil’s ‘wild west’ to research the violence along its moving frontier, while over fifty years later I am an emeritus professor of Latin American politics at the University of Oxford and an honorary professor at the University of Exeter. An early decision to look at politics from the ‘bottom up’ led to a life-long inquiry into the theory and practice of democracy, and the publication of many essays and books that are available to view on my Amazon author page.

Joe's book list on democracy in Latin America

Joe Foweraker Why did Joe love this book?

You have to ask how is it that Argentina has produced so many world-class authors, artists, and intellectuals? Roberto Gargarella is one such, and he has succeeded in turning the apparently dry topic of constitutionalism into the key to explaining the central paradoxes of Latin American democratic development. Before this book, constitutionalism was often dismissed as irrelevant to an understanding of Latin American democracy – very different to that of the United States – but Gargarella comes to the analytical rescue of the constitution and makes it central to his perceptive and counterintuitive analysis.

By Roberto Gargarella,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Latin American Constitutionalism,1810-2010 as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Latin America possesses an enormously rich constitutional history, but this legal history has only recently begun to be subjected to scholarly inquiry. As Roberto Gargarella contends, contemporary constitutional and political theory has a great deal to learn from this history, as Latin American constitutionalism has endured unique challenges that have not appeared in other regions. Such challenges include the emergence of egalitarian constitutions in inegalitarian
contexts; deliberation over the value of "importing" foreign legal instruments; a long-standing exercise of socio-economic rights (which is only just starting in other areas of the world); issues of multiculturalism and indigenous rights; substantial experience…