The best books on the Constitution of the United States

1 authors have picked their favorite books about the Constitution of the United States and why they recommend each book.

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The Broken Constitution

By Noah Feldman,

Book cover of The Broken Constitution: Lincoln, Slavery, and the Refounding of America

What happened to our Constitution during the Civil War? Noah Feldman argues that Lincoln, whose goal was to save the Union, had to break the Constitution to do so. But this rupture created the possibility of a new order. The original Constitution was filled with compromises, most notably between the supporters and opponents of slavery. But a broken document could be mended to eliminate those compromises and produce an anti-slavery Constitution.

I think this book is really insightful—it will change the way you think about what it means to preserve, protect, and defend the Constitution of the United States.


Who am I?

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. 


I wrote...

The Nation That Never Was: Reconstructing America's Story

By Kermit Roosevelt III,

Book cover of The Nation That Never Was: Reconstructing America's Story

What is my book about?

There’s a story we tell ourselves about America: that our fundamental values were stated in the Declaration of Independence, fought for in the Revolution, and made law in the Constitution. And American history, we like to think, is a process of more fully realizing those founding values. 

But none of this is true. Our fundamental values come not from Founding America but from resistance to it. They were stated not in the Declaration but in the Gettysburg Address, fought for not in the Revolution but in the Civil War, and made law not in the original Constitution but in the very different Reconstruction Constitution. We modern Americans are the heirs not of Founding America but of the people who overthrow and destroyed that political order.

Ratification

By Pauline Maier,

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

This is the best blow-by-blow account of the Constitution’s ratification. Professor Maier goes through the debate in each state and brings those remarkable moments to life. There are many books about the Constitutional Convention, but few on what happened afterward that made what was just a proposal into law. Unlike the Convention, which was deliberate and held behind closed doors, the ratification debate was raucous and public. Maier’s book also provides a good sense of why so many Americans were skeptical of the Constitution and wanted a bill of rights added.


Who am I?

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!


I wrote...

American Founding Son: John Bingham and the Invention of the Fourteenth Amendment

By Gerard N. Magliocca,

Book cover of American Founding Son: John Bingham and the Invention of the Fourteenth Amendment

What is my book about?

John Bingham was the architect of the rebirth of the United States following the Civil War. A leading antislavery lawyer and congressman from Ohio, Bingham wrote the most important part of the Fourteenth Amendment to the Constitution, which guarantees fundamental rights and equality to all Americans.

He was also at the center of two of the greatest trials in history, giving the closing argument in the military prosecution of John Wilkes Booth’s co-conspirators for the assassination of Abraham Lincoln and in the impeachment of President Andrew Johnson. And more than any other man, Bingham played the key role in shaping the Union’s policy towards the occupied ex-Confederate States, with consequences that still haunt our politics.

Negotiating the Impossible

By Deepak Malhotra,

Book cover of Negotiating the Impossible: How to Break Deadlocks and Resolve Ugly Conflicts (Without Money or Muscle)

I am recommending this book because Malhotra et al take on a series of very difficult negotiations that look like they are impossible to solve and they show you how it was done. The book is very practical and demonstrates to the reader that many negotiations can be solved with the right frame of mind, creativity, and persistence. 


Who am I?

I am a native Bostonian and I have been working in the field of negotiation for over 25 years. I have been very fortunate to have been a member of the Program on Negotiation at Harvard Law School for all that time. As a result, I have had the privilege to work with some amazing colleagues and have been given the opportunity to engage in many fascinating negotiations in the international, governmental, corporate, and nonprofit worlds. I truly love the field because it has the potential to do so much good in the world and because it is exceedingly challenging. For me, the more I learn the more I want to know. That quest continues to this day…


I wrote...

The Book of Real-World Negotiations: Successful Strategies from Business, Government, and Daily Life

By Joshua N. Weiss,

Book cover of The Book of Real-World Negotiations: Successful Strategies from Business, Government, and Daily Life

What is my book about?

This unique book can help you change your approach to negotiation by learning key strategies and techniques from actual cases. The book shines a light on real- world negotiation examples and cases, rather than simply discussing frameworks and hypothetical scenarios. It reveals what is possible through preparation, persistence, creativity, and taking a strategic approach to your negotiations. Many of us enter negotiations with skepticism and without understanding how to truly negotiate well. Because we lack knowledge and confidence, we may abandon the negotiating process prematurely or agree to deals that leave value on the table.

Whether you're a student, instructor, or anyone who wants to negotiate successfully, you'll be able to carefully examine real-world negotiation situations that will show you how to achieve your objectives in the most challenging of circumstances.

Religion and the Constitution

By Michael W. McConnell, John H. Garvey, Thomas C. Berg

Book cover of Religion and the Constitution

This is a brilliant textbook. Digging into my studies, I found a philosophy of law, in regards to the respect due to the nature of the human being, within the Bible, and sensing the same philosophy within the U.S. Constitution, I purchased this book. Much like the other books, these authors do a good job, through their presenting and reviewing of various cases, and of other documents, of setting the Constitution in the right light. I am recommending this book because it is a good read for anyone wanting to better understand the context of the Constitution’s ideology. I found this book to be not only educational but personally edifying. 


Who am I?

My field of work involves research in self-development and in devotional improvement. I write and lecture about the need to allow the devotional conversation to feel its living experience; in this way knowledge, above a perception created through tradition, about what is believed can keep and sustain the conversation. My joy is in allowing people to think about the nature of their human being and of their devotional conversation. Liberty of the mind to experience life through no other lens but that of what self has discovered, examined, and proven, is the type of liberty we should all strive for, and I feel as though these books, in their own way, get this done.


I wrote...

Justification

By Linwood Jackson Jr.,

Book cover of Justification

What is my book about?

We are to have, as is said and believed when it comes to life and religion, "faith," but when it comes to exercising faith on anything, a very crucial aspect of having and exercising "faith" isn't normally mentioned. In order to have faith in anything, we need to possess a living and working knowledge of what we would have faith in. 

Justification looks into how the Bible defines the process of acquiring and maintaining "faith." Introducing the reader to a pattern of thoughts revolving around the idea that the sufficiency of the conversation is based upon the knowledge and  experience in that philosophy, making personal knowledge an integral part of having and exercising "faith."

America's Constitution

By Akhil Reed Amar,

Book cover of America's Constitution: A Biography

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. 


Who am I?

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. 


I wrote...

The Nation That Never Was: Reconstructing America's Story

By Kermit Roosevelt III,

Book cover of The Nation That Never Was: Reconstructing America's Story

What is my book about?

There’s a story we tell ourselves about America: that our fundamental values were stated in the Declaration of Independence, fought for in the Revolution, and made law in the Constitution. And American history, we like to think, is a process of more fully realizing those founding values. 

But none of this is true. Our fundamental values come not from Founding America but from resistance to it. They were stated not in the Declaration but in the Gettysburg Address, fought for not in the Revolution but in the Civil War, and made law not in the original Constitution but in the very different Reconstruction Constitution. We modern Americans are the heirs not of Founding America but of the people who overthrow and destroyed that political order.

Habeas Corpus in Wartime

By Amanda L. Tyler,

Book cover of Habeas Corpus in Wartime: From the Tower of London to Guantanamo Bay

Professor Tyler is the nation’s leading expert on the suspension of habeas corpus, and this is the must-read book on that issue. Habeas Corpus in Wartime is longer and denser than my other picks, but that’s partly because suspending habeas corpus (in other words, saying that people may be jailed indefinitely without charges) is such a momentous decision that was taken only in a grave crisis such as the Civil War and World War Two. Where this book really shines is in its discussion of less famous examples of suspension, such as how the British responded to “traitors” during the Revolutionary War and how Congress used suspension to fight the Ku Klux Klan during Reconstruction. When the next emergency comes and there are calls to invoke this power again, you’ll be glad you read this book.


Who am I?

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!


I wrote...

American Founding Son: John Bingham and the Invention of the Fourteenth Amendment

By Gerard N. Magliocca,

Book cover of American Founding Son: John Bingham and the Invention of the Fourteenth Amendment

What is my book about?

John Bingham was the architect of the rebirth of the United States following the Civil War. A leading antislavery lawyer and congressman from Ohio, Bingham wrote the most important part of the Fourteenth Amendment to the Constitution, which guarantees fundamental rights and equality to all Americans.

He was also at the center of two of the greatest trials in history, giving the closing argument in the military prosecution of John Wilkes Booth’s co-conspirators for the assassination of Abraham Lincoln and in the impeachment of President Andrew Johnson. And more than any other man, Bingham played the key role in shaping the Union’s policy towards the occupied ex-Confederate States, with consequences that still haunt our politics.

Oh, Brother... Oh, Sister!

By Brooks Whitney, Laura Cornell (illustrator),

Book cover of Oh, Brother... Oh, Sister!: A Sister's Guide to Getting Along

Pitched to 9-11-year-old girls, Oh Brother…Oh Sister! is a practical guide kids can read on their own or together with a younger sibling (of either gender). There are activities for siblings to do with one another, and plenty of humor to keep kids laughing as they absorb important lessons about getting along. A surprising number of children are motivated to sign the Sibling Constitution at the back of the book, and to honor the agreements they’ve made. The only downside is that the book is clearly written for girls. It’s a pity, boys could use a book like this, too.

Who am I?

I am a Child Psychologist and Author turned Parent Coach who often hears about the bickering, put-downs, jealousy, and conflict sapping families with multiple children. Telling them to “cut it out” clearly does nothing. Kids need not only the skills (how to talk, how to listen, how to manage feelings and resolve conflict) but also the motivation to use them, a combination I have spent my career thinking about, writing about, and teaching. All of the books I have written, and all that I recommend, include this winning combination of skills and motivation with the aim of helping children live happier lives.


I wrote...

The Sibling Survival Guide: Surefire Ways to Solve Conflicts, Reduce Rivalry, and Have More Fun with Your Brothers and Sisters

By Dawn Huebner, Kara McHale (illustrator),

Book cover of The Sibling Survival Guide: Surefire Ways to Solve Conflicts, Reduce Rivalry, and Have More Fun with Your Brothers and Sisters

What is my book about?

Having a brother or sister can be tough. It can also be great, but it’s hard to see the great parts with so many bad parts getting in the way. Things like fighting and bossing. Teasing and jealousy. Tattling. Pestering. You get the idea. The Sibling Survival Guide speaks directly to children ages 9-12, teaching the skills needed to manage feelings, resolve conflicts, and strengthen bonds. Warm, witty, and packed with practical strategies, this interactive book educates, motivates, and empowers siblings to live in peace.

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