The best books about lawyers

7 authors have picked their favorite books about lawyers and why they recommend each book.

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Thurgood Marshall

By Juan Williams,

Book cover of Thurgood Marshall: American Revolutionary

Before Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, there was Thurgood Marshall. As a young lawyer and head of the NAACP’s Legal Defense Fund, Marshall spearheaded the civil rights organization’s slow but steady legal course in challenging and defeating segregation in the courts. Risking his life to represent black plaintiffs in the South and slowly building the legal precedents that led to Brown vs. Board of Education, Marshall had a profound effect on the course of history. This excellent biography takes you there.

Who am I?

Ian Zack is a New York-based journalist who has written two critically acclaimed biographies. The subjects of both his books—Say No to the Devil: The Life and Musical Genius of Rev. Gary Davis and Odetta: A Life in Music and Protest—began their lives in the Jim Crow South before venturing North and making their voices heard.

I wrote...

Odetta: A Life in Music and Protest

By Ian Zack,

Book cover of Odetta: A Life in Music and Protest

What is my book about?

Odetta is the stirring but never-before-told story of the folk singer and civil rights icon who inspired countless artists—from Harry Belafonte and Bob Dylan to Janis Joplin and Carly Simon—and provided the soundtrack to the protest movements of the 1960s. The book traces Odetta’s life from early childhood in deeply segregated Birmingham, Alabama, to her breakout stardom in the late ’50s and her deep commitment—through her music, trailblazing Afro and work on behalf of the civil rights movement—to foster black pride and freedom.

The Lincoln Lawyer

By Michael Connelly,

Book cover of The Lincoln Lawyer

I always love thrillers that involve complex legalities and politics, especially when the author obviously has great experience and inside knowledge of how these things work. John Grisham is another example of a lawyer turned thriller writer, and I feel that both these writers genuinely know what they are talking about and are imparting fascinating information about how society's systems really operate. This adds so much authenticity to a book. I had to do a lot of research into the workings of Number Ten Downing Street in order to make my own thriller authentic. Fortunately I had the experience of having met a number of politicians over the years, which helped with my knowledge of how the government and the Prime Minister's office function.

Who am I?

My writing is eclectic and covers many topics. However, all my books tend to have a thriller element to them. Perhaps it's my career as an actor and playwright which has instilled the need to create suspense in all my writings. I sometimes feel that distinguished authors can get so carried away with their literary descriptions and philosophical insights that they forget to keep the story going! It is the need to know what happens next that keeps the reader turning the pages. Perhaps in achieving that some subtlety has to be sacrificed, but, hey, you don't read a political thriller to study the philosophical problems of governing nations!

I wrote...

Number Ten

By Robin Hawdon,

Book cover of Number Ten

What is my book about?

Suspense, romance, and high action in an explosive political thriller. A junior aide to the British Prime Minister is falsely implicated in an assassination attempt, and has to fight for his life against unknown forces, using only his inside knowledge of Number Ten's operations and the help of a female insider.

“Wow! Number Ten begins in explosive fashion and maintains a high-octane, fast pace until the very last word. A glorious thriller that kept me enthralled throughout.” Linda Hill (top 500 Amazon reviewer)

Forty Acres

By Dwayne Alexander Smith,

Book cover of Forty Acres: A Thriller

A Black attorney is forced to participate in a plot to bring back slavery—with a particular variation. What could go wrong? Taut writing and suspenseful storytelling carry the weight of history in Forty Acres. The concept is bold and audacious, and I never questioned a word of it. The execution is that impressive.

Who am I?

I read history to better understand myself, others, and the world around me; I write historical fiction to share what I have learned. At New York University, I was the Jacob K. Javits Fellow in fiction. In addition to Our Man in the Dark, I am the author of The Abduction of Smith and Smith, one of Huffington Post's 25 Necessary Books By Black Authors (2015), and Huffington Post's 50 Amazing Books By Black Authors from the Past Five Years (2019).

I wrote...

Our Man in the Dark

By Rashad Harrison,

Book cover of Our Man in the Dark

What is my book about?

Our Man in the Dark is a noir take on the American civil rights movement of the 1960s. Martin Luther King and the Southern Christian Leadership Conference have led the civil rights struggle to a point of unprecedented progress. J. Edgar Hoover and his FBI want to ruin King.

Their best chance falls on John Estem, a lonely accountant working for the SCLC, who has just embezzled $10,000. Estem’s greed and desperation attract the attention of the FBI, and they seize the opportunity to blackmail and force him into becoming an informant.

Streetfighter in the Courtroom

By Charles R. Garry,

Book cover of Streetfighter in the Courtroom: The People's Advocate

Charles Garry was a legendary Bay Area criminal defense lawyer from the 1940s through the 1980s, most famous for his aggressive courtroom tactics and for never losing a client to the death penalty. I was fascinated by Garry’s early cases that resulted in establishing a “diminished capacity” defense to murder in California. Garry’s reputation prompted the leadership of the Black Panther Party to reject calls for a black lawyer and instead turn to this white Lefty to represent their co-founder Huey Newton faced with execution for killing a white policeman. Streetfighter in the Courtroom proved a great source for me as I wrote two books on the Newton trial and the biography of Garry’s pioneering female co-counsel in the Newton trial, Fay Stender. 

Who am I?

I am a retired lawyer and judge with a long-held concern about access to justice, especially as we face the need for stepped-up activism to protect minority rights today. I first became fascinated by Fay Stender’s pioneering career as a board member of California Women Lawyers, which she helped found in 1974. I related to her passion for justice, which led me to research and write her biography and two books on “the trial of the century” of Black Panther Party co-founder Huey Newton. That trial took place in my home city of Oakland over half a century ago, yet its focus on systemic racism remains just as important now.

I wrote...

Call Me Phaedra: The Life and Times of Movement Lawyer Fay Stender

By Lise Pearlman,

Book cover of Call Me Phaedra: The Life and Times of Movement Lawyer Fay Stender

What is my book about?

Call Me Phaedra provides an inside view of activism during the McCarthy Era, the Civil Rights Movement, Free Speech Era, the rise of black power, and the Women’s Rights Movement. It chronicles the extraordinary life and career of Fay Stender as a rare female criminal defense lawyer who championed black revolutionary clients and became a ground-breaking prisoners’ rights advocate. Her work both won her international acclaim as a top Movement lawyer and propelled her to a tragic end.

Stender’s saga will fascinate readers of all ages interested in the history of American activism and, particularly, women who challenged white-male monopoly power. Those working to change American society for the better today can draw valuable lessons from this award-winning biography and history book – the only published biography of Fay Stender.

Parrot Blues

By Judith Van Gieson,

Book cover of Parrot Blues: A Neil Hamel Mystery

Divorce lawyer Neil Hamel always seems to do more PI work than law. In Parrot Blues (A Neil Hamel Mystery) by Judith Van Gieson, she tries to locate a missing woman—and an indigo parrot. Oddly, the husband seems more concerned about the bird than his wife, who may be on her way out of the marriage anyway. But with the parrot as the only witness, it’s a tough case to crack. There’s plenty of New Mexico history and vistas to satisfy, but I found the information about birds and smuggling to be eye-opening. Her relationship with the “Kid” adds to Neil’s character. She’s her own woman, doing things her way. That alone gained my respect.

Who am I?

The American Southwest never gets old. Exploring any of the Ancestral Pueblo sites is like walking back in time. Anasazi Medium takes the reader there. I love the land and the culture that has brought us to the present. My character, Santa Fe reporter Rachel Blackstone, reflects this. She is sarcastic at times, can be funny, and has her poignant moments as she copes with a “talent” she never wanted. In Anasazi Medium, I concocted a mixture of mystery, Hopi traditions and a journalist’s eye to entertain and inform. What resulted is a climate mystery in the most water-challenged state in the U.S. and a high adventure read. 

I wrote...

Anasazi Medium

By G.G. Collins,

Book cover of Anasazi Medium

What is my book about?

Ancient peoples enlighten contemporary humankind in a mystery as old as time. Rachel Blackstone, a Santa Fe reporter, is recruited by the spirit world to prevent a cataclysm: the end of the Fourth World of the Hopi. As earthquakes rumble and a supervolcano threatens to blow, it becomes imperative she discovers the root of all evil. Can she stop the greedy men intent on plundering Mother Earth and killing those who would stop them? The survival of an unaware civilization depends on Rachel getting it right. 

Blind Ambition

By John W. Dean,

Book cover of Blind Ambition: The White House Years

Dean's book is essential to understanding the psychodrama that led to the unraveling of the Watergate conspiracy. An ambitious lawyer picked to serve as White House counsel at the age of thirty-one, Dean feared that he was being set up to take the blame for Watergate. He was the first Nixon aide to appreciate the legal perils of the cover-up and the risks he was being asked to run. In order to save himself, he had to exit the conspiracy, betraying the president who was relying on him to throw a blanket over the scandal. In this 1976 memoir, Dean provides a candid account of his state of mind as he led a double life - Nixon loyalist by day, prosecution informant by night. Juggling the conflicting pressures, he began drinking ever more heavily, leading to a crisis in his marriage that provides a dramatic personal counterpoint to the crisis…

Who am I?

As a reporter for The Washington Post, I was responsible for recording what has been called "the first rough draft of history." But I was always aware that there was more to the story--whether it was the collapse of communism or a big political controversy in the United States--than I or other reporters were able to uncover at the time. It can sometimes take decades for the real story to emerge as historians gain access to secret documents, diaries, and other unpublished materials. The secret Nixon tapes provide a unique insight into events that were off-limits to reporters and other outsiders. Writing King Richard, I felt like a fly on the wall of the Oval Office with the reader by my side, as we eavesdrop on conversations we were never meant to hear. For anyone who is curious about how politics really operates, it is a thrilling, sometimes shocking experience that can leave you laughing at the craziness of it all when you are not shaking your head in disbelief.

I wrote...

King Richard: Nixon and Watergate--An American Tragedy

By Michael Dobbs,

Book cover of King Richard: Nixon and Watergate--An American Tragedy

What is my book about?

I wrote King Richard as the Shakespearean tale of the leader who made himself- and then destroyed himself. Another journalist, Theodore White, wrote a series of acclaimed books titled The Making of the President, but how often does one get to tell the even more remarkable story of the unmaking of a president, from the inside, as it happened? In January 1973, Richard Nixon had just been inaugurated after winning re-election in a historic landslide. By April 1973, his presidency had fallen apart as the Watergate scandal metastasized into a full-blown cancer, in the phrase of White House counsel John Dean. I take readers behind the scenes in the White House to relive the tension-packed hundred days when the Watergate burglars and their handlers turned on one another in a desperate attempt to defect blame. At the center of the drama is Nixon himself, a man whose strengths, such as his determination to win at all costs, became his fatal flaws.

Representing the Race

By Kenneth W. Mack,

Book cover of Representing the Race: The Creation of the Civil Rights Lawyer

Kenneth Mack, a professor at Harvard Law School, has chronicled the lives and careers of a series of African American lawyers, most totally unknown to white America, who, although forced to ply their trade in a legal system that was totally white and aggressively unwelcoming, managed to permanently impact American jurisprudence. Some, like Charles Hamilton Houston, Thurgood Marshall’s mentor, and the founder of the prestigious Howard University Law School, saw their impact ripple out nationally; others, merely by demonstrating competence and dedication, fought bigotry on a more local scale. Each of these men and women was forced to navigate between loyalty to their cause and a willingness to adopt the demeanor and professional skills of their adversaries in order to succeed, leaving them distrusted on both sides of the racial divide. Their willingness to cut themselves adrift, however, set the stage for the great civil rights battles of the second…

Who am I?

When I was eight, my mother was called in to see the principal…yet again. He pulled me out of class, stood me in the hall for maximum intimidation value, then said to my mom, “Your son has no respect for authority.” Mom asked, “What about that, Larry?” My reply—and this is totally true—was, “He doesn’t mean respect. He means courtesy. You can demand courtesy, but you have to earn respect.” Those sentiments have not changed, which is why, I suppose, I have an extremely critical eye for history, especially American history, that deifies the winners. I don’t think we make ourselves stronger as a nation by pretending our leaders were somehow not as human in their flaws as the rest of us.  I prefer to look under what is called “conventional wisdom,” because that’s where the real story often lies.

I wrote...

On Account of Race: The Supreme Court, White Supremacy, and the Ravaging of African American Voting Rights

By Lawrence Goldstone,

Book cover of On Account of Race: The Supreme Court, White Supremacy, and the Ravaging of African American Voting Rights

What is my book about?

On Account of Race details how white supremacists in the post-Civil War South succeeded in undoing all the advances of Reconstruction, reclaiming total political power, and establishing a Jim Crow society, slavery in all but name. None of this could have succeeded unless voting rights for African Americans, guaranteed by two Constitutional amendments, could be denied. And so they were, with the full approval and even sponsorship of the Supreme Court.

On Account of Race, winner of the 2021 Lillian Smith Book Award, tells the story of an American tragedy, the only occasion in United States history—to date—in which a group of citizens who had been granted the right to vote then had it stripped away. We as a nation will be forced to decide whether we are willing to have it happen again.

The Schirmer Inheritance

By Eric Ambler,

Book cover of The Schirmer Inheritance

A World War II bomber pilot returns home thoroughly determined to have no more excitement in his life. He settles down in a quiet wills-and-trusts practice. In a dusty file about an unclaimed estate, he sees that a missing heir may be living in Europe. Searching for this heir, he is pulled into Cold War politics, kidnaped, and dragged into Communist Albania, where his fate becomes an international incident. The law overtakes George in a thoroughly believable way; it is an example of why readers fear the law, which may at any moment demand that we sacrifice our comfort, our place in society, and even our very lives.

Who am I?

Garrett Epps is the author of two published novels and five works of non-fiction about the U.S. Constitution. He graduated from Duke Law School in 1991; since then he has taught Constitutional Law at the American University, the University of Baltimore, Boston College, Duke University, and the University of Oregon. For ten years he was Supreme Court Correspondent for The Atlantic, and covered from close up cases involving the Affordable Care Act, same-sex marriage, and the Trump Administration’s immigration policies. He is now Legal Affairs Editor of The Washington Monthly, and at work on a novel about crime and justice during the years of Southern segregation. 

I wrote...

Democracy Reborn: The Fourteenth Amendment and the Fight for Equal Rights in Post-Civil War America

By Garrett Epps,

Book cover of Democracy Reborn: The Fourteenth Amendment and the Fight for Equal Rights in Post-Civil War America

What is my book about?

The Fourteenth Amendment, enacted after the Civil War, changed the Constitution, and America, in more ways than we can count. It is the Amendment’s Citizenship Clause that made birthright citizenship part of our fundamental law; the Equal Protection Clause that doomed school segregation and other racist laws; the Due Process Clause that guarantees the right to use contraceptives, choose abortion, or marry a partner of either sex.

The story of that Amendment’s Framing in 1866 is often referred to but seldom told. Democracy Reborn is the only current one-volume history of how the Amendment came to be. The story memorably involves such figures as Frederick Douglass, Susan B. Anthony, Charles Sumner, Andrew Johnson, and Walt Whitman.

Pride and Premeditation

By Tirzah Price,

Book cover of Pride and Premeditation

If you like your mysteries paired with retold classics—think Jane Austen meets Agatha Christie for tea—I highly recommend this one! Price superbly captured the essence of Austen's characters and made them all her own. Instead of Bingley's purchase of Netherfield starting the story, he’s accused of murdering his brother-in-law. Quick-witted and resourceful Lizzie Bennet is eager to prove her worth as a solicitor in her father's barrister office and takes on the case to the prideful Darcy's dismay. Collins' character is just as cringy, and charming Wickham is a Bow Street Runner, helping Lizzie on her case. (You want him to be good! Just this once, Wickham!)

Who am I?

I grew up reading Nancy Drew books creekside in an Alabama swamp and developed a deep adoration of mysteries with atmospheric, creepy settings. I love the idea of strong female protagonists who take matters into their own hands and don’t sit idly by, so not only do I read books that have them as main characters, but I write them too. In addition to writing, I’m lucky enough to be a kidlit haint at a haunted indie bookshop, so reading and recommending the books I enjoy is literally my job!

I wrote...

The Existence of Bea Pearl

By Candice Marley Conner,

Book cover of The Existence of Bea Pearl

What is my book about?

If her brother could stop existing, could she too?

Sixteen-year-old Bea Pearl knows her brother isn’t dead—even if her parents don’t agree. Even if the entire town doesn’t believe her. She knows it’s true. When orders came to evacuate Lake George, Alabama due to rising floodwaters, Bea Pearl saw Jim head toward the river. She followed him. Only she returned. 

Blindfolded Innocence

By Alessandra Torre,

Book cover of Blindfolded Innocence

Alessandra Torre (in my opinion) is at her best when writing sexy romance. Julia is an ambitious law intern who, on her first day at work, is warned to keep away from sexy, alpha Brad de Luca. The writing is fast-paced, addictive, and seduced me into barrelling straight into book 2 in the series. I particularly loved the massage scene involving Julia, which juxtaposed into a scene with Brad –illicit tension heaven! 

Who am I?

I am a British writer and avid reader of a wide range of genres who’d harbored a life-long ambition to be an author. It wasn’t until I became addicted to seductive romance that I found my own writing flow. I love books that have the power to transport you. Indulging in an adult ideal for a few minutes (or hours) in a day, when your body reacts viscerally to the words on a page, makes you swoon, your cheeks flush and your heart race is my reading and writing heaven. I hope you will experience the same delicious escapism in my book choices as I have. 

I wrote...

Much Ado About Benedict

By Emma Perle,

Book cover of Much Ado About Benedict

What is my book about?

Beatrice, an up-and-coming corporate lawyer, is looking forward to taking some much-needed time off during a long weekend stay with her cousin Holly and her family, who are hosting a charity ball at their country house, along with some extra house guests, officers from her uncle’s regiment. On arrival, Beatrice is faced with Benedict, a charismatic but obnoxious army captain she had met the previous year, whom she loathes. She’s startled to realize that she and Benedict have explosive sexual and romantic chemistry that will change their lives.

Inspired by Shakespeare’s Much Ado About Nothing, this novel takes Beatrice and Benedict’s witty bantering to a whole new level.

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