This has got to be the weirdest time for students about to start their degrees. Following the corona-related shutting down of all schools, and the suspension of entrance exams, potential university undergraduates are probably feeling like they have been cast adrift on a sea of uncertainty. The guiding hand which represents the world they have known since they started formal education at the age of four, abruptly yanked away. Almost every year, I get asked for recommendations of books for aspiring law students. The stakes are so high this year. Therefore, when I received a similar request this year, I decided to crowd-source my response on Twitter, and received an overwhelming response.
Crowdsourcing request: I would really appreciate suggestions on this as it's something that I have thought a lot about myself too.
Someone asked me: If there were to be one book which you wished law undergraduates arrived at university having read, what would it be?
— Dr Folúkẹ́ Adébísí (@folukeifejola) April 2, 2020
The question of what to read is one legal academics actually get quite often, so it was interesting to see what other legal academic colleagues across the UK and the world thought about the question. The results [which includes talks, movies and articles] are reproduced below. There was also some interesting discussion about the question too. The consensus seems to be that there is no one book that will suffice, and law students should be well read, before, during and after their degree. I like to divide the list into two somewhat overlapping ‘genres’: on the one hand the perspective that law is an objective science; and on the other, more socio-legal. This, in some ways also reflects students aspirations within the law as well as the nature law itself, having both the potential for freedom and unfreedom. This is why I often advise students to read across the divide and beyond their interest. We cannot really understand the law, if we only study one of his faces.
The list is by no means exhaustive, so further suggestions are most welcome. Let me know what you think in the comments section. Shukraan
Highlighted material added in 2022
Books and Articles
Adichie, Chimamanda Ngozi. Half of a yellow sun. Alfred a Knopf Incorporated, 2006.
Adichie, Chimamanda Ngozi. We should all be feminists. Vintage, 2014.
Angelou, Maya. I know why the caged bird sings. Bantam, 1997.
Beatty, Paul. The sellout. Oneworld Publications, 2016.
Bingham, Tom. The rule of law. Penguin UK, 2011.
Boll, Heinrich. The lost honour of Katharina Blum. CONNOISSEUR, 1995.
Chinua, Achebe. Things fall apart. London: Heinemann, 1958.
Davis, Angela Y. Are Prisons Obsolete?. Seven Stories Press, 2011.
Dayan, Colin. The Law Is a White Dog-How Legal Rituals Make and Unmake Persons. Princeton University Press, 2013.
Denning, Lord, Alfred Thompson, and Denning Denning Baron. Landmarks in the Law. London: Butterworths, 1984.
Denning, Lord. The Discipline of Law. Butterworths, (1979).
Dostoyevsky, Fyodor. Crime and Punishment:(Penguin Classics Deluxe Edition). Penguin, 2015.
DuBois, Page. Torture and truth. Routledge (1991).
Ebadi, Shirin. Until we are free: My fight for human rights in Iran. Random House, 2016.
Elgin, Suzette Haden. Native tongue. The Feminist Press at CUNY, 2013.
Erdrich, Louise. The round house. Hachette UK, 2013.
Foucault, Michel. ‘Discipline and Punish: The Birth of the Prison’, in On Violence: A Reader (Duke University Press, 2007), 445–71,
Gilmore, Ruth Wilson. Golden Gulag: Prisons, Surplus, Crisis, and Opposition in Globalizing California, Golden Gulag (University of California Press, 2007),
Golding, W., 1987. Lord of the Flies. Penguin.
hooks, bell. All about love: New visions. Harper Perennial, 2001.
Kennedy, Helena. Eve was framed: Women and British justice. Random House, 2011.
Llewellyn, Karl Nickerson. The bramble bush: On our law and its study. Oceana, 1978.
Lyall, Andrew. Granville Sharp’s Cases on Slavery. Bloomsbury Publishing, 2017.
Marx, Karl, and Friedrich Engels. The communist manifesto. Penguin, 2002.
Moraga, Cherríe, and Gloria Anzaldúa, eds. This bridge called my back: Writings by radical women of color. Suny Press, 2015.
Morrison, Toni. Beloved. New York 1987.
O’Neill, Louise. Asking for it. Quercus, 2016.
Oyěwùmí, Oyèrónkẹ́. The invention of women: Making an African sense of western gender discourses. U of Minnesota Press, 1997.
p’Bitek, Okot. Song of Lawino. Vol. 2. East African Publishers, 1995. [Song of a prisoner, highly recommended]
Pistor, Katharina. “The Code of Capital: How the Law Creates Wealth and Inequality–Core Themes.” Accounting, Economics, and Law: A Convivium 11, no. 1 (2021): 1-7.
Sachs, Albie. The strange alchemy of life and law. Oxford University Press, 2011.
Stevenson, Bryan. Just Mercy: A story of justice and redemption. Spiegel & Grau, 2019. [Recently made into a movie] [My review here]
The Secret Barrister. The Secret Barrister: Stories of the Law and how It’s Broken. Pan Macmillan, 2018.
The Uluru Statement and Megan Davis’ explanation of the process, in ‘The long road to Uluru: Walking together – truth before justice’ is highly recommended
Unger, Roberto Mangabeira. What should legal analysis become? Verso, 1996.
Williams, Patricia J. The alchemy of race and rights. Harvard University Press, 1991.
Wi Parata v Bishop of Wellington (1877) NZJurRp 183; (1877) 3 NZ Jur (NS) 72 (SC); 1 NZLRLC 14
Gregson v Gilbert (1783) 2 Douglass 233
Re Southern Rhodesia (1919) AC 211
Another very helpful list: (check the comments!)
10 books by women to read before starting Law School by Professor Fiona de Londras
In the Name of the Father (1993)
Where the Green Ants Dream (1984)
20 other movies are listed in ‘The Law and Race Film Club’
Anna Grear The DNA of our Legal System | TEDxBonn
Bryan Stevenson |We need to talk about an injustice
Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie | The danger of a single story
Sara Ahmed | Complaint: Diversity Work, Feminism, and Institutions
1681 – The Invention of Race: The Laws that Changed the World