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Taking the Stand: My Life in the Law Hardcover – October 15, 2013

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Editorial Reviews


"The list of legal issues and controversies that bear Dershowitz’s thumbprints is breathtaking. That one man involved himself in the Pentagon Papers case, the Clinton-Lewinsky scandal, Kennedy’s Chappaquiddick investigation, Sharansky’s release from a Soviet prison, the O.J. trial, Bush v. Gore, the Mike Tyson rape case, the Woody Allen-Mia Farrow custody dispute, the Julian Assange WikiLeaks investigation and the public debate over Trayvon Martin, reflects not just the breadth of Dershowitz’s experience but also its depth and duration. Love him or hate him, Dershowitz has lived a life that matters, hugely and enduringly. He is a man in full at a time when most of us aspire to be little more than a presence on Twitter." -New York Times Book Review

"In 'Taking the Stand,' Dershowitz commands the stage. . . he fills his book to overflowing with fascinating and funny vignettes involving his cases and clients, and probing and provocative insights into contemporary legal controversies, ranging from censorship to civil rights, national security, sexual harassment, rape, abortion, the separation of church and state, and the use of scientific evidence in murder cases.  Whether he is discussing people or policies, he leaves no doubt about where he stands." -Glenn C. Altschuler, The Boston Globe

“The problem with writing about Harvard law professor Alan Dershowitz, of course, is Dershowitz himself. He is impossibly, almost self-consciously annoying. As he writes in his latest book, ‘Taking the Stand,’ he does ‘not hide behind the distorting shield of false humility.’… If Dershowitz isn’t getting in your face about something, it’s as if he’s not doing his job…

I love that Dershowitz credits the Classic Comics for his introduction to literature…In an amusing vignette, Woody Allen asks Dershowitz which dead person he might have represented. Dershowitz replies: “Jesus.”…The Mike Tyson material in “Stand” is fascinating, and the Bobby Fisher anecdote alone is worth the $28 cover price…

’I’m never satisfied unless I get the last word,’ he writes in ‘[Taking the] Stand.’ Then he provides the text of his letter to the editor, finding fault with the as-yet unpublished, indeed unwritten obituaries that he assumes will herald his passing…We all wish [Dershowitz] a long and healthy life…” –Alex Beam, Boston Globe

"Riveting, compelling, touching, and tender." -The Jewish Voice

"One of the most high-profile lawyers in America, known for his work on newsworthy cases...raises provocative questions about the many dilemmas in modern American jurisprudence, including those related to the separation of church and state, affirmative action, human rights, and the right to privacy. Dershowitz offers much of interest...” -Publishers Weekly

“From beginning to end, this memoir is both entertaining and enlightening. We see a young and inquisitive Dershowitz continually arguing with the authority figures in his early life, never satisfied with the answer, ‘just because’…Dershowitz uses his experiences to relate some very important points: the necessity of civil rights, the proper application reasonably can to help a client.” –Library Journal

"One of the most distinguished lawyers of his generation reflects on his life and extraordinary career...The youngest full professor ever at Harvard Law School...more than four decades, he has used this perch to teach, write and speak about the law’s intersections with science and psychiatry and especially about matters pertaining to constitutional and criminal law. Most unusually for a law professor, Dershowitz has maintained a highly active appellate practice, and he narrates...his life in the law through the many cases he’s handled. Many of these unfailingly interesting tales feature high-profile clients like Leona Helmsley, O.J. Simpson, Mike Tyson and Bill Clinton...Dershowitz has become an important voice with an active role in the evolution of American law, touching on an astonishing breadth of issues, including capital punishment, affirmative action, pornography, national security, academic freedom and human rights. An engaging recounting of a life of serious purpose and splendid flair." -Kirkus Reviews (Starred Review)

“From his experience on the front lines of so many pivotal cases in recent history, Professor Dershowitz made the law real for his students. He effortlessly translated how our most basic philosophical principles are alive and well in the modern justice system. In doing so, he underscored not just a commitment to equity and integrity, but a deep faith in the power of the law to make our country more honest and fair.” – Congressman Joe Kennedy III

"I loved this book. If I could trade lives with anyone, Dershowitz would be high on my list, minus the death threats and tchotchkes." -Larry David

“Alan Dershowitz’s real life use of science to win murder cases rivals anything on CSI and any other fictional drama.  Cheers for a riveting autobiography.”  -Ted Danson

"Alan Dershowitz's autobiography is a page turning story of a special life. It exposes  and explains  as only he can important events of the last fifty years of The American Experience. Dershowitz has been a player contributing to the national conversation for half a century. Everybody takes his calls." –Stephen Trachtenberg, president, George Washington University

About the Author

Alan Dershowitz is one of the most famous and celebrated lawyers in America. He is the youngest full professor in school history at Harvard, where he is now the Felix Frankfurter Professor of Law. The author of numerous bestselling books, from Chutzpah to The Best Defense to In Defense of Israel to Reversal of Fortune, Dershowitz has advised and defended many of the most famous legal cases of the past 50 years.

Product Details

  • Hardcover: 528 pages
  • Publisher: Crown; First Edition edition (October 15, 2013)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0307719278
  • ISBN-13: 978-0307719270
  • Product Dimensions: 6.4 x 1.4 x 9.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.8 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (101 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #178,774 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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More About the Author

ALAN M. DERSHOWITZ is a Brooklyn native who has been called 'the nation's most peripatetic civil liberties lawyer' and one of its 'most distinguished defenders of individual rights,' 'the best-known criminal lawyer in the world,' 'the top lawyer of last resort,' and 'America's most public Jewish defender.' He is the Felix Frankfurter Professor of Law at Harvard Law School. Dershowitz, a graduate of Brooklyn College and Yale Law School, joined the Harvard Law School faculty at age 25 after clerking for Judge David Bazelon and Justice Arthur Goldberg. While he is known for defending clients such as Anatoly Sharansky, Claus von B'low, O.J. Simpson, Michael Milken and Mike Tyson, he continues to represent numerous indigent defendants and takes half of his cases pro bono. Dershowitz is the author of 20 works of fiction and non-fiction, including 6 bestsellers. His writing has been praised by Truman Capote, Saul Bellow, David Mamet, William Styron, Aharon Appelfeld, A.B. Yehoshua and Elie Wiesel. More than a million of his books have been sold worldwide, in numerous languages, and more than a million people have heard him lecture around the world. His most recent nonfiction titles are The Case For Peace: How the Arab-Israeli Conflict Can be Resolved (August 2005, Wiley); Rights From Wrongs: A Secular Theory of the Origins of Rights (November 2004, Basic Books), The Case for Israel (September 2003, Wiley), America Declares Independence, Why Terrorism Works, Shouting Fire, Letters to a Young Lawyer, Supreme Injustice, and The Genesis of Justice. His novels include The Advocate's Devil and Just Revenge. Dershowitz is also the author of The Vanishing American Jew, The Abuse Excuse, Reasonable Doubts, Chutzpah (a #1 bestseller), Reversal of Fortune (which was made into an Academy Award-winning film), Sexual McCarthyism and The Best Defense.

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

27 of 32 people found the following review helpful By H. P. on October 15, 2013
Format: Kindle Edition
Taking the Stand is part memoir, part popular law (and other leading issues) book. The combination is natural: Dershowitz's adult life has been devoted to various causes and legal issues. After a delightful set of opening chapters detailing his early life and transition from unruly high school C student to nonconformist college and law school A+ student. From there Dershowitz moves away from a chronological approach, instead dividing the rest of the books among the various legal issues and causes he has been a part of over his very long and illustrious career. His shift from observant Orthodox Jew to secular Jew is given less attention (given his discussion of it in the conclusion there isn't much to tell).

As he well recognizes, Dershowitz excels at putting legal concepts into everyday terms comprehensible to the layman. He also livens everything up with enough fascinating and salacious examples to keep the reader's attention. Another highlight are the "vignettes" interspersed throughout, usually telling a short anecdote tangentially related to the topic. Particularly strong are sections on free expression, murder, and human rights.

Taking the Stand isn't perfect. Dershowitz suffers from the same disease as Richard Posner and Cass Sunstein, thinking that because so much of what they say is so noteworthy that anything they might say on any subject, regardless of the thought they have given it or experience they might have in it, is equally noteworthy. This is particularly troublesome in most of the second half of the book, the broad stretch between free expression and criminal law and human rights. Dershowitz repeatedly claims he is not a "celebrity lawyer," but he obviously enjoys the attention that comes with it.
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Is it possible to be both disappointed in a book... and pleasantly surprised... AND give it a five star review? The answer in my case is yes. Let me explain. I saw Mr. Dershowitz on a TV program where in a short interview he dropped interesting tidbits on everyone from O.J. Simpson... to Claus von Bulow... to a leader of Israel... to Marlon Brando... I immediately ordered the book thinking it would be one of those fast... quick moving... "Hollywood-Insider" type books... I was wrong... and at the beginning of this 500 page deeply technical book... I was very disappointed...

Then as I continued to read... I found myself deeply immersed in an educational exploration of constitutional law... that was not way above the head of a layman... and interspersed with facts... and Yiddish humor. Besides the interest in the famous household names that Dershowitz rubbed elbows with... which also includes his numerous defenses of the porn industry... including "Deep Throat's" Harry Reems... it also sheds light on the anti-Semitism all over the country.

Perhaps more interesting than the famous entertainment names... are the no-holds-barred experiences with many Supreme Court Justices. The author pulls no punches in the descriptions of the character and biases... of members of the highest court in the land.

This is not a book you'll read in one sitting... but it's definitely a book you'll continually look forward to sitting down with!
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9 of 12 people found the following review helpful By SanjeevP TOP 1000 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on November 9, 2013
Format: Kindle Edition
Until I read this book, I only knew "the Dersh Character" garrulous, disputatious, aggressive law professor whom I had been seeing for 30 years on television talk shows. The substance was probably always good but style was grating on the nerves. This book introduces "the real Alan"- thoughtful, shy and who claims to be a "pushover" in private life. Hard to imagine! But that's how Mr. Dershowitz talks about his public and private personas.

This book is written by one of the most brilliant legal minds of our times who was involved in almost all of the important legal issues and famous cases of this era: Freedom of Speech, Civil Rights, death penalty, gender eand racial equality, rape, gay marriage, psychiatry and law, Church & State etc. all of which he writes about in this book.

First section of the book is about his childhood in Brooklyn, college, going to Harvard, clerkship at the Appellate and Supreme Courts and job at the Harvard Law School. Second through the fourth parts are about his handling of famous cases like O.J. Simpson, von Bulow etc. and his dealings up close and personal with people like Bill Clinton, Kennedy's, Supreme Court judges and others.

Mr. Dershowitz is a very engaging writer and this book makes a great reading. Shorn of his TV persona, the substance comes through and "the real Alan" is thoughtful, fascinating and extremely intelligent. But there are places in the book where he still cannot help tooting his horn: for example, even in his eighties how interesting his average week is!

Overall, a must read if you are interested in the legal issues of our society and times.
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9 of 12 people found the following review helpful By LesinGeorgia on November 19, 2013
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
Interesting read, but not exactly what I had expected. I love good courtroom yarns, with the attendant drama and tactics employed. Dershowitz does mention cases here and there but this book was more of an unexpected autobiography than the story of various cases in the law. He goes into great detail about his personal philosophy, his ardent support of Israel, and the provenance of his beliefs. Anyone expecting to have Dershowitz reveal some "inside information" about some of his high profile cases will be disappointed. Worth it if you are looking for a philosophical treatise and a biography, but not if you are looking for courtroom drama.
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