Customer Review

23 of 23 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Insights on Every Page, January 5, 2013
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This review is from: America's Unwritten Constitution: The Precedents and Principles We Live By (Kindle Edition)
Like another reviewer here, I bought this Kindle book on the strength of Akhil Reed Amar's other book, "America's Constitution: A Biography." Er, no problem with the use of "America" in either of these titles. These two books really should be read sequentially, starting with Biography. In Biography, Reed goes word for word through the "terse text." In Unwritten, he shows how the various Constitutions -- implicit, lived, symbolic, etc. -- flesh out and strengthen the words of the document itself.

While reading this book I was mulling the thought of subtracting a star due to a tendency of the author to get a little too far down in the weeds. And then I came to Chapter 6, "Honoring the Icons: America's Symbolic Constitution." This chapter examines six texts -- no spoilers here but at least one of them will surprise you -- that illustrate not just the Constitution but what it means to be an American. Another part of this chapter -- on the three Supreme Court cases that deserve to be in the SCOTUS Hall of Shame (my words, not his) is similarly insightful. This chapter is worth being issued as a Kindle-single edition.

Akhil Reed Amar's writing throughout is lawyerly but elegant (check out the Look Inside feature to confirm). The book is written for a layperson, not a lawyer, with ample, clear definitions of important terms. Yes, Amar should be on the Supreme Court. Maybe he's been asked, but why would he give up a tenured gig at Yale to come down to Washington, even if a seat on the Supreme Court is tenured as well?

Buy both of these books and read them carefully. You will emerge with a greater understanding of the document and our society. And speaking of Biography, I've given my hard-copy version to a friend and replacing it with the Kindle version. Both books deserve re-reading.
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